William “Texas Billy” Thompson, brother to more famous gunman Ben Thompson, was described as “mean, vicious, vindictive and totally unpredictable.”
Billy was born in England in 1845, and when he was just a boy, he and his brother, Ben, emigrated from Yorkshire, England with their family to Austin, Texas in 1851. During the Civil War, both men enlisted in the Texas Mounted Rifles. After the war, federal troops remained in Texas for several years, and in March 1868, Billy was involved in a gunfight with Private William Burk. After killing the soldier, Thompson fled. Two months later, he killed another man in Rockport, Texas and when a warrant was issued for his arrest, he was on the run again, first to Indian Territory and then to Kansas.
While in Abilene, Kansas, Billy made the acquaintance of a dance hall girl and prostitute named Elizabeth “Libby” Haley. Better known as “Squirrel Tooth Alice,” the pair quickly began an affair that would eventually lead to marriage and nine children. Making his living as a gambler, he and his brother Ben were both in Ellsworth, Kansas, in April 1873. Four months later, in August, Billy killed Sheriff Chauncey Whitney and was on the run again.
Constantly in trouble for one thing or another, Billy and Libby were always moving. He was finally caught up with by Texas Rangers in October 1876 and was extradited to Kansas. Amazingly, he was acquitted of the murder of Sheriff Whitney. Afterward, he made his way to Dodge City, Kansas. Later, he was known to have been in Colorado and Nebraska, before he and Libby finally settled in Sweetwater, Texas. He purchased and worked a ranch there while she established a brothel in town. In 1884, he was reportedly in San Antonio and witnessed his brother being gunned down by assassins. Amazingly, he took no revenge on his brother’s killers. On September 6, 1897, William Thompson died from a stomach ailment at the age of 52.
© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2022.
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