James was born to Milton and Elizabeth Liddil in Jackson County, Missouri on September 15, 1852.
In the mid-1870s he did a stint in prison in Mt. Vernon County, Missouri for stealing horses. After he was released he joined up with the James Gang and participated in the Glendale, Missouri train robbery in October 1879 that netted the bandits as much as $40,000. In July 1881, he was with the gang when they robbed the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad in Gallatin, Missouri. Just two months later, on September 7, 1881, the bandits hit Glendale again, this time taking some $3,000 off the train.
In December 1881, Liddel argued with Wood Hite over the attention of the attractive widow, Martha Bolton, the sister of Robert and Charlie Ford. When the disagreement escalated, Robert Ford sided with Liddel and shot Hite in the head, killing him.
Liddel turned himself in for the killing and Bob Ford was arrested. To save himself, Liddel spilled the beans regarding everything he knew of the James Gang’s robberies. Ford also made a deal to bring down Jesse James, which he did on April 3, 1882.
That summer, Liddil was taken to Alabama where he stood trial for the Muscle Shoals robbery. He was found guilty but pardoned, as part of a deal that he would testify against Frank James. Despite Liddil’s testimony, Frank James was acquitted in August 1883, reportedly because the jury didn’t find Liddil to be a credible witness.
Afterward, Liddil made his way to Las Vegas, New Mexico where he co-owned the Bank Saloon with Bob Ford. Dick returned to Missouri in the 1890s and became a regular on the Midwest racehorse circuit. He worked as a horse trainer, owned several fine thoroughbreds, and became known as one of the best horsemen in the West.
Liddil died of a heart attack while attending the Queen City Races in Covington, Kentucky on July 13, 1901.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated December 2018.