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Education
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Sullivan school board gives itself high marks in self-evaluation

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s school board gave itself a collective pat on the back during its latest self-evaluation, which was a cumulative score of 4.7 out of a possible 5.

The six members of the Board of Education reviewed the summary of the self-evaluation presented by board attorney Pat Hull, who compiles the evaluations each year. He also gave the system a pat on the back for opening two new schools and dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m thrilled, absolutely thrilled to serve on this board,” said Mary Rouse, a former principal and central office administrator. “We’re all basically in the same place.”

She emphasized members are “not elected to run the school system” but to set policy and work for financial stability. The board recently voted to make retired Director Evelyn Rafalowski, who was formerly interim director and before that a consultant, the permanent director.

“At a 4.70, we’re a pretty dad gum strong board,” Rouse said. “As a board, we all want to do what is best for our kids.”

The lowest two scores (4) were under the topic of instruction: “I keep informed about student achievement,” and “I solicit information from the community pertaining to instructional program needs.”

Among the 46 items under headings of superintendent, community, meetings, staff, instructional, fiscal, and personal work, five got perfect 5.0 scores, and the rest at least a 4.0.

As West Ridge High School prepares to have its ribbon cutting on Nov. 11, Hull said looking back he’s amazed how well the school system dealt with COVID-19, opened Sullivan East Middle in January 2020 just before the pandemic hit and opened West Ridge in August of this year as the outbreak continued.

“I’ve been the board attorney through the majority of superintendents” on a wall in the back of the meeting room, said Hull, who started as board attorney with Paul Nelson.

Nelson served from 1971 to 1980, when superintendents were elected. The last elected superintendent and first appointed director later was John O’Dell.

Rafalowski, who retired in 2019 with more than 40 years of service, returned this year first as an interim and then a permanent director, replacing David Cox. He retired at the end of June after two years in Sullivan County.

The perfect board self-evaluation scores were:

• Under superintendent for “I am a positive influence for giving the superintendent sufficient research time and not forcing an on-the-spot decision.”

• Under community for “I work to do what is in the best interest of each and every student without distinction as to who they are or what their background may be.”

• Under meetings for “I exercise good listening skills during meetings,” and “I conduct myself in a businesslike manner, following accepted parliamentary procedures and rules.”

• Under instructional for “I support policies that enable the staff to develop the educational program required to meet the needs of the community.”

• Under personal work for “I keep the education and welfare of children as my primary concern,” “I represent the best interest of all citizens rather than special interest groups,” “I attend board meetings regularly,” “I refrain from asking that items be added to the agenda at the last minute,” “I do not individually or unilaterally make decisions or commitments on the board’s behalf,” “I am open and honest with board members, school staff and community members,” and “I share information and avoid ‘surprises’ whenever possible.”


Crime
centerpiece
Watch now: Kinnie Wagner prevails in shootout with police in Kingsport

They took poor Kinnie back to jail

The judge to him did say

“Your sentence shall be death, my boy”

But Kinnie got away

— “Kinnie Wagner,” sung by Altoona Craver (aka Vernon Dalthat), written by the Rev. Andrew Jenkins and recorded in 1926. Ernest Stoneman also released a recording of this song, which recounts Wagner’s 1925 Sullivan County trial, conviction and escape.

KINGSPORT — “Two local officers are killed by a desperado,” the afternoon Kingsport Times banner headline blared on Monday, April 13, 1925. “Smith and Webb dead, Frazier is wounded in running pistol battle.”

The shoot-out happened the day after Easter, Scott County native Kinnie Wagner would recall in an interview more than three decades later in a Mississippi prison.

An earlier killing of a Mississippi sheriff’s deputy earned him a life sentence in that state. Wagner escaped twice, failed once, and ultimately died in Parchman Prison, which he called “the university,” on March 9, 1958, according to the lead story in the Kingsport News the next day.

In between, he was sentenced to the electric chair for the killings in Kingsport.

Wagner also recounted to Mississippi author Claude Gentry, who wrote a 1969 book titled “The Guns of Kinnie Wagner,” how he made his escape after the Kingsport incident on a horse owned by Dewey Nelson. Wagner said he rode through a railroad underpass and back to Scott County after braving the chilly waters of the Holston.

Rick / Courtesy of the Archives of Appalachia, East Tennessee State University, James H. Quillen Collection 

Scott County native Kinnie Wagner after he turned himself in for the April 13, 1925 shooting three law enforcement officers on the long Island of the Holston River the afternoon before this. Two died at the scene, while one recuperated but died in 1938 from a heart attack after a shootout proved fatal to a fellow officer.

The gun battle occurred on Long Island of the South Fork of the Holston, near where Riverfront Seafood stands today.

Wagner was 6 feet 2 inches or 6 feet 3 inches tall and at that time weighed about 180 pounds, but in later life tipped the scales at 240 or so. He also lost much of his wavy hair by his 40s.

Young Wagner’s wild ride toward Cherry Hill, now the Midfields area, is recounted in an April 24, 1943 memorandum in FBI files. The memo is among documents obtained by the Times News through a Freedom of Information Act request that generated more than 800 pages.

Although the narrative is detailed, it was written by an FBI agent nearly two decades after the Holston River killings and during the same month agents captured Wagner in the Moccasin Gap area outside Gate City.

As an aside, former Times News columnist and author Vince Staten wrote two columns about Wagner, including one about how Wagner apparently paid rent money of sorts to Nelson. Nelson told Staten and a friend he eventually got $5 in an envelope with no return address and assumed it was from Wagner. The horse had been found shortly after the getaway and was returned to Nelson.

Wagner’s 1943 capture in Scott County was the second time he went into custody in the commonwealth, although the first time he had surrendered to a storekeeper in Waycross following the Kingsport shootout.

The last time he was captured was in 1956 in Mississippi, after exasperated FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover refused state authorities’ appeals for the agency’s help.

TWO KILLED, ONE INJURED IN KINGSPORT

In 1925, Wagner returned to the rolling hills of Southwest Virginia after escaping from jail in Mississippi and killing a sheriff’s deputy who tried to recapture him on Christmas Eve the previous year.

Rick / Find a Grave 

Greene County, Mississippi Sheriff's Deputy Murdock McIntosh, killed Christmas Eve of 1924 by Scott County, Virginia native Kinnie Wagner, who had escaped from the County Jail in November of that year on charges from neighboring George County.

“I got the impression he was the sort of guy that would be a good friend and a loyal friend, but you didn’t want to cross him,” East Tennessee State University English professor emeritus Thomas Burton said. He added that Wagner presented the aura of a romantic Western hero.

In 1968, Burton wrote a scholarly article about the Kingsport gun battle that was published in the Kentucky Folklore Record. He interviewed Ollie Wagner Cunningham, Wagner’s sister, and Amy Lee, Wagner’s cousin, about inaccuracies in songs about the outlaw. Burton said the pair were with Wagner that April afternoon.

In 1974, Burton penned “A Ballad Outlaw’s Self-concept,” based on Vagabond Gazette articles, which recounted Wagner’s life up to that point in his own words.

Wagner had met his sister and some other folks for a picnic, but the occasion turned deadly for Sullivan County Deputy Hubert Webb and Kingsport policeman John Smith.

Rick / OFFICER DOWN MEMORIAL PAGE 

Kingsport Police Officer John Smith, killed by Scott County, Virginia native Kinnie Wagner April 13, 1925 on the Long Island of the South Fork of the Holston River.

Rick / OFFICER DOWN MEMORIAL PAGE 

Sullivan County Sheriff's Deputy Hubert Webb, killed by Scott County, Virginia native Kinnie Wagner April 13, 1925 on the Long Island of the South Fork of the Holston River.

Kingsport officer George Frazier was injured but recovered. Deputies Joe Groseclose and Miller (no first name or initials given) were not injured. Reports indicate 20 to 30 shots were fired.

Of Groseclose and Miller, Wagner later said one ran away and the other played dead.

“Webb and Smith fell and died in their tracks,” the 1943 FBI memo says, based on a Kingsport Times account of April 13, 1925.

“One bullet penetrated Webb’s face just to the left of his nose, while another bullet grazed his shoulder and passed through his heart. Either would have proven almost instantly fatal,” the memo says.

“Smith was shot through the left breast, the bullet coming out through the left shoulder blade,” according to the memo. “Frazier died a number of years later due to the wound inflicted.”

Rick / OFFICER DOWN MEMORIAL PAGE  

Kingsport Police Officer George Frazier was wounded by Scott County native Kinnie Wagner April 13, 1925 on the Long Island of the South Fork of the Holston River and is reported by the FBI as having died later as a result of his shooting. However, says that he died of a heart attack after a May 30, 1938 shootout involving several officers with a suspect near Cooks Valley. Further, the Kingsport Time of that date identified Frazier as a Sullivan County constable and said he died of a heart attack 15 minutes after the shooting.

However, the May 30, 1938, Kingsport Times reports Sullivan County Constable George Frazier died that day of a heart attack 15 minutes after a shootout in the Cooks Valley area that killed another constable, an account also given by the Officer Down Memorial Page online.

The late Rev. Worley Fleenor in a letter to the Kingsport Times-News published around 1969, according to the Gentry book, wrote of the slain officers: “The men and their families were both my friends and I have always been sorry these men died, because they were both good men, but they made the mistake of going after Kinnie in the wrong way. These officers would never have been killed and things would have been different had they gone about arresting Kinnie in the right way.”

During his trial, which began the same month he was arrested, Wagner claimed that he was ambushed in what was then a park area with no demand to surrender, only bullets whizzing by him.

Law enforcement officials claimed that a “disturbance” or indecent and lewd conduct had drawn them to Long Island.

However, Gentry’s book indicates that the officers had brought a hearse for Wagner, but it wound up carrying the two dead policemen instead.

Two others were not shot, a fact that led Jim Necessary, a retired Eastman Chemical Co. engineer who collected information about Wagner and made presentations to various clubs and civic groups, to conclude that law enforcement was there simply hoping to collect a $1,000 “dead or alive” bounty.

That reward, according to the FBI memo, was hanging over Wagner after he escaped from the Greene County Jail in Mississippi, where he was being held on theft charges from neighboring George County, and then killed Greene County Deputy Murdock McIntosh, who, along with Sheriff W.J. Turner and others, came after him on Christmas Eve 1924.

According to Wagner’s explanation in the Gentry book, he had been running moonshine that McIntosh had confiscated and then sold, getting $1 a gallon for his trouble. Other accounts indicate a sheriff might have been running or involved in the operation.

However, in “The Story of My Life,” Wagner’s 1931 account penned from prison for The Vagabond Gazette, a magazine based in Big Laurel, Virginia, says he left the “whiskey racket” but makes no mention of a sheriff or deputy being involved.

EFFECTS OF PROHIBITION

As other articles on that April 13, 1925 front page of the Kingsport Times attest, Prohibition was in effect nationwide.

Wagner told Gentry in the mid-1950s that federal authorities were closing in on the bootleg whiskey operation of a sheriff’s deputy and that the officer feared Kinnie would tell what he knew.

It all started with a seven-jewel Elgin pocket watch, which Wagner called inexpensive and said was given to him by a friend for safekeeping. Turner, the sheriff over McIntosh, subsequently searched Wagner, found the watch and arrested him, saying the item had been reported stolen. Some sources mention a theft of money, too.

However, Wagner told Gentry, in prison interviews circa 1956-58, that his real downfall had been bootleg liquor.

Although Wagner claimed he would have nothing to do with bootlegging or very little to do with drinking liquor in later years, FBI files in the early 1940s, when he was on the run from prison in Mississippi, reported he frequented places where illegal liquor was sold in and around Gate City, and an informant reported he asked where liquor was available.

WAS WAGNER A VICTIM?

The ways Wagner has been remembered and portrayed fall into basically two camps: as a victim of police corruption and circumstance or a murdering thug.

“There are certainly mixed feelings about this man,” Necessary told the Kingsport Survivors Club on Sept. 8, 2003. “He was both feared and respected.”

Necessary said folks in this region thought Wagner was either a hoodlum (the minority) or a decent man.

Larry Massey in his 2017 book, “Saga of Kinnie Wagner: The South’s Most Notorious Gunman,” said that Wagner “as his health declined” sought to engage “writer Claude Gentry to tell his biography the way he wanted it to be told.”

Gentry does recount how he worked unsuccessfully to get Wagner pardoned in Mississippi, but he was far from Wagner’s only defender.

“I played the cards that were dealt to me,” Necessary said in character as Wagner in 2003. “What would you have done if you were in my shoes?”

Necessary, speaking of the Long Island shoot-out, said it was unlikely that five law enforcement officers, in a town where the whole police force numbered seven, would go on a “disturbance” complaint. He called the response an “overdose of police” for that kind of situation.

“I feel that the Kingsport Police Department knew Kinnie was there that day,” Necessary said.

As Wagner headed to Kingsport to surrender the morning after the shootings, a car carrying two Sullivan County deputies intentionally crashed into the car carrying him, FBI memos and the Kingsport Times say.

OR WAS HE A HOODLUM?

In contrast, the April 14, 1925, Kingsport Times said that the “tragedy was the most shocking and disastrous one that has ever occurred in or about Kingsport. With 10 orphaned children and two widows weeping in their homes, dozens of men of Kingsport and vicinity turned out on the manhunt for the desperado.”

An unidentified descendant of one of the two men killed on Long Island was at the 2003 Survivors Club meeting and also had a less than rosy opinion of Wagner.

“He left my mother with three small children and one on the way,” the woman said.

Based on that article describing Webb as having three children and Smith six, the unidentified woman would have been Webb’s daughter. And the 10 children mentioned might have included Webb’s unborn child.

Scott Necessary, Jim’s son, said he often went to his father’s presentations and often someone in the crowd was a relative of Wagner’s.

“The one thing about Kinnie Wagner was he was a good man, as good as they come,” Scott said. “If you crossed him, I feel like he was going to make you pay.”

One of Jim’s daughters, Debra Necessary Gibson of Castlewood, Virginia, said: “It’s not that he (Jim) approved of what he (Wagner) did. He respected that he (Wagner) stood up for himself.”

WAGNER THE MARKSMAN

A good man, bad man or a mixture? All sources seem to agree on one thing: Wagner was a crack shot and proved it many times over. Jim Necessary, who has since died, recounted how Wagner became a marksman by hunting game to help feed his family with a single-shot .22-caliber rifle and had more success than his brother Oscar did with a shotgun.

Moreover, details of the officers’ injuries sustained during the Long Island gun battle speak volumes about Wagner’s shooting prowess.

At age 17 or so, Wagner ran off to join a circus, learned to ride wild broncos and eventually went out West to try his hand at the rodeos, although that didn’t work out.

He even went to Mexico for a time but returned to the United States after four months because, among other things, Necessary said Mexicans thought him a spy even though he didn’t speak Spanish.

Look for the second and final part of the Kinnie Wagner package in Monday’s Kingsport Times News.

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Crime
featured
Kinnie Wagner's life included many women

“The girls and women, single or settled, just couldn’t keep their hands off him — so there was either born or forced upon him, a way with women.”

— December 1959 article by Hiram J. Herbert titled “The Kinnie Wagner Saga: Booze, Babes and Breakouts” in For Men Only magazine

Outlaw Kinnie Wagner never had extended time available for romance and courtship after he became a fugitive sought by law enforcement in his early 20s.

He was busy looking over his shoulder for authorities or sitting in a prison that often kept a girlfriend from visiting. However, he was also sought after by women, and the feeling apparently was mutual.

The Scott County native and “desperado,” as described by the FBI and newspapers, spent most of his adult life in jail or prison, escaping, living on the run, and being recaptured. However, he apparently had some time for women during his 55 years. He killed at least five men.

FBI files obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request include one memo that simply said he liked women.

WOMEN OF HIS AFFECTION

One early romance was with an unnamed woman while he was still living at home in Scott County. “The Guns of Kinnie Wagner,” a book by Claude Gentry, says Wagner stepped aside so another suitor in law school could court her.

Wagner’s other relationships, according to the FBI, included “consorting” with a Scott County woman while on the run in this area from 1940 to 1943, a possible romance with a female sheriff in Arkansas in the 1920s, an FBI-described “high-class prostitute” he saw in Mississippi and the Tri-Cities in the 1940s, and a woman from Missouri with whom he exchanged letters over decades since 1926 and who saw him from time to time. The latter was interviewed by Gentry.

Other possible love interests might have included a girlfriend of a sheriff’s deputy and a woman who might have led to his final capture in 1956 thanks to a tip by a romantic rival.

‘WIVES’ CAME TO CALL

While Wagner was awaiting a return to the Parchman Prison in Mississippi in 1943, the FBI reported in an April 24, 1943, memorandum from the Richmond field office that numerous “wives” came to the jail in Bristol, Virginia, in an attempt to see him. Ironically, he was on his way to see a woman he pondered marrying when he was taken into custody on April 16, 1943, by the FBI, the Gentry book says.

In the early 1940s, the FBI was hot on the trail of Wagner in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The FBI records obtained through the FOIA request include 827 pages, although some are duplicates. The majority of them focused on 1940-43, when he was on the run and in and around the Tri-Cities.

“In spite of the fact that several ‘wives’ curious to interview the trigger-man had contacted police headquarters, Wagner declared he had never been married,” according to an April 24, 1943 memorandum from the Richmond field office quoting a Bristol Herald Courier article from April 18 of that year.

“They locked me up too soon and didn’t give me a chance to do any courting,” Wagner was quoted as saying in the paper. “I have never been lonesome because I like my own company too well,” he said in response to a query concerning his life as a recluse since 1940, “and as for hobbies, what I like best is to be by myself and think.”

‘CONSORTING’ WOMAN

The Scott County with whom Wagner was “consorting” was Marie Oaks, according to a March 24, 1943, memo from Special Agent J.A. Bernard. No further information about her was in the records.

FEMALE SHERIFF

The female sheriff was Lillie Barber of Miller County, Arkansas, who was filling out her late husband’s term. Gentry’s book said Wagner turned himself in to her in Texarkana in the middle of the night after shooting siblings Sam and Will Carper to death during a card game and drinking party gone wrong.

A third brother, Bob, was injured but survived. An Aug. 20, 1926, Associated Press report quoted Wagner as saying: “I would have gotten Bob, but it was so dark I couldn’t see to shoot straight.”

Being attacked and nearly passing out also might have hurt Wagner’s aim, Jim Necessary said in a presentation on Wagner to the Survivors Club of Kingsport on Sept. 8, 2003.

Arkansas declined to prosecute Wagner for the brothers’ deaths and instead turned him back over to Mississippi. The FBI records later said the Carper siblings were “notorious.” Gentry’s book claims Wagner was told by an FBI agent that he did Arkansas a favor.

Necessary’s presentation to the Survivors Club, renamed the Kingsport Historical Society, said Sullivan County Sheriff Joe Thomas traveled to Arkansas to try to bring Wagner back to Tennessee but failed.

Barber apparently had no issue with Wagner not being tried for the Carper killings. She used him as a trusty of sorts in her jail, according to the Gentry book.

A potential romance between the sheriff and the outlaw seems conjecture. Another theory is Barber might have been easy on Wagner because the Carper brothers he had killed were suspects in the murder of her sheriff husband, according to Necessary, who had a keen interest in Wagner’s life.

PROSTITUTE GIRLFRIEND

Among other things, the records painted a picture of a very “loquacious” man who’d had one girlfriend during that time. She was variously described as a prostitute, paramour, girlfriend and friend named Lena Johnson, Lenna Johnson or Lena Johnson Barnes.

She was listed in one report as living in Mississippi, in another as living between Kingsport and Bristol, Tennessee, and also as seeing him at times while he was on the run. She also was listed as an informant.

Jackson, Mississippi, FBI agent J.W.T. Faulkner IV in a Sept. 4, 1942 memo called Johnson a “high-class prostitute” who had done business in hotels in Corinth, Mississippi, and had been married three times.

PEN PAL FROM MISSOURI

The women who came to the Bristol Jail and later Lynchburg Jail to see Wagner before he was returned to Mississippi were not identified in the FBI files, but the Gentry book identified Wagner’s true love as Amelia “Emily” Hoke, a Missouri woman he met while on a ranch in Marland, Oklahoma, in 1926 after he stayed a brief time in Mexico and before he killed the Carpers in Arkansas.

A July 15, 1942 FBI memo from Jackson, Mississippi, Special Agent R D. Briston references “very mushy love letters” from Wagner to Hoke in Missouri.

Wagner and Hoke, who was part Native American, even talked marriage, the book says, although she married and later divorced another man. Prison authorities often made it difficult for her to visit him, and the two concocted a ruse where she cut her hair and was dressed like a boy but then abandoned it, Gentry’s book says.

The book also notes that Wagner was on his way to see Hoke when the FBI caught him not far from Gate City on April 16, 1943 in a car driven by a man who was charged with aiding and abetting a fugitive.

Wagner eventually tried to prevent Hoke from visiting him, including turning her away from the Lynchburg Jail. The Gentry book says she didn’t make it to the Bristol Jail.

OTHER POTENTIAL WOMEN

Former Times News columnist Vince Staten once wrote that Wagner might have been romantically involved with a girlfriend of one of the Mississippi sheriff’s deputies who came for him the night he killed one on Christmas Eve 1924, the shooting for which he was sentenced to life in prison in Mississippi. The officer left behind a wife and children, according to newspaper accounts.

In addition, Staten and various other sources indicated that a jealous rival for a female friend in Mississippi might have turned Wagner in to authorities in 1956, although by that time heart and other health issues had taken a toll on a man living on the run since 1948. Some sources say Wagner was living with the woman in Wahalak, Mississippi.

In fact, Staten said he had been told that Wagner might have had an interest in one of the girls with him, who were cousins or friends of his sister, in Kingsport when he killed two officers on the Long Island of the Holston River on April 13, 1925.

A December 1959 article called “The Kinnie Wagner Saga: Booze, Babes and Breakouts” in For Men Only magazine by Hiram J. Herbert indicates Wagner had a girlfriend named Margie while in the circus before his troubles with law enforcement began.

“The girls and women, single or settled, just couldn’t keep their hands off him — so there was either born or forced upon him, a way with women,” the article said.

The same article said Wagner was living as a boarder with an unnamed widow and went by the name Ed Viner.

A much earlier article in The Vagabond Gazette, from 1931, advertised as Wagner’s story written by him (albeit with his birth date a year too late), recounted a woman he met in Mexico. The Gazette ceased publishing before Wagner’s serialized account of his life was completed.

CONCLUSION

Wagner is quoted in the Gentry book as saying his downfall was helping run moonshine, but his interest in women played potentially pivotal parts in his life.

That is particularly true if he was truly on his way to see Hoke when he was captured in 1943 and if in 1956 a jealous romantic rival turned him in to authorities.

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Crime
featured
Kinnie Wagner timeline

Kinnie Wagner chronology

Feb. 18, 1903: William Kenneth “Kinnie” Wagner born to Charles Monroe Wagner and Nancy Jane Penley in Speers Ferry, Virginia, in Scott County.

1920-24: Runs away from home to join the Richard Brothers Circus. Becomes a bronco rider who tames a horse no one could tame. Leaves the circus and starts to run moonshine or untaxed whiskey, possibly for a deputy sheriff.

Oct. 8, 1924: Arrested for stealing a watch and possibly money in George County around Lucedale, Mississippi. Held in neighboring Greene County.

Nov. 11, 1924: Escapes from the Greene County jail in Leakesville.

Dec. 24, 1924 (Christmas Eve): Kills Greene County Sheriff’s Deputy Murdock McIntosh in a gun battle with McIntosh and other officers. McIntosh was buried Christmas Day. Wagner headed back to Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

April 13, 1925: Kills Kingsport Police Officer John Smith and Sullivan County Deputy Sheriff Hubert Webb and injures Officer George Frazier on the day after Easter at a picnic on the Long Island of the South Fork of the Holston River.

April 14, 1925: After talking with widow of W.S. Rhodes the night before, sleeping in her barn and again talking with her that morning, Wagner turns himself in to D.R. Poe at a store near Waycross, Virginia. Subsequently taken to the Sullivan County Jail in Blountville; en route to Kingsport, the car in which he was riding was rammed by a car of deputies.

April 21, 1925: Trial starts in Blountville.

April 26, 1925: Convicted of murder and sentenced to death by electrocution, but that sentence is never carried out. Wagner claims the officers shot first, but law enforcement officials maintain he shot first.

July 10, 1925: With six other men escapes from the Sullivan County Jail in Blountville just before 6 p.m.

July 1925: Travels to Mexico but returns to the United States. At a ranch in Marland, Oklahoma, meets Amelia “Emily” Hoke or Hoche, a woman identified in a Claude Gentry book as a love interest for the rest of Wagner’s life.

Aug. 16, 1926: Kills brothers Sam and William Carper and wounds brother Bob Carper in Arkansas during a card game and drinking party gone bad. Surrenders in the middle of the night to Sheriff Lillie Barker near Texarkana. Subsequently turned over to Mississippi, not Tennessee.

Oct. 31, 1926: Sentenced to life in prison in Mississippi for killing McIntosh.

Nov. 5, 1926: Became Prisoner No. 296 at Parchman Prison, a working farm where he picked cotton, among other duties.

Dec. 8, 1927: Fails in escape attempt from Parchman. Eventually becomes a trusty who, among other things, is armed and in charge of apprehending escaped prisoners.

1928-1939: Has a heart attack in 1936 while at Parchman, eventually assigned to easier tasks than picking cotton. He was an armed trusty for six years before his first escape, according to FBI records.

Oct. 27, 1940: Escaped from Parchman after going out to catch an escaped inmate. Guard J.W. Fowler drives him. He allegedly kidnapped the guard and took his weapon and clothes, but Wagner claimed the guard willingly took him and gave him money, clothes and a weapon.

April 16, 1943: After being on the run for nearly three years, mostly in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, caught about 2 a.m. in a Model A Ford driven by H.E. Morrison of Weber City by FBI agents and Virginia State Police. It was 7.7 miles west of Gate City on U.S. Route 23, in the Moccasin Gap area.

1943-47: Remains in prison, trusty status reinstated. During this time, he was in the Tri-Cities area in December 1945 for “Christmas Furlough” and was interviewed by the Kingsport News.

March 15, 1948: Escapes again from Parchman with a submachine gun he was issued as a trusty. Stays on the run in Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and Mississippi for more than seven years. Had taught the guard dogs he trained not to follow his scent. FBI refuses to help catch him.

Jan. 29, 1956: Captured by Mississippi State Police and Parchman officials in Wahalack, Mississippi. Returns to prison and remains a trusty, although his health is failing.

March 9, 1958: Dies of a heart attack at age 55 at Parchman.

March 11, 1958: Viewing of body at Scott County Funeral Home drew an estimated 15,000 people.

March 12, 1958: Buried on a Wednesday after a funeral at Scott County Funeral Home and a graveside service in the Mountain View Cemetery, also called Wood Cemetery, in Scott County about four miles outside Gate City.

Main sources: FBI memorandums of more than 800 pages obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request, Kingsport Times, Kingsport News and “The Guns of Kinnie Wagner” by Claude Gentry and published chapters of “The Story of My Life” in 1931 issues of The Vagabond Gazette based in Big Laurel, Virginia.

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Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Clubb)


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