||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (April 2011)|
|Born||William F. Claiborne
October 21, 1860
Yazoo County, Mississippi, United States
|Died||November 14, 1882
Tombstone, Arizona Territory, United States
|Cause of death||Gunshot|
|Occupation||Ranch hand, miner, cattle rustler|
William F. Claiborne (October 21, 1860 – November 14, 1882), was an American outlaw and gunfighter in the American Old West. He was one of the survivors of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, only to be killed in another unrelated shootout a year later.
Claiborne was born in Yazoo County, Mississippi. As a young man he worked for John Slaughter helping to drive his cattle from Texas to Tombstone area in 1880. He worked as a ranch hand, miner and driver for a mining company. In 1881 William "Billy the Kid" Bonney was killed. After Bonney's death Claiborne demanded that others call him "Billy the Kid" causing him to kill one to three men who refused.
Claiborne, who had possibly been a cattle rustler with the Cowboys, was readily enlisted as a confrontation with Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp became imminent, with the common feeling among the Cowboys that Claiborne would even the odds; Claiborne was with Ike Clanton when the group was confronted by the Earps and Doc Holliday at the O.K. Corral. Although popular western lore claims Claiborne was said to have fought less than admirably, firing one or two wild shots toward Virgil Earp, Claiborne said later that he was not armed at the time, and none of the Earps took him to be so.
In the fight, Claiborne ran from the confrontation toward C. S. Fly's photography studio, surviving without harm. Ironically, it was Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury, and Frank McLaury who stood to fight the Earps and Holliday, none of whom had any documented clashes with the Earp faction prior to that day.
After testifying at the O.K. Corral inquest, Claiborne made little trouble until after the Earps left for California in April 1882. Disappearing for several months, Claiborne returned to Tombstone on November 14, 1882, his reputation having taken a backward spiral because of his non-participation in the O. K. Corral shootout.
He became involved in an argument with noted gunfighter "Buckskin" Frank Leslie, after Leslie refused to refer to Claiborne as "Billy the Kid". Later that night, Claiborne returned to the Oriental Saloon, where he drunkenly called out Leslie, awaiting him outside the saloon with a rifle. Leslie followed Claiborne out a side-door onto the street and mortally wounded him in the ensuing gunfight with a single shot to the chest. As Leslie raised his gun for a second shot, Claiborne allegedly said to him, "Don't shoot me anymore, I'm killed". Leslie lowered his gun. Claiborne was taken to a doctor by friends, where he died six hours after being shot. By some accounts, his last words were "Frank Leslie killed Johnny Ringo, I saw him do it".
- Sifakis, Carl. Encyclopedia of American Crime, New York, Facts on File Inc., 1982
- "Nashville Franklin Leslie ("Buckskin Frank")". Retrieved 7 May 2011.
- O' Neal, Bill. Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-0-8061-2335-6. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
- http://www.tombstone1880.com/archives/leslie.htm The Tombstone Epitaph, LESLIE'S LUCK, Nov. 18, 1882