|Jack Graves Favor|
November 30, 1911|
Eula, Callahan County
|Died||December 27, 1988
Arlington, Tarrant County
|Cause of death||Pancreatic cancer|
|Resting place||Parkdale Cemetery in Arlington, Texas|
|Alma mater||Abilene High School (Texas)|
Rodeo performer and manager
(1) Divorced prior to 1940
From second marriage:
Jack Graves Favor, known as Cadillac Jack Favor (November 30, 1911 – December 27, 1988), was an American rodeo performer who was framed and falsely imprisoned in 1967 for two murders committed in North Louisiana by two hitchhikers whom Favor had given a ride. In 1974, in a retrial he was cleared of the crime and released.
Favor, the son of Robert Dixon Favor and Georgia Graves, was born and reared on a ranch near Eula in Callahan County east of Abilene, Texas. He graduated in 1929 from Abilene High School and began his first of two stints in the United States Navy. On his return to Texas in 1932 at the beginning of the Great Depression, Favor worked on a dairy farm and then as a truck driver for a plumbing supply company. Divorced after a brief marriage to Pearl Alexander, Favor married the former Ponder Irene Rhodes (1914-1993) on October 14, 1941 in Callahan County, Texas.
During World War II, Favor returned to the Navy in 1943, but his passion was in rodeo, particularly bulldogging and bronc riding. At 6' 2" and 230 pounds, Favor in 1942 rode the legendary bucking horse Hell's Angel at Madison Square Garden in New York City for the Gene Autry Rodeo. Favor mounted Hell's Angel despite a leg injury which he treated with a spray of ether. He won $18,000 for his feat. On four occasions he held the rodeo bulldogging record, including throwing a steer in 2.2 seconds at the rodeo in Houston, Texas. The record of 2.2 seconds remains unbeaten, but it has been matched by James "Big Jim" Bynum of Forreston, near Waxahachie, Texas. In 1946, back from the war, Favor won rodeo championships in Denver and Fort Worth, where he had relocated in 1939.
Imprisoned but innocent
By 1961, Favor had left the rodeo and had become Regional Manager for Hydrotex Industries. On one of his trips in April 1964, he picked up hitchhikers Floyd Edward Cumbey (1936-1998) and Donald Lee Yates and drove the pair from near Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Bossier City in northwestern Louisiana. The event would come to shatter his life seventeen months later in September 1965, when Willie Waggonner, the sheriff of Bossier Parish and the older brother of U.S. Representative Joe Waggonner of Louisiana's 4th congressional district, sought Favor on charges of robbery and the murders of Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Richey, the owners of a bait and tackle shop near Haughton east of Bossier City. Cumbey and Yates thought that the Richeys had $60,000 hidden in their possession, but the couple refused to admit if they had such holdings on their property and were shot to death. Favor had no knowledge of the Richey murders. Nor did he know that Cumbey had framed him for the double homicides. He hardly remembered Cumbey or Yates, he told authorities when he was lured in 1966 to come to the Bossier Parish Courthouse in Benton to take a lie detector test, supposedly to remove doubt about his potential guilt in the case, which had dragged on for two years without a serious suspect. Waggonner then arrested Favor while he had the chance, and the district attorney, Louis H. Padgett, Jr. (1913-1980), brought forth murder charges against the former rodeo star.
After the Richey murders, Cumbey had been tried for armed robbery in Missouri, but a hung jury resulted. Waggonner believed Cumbey's false testimony and obtained Cumbey's release so that he could testify against Favor at the trial at the courthouse in Benton. Cumbey pleaded guilty himself as an accessory to the murders of the Richeys and targeted Favor as the triggerman. Yates had confessed to authorities of his involvement in the murders but said that the third culprit was someone other than Favor. The trial judge, O. E. Price, who was thereafter elected to the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit in Shreveport, ruled that the jury could not hear the testimony of Donald Lee Yates, which could have refuted the impact of Cumbey's claims. After the trial, Cumbey was allowed to change his murder pleas to manslaughter, and he received suspended sentences on each count. Seven months after Favor's trial, Cumbey was taken on Sheriff Waggonner's orders by chief deputy and later Sheriff Vol Dooley to Texarkana and released from the authority of Louisiana. The jurors who convicted Favor, however, had been told that Cumbey would serve a term in the state penitentiary. Unlike Cumbey, Yates was given life imprisonment in the case.
Two days after his release, Cumbey killed his former girlfriend and her roommate in Tulsa. Despite his evidence to the contrary as to his whereabouts on April 17, 1964, Favor received life imprisonment at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in West Feliciana Parish in southeastern Louisiana. Favor's attorney, Joe T. Cawthorn of Mansfield and Shreveport, who served in the Louisiana State Senate from 1940 to 1944, died, and his co-counsel, James B. Wells of Bossier City, who believed in Favor's innocence, began to work pro bono to procure a second trial. This required a lawsuit against the then warden at Angola, C. Murray Henderson.
Favor had never backed down from physical confrontations and sometimes seemed to provoke fights. In prison, he let the other inmates know that he would not be intimidated by anyone nor join any gangs. Favor quickly took the lead in turning the struggling prison rodeo into a professional production, which was first opened to the public in 1967. The rodeo draws thousands of annual visitors. He instilled self-discipline in the prisoners involved in rodeo and formed a chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Prison authorities permitted Favor to travel across the state to promote the rodeo. He earmarked funds raised through the rodeo to finance emergency trips for inmates, under guard.
Favor's attorney, James Wells, filed a writ of habeas corpus, which the state courts denied. A federal judge granted Favor a second trial on the premise that Judge Price and DA Padgett, both of Bossier City, had in the first trial illegally conspired to convict Favor. In the second trial seven years later, also held in Benton but with a different judge and prosecutor, Favor was quickly acquitted of the murder of Mrs. Richey based on Yates' testimony, which Judge Price had blocked from being admitted in the first trial. On orders from Louisiana Attorney General William J. Guste, who cited concern about double jeopardy, Favor was not tried a second time for W. H. Richey's murder. Favor sued the State of Louisiana for $7 million for wrongful imprisonment but settled for just $55,000. Favor long claimed that his conviction was the result of collusion among Judge Price, Sheriff Waggonner, Deputy Dooley, and Louis Padgett, the district attorney who in 1970 was elected to a judgeship of the 26th Judicial District Court. The small settlement was a result of state officials having immunity in connection with their job duties.
On many occasions, Favor performed at the Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth. On October 25, 2009, he was posthumously inducted into the Texas Trail of Fame, based at the Fort Worth Stockyards. Favor was also inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1978.
Favor was a long-time member of the First United Methodist Church of Arlington, Texas. He attributed his faith in Jesus Christ as essential to his surviving his imprisonment. At first Favor looked upon his imprisonment as a type of Christian mission outreach and expected the injustice he endured would quickly end and that justice would prevail. He was active in the group Cowboys for Christ. His Christian views impacted his interest in prison reform, for which he argued on behalf of county prisons in which inmates must perform public works, rather than confinement in a heavily-guarded statewide facility.
The actor Clint Black played the role of Favor in the 1998 television film, Still Holding On: The Legend of Cadillac Jack. Black also performed a country song entitled "Still Holding On". Black's wife, Lisa Hartman Black, played Jack's wife, Ponder. The Favors had two daughters, Juanita Jane Favor (born 1944) and Janice Kay Favor Kitterman (born 1947), and a son, Tommy Ray Favor (born 1950). Favor's oldest daughter was tasked with handling all affairs related to Favor's story rights and ultimately was successful in bringing her parents' story to the screen. After prison, Favor returned to Arlington, where he sold used cars but found time to lecture youth on the perils of lawless behavior.
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