Deacon Jim Miller
| James Brown "Deacon Jim" Miller
(American outlaw and
|Born|| October 25, 1861 |
Resided primarily in Texas
|Died|| April 19, 1909 (aged 47) |
Lynched in Ada
Pontotoc County, Oklahoma
|Spouse|| Sally Clements Miller|
James Brown Miller, known as Deacon Jim Miller (October 25, 1861 – April 19, 1909), was a notorious American outlaw and contract killer in Texas and surrounding states. His Methodist churchgoing ways earned him the nickname, "'Deacon Jim'". He left behind possibly fifty-one victims, more than the better-known Billy the Kid and John Wesley Hardin, who also was known for Methodist church attendance.
Born in Arkansas, Miller moved with his family to central Texas. At the age of eight, he was suspected of having murdered his grandparents in Evant in Hamilton County, Texas, but was not of age to face prosecution. In 1884, at the age of twenty-three, he was indicted for the shotgun slaying of John Coop, his brother-in-law, and was sentenced to life in prison by a jury in Coryell County. However, the conviction was overturned on appeal through a technicality.
In 1891, while residing in Pecos in west Texas, he fired two shotgun blasts at Reeves County Sheriff George A. "Bud" Frazer, with whom he had quarreled in a saloon though Miller claimed to be a teetotaler. The case was transferred to Eastland County west of Fort Worth, where in preparation for his trial, Miller lived peaceably with his family and attended a local Methodist church regularly. He and his wife, the former Sallie Clements, had four children. Sallie was the daughter of a cousin of John Wesley Hardin. The community naively accepted the Millers, who were regular churchgoers. He dressed immaculately, was exceptionally courteous, and did not curse, smoke, nor consume alcohol. He won acquittal of the murder of Sheriff Frazar on grounds of self-defense.
In 1892, he became a contract killer. A decade later, he clashed with the attorney James Jarrott in a legal battle to permit settlers whom Jarrott had selected to settle in Cochran, Hockley, and Terry counties on the South Plains. Powerful ranchers tried to stop Jarrott, among them Pap Brownfield. Miller entered the fray through a questionable real estate transaction in Terry County. He became an ally of the Brownfield family, and the land became the city of Brownfield near Lubbock. On August 27, 1902, Jarrott was killed at the age of forty-one in an ambush as he rode horseback from Lubbock to his claim in Hockley County. The body was found in a pond near Ropesville, Texas. Jarrott is the first recorded murder victim of the South Plains. Miller later confessed to killing Jarrott for $500 but did not name Brownfield or anyone else as his employer and died before charges could be brought in the case.
In Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, Clint Pruitt retained Miller to avenge the shooting of Pruitt's brother by deputy U.S. Marshal Ben Collins. In 1906, Collins died in a shotgun blast. Miller was arrested and indicted for the murder but was never tried because the case was still pending when Miller died three years thereafter.
In 1908, Miller was suspected by some, without evidence, of the assassination in Las Cruces, New Mexico, of the former frontier lawman, Patrick Floyd Jarvis "Pat" Garrett (1850-1908), who had killed Billy the Kid in 1881 and wrote a book of questonable veracity about the deed, An Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, Noted Desperado of the Southwest. However, It is unlikely that Miller was involved in the murder of Garrett because Jesse Wayne Brazel (1876-1913) confessed to the crime.
In 1909, Miller arrived in Ada in Pontotoc County in south central Oklahoma amid a feud between saloon operators and former deputy U.S. Marshal Allen Augustus "Gus" Bobbitt. The saloon owners employed Miller to kill Bobbitt, who was soon dead from a shotgun blast. Before he died, Bobbitt fingered Miller as his slayer. Miller and his three co-conspirators were jailed, but Miller’s success in escaping justice alarmed local citizens. A irate mob soon pulled the four men from jail and lynched them. As he went to his death Miller yelled “Let ’er rip!”
- Chuck Lanehart (April 7, 2019). Caprock Chronicles: The Baddesst Outlaw of the West. Retrieved on April 11, 2019.
- Leon Claire Metz, The Encyclopedia of Lawmen, Outlaws, and Gunfighters, Checkmark Books, 2003, pp. 172–173. ISBN 0-8160-4543-7.