John "Jack" McCall (/məˈkɔːl/); (1852 or 1853 – March 1, 1877) (also known as "Crooked Nose" or "Broken Nose Jack"), was the murderer of Old West legend Wild Bill Hickok. McCall shot Hickok from behind as he played poker at Nuttal & Mann's Saloon in Deadwood, Dakota Territory on August 2, 1876. McCall was executed for the murder on March 1, 1877.
Many details of McCall's life are unknown. He was born in the early 1850s in Jefferson County, Kentucky. McCall was raised in Kentucky with three sisters, and eventually drifted west to become a buffalo hunter. By 1876, he was living in a gold mining camp outside Deadwood, under the alias of "Bill Sutherland."
Murder of Hickok
McCall was drinking at the bar at Nuttal & Mann's saloon in Deadwood on August 1, 1876, when one of the players dropped out of a card game that included "Wild Bill" Hickok. The inebriated McCall quickly took his place. McCall proceeded to lose several hands, and was soon broke. Hickok offered McCall money to buy breakfast and advised him not to play again until he could cover his losses. Though McCall accepted the money, he reportedly felt insulted.
On August 2, a poker game was once again under way at the saloon, but this time Hickok had his back to the door, in contrast to his normal practice of sitting in a corner to protect his back. A resentful and drunken McCall shot Hickok in the back of the head with a single-action .45-caliber revolver, shouting "Damn you! Take that!" Hickok died instantly. McCall ran from the saloon and attempted to steal a horse to escape, but fell from the excited animal. McCall was soon found hiding in the back of a local butcher shop and apprehended.
An impromptu court was called to order with the prosecution, defense, and jury made up of local miners and businessmen. On trial the next day in McDaniel's Theater, McCall claimed his actions were in retribution for Hickok having previously killed his brother in Abilene, Kansas. McCall was found innocent after two hours. The verdict brought the Black Hills Pioneer to editorialize: "Should it ever be our misfortune to kill a man... we would simply ask that our trial may take place in some of the mining camps of these hills."
Second trial and execution
Fearing for his safety, McCall soon left the area and headed into Wyoming Territory, where he repeatedly bragged about killing Hickok in a "fair" gunfight. But Wyoming authorities refused to recognize the result of McCall's acquittal on the grounds that the court in Deadwood had no legal jurisdiction. Therefore, the local court could not legally acquit McCall. Because Deadwood was not under a legally constituted law enforcement or court system, officials argued that McCall could be tried for murder again. Agreeing, the federal court in Yankton, Dakota Territory, declared that double jeopardy did not apply, and set a date for a retrial.
McCall was tried again in Yankton for Hickok's murder, and was quickly found guilty. After almost three months in jail, he was hanged on March 1, 1877, aged 24.
Aftermath and legacy
McCall was buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery in Yankton County, South Dakota, a cemetery which was moved in 1881. When McCall's body was exhumed, it was found to still have the noose around its neck. McCall was the first person to be executed by federal officials in the Dakota Territory.
The killing of Hickok and the capture of McCall is reenacted every summer evening (except Mondays) at the Old Towne Hall in Deadwood.
McCall was played by:
- Porter Hall in the 1936 film The Plainsman
- Lon Chaney, Jr. in the 1941 film Badlands of Dakota
- George Montgomery in the 1953 film Jack McCall, Desperado
- David Arquette in the 1995 film Wild Bill
- John Pyper-Ferguson in the 1995 television series Legend.
- Garret Dillahunt in the 2004 HBO television series Deadwood.