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Al Jennings
Birth: Nov. 25, 1863
Tazewell County
Virginia, USA
Death: Dec. 26, 1961
Tarzana
Los Angeles County
California, USA

Folk Figure. Al Jennings wore many hats during his long and colorful life: cowboy, lawyer, gunslinger, train robber, jailbird, evangelist, politician, author, and finally Hollywood-hyphenate. But he was most successful at creating his own myth. "The fastest gun on the range", as he often proclaimed himself, was an even faster talker. He boasted that he killed 18 men, "and I always shot 'em in the throat so they couldn't talk back". Historians say there is no record that Jennings killed anyone. He also claimed that he bested Jesse James in a shooting match, which would have been easy since James happened to be dead at the time Jennings said the contest took place. Real desperadoes like Fred Dalton of the Dalton Gang scoffed at Jennings as "the guy who held the horses" during bank robberies, and his outlaw exploits were marked by such ineptitude that comic moments from films like "Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid" were based on them. Jennings may have been small fry in the western badlands, but as a teller of tall tales he was World Class. This pint-sized cowpoke (he stood only 5'1" with his boots on) was born Alfonso Jackson Jennings in Tazewell County, Virginia. He ran away from home at 11 and made his way to Indian Territory, where he worked as a ranch hand and learned to sling a gun while supposedly encountering such legendary figures as Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp. "When I was 14, I was standing around Dodge City with Bat Masterson and the boys", a typical Jennings anecdote began. "An actor wearing a stovepipe hat got off the train. Bat pulled his gun and said, 'I'll plug that hat'. He fired and the man fell dead. 'Guess I shot too low', said Bat". Although he felt drawn to outlaw types, Jennings was also fascinated with the legal system. He moved to Kansas, where he studied law and was admitted to the Comanche County bar at age 21. In 1892 he was elected District Attorney in El Reno, Oklahoma. And that's where his days as a badman began---if his memoirs are to be believed. It seems that Jennings had a brother named Ed who was also a lawyer. One day Ed was shot in the back by three men who were angry over his victory in a trial. Swearing vengeance, Jennings claimed he tracked down the killers to a frontier general store, where he filled 'em full of lead. Then, as an afterthought, he robbed the store. "That was my first act of banditry", he crowed. It left him with a $5000 bounty on his head. Falling in with a band of outlaws, Jennings took to stealing cattle and horses, then graduated to robbing trains. By his own estimate he robbed between 15 and 20 trains in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, and Arkansas. He wasn't very good at it, though. During one attempted holdup, Jennings stood menacingly on the tracks, guns drawn, attempting to flag the train down. The engineer ignored him and nearly ran him over. Another exploit was recorded by author Louis L'Amour: "The gang boarded a train and a conductor with a deep, booming bass voice yelled from another car, 'What's going on up there?' At that the gang jumped off the train and walked miles back to their horses". Jennings' biggest single haul netted him $27 and a jug of whiskey. "There wasn't a lot of money on those trains", he recalled, "so we had to take up a collection from the passengers, just like in church". In 1895 the law finally caught up with Jennings when, with typical bumbling, he blew up a train's U. S. Mail car while trying to open the safe. He was captured without a shot being fired, tried and sentenced to life in prison. But he still had influential friends in legal circles, and in 1904 Jennings was pardoned by President Theodore Roosevelt. Two years later he married a lady named Maude who had taken to visiting him in prison. Although she stood half-a-foot taller than he was, he always referred to her as "The Little Woman". Restless as ever, Jennings dabbled in evangelism, did the lecture circuit, and resumed his law practice. In 1914 he ran for Governor of Oklahoma on the platform, "If elected I promise to be honest for a year, if I can hold out for that long". He lost, and the experience caused him to grumble, "There's more honesty among train robbers than among some public officials". Then Hollywood beckoned. Jennings had written a book, "Beating Back" (1914), based on his criminal activities, and an enterprising movie producer offered to film it with the author starring as himself. Jennings found himself at home in this new land of fool's gold, where show business folks were charmed to be in the presence of a "real-life outlaw". He stayed to work as a technical consultant, screenwriter, and character actor in over 100 silent and early talkie westerns, including such oater epics as "Hands Up!" (1917), "The Ridin' Rascal" (1926), and "Loco Luck" (1927). He even played a pirate in an early version of "The Sea Hawk" (1924). His autobiography, "Al Jennings of Oklahoma", was filmed in 1951 with Dan Duryea in the title role. Jennings used his Hollywood gains to buy a modest ranch in Tarzana, in the western end of the San Fernando Valley. There he raised chickens and sat on his front porch reminiscing about the bad old days. But he still had plenty of gumption left. In 1945 he sued the producers of the "Lone Ranger" radio serial for defamation of character, claiming the show's writers had belittled his prowess as a gunman. "They had this Lone Ranger shooting a gun out of my hand, and me an expert", he griped in court. The jury was entertained by Jennings' stories, but he still lost the case. In his nineties Jennings resumed having run-ins with the law, who were frequently called to investigate reports of gunfire at his home. One night he chased a chicken thief off his property and ended up blasting one of his own roosters. On another occasion he accidentally shot a neighbor in the elbow while cleaning his old Colt six-shooter. He had neglected to remove the bullets. In November of 1961 Jennings' beloved wife Maude passed on. The heartbroken 98 year-old bandit took to his bed and died a month later, having earned at least an amusing footnote in the history of the Wild West. (bio by: Bobb Edwards) 
 
Family links: 
 Spouse:
  Maude E Deaton Jennings (1881 - 1961)*
 
*Calculated relationship
 
Burial:
Oakwood Memorial Park
Chatsworth
Los Angeles County
California, USA
Plot: Vale of Memory section (in gully between Sections D and E), Lot 29, Grave 2
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: Theologianthespian
Record added: Oct 27, 2003
Find A Grave Memorial# 8036563
Al Jennings
Added by: Row Walker
 
Al Jennings
Added by: Glenn and Tracy Morrow
 
Al Jennings
Added by: Glenn and Tracy Morrow
 
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- DENA ANN
 Added: Feb. 7, 2014
you lived a long and eventful life, al. many of us envy you that and would do likewise had we the courage. rip brother.
- ronnie cain
 Added: Feb. 7, 2014

- Jackie Howard
 Added: Nov. 25, 2013
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