In 1950, Brushy Bill Roberts sat down with the governor of New Mexico, Governor Mabry, to discuss how Roberts was actually Billy the Kid.
The alleged Billy the Kid, after decades of hiding, only wanted the pardon for his crimes promised to him by the State of New Mexico 70 years before.
Governor Mabry did not take the meeting, or Roberts, seriously. The man who believed himself to be him left the room without any hope of attaining the pardon, and, perhaps worse, any chance of proving his alleged identity.
Just four weeks later, on December 27, 1950, Brushy Bill walked towards his local post office in Hico, Texas, had a heart attack, and died.
But Governor Mabry’s skepticism could not stop others from believing Brushy Bill Roberts’s story. In the years and decades to come, more and more people became interested in the alleged Billy the Kid who lived until 1950 in Hico, Texas.
In 2011, an episode of Brad Meltzer’s Decoded investigated Roberts’s claims, as did a 1990 episode of Unsolved Mysteries. Although no one can say definitively if Brushy Bill Roberts was truly Billy the Kid, this did not stop the town of Hico from creating a Billy the Kid Museum to remember him and, of course, bring in tourists.
Brushy Bill’s claim of being Billy only came to light in 1948. An attorney named William Morrison overheard a rumor that Billy the Kid was not killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett, as is the traditional wisdom, but instead survived and lived on in Hico, where he was mostly known as Brushy Bill.
Friends of Billy the Kid went to meet with Brushy Bill Roberts and were overwhelmingly certain that Roberts was, in fact, Billy the Kid. That was when attorney William Morrison decided to go down to Hico himself to investigate.
As skeptical as Morrison was, he too became convinced that he was in the presence of none other than Billy the Kid.
Brushy Bill Roberts did not want money or fame; all he wanted in his old age was the pardon for his crimes that he was promised 70 years before by Governor Thomas Mabry. Of course, Roberts was unsuccessful.
There are many cases for and against Roberts’s claims to being Billy. Roberts had all of the scars Billy the Kid had according to records. This included gun and knife wounds.
Evans Gang members and others who knew The ‘Kid’ signed affidavits declaring Brushy Bill Roberts was indeed Billy the Kid. Among those who signed affidavits were Jim McDaniels of the Evans Gang, Severo Gallegos, Martile Able, and Jose Montoya.
In 1990, the University of Texas, with scientists Scott Acton and Alan Bovik, used facial recognition techniques frequently used by the FBI to see how closely Brushy Bill Roberts and Billy the Kid resembled each other.
Brushy Bill Roberts was a 93 percent match for Billy the Kid, which Acton and Bovik declared was clear evidence that Brushy Bill Roberts and Billy the Kid were, at the very least, extremely similar.
Detractors, though, say the holes in Roberts’s case are damning. New Mexico Billy the Kid Legend comments that “Some who have studied the case are scornful, saying that Brushy Bill was not old enough, and he was illiterate while Billy the Kid had beautiful handwriting.”
Sadly, DNA is not an option in this case. Kids is buried in Fort Sumner Cemetery which, in 1904, fell victim to the Great Pecos River Flood. Human remains returned to the surface because of the flood. It was impossible to identify who most of the remains belonged to.
Billy’s headstone was washed away as a result of the flood, and, even though a new one was erected in 1932, there is no way to know for certain the location of his original grave in the cemetery. Also, because of how old Billy’s remains would be, it is unlikely that they could be used for DNA testing.
However, none of this has stopped people from being fascinated by Brushy Bill Roberts and his Billy the Kid rumors. In 1987, the Billy the Kid Museum opened in Hico. Museum director Sue Land admits that the town’s efforts to document Roberts and his claims came too late.
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According to Roadside America, the museum’s late arrival, a whopping 37 years after his death, “hurt the museum’s collection, limiting it to a handful of items owned by the old man.” Sue said, according to the article, “by the time we came along, almost everything was gone.”