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After years putting criminals behind bars, Herman Kirkwood searches for graves of Oklahoma outlaws



OKOLHA Rendezvous
9 a.m. Saturday
Fraternal Order of Police Building
1624 S. Agnew

Herman Kirkwood chased Oklahoma outlaws for most of his life.

Joining the Oklahoma City police force in 1968, Kirkwood said he made a career out of getting the bad guys behind bars.

"I was always looking for somebody who was wanted," he said. "I put tons and tons of people in jail and sent a lot of them to prison. I didn't ever send anybody that didn't need to go, though."

Now, as president of the Oklahoma Outlaws Lawmen History Association, he is chasing crooks once again, but this time, he is looking for their graves.

Kirkwood retired after 20 years on the police force and went on to have a business repairing shopping carts. In retirement, he also rediscovered his love for outlaw history and the men who chased them.

While reading one of his numerous books on his favorite subject, he started noticing a few irregularities in the stories and locations of the final resting places for some of Oklahoma's most notorious people.

"I got to finding that the books were wrong, and they didn't tell the truth," Kirkwood said. "They told it the way they could sell books, so that bothered me."

Now Kirkwood and OKOLHA are hosting an event Saturday for people to discover the truth for themselves on some of the more famous outlaws in state history. It begins at 9 a.m. at the Fraternal Order of Police building, 1624 S. Agnew.

From there, the event will include trips to the gravesites of some of Oklahoma's most hardened men, including George "Slaughter Kid" Newcomb; Victor and James Casey; and Robert Ford's killer, Ed O'Kelley, called "the man who killed the man who killed Jesse James" by Kirkwood.

"We are going to go out to the cemeteries and show them where these boys are buried " the bad guys," he said.

Kirkwood's seemingly encyclopedic memory of local outlaws will provide attendees with incredible stories about these early rebels, including James Casey's prison escape that ended with both Casey and then-chief of police, Milton Jones, dead.

"Anywhere the Casey family ever went, there was murder," Kirkwood said.

The group will sell books pertaining to Oklahoma outlaws and lawmen history, and all proceeds will go to grave markers that were made to designate their final resting places.

Before going to visit the dead, OKOLHA will show a unique piece of history it obtained to those attending: footage from the trial of George Kelly Barnes, or, as he is more famously known, Machine Gun Kelly.

Kelly had been arrested for, among other crimes, the kidnapping of Oklahoma City oil tycoon Charles Urschel in July 1933. Kirkwood said the trial is significant for setting two precedents: It was the first and last federal criminal trial to ever have a camera rolling during the hearing, and it was also the first time the Lindbergh law was enforced, which made kidnapping a felony.

Kirkwood said it was challenging sorting between what is fact and fiction when it comes to Oklahoma outlaws and lawmen, but he takes great joy in showing people unknown pieces of state history.

"I'm a researcher, a historian and a writer," he said. "The lawmen and outlaw-men history was always the neatest stuff to me." "Adam Kemp

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