(transcribed as written)
1884 - 1948
Many of us do not remember our great law enforcement officers of years ago, but I am sure that there are some around, even today, who either remember, or have heard about Oscar Morgan. Mr. Morgan reached his greatest fame with capture of Chester Comer, the murderer of five people. The following news articles appeared in the Daily Oklahoman, many years apart.
NEVER A DULL DAY FOR HIM
Oscar Morgan Again Aids In Capture
Proudly wearing the large, impressive badge presented to him for the capture of Chester Comer less than three weeks ago, Oscar Morgan, Blanchard marshall, was right back in the big middle of things Saturday.
This time he was in on the race, exciting as an old-time bucket-of-blood melodrama, which resulted in the capture of two of the five convicts who escaped from the federal reformatory at El Reno Thursday night.
There is seldom a dull moment for this Morgan fellow.
Here he was, trying to catch a little well-earned rest after his strenuous part in the Comer case, when he got called out of bed early Saturday morning and told to look around for a car that had been stolen from Chickasha.
With other constables, it might have been just a stolen car, but not for Oscar. He spots the license number and takes in after the car, and what does it contain? Two escaped convicts.
Phil Eisenhour and H. J. Hilpert met the fleeing car this side of the Cleveland county line and chased it down. And Oscar came on in to find himself once more the hero.
The Oklahoman 12/15/1935
COMER WOUND STILL BOTHERS MARSHALL
Blanchard Officer May Be Hurt Permanently
Oscar Morgan, “the bloodhound of Blanchard,” who fatally wounded the murderous hitch-hiker, Chester Comer, Nov. 26, 1935, revealed Friday that he probably was injured permanently by the wound he received when Comer shot him in the right shoulder.
Morgan was at the capitol to sell tickets for a benefit for the widow and six children of J. W. Wilson, Grady county deputy sheriff, slain June 1, 1935, near Lawton by bank bandits. Wilson’s pistol will be sold Tuesday at the Oklahoma Sheriffs and Peace Officers convention in Chickasha.
An infection caused by the wound has resulted in a spinal affliction, Morgan said. He is able to take care of his duties as Blanchard marshal and probably can handle any gunmen who came his way, the 52-year-old Morgan added.
Leon Siler and Charles Sands are awaiting execution for the murder of Wilson.
The Oklahoman 06/06/1936
Blanchard’s ‘Bloodhound’ Near Death
Famed Officer Is Ill With Pneumonia
Oscar Morgan, Blanchard’s famous town marshal, was near death from pneumonia Monday night in the Chickasha hospital.
A few days more than a year ago the veteran police officer was the hero of a gun battle with Chester Comer that ended the mass murderer’s week long reign of terror in Oklahoma.
Last Tuesday the man who began his law enforcement career when the state was admitted to the union caught cold. His condition grew constantly worse. Shortly after noon Monday he was hurried to the hospital. As the ambulance carried him toward Chickasha it passed on the outskirts of Blanchard a sign which read:
This is Oscar Morgan’s home town.
The unique tribute to a small town officer was one of the honors that came to Morgan as a result of his face to face duel with Comer.
As soon as Morgan reached the hospital he was placed under an oxygen tent. His attendants announced he suffered double pneumonia and that chances for recovery were small. By coincidence it was under an oxygen tent and from pneumonia that Comer died in Oklahoma City General hospital.
While the Comer case brought more publicity to Morgan than any other exploit, it was by no means the best piece of work he did. His career was filled with patient trailing of wanted men and spectacular arrests.
The Oklahoman 12/22/1936
Time and Oscar Morgan Move Along At Blanchard - Retirement Motion Doesn’t Get Anywhere
By Gene Dodson
Retiring Oscar Morgan from his job as Blanchard’s one-man police force is turning out to be something like trying to count all the thorns in a blackberry patch. It might be done, but it takes a whale of a long time.
It was in May, 1937, that the citizens of Blanchard, just 30 miles south of Oklahoma City, got to thinking about how Oscar perhaps had served long enough. “We’ll retire him, give him a pension sometime, and let him have a long rest,” they said.
But today the 53-year-old Morgan is sitting in one of Blanchard’s numerous cafes, or checking a license number on a passing car. Oscar still is the No. 1 policeman of Blanchard.
For 27 years Oscar Morgan has been the nemesis of criminals. Although he is town marshal of Blanchard, he takes us a personal affront any lawlessness within 25 miles or more of his town. Oscar’s name has been blazed across the newspapers for his daring deeds; he has been written up in the magazines as the “one man posse;” he has been offered crime detection jobs in bigger cities; but he likes the life at Blanchard.
As you approach Blanchard a sign says:
“This is Blanchard – Oscar Morgan’s Home Town”
Three years ago Friday Morgan’s name once more was framed in the nation’s headlines – as the small town marshal who captured the crazed Chester Comer, 27-year-old fiendish murderer of five persons who had been the object of a frantic search by hundreds of national guardsmen, peace officers and volunteers.
Comer was wanted for the murder of Ray Evans, widely known Shawnee attorney; L. A. Simpson, Piedmont farmer, and his son, Warren, 14 years old; and Comer’s two wives.
On the morning of November 25, 1935, Oscar was soaking an infected foot in a bucket of warm water when J. L. Saunders, a nephew of Evans, and Jack Stanley, oil operator, informed him of a suspicious car they had seen south of Blanchard.
Oscar picked up his gun and the three men drove over muddy roads to a point about a mile south of town where they sighted the car. Oscar got out of the car and walked to the right door of Comer’s auto. He tried to open the door. Comer rose from his seat and began firing wildly at Morgan with an automatic pistol. The first shot struck Morgan in the shoulder. Morgan walked to the front of the car, and fired one shot that struck Comer between the eyes. Oscar since has carried two permanent souvenirs of that gun fight. One is a $250 gold medal presented by the Pottawatomie County Bar association, and the other the severed nerves in his shoulder that has “hurt me off and on ever since.” He wears the medal every day.
Other cases that brought greatest acclaim for Morgan are:
Frustration in 1916 of a plot to rob the Blanchard bank by wounding Bob Brady, who with George Cross, had planned the holdup. Morgan later captured Cross in Florida, and Brady was involved in the Union station massacre in Kansa City.
In 1918 Morgan killed his first man, a bandit named Autry.
In 1920 he captured a Blanchard farmer who had kidnapped a 12-year-old girl.
In 1922 he aided in the capture of Arthur Henderson, wanted for the slaying of W. H. Prewett, Oklahoma City salesman.
In June, 1924, Morgan was informed of the $1,712 robbery of the bank at Washington. With Jim Williams, night watchman, Morgan kept an all night watch near the Dibble school house south of Blanchard. The next day he and Williams saw two men walking along the road.
Driving up to the men, Morgan began a conversation. One of the suspects, Guy Wilkerson, pulled a gun and fired. The bullet entered the car, struck the brake and glanced off Morgan’s leg. Morgan fired over his shoulder while the second man, Lee McCollum, raised his gun to shoot. McCollum died with a bullet wound in the temple. The stolen money was found pinned inside his clothing.
The Oklahoman 12/08/1938
OSCAR MORGAN WILL RELATE COMER SLAYING FOR RADIO
Blanchard Peace Officer Will Go To New York For December 20 Program
Oscar Morgan, the famed town marshal of Blanchard, is going to fight the battle with Chester Comer all over again with America’s radio public as an audience.
The disclosed Wednesday he has signed a contract to appear on the “We, the People,” hour at 8 p. m. December 20. He will leave by airplane either December 14 or 15 and will have all expenses paid. He will spend five days in New York City.
Morgan said Wednesday he has asked James C. Nance, Purcell senator-elect, to go with him because of ill health. He said, however, that Nance will pay his own expenses.
Morgan said he received a long-distance call from New York November 28 wanting him to leave immediately for New York. However, he was forced to postpone the trip because of a severe cold. A few days later a formal contract came in the mail, setting the date for December 20.
While the veteran police officer has done pretty well at getting over the country chasing criminals, this will be his first airplane ride, he said. He expects it to be a great sport.
In 27 years of chasing notorious criminals, Morgan has had many close calls but none closer than the slaying of mad Comer, wanted for the murder of two wives; Ray Evans, Shawnee attorney; L. A. Simpson, Piedmont farmer, and his son Warren, 14 years old.
Morgan went up to Comer’s car south of Blanchard and Comer began firing wildly. One shot struck Morgan in the shoulder. The Blanchard one-man police force then fired once, striking Comer between the eyes.
Complications following the shoulder wound later put Morgan in an Oklahoma City hospital where he lay near death in an oxygen tent for weeks. He has never entirely recovered his health since then.
Morgan doesn’t know just what he will say on the radio.
“They just told me to come there and talk on the radio so I guess I’ll just go and tell them the thing they want to know,” he said.
The program will be broadcast by the Columbia Broadcasting system.
The Oklahoman 12/08/1938
Blanchard’s Citizen No. 1 Flies to East
Oscar Morgan, Blanchard’s “most outstanding and most useful citizen,” blushed and stammered Thursday.
Morgan, the Blanchard marshal who spotted the mad hitch-hiker, Chester Comer, one shot “just to make sure I didn’t go and kill someone I hadn’t ought to,” was obviously embarrassed by the number of friends and relatives who came to the municipal airport to wish him happy landings on his first airplane trip.
“I sure am glad all you fellers came out,” Oscar said, “but this sure is a lot of fuss to make about me.”
After his two sisters game him last minute instructions on how not to lose his overcoat, Morgan boarded an American Air Lines plane and left for Washington and New York, where he will speak over a nationwide broadcast at 8 p. m. Tuesday.
With him as a sort of chaperone, went his friend of long standing, Jim Nance, state senator and newspaper publisher from Purcell, who really wanted to go on the train instead.
Oscar wore on his coat lapel the medal given him by the Pottowatomie County Bar association for ridding society of Comer, who kidnapped and killed one of Shawnee’s most up and coming young attorneys, Ray Evans.
In one of his pockets was a resolution passed by the Blanchard American Legion post stating that Oscar is Blanchard’s most outstanding and most useful citizen.
J. Edgar Hoover, chief of the G-men, wired Nance Tuesday asking him to arrange a conference with Oscar while they are in Washington. Details of that meeting are being handled by Nance’s brother, John Nance, a Washington attorney, and Oscar said he is happy to know that Hoover would like to get acquainted with him.
As he stepped on the plane Nance turned to Morgan and said, “Oscar, I’m scared.” Morgan replied, “So am I, Jim, and I don’t scare easy.” They will return December 22.
The Oklahoman 12/16/1938
Maniac Terrorized Oklahoma in 1935
By Ken Raymond
Published: February 25, 2007 in the Daily Oklahoman
“Blood Hound” Morgan staggered back as the bullet ripped into his right shoulder, then pulled his own gun and fired a few shots from the hip. No good. The man inside the black car, parked on the edge of a rural Oklahoma road, was still shooting at him. Morgan shifted his position, getting a better angle, and fired two more rounds. The guns fell silent. Outside the car, Blanchard lawman Oscar Morgan stood bleeding in the rain, unaware he was about to become famous. Inside, killer Chester Comer was motionless but alive, his brain pierced by five bullet fragments — one for each of his victims. It was Nov. 25, 1935. The tale still hadn’t reached its end.
From one cop to another
Herman Kirkwood knows — or at least, thinks he knows — how Morgan felt that day. A retired Oklahoma City police officer, Kirkwood once experienced the terror of having a gun pressed so close to his face he could count the bullets inside it.
That day, back in the mid-1980s, Kirkwood was working an off-duty security job at a pizza shop when an armed robber burst in, forcing Kirkwood to the floor and taking his gun. Kirkwood and some customers escaped through a side door, and the robber was fatally shot by the manager.
“Coming from a lawman’s perspective,” Kirkwood said, “the adrenalin that you get is just enormous. Your heart’s just going ba-dum, ba-dum, badum, ba-dum. It’s a rush.”
Kirkwood is a member of the Oklahoma Outlaw Lawman History Association, a group of unpaid researchers who devote their time to investigating Oklahoma’s forgotten history.
The group publishes a quarterly journal and provides free aid to nonfiction authors looking to research the past.
Lately, much of Kirkwood’s efforts have gone toward tracking down the intertwined lives of Morgan and Comer, a pair as different as possible but forever linked by bullets and blood.
“It’s a really fascinating story,” Kirkwood said. “And no one seems to remember it.”
Back in 1935, it must have seemed unforgettable.
Marriages end in murder
Few people had heard of Chester Comer until a few days before his face-off with Morgan.
In the midst of the Great Depression and with Oklahoma buried in the swirling despair of the Dust Bowl, Comer was just another sad sack, a 27-year-old oil-field roustabout who rarely stayed in one place or one job for long.
Some who did know him didn’t know his real name. He liked to use the alias of Jack Armstrong and claimed to be 19.
He was certainly a stranger to the women he married. Elizabeth Childers was the first, an unfortunate Oklahoma City girl whom Comer took away from her family and ultimately killed, shooting her five times in the head and leaving her to be buried as a Jane Doe in a pauper’s field in Kansas City, Kan.
Childers, 18, was pregnant when she died.
The second wife fared no better. Lucille Stevens wed Comer in December 1934, about four months after Childers went missing, and was unaware he’d been married before. He killed her several months later, setting her body ablaze in Edmond.
The Maysville woman never knew that the dresses and purse he’d given her, claiming they belonged to his dead sister, were actually her stark inheritance from his murdered first wife.
The killings came quicker in November.
“He was harassed by the delusion that he was being persecuted,” said Dr. D. W. Griffin of Norman’s Central Oklahoma State Hospital, describing Comer to reporters in 1935.
“It is a dangerous type (of person), the type that kills presidents, the type that kills just because he cannot stand to have others around. The victim is like an animal grazing in a green pasture.”
Nov. 19 — Shawnee attorney Ray Evans, 40, disappears north of Ada after visiting a client. Comer is spotted later that day, fixing a tire on Evans’ car about two miles north of Maysville. A witness reports seeing a gun in Comer’s pocket and a body slumped inside the car.
Nov. 20 — Comer threatens a farm family at gunpoint, driving some of them around in Evans’ car and demanding $3 to let them go. After terrorizing them for a full day, he finally takes the money and releases the family.
Nov. 23 — Evans’ bloodstained clothing is found in his abandoned car six miles north of Maysville. About noon the same day, Piedmont farmer L.A. Simpson, 39, and son Warren Simpson, 14, disappear about two miles from home. The pair were riding in the Simpsons’ new Chevrolet and had apparently stopped to give Comer a ride.
“I remember they didn’t come home that night,” said L.A. Simpson’s daughter, now 80, who does not want her name published, “but my father was very helpful and friendly, and we just assumed he was helping somebody work on a piece of machinery and that was it.
“We got up in the morning, and my mom did what chores were available. Then the larger family came to our house, and we packed our things and never went back. We knew by then that something was horribly wrong.”
The bodies weren’t found until later, but Evans and the Simpsons were dead. With them missing, the news spread quickly across the state: A maniac was on the loose, attacking people at will.
Comer was a brand-new bogeyman, topping the FBI’s most-wanted list — but he was no match for Morgan.
‘Oh, it was gruesome’
“The real story is about the lawman,” said Richard Jones, an Oklahoma City researcher assisting Kirkwood. “Everybody liked him, and he didn’t like crime in his area. He would treat everybody equally. If they were chicken thieves or murderers, he went after them.”
By the time Comer came along, Morgan — whose persistence had earned him the nickname, “Blood Hound” — already had been a deputy sheriff or town marshal in Blanchard for 23 years, and he’d seen his share of action.
In 1924, he and a night watchman got into a running gunfight with a pair of bank robbers. Just as bandit Claude Lee was about to shoot the watchman, Morgan shot and killed Lee. Morgan suffered a leg wound, and the other bandit was arrested.
“Don’t mess with Oscar,” Jones said.
On Nov. 25, 1935, J. E. Stanley spotted Comer in a car about three miles south of Blanchard. The tag number matched that on Simpson’s car, and Stanley rushed back to town to get Morgan, 51. On the way, he picked up J. L. Saunders, who was related to the missing Evans.
Comer drove off as the three men, with Stanley driving, drew near. After they’d chased him for about two miles, Comer whipped his car to the side of the road and stopped.
It was shortly before noon on a rainy day, and they were about 3½ miles south of Blanchard.
“Oscar stepped out the right front side,” Stanley later told The Oklahoman. “Saunders was in the back seat as I stopped about 6 feet behind the car and in the middle of the road. Oscar stepped up to the driver’s side of the car and took hold of the door handle.
“Just then I saw this guy move, saw a gun, and he fired once. Morgan was hit in the shoulder by this first shot. Oscar frowned and staggered back. Then he took two steps toward the car, pulled his gun and started firing. Oh, it was just a blaze of fire. ... All at once the shooting stopped, and I saw that fellow slump in the front seat. Morgan was standing there ready and just as calm as an old lady in church.
“We got out. I took the police gun and broke out the back door window. Every door on the car was locked, tight as a drum. Comer’s brains were oozing out, and he was unconscious. I took that (.32-caliber) automatic out of his right hand.
“The motor was running, and the radio was going full blast. Oh, it was gruesome, blood every place and that radio blaring out ‘Sweet Adeline’ all the time.”
Secrets to the grave
Comer wasn’t dead. Morgan’s bullet had struck him smack in the forehead and splintered, sending five fragments into Comer’s brain.
None of his victims’ bodies had yet been found. Authorities were anxious to learn where he’d hidden them and if there were others.
While still in Blanchard, Comer reportedly uttered a series of tantalizing hints: “A pile of bodies — east of Fittstown;” “Simpson? Simpson was a dirty ...;” “The bodies are all together;” “A pile of bodies in a creek;” “He’s down here somewhere.”
En route to an Oklahoma City hospital, Comer muttered that he “buried Evans” before lapsing into unconsciousness.
“He didn’t bury nobody,” Kirkwood said. “He didn’t even have a shovel. He just left them by the side of the road to rot.”
Law officers and doctors tried to get Comer to say more at the hospital, but he remained silent despite being administered a “truth serum.” In their desperation, authorities tried to prompt responses from him by placing objects in his hands or on the bed. He grasped a shiny pistol and flipped the trigger three times, but never said a word.
Morgan seemed to be in better shape. Things were so hectic after the shooting that he didn’t get treatment for his bullet wound until about two hours later. He then went to visit Comer at the hospital, surprising everyone by shaking hands with his wounded arm and dismissing his injury as “just a little wound.”
Comer died at 11:09 p.m. on Nov. 27. He is buried, Kirkwood said, in an unmarked grave at Rose Hill Burial Park in Oklahoma City.
It took weeks for searchers to find all of the bodies.
Morgan was an unlikely celebrity. He peers out of old photos with narrowed eyes, his face pinched, wearing a dusty, tight-fitting suit with a lopsided necktie and a vest that appears to be missing a button.
The rural lawman looks every bit a product of the Depression — and nothing at all like a cosmopolite who rubbed shoulders with bigwigs in New York and Washington.
Yet that’s what he became. Everyone wanted to hear the story of his shootout with Comer.
“Of course, that was before television, and Oscar, they put him on the radio in New York City,” Kirkwood said. “They flew him to Washington to meet the president. They took him to FBI headquarters to meet with J. Edgar Hoover, and not many people got to do that.”
Back in Blanchard, he became a local hero, but celebrity fades with time. Now, little remains but one of his hats and a photo at the McClain County Historical & Genealogical Society.
“They put up a sign out there at the edge of town: ‘This is Oscar Morgan’s home town,’ ” Kirkwood said. “Of course, now the sign’s gone ... and nobody knows what happened to the sign. There’s a few who still know who Oscar Morgan was.”
Morgan may have been Comer’s final victim. Comer’s bullet passed through Morgan’s shoulder and lodged against his spine. Paralysis began to set in late in Morgan’s life, and he was an invalid for more than a year before he died in 1948 at age 64.
The Oklahoman ran a story about his death. It began, simply: “Oscar Morgan, Blanchard’s one-man posse, finally lost a fight.”
(transcribed as written)
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