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Clay Coppedge
Texas | Columns | "Letters from Central Texas"

The Walking Arsenal


by Clay Coppedge

We don't know if Harry Raymond Pope set out to make a name for himself when he chose crime and violence as a vocation, but judged by the standards of others in his line of work, he did pretty well for himself. He even made the FBI's Top Ten Wanted list in 1959-sort of an all-star team for criminals.

Associates and newspaper reporters sometimes referred to him as "The Walking Arsenal" because Pope liked to go around gunned up with a variety of pistols and a shotgun. He often boasted how he was ready to shoot it out with the cops if they ever came after him. The FBI investigated him as part of its review of the Dallas-Fort Worth area's "top hoodlums." His name even came up-briefly and in passing- during the investigation of President Kennedy's assassination, but so did the name of nearly every other Dallas hoodlum of the day.

A native of either Arkansas or Louisiana-accounts vary and he spent prison time in both states- Pope ended up in Dallas as one of the more volatile members of that city's underworld, which included the likes of Benny Binion, Jack Ruby (whose name definitely came up during the Kennedy investigation) and a man named Jettie Bass. The FBI described Bass as "principally a night time burglar" who specialized in burglarizing safes. He was also known to deal narcotics from time to time. So was Pope. They had a lot in common, which is not to imply that they liked each other.

As proof that they didn't, we point to an incident in 1955 when Pope and Bass encountered each other across the street from the Dallas County Courthouse and got into a bloody fight. Pope supposedly started the whole thing by shoving one of the two women who were with Bass at the time. Bass picked up an ash tray on a long stand and swung it at Pope, who pulled a knife and ripped open Bass' stomach. Bass and the women commenced wailing, which attracted the attention of Dallas detective Bob Abbott and two constables, who happened to be in a nearby restaurant when Pope spilled Bass' guts.

The lawmen rushed outside to find Bass holding his intestines in his hands and two women in hysterics. A deputy constable, Hubert Hale, confronted Pope, who cut the constable under the arm with the knife and ran away. Abbot and Hale drew their guns and told Pope to come back. Pope went back.

The whole thing had turned into a gunfight, and Pope, the Walking Arsenal, had only a knife.

A Dallas Grand Jury ignored the stabbing of Bass-they didn't much care what happened to Jettie Bass and probably weren't overjoyed that he survived the attack -but indicted Pope for assault with intent to murder for his attack on Hale. A justice of the peace initially denied bond, but Pope's lawyer, Bob Allen, persuaded District Judge Harold Wright to release him on bail.

To no one's surprise, except possibly Judge Wright's, Pope skipped bail. He got busted in Mississippi in July of 1958 for robbing a supermarket but was on the loose again a year later when his name appeared on the FBI's most wanted list as the result of a robbery-gone-wrong in Arizona.

In that incident, Pope and a man named Jarrell Lee Carter tried to burglarize a Phoenix drug store by breaking in from the roof. The prerequisite drilling and pounding alerted and also annoyed the manager of the department store next door, who called the cops. When they arrived, Pope and Carter were inside the store, intent on blowing open a safe with dynamite fuses and nitroglycerin mixed with soap and sawdust. The Phoenix police demanded the pair come out with their hands up.

Instead, Pope and Carter used a crowbar to break out the front window and make a run for it. Pope emerged with guns blazing, firing a couple of shots in the direction of some teenagers who had called out to police, "There they are!" Then, gun drawn, he charged at detective lieutenant Barney Dunn. Dunn fired once, hitting Pope in the right eye.

Pope would wear a patch over that eye for the rest of his life, earning him another moniker-The One-Eyed Bandit.

The cops soon found Pope's car, accessorized with a sawed-off shotgun and everything anybody would need to cut into a safe, a few minutes later. They had Pope, now with a big hole in his head and bleeding profusely, in custody.

"I guess I've lived too long anyway," he told officers.

But Pope would live a little longer. The bullet had entered through his eyeball and lodged fractions of an inch in front of his brain. A judge released him on bail. A mistake. Pope once again took off for parts unknown. In a press release announcing Pope's ascension to its most wanted list, the FBI described Pope as "a luxury-loving, dull-witted man with a quick temper, sadistic nature and nothing to live for" and noted that others had sometimes labeled him a "raving maniac."

The raving maniac made his way to Lubbock, where he found refuge at a trailer belonging to Rita Louise Norris, widow of notorious Fort Worth gangster Gene Paul Norris. After somebody tipped the cops to Pope's whereabouts, eight members of law enforcement toted their own arsenals to the trailer and busted in without knocking. Pope was sitting on the floor, under a window, reading a newspaper. He didn't resist arrest and had nothing to say until the reporters showed up.

Asked why he didn't shoot it out with the cops like he had said he would, Pope denied ever saying such a thing. "I'm not stupid," he told Lubbock Avalanche Journal reporter Ken May. "I wouldn't have had a chance. There were too many of them and they were armed too heavily." He also said he would have been more cautious if he'd known he was on the FBI's most wanted list. He claimed it wasn't the first time he'd been on such a list because he once saw his picture on a wanted poster in an Arkansas post office.

Pope also complained about how hard it hard it was to make a living "peeling safes" anymore, and how he had planned to leave Lubbock the next day, lamenting "I just stayed one day too long." He admitted to being a drug pusher, but insisted he never touched the stuff himself.

The cops returned Pope to Phoenix where, in January of 1960, he was sentenced to nine to fifteen years in prison. Almost nine years to the day later, on Christmas night in 1969, Pope was shot twice with a .38 caliber pistol in Garland, Texas and died right there. He was fifty years old.

Newspaper stories the next day described him as "an old time burglar, thief and safecracker" and that he was once on the FBI's most wanted list, which was the closest thing to a tribute that Harry Raymond Pope would ever receive.
Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas" December 13 , 2019 column

Clay Coppedge's "Letters from Central Texas"

  • The Invisible Track Highway 11-16-19
  • The Unflappable Flapper Bandit 10-19-19
  • Monroe Fisher's Higher Calling 9-23-19
  • Temple's International Man of Mystery 8-27-19
  • Rocket Mail 8-1-19

    See more »

  • Related Topics:
    Texas Outlaws
    Texas Small Town Sagas

    More Columns
    Clay Coppedge's "Letters from Central Texas"

  • The Invisible Track Highway 11-16-19
  • The Unflappable Flapper Bandit 10-19-19
  • Monroe Fisher's Higher Calling 9-23-19
  • Temple's International Man of Mystery 8-27-19
  • Rocket Mail 8-1-19

    See more »


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