The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002 Page: 386

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

unsurpassed duster, the Black Blizzard, lags only slightly behind December 7.
Some persons might wonder why it is important to ask what caused this appar-
ent phenomenon of nature. The answer is not as easily come by as it might seem
and the concluding three essays, taken from the Great Plains Quarterly, wrestle
with the problem of "What caused the Dust Bowl?" And the book concludes with
a comprehensive bibliography.
The editors' stated purpose is "to let American people speak to the general
public about the Dust Bowl" and "to provide secondary teachers and college pro-
fessors with a dynamic story for students to enjoy" (p. xi). For the sake of the fu-
ture of the Great Plains environment and culture, one hopes fervently that the
editors' purpose will be achieved.
West Texas A&M University, Emeritus Frederick W. Rathjen
Over the Wall: The Men Behind the 1934 Death House Escape. By Patrick M. Mc-
Conal. (Austin: Eakin Press, sooo. Pp. 197. Introduction, endnotes, bibliog-
raphy, index, about the author. ISBN 1-57168-365-8. $19.15, cloth.)
Over the Wall is a rather pedestrian account of seven men involved in an escape
attempt from the death house at the Texas state penitentiary in Huntsville in
1934. The individuals were lifelong criminals, social outcasts, and generally
ne'er-do-wells. Known as the Whitey Walker Gang, or the Fishing Hole Gang,
they were led by William Jennings Bryan Walker, commonly referred to as
"Whitey." The others included Roy Alvin Johnson and Irvin "Blackie" Thomp-
son. In October 1933, the three men performed a series of robberies, beginning
at the Buckholts bank, a similar establishment in Palestine, and a jewelry store in
Bryan, where they briefly took the owners hostage. They followed the latter pat-
tern when they hit the bank in Marlin.
The gang left Texas for Florida, where they were recaptured. The segue now
turns to those who were not in the Walker gang but participated in the 1934 es-
cape. In January 1934, Joseph Conger Palmer (who fatally wounded a guard),
Raymond Hamilton, James Mullins, Hilton Bybee, and Henry Methvin, with the
assistance of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, escaped from the Eastham State
Farm, a penal facility near Weldon, Texas. Those not killed by the authorities,
such as Hamilton, were sent to Huntsville. Aided by Jim Patterson, a prison
guard, Walker, an escape artist named Eldridge Roy Johnson (Charlie Frazier),
Joe Palmer, Ray Hamilton, Blackie Thompson, and Hub Stanley, attempted to
escape the Death House on July 22, 1934. Thompson, Hamilton, and Palmer
succeeded but Walker was killed and Frazier seriously wounded. Later, Thomp-
son was slain by the police and Hamilton and Palmer succumbed to the electric
Although there is some interesting information about Texas society during
the Depression and the milieu in which these criminals operated, the narrative
is confusing and the material is not well integrated. For example, McConal uses
oral testimony to supplement his research but too often the statements are extra-
neous, have little to do with the subject he is discussing, and occasionally are to-
tally irrelevant. To the author's credit, there is some fascinating background on
several of these Depression-era outlaws, but here again, how these desperate



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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. ( accessed October 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.