Toni Jo Henry (January 3, 1916 - November
28, 1942), (née Annie Beatrice McQuiston), was the only woman
executed in Louisiana's electric chair.
Born near Shreveport, Louisiana, Henry was the
third of five children. Her mother died of tuberculosis when Henry was
six years of age. Henry worked in a macaroni factory at thirteen and
thereafter in a local brothel as a prostitute. She became a regular
user of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.
In 1939, she met Claude 'Cowboy' Henry in the
brothel where she worked. A down-on-his-luck prize fighter, Cowboy
fell in love with the young prostitute. Married on November 25, 1939,
the couple honeymooned in southern California. During this time,
Cowboy was able to wean his bride off her various drug addictions.
Upon returning from California, Claude Henry was arrested for the
murder of a Texas man prior to their marriage. He was found guilty in
January 1940 and sentenced to fifty years in the Texas State
Penitentiary at Huntsville, Texas.
Murder of Joseph P. Calloway
Toni Jo then began contemplating plans to break her
husband out of Huntsville Prison. She and accomplice Harold 'Arkie'
Burks devised a plan to rob a bank, in hopes of securing money to aid
in breaking Claude Henry out of jail. Joseph P. Calloway was
delivering a Ford Coupe to a friend when he happened upon Toni Jo and
Arkie Burks. Unaware of their plan, he offered to give the two a ride.
As they drove past Jennings, Louisiana, Toni Jo and
Arkie robbed Mr. Calloway at gunpoint. They proceeded to lock him in
the trunk of his car and drive down a country road. The duo planned to
use the Ford as a getaway vehicle; however they soon decided to pull
the car over near a small paddock. Calloway was ordered out of the car
and told to undress. He was then ushered behind a haystack, told to
kneel, and say his prayers. Calloway was shot once in the head with a
.32 caliber revolver. He died at the scene.
After a brief stop in Arkansas, Toni Jo would head
back to Shreveport, Louisiana where she would seek refuge with her
aunt. She later was interviewed by a Shreveport police officer, during
which she revealed the murder and disclosed the location of the body.
Trials and appeals
Her first trial was held from March 27–29, 1940.
Due to Toni Jo's good looks, the possibility of the death penalty, and
the severity of the charges, the trial gained a large amount of press
coverage. She claimed that Arkie was the one who fired the fatal shot,
but after deliberating for six hours, the jury convicted her and
sentenced her to death by hanging. Her accomplice, Arkie Burks, was
later convicted and sentenced to death. Toni Jo appealed and was
granted a new trial.
The second trial occurred in February 1941. Unlike
in the first trial, Arkie Burks took the stand and testified against
Toni Jo. After an hour of deliberations, she was again convicted and
sentenced to death. She again appealed and was granted a new trial.
The third trial occurred in January 1942. Toni Jo
was again convicted and sentenced to death. She appealed, but this
time her appeal was denied.
While Henry was incarcerated at Lake Charles
Prison, she was befriended by Father Wayne Richard, head of a local
Catholic parish. He would eventually baptize her.
During the time Henry was being tried, Louisiana
changed its method of execution from hanging to death by
electrocution. Toni Jo Henry was executed on November 28, 1942. The
district attorney was Griffin T. Hawkins of Lake Charles. Father
Richard was present at her execution and would officiate her burial,
days later. Four days prior to her execution, Claude "Cowboy" Henry
escaped from prison to see his wife one last time, and was recaptured
in Beaumont, Texas. Soon afterwards, Claude Henry was paroled due to
ill health. He was killed by a café owner on July 15, 1945 in Dallas,
while out on parole.
Books and Film
A Savage Wisdom, a novel by Norman German,
was inspired by the life, crimes and legends of Toni Jo Henry, née
Annie Beatrice McQuiston. The book is fiction, a novel categorized in
the subgenre of "alternative history." That is, it changes certain
facts of the historical woman's life and posits what might have
happened under different circumstances.
Stone Justice by Debi King McMartin and Lyn
Morgan, published by Sarah Hudson-Pierce's Ritz Publications in
Shreveport, details the life of Toni Jo Henry.
Henry's story is the focus of the 2013 film
entitled The Pardon, which was shot on location in Shreveport.
It stars actress Jaime King as Toni Jo Henry. John Hawkes plays Arkie
Burks, with TJ Thyne, Jason Lewis, Leigh Whannell, and Tim Guinee. Tom
Anton is the producer and director.
Her bloody Valentine: Toni Jo Henry shoots man between the eyes
in bid to free jailed husband
By Mara Bovsun - NYDailyNews.com
February 13, 2010
It was Valentine's Day, 1940, and Toni Jo Henry had
planned a perfect surprise, sure to show her sweetie just how much she
She was going to bust him out of jail.
No easy task, given that Toni Jo had no cash, car
or weapons, and was not the type to bake quaint little cakes in which
to conceal files.
Instead she used her most powerful weapon - beauty
- to play on the sympathies of two men, an ex-con and a Good
Samaritan. Neither realized they were dealing with a woman the press
would later dub "The Tigress." Both would pay with their lives.
Born Annie Beatrice McQuiston on January 3, 1916,
near Shreveport, La., she was the baby of a family of six children.
From the start, the girl was spirited, but after her mother died of
tuberculosis the 6-year-old became a handful.
As her sisters studied hard to become nurses, and
her brothers took jobs as laborers, Annie Beatrice grew more
beautiful, and more out of control. By 13, she had changed her name to
Toni Jo, and was working in a Shreveport whorehouse, earning money to
feed a cocaine addiction.
That's where, in the fall
of 1939, she met the "Cowboy," Claude Henry, 26, a down-on-his luck
boxer with a history of petty crimes and violence. They fell for each
Cowboy helped the 23-year-old stunner "get the drug
monkey off my back," she'd say later. A justice of the peace married
the love-struck couple in November, just in time for Cowboy to go on
trial for killing a former San Antonio police officer in a bar fight.
When his new bride heard the sentence, 50 years in
prison, she shrieked, "I'll get you out, Cowboy! Don't worry!"
She took her vow seriously, moving to Beaumont,
Texas, to be near her husband's new digs, the Huntsville prison.
There, she plotted to get her man back.
Her first glimmer of hope came from Finnon Burks,
23. Newly released from Huntsville, Burks was already looking for
trouble and would find plenty of it in his lovely accomplice. They
teamed up, pretended to be newlyweds, and took off on a crime spree.
On Valentine's Day, 1940, Joseph A. Calloway, 41, a
salesman, set out from his Houston home in a sparkling new Ford coupe,
headed for a business meeting in Louisiana. He disappeared.
No one had a clue of what had become of Calloway
until Toni Jo showed up unannounced at an aunt's house near Shreveport
and announced that she had killed a man.
To police, she later poured out her eye-popping
tale: how she had planned the jailbreak, teamed up with Burks and
stole a cache of weapons from a gun shop. They were going to rob a
bank. Toni Jo intended to use the loot as bribe money to shorten
Calloway just happened to
be on the road when, on a rainy night, a beautiful woman stuck out her
thumb. He pulled over and offered a ride to the comely hitchhiker and
Somewhere near Lake Charles, La., Toni Jo pulled a
gun on the good Samaritan, stole his wallet and forced him into the
After a few more miles, they stopped and, at
gunpoint, Toni Jo led Calloway into a deserted rice field and ordered
him to take off his clothes. She thought the outfit would look nice on
As the naked man shivered before her, Toni Jo said
she forced him down on his knees. He begged her to spare him; she shot
him between the eyes.
After offering her confession to the police, she
led officers to the corpse and offered up the name of her accomplice.
By the time of her trial, on March 27, 1940, Toni
Jo had changed her story, insisting that Burks was the one who pulled
But after seven hours of deliberation, the jury
found her guilty. Tried a short time later, Burks got the same
verdict. The sentence was death in the electric chair.
Her lawyers appealed, and managed to find
technicalities to earn not one, but two new trials. It took about an
hour for the second jury to agree with the first. A third trial
yielded the same result.
Now, it was Cowboy's turn to ride to the rescue.
Just before Thanksgiving, 1942, five days before
Toni Jo was scheduled to become the first and only woman to die in
Louisiana's electric chair, Cowboy busted himself out of jail. His
plan was to kidnap the judge who had given the death sentence and hold
him hostage until Toni Jo went free. Police rounded the fugitive up in
a Beaumont hotel.
The young lovers were allowed one last phone call.
"Hurry up and get that zoot suit off and walk out
the front door like a man so your mother will be proud of you," she
told him. "Go straight and try to make something of your life."
Cowboy just sobbed.
Toni Jo was oddly cheerful the next day, quipping
with reporters and photographers as they snapped her jailhouse
portrait. "I've smiled twice, mister," she told one. "Have you any
idea how much talent is being wasted here today?"
For last wishes, she asked only that her death-row
companion, a small black and white puppy, be given to her niece, and
that she be buried with a crucifix in her left hand.
When asked if she had any last words, she said, "I
While awaiting execution, Toni Jo admitted that she
had lied about Burks, and that she had been the killer. Burks got the
chair anyway, on March 22, 1943.
About two years after Toni Jo's death, Cowboy, his
heart failing, was paroled.
Freedom didn't do much for his health; he was
gunned down on a Dallas street three months later.
Toni Jo Henry, a love worth dying for?
Toni Jo Henry was born Annie Beatrice McQuiston on
January 3rd 1916 near Shreveport Louisiana, the third of five
children. She became the only women to get the electric chair in
Louisiana when she was put to death on the 28th November of 1942 for
the brutal murder of Joseph P. Calloway on St. Valentine's Day,
February 14th 1940.
Toni Jo's mother died when she was 6 years old and
later her father remarried. She was never happy with the new domestic
arrangements and begged her aunt to take her away from the family
home. She got a job at the age of thirteen in a macaroni factory but
was fired when the manager found out her mother had died from
tuberculosis. She was beaten by her father when she got home that day
and resolved to leave home for good after this.
She soon got drawn into prostitution as this was
one of the few things she could actually do. She was petite and very
pretty with jet black hair so getting customers was not a problem for
her. She also took to smoking, drinking, taking cannabis and
associating with Shreveport's underworld. She was arrested several
times during her teens including once for assaulting a man, but
avoided prison by virtue of her age.
In 1939 Toni Jo met Claude "Cowboy" Henry at the
Shreveport brothel where she was now working full time and fell for
him immediately. He was down on his luck and she felt instantly
attracted to him. Cowboy had a criminal record but was also on bail
awaiting a second trial over the shooting of an ex police officer.
Toni Jo, by this time, was addicted to cocaine so they made a great
couple. Cowboy succeeded in getting Toni Jo off the drugs and they got
married on November 25th 1939 in Louisiana with Toni Jo using her real
name. Cowboy took her on honeymoon to Southern California but their
marital bliss was short lived when he received a telegram to appear in
court in Texas on the shooting charge. Cowboy turned up at the court
despite Toni Jo's pleas to him to go on the run with her and his
second trial also ended in conviction. In January 1940 he was
sentenced to 50 years in the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville -
a sentence which shocked and infuriated Toni Jo who had believed all
along in her husband's story of self defense and his almost certain
acquittal. On hearing the sentence she vowed to get him out of jail
and thus embarked on series of the most amazing criminal acts which in
reality had no hope of success.
Toni Jo had contacts in the criminal underworld in
Louisiana and southern Texas and immediately started making plans to
spring Cowboy despite being warned that the idea was hopeless. She was
staying in Beaumont, Texas to be near Cowboy and teamed up with a
young man named Harold Burks who was known as Arkinsaw. Arkie, as she
called him, had served a sentence in Huntsville and was presently
absent without leave from the army. He claimed a detailed knowledge of
the jail and together they decided that they could get Cowboy out.
They planned to steal a car and then rob a bank,
that he knew in a small town in his native Arkansas, to pay for the
expenses to be incurred in springing Henry. They armed themselves with
pistols which Toni Jo had got a couple of acquaintances to steal for
her from a gun shop and posing as newly weds hitched lifts towards
Arkansas and their target bank. By the evening of the 14th
February they were in Orange, Texas and were looking for the "right"
car, and then along it came.
Joseph P. Calloway was delivering a new Ford V8
Coupe for a friend when he saw them and decided to offer them a ride.
The Ford was perfect for their purposes, new and fast for its day -
capable of outrunning the police when the jail break came, so they
They drove onwards toward Jennings, Louisiana,
where Mr. Calloway was to deliver the car. They had passed through
Lake Charles and got out into the countryside when Toni Jo pulled out
her 32 caliber revolver and ordered Mr. Calloway to turn off the main
highway onto a quiet country road. She told him to stop and then they
all got out of the car where to his amazement she ordered him to
undress. Arkie gathered up his clothes, his watch and his money - $15.
Toni Jo wanted the clothes for Cowboy to change
into when they sprang him. She ordered Calloway into the trunk and
they set off with Arkie driving and continued for some distance until
Toni Jo found a suitable spot. They got Calloway out of the trunk and
she walked him across the field to some haystacks. She told him to
kneel down and say his prayers and then calmly shot him through the
head, killing him instantly.
She and Arkie made off in the Ford, driving through
the night to Camden, Arkansas, where they had originally intended to
rob the bank. They booked into a cheap hotel and while Toni Jo slept,
Arkie, who had been completely unnerved by Mr. Calloway's cold blooded
killing, escaped from her in the car taking Calloway's clothes with
him. Murder was certainly not on his agenda - he claimed later that he
was broke when he met Toni Jo and just went along with her ludicrous
plans as it would be easier to get lifts back to Arkansas in the
company of a pretty girl.
Finding herself deserted, Toni Jo decided to use
the last of the stolen money for a bus ticket back to Shreveport
Louisiana. She looked up an old friend who ran a brothel there and who
persuaded her to go and stay with her aunt. The aunt clearly realized
that Toni Jo was in trouble but was only able to glean fragments of
information. Worried she decided to tell her brother who was a
policeman but found that he was on vacation. So she explained her
concerns to one of his colleagues, Sgt. Dave Walker. Walker
accompanied the aunt back to her house where he interviewed Toni Jo.
He was aware of Mr. Calloway being reported missing
but completely unprepared for the full confession he was about to hear
from Toni Jo. She even gave him the revolver with one fired and five
live rounds still in it. Walker was disinclined to believe the
confession as no murder had been reported and no body or the car
found. He decided to arrest her and handed her over to the Lake
Charles police who took her out in a car to try and locate the body of
the man she claimed to have killed.
Eventually they located the correct spot and found
Mr. Calloway's body just as Toni Jo had left it. The bullet that
killed him was recovered at the autopsy and was found to match the gun
the Walker had taken from Toni Jo.
The Ford coupe was soon discovered abandoned in
Arkansas and still containing Mr. Calloway's clothing and cigarette
ends with lipstick on them.
Toni Jo was formally charged with murder but
refused to give any details of her accomplice because she was
displeased at the way she was being reported in the press.
Eventually she was persuaded to talk and Arkie was
soon arrested and brought back to Louisiana and charged with the
murder too. They were to be tried separately, however.
Toni Jo's first trial opened in Lake Charles on
March 27th 1940 and attracted huge press coverage - she was
described in the press as a sultry brunette. In it she tried to shift
the blame for the killing onto Arkie but the jury didn't believe her
and after deliberating for 7 hours she was guilty of murder and
sentenced to death. Arkie was also convicted at his trial later in the
year and sentenced to death.
She appealed on the grounds that the trial judge
had permitted conduct prejudicial to her case and was granted a
retrial which took place in February 1941. Arkie testified against her
and the jury took only an hour to convict her. Again she heard the
death sentence pronounced on her and again she appealed and won. Her
third trial took place in January 1942 with, the by now, usual
outcome. This time the Supreme Court saw no reason to overturn the
lower court but her lawyers challenged the constitutionality of her
While Toni Jo had been going through the courts
Louisiana had changed its execution method from hanging to
electrocution. The court found that this was in line with
constitution, however, and the state Governor let it be known that
there would be no reprieve.
In the condemned cell
While the various court cases rumbled on Toni Jo
had been incarcerated in Lake Charles prison. Here she was baptized by
Father Wayne Richard a Catholic priest who attended her.
Towards the end she granted an interview to
reporters where she tried to explain her feelings towards Cowboy. She
also made a sworn statement saying that it was she who shot Mr.
Calloway in a final bid to clear Arkie.
On November 23rd 1942 Cowboy and an
accomplice decided to break out of the Texas prison farm where he had
been transferred in at attempt to rescue Toni Jo. This daft venture
was quickly over and he was recaptured and taken back to Huntsville.
On Friday the 27th Toni Jo was allowed
to phone Cowboy from the chief jailers office and is reported to have
told him "Get rid of that prison suit go out the front door. Go
straight and try and make something of your life" He was crying and
emotional throughout the call and yet she was bright and cheerful.
The picture of Toni Jo in the condemned cell is
amazing - it is hard to believe that it was taken the morning of her
execution or that she was allowed such apparently comfortable and
relaxed surroundings. She was even allowed the company of a small
black and white dog while awaiting execution. She said to the news
cameraman who took the picture "I've smiled twice, Mister. Have you
any idea how much talent is being wasted here today?"
Toni Jo's execution was set for Saturday the 28th
November 1942 at 12.05 p.m. She was to be executed within the basement
of the Lake Charles prison in Louisiana's portable electric chair
which had been brought from Angola the previous day. She had chosen a
plain black dress and black pumps and was said to have cried when her
head was shaved She requested and was allowed to wear a brightly
colored scarf to hide her baldness. Kenny Reid, the Deputy Sheriff, in
charge of her, read her the death warrant and asked her if she had any
final statement. She replied "I think not" and was then led to the
execution chamber, holding Father Richard's hand. She admitted to
being somewhat nervous and afraid but went calmly to her death.
Several press reporters were present and she
managed a smile for them. A photograph of the procession to the
execution room is shown.
She was strapped into the chair, the electrodes
applied to her shaven head and her calf and a leather mask put over
her face. She was allowed to pray for a few moments and then the
executioner said "Goodbye Toni Jo" and she mumbled a reply. A moment
later 2000 volts hit her and at 12.12 p.m. she was certified dead by
the prison doctor. Her body was removed a few minutes later. Her last
request was that a crucifix be left in her hand when she was buried.
Father Richard officiated at her burial in a cemetery in Lake Charles
and designed the headstone for her grave.
Arkie was executed in the same electric chair four
months later, despite Toni Jo's belated efforts to take responsibility
for the murder after she had lost her final appeal. No relatives came
forward to claim his body so it was buried in an unmarked grave.
go Toni Jo's was ill planned, under resourced and had virtually no
hope of success from the word go. It would seem too easy just to have
stolen a car off the street, instead of hijacking one and killing its
driver. Would she and Arkie be able to successfully raid the bank in
Camden? How did she really think that she was going to get her Cowboy
out of a large, heavily guarded and well run jail like Huntsville?
There are no obvious answers to these questions other than she had
absolutely no chance of success.
At the time of the murder she would have been
hanged, if convicted, as Julia Moore had been just four years earlier
. And yet none of this seemed to register with her at all.
So what were her motives for these crimes. It seems
that the only true motive was her total love for Cowboy Henry which
was so strong it overcame all practical considerations, including her
And yet why did she instantly confess to a murder
that, at the time, had not even been discovered? Why hadn't she
disposed of the gun which was a major piece of evidence against her.
She co-operated fully with the police in finding Mr. Calloway's body.
Had she disposed of the gun carefully, cleaned the car up with Arkie
and kept her mouth shut there would have been very little to connect
her to the killing. We will never know the answers to these questions.
Toni Jo Henry’s Date With
Historically, women have always
had to do something particularly awful to be convicted of a serious
crime, and to sentence a woman to death – oh! That didn’t happen all
that often. Especially when the female in question was good looking.
The law has always made an ass of itself when there’s a beautiful
woman in the dock.
And don’t argue with me about it.
I’ve been trying to prove it to you, see.
One of the most beautiful, indeed
absolutely stunning women ever convicted of murder and sentenced to
death in the United States of America was a gal by the name of Toni Jo
Henry. Her jailers opened up a telephone line to the
governor’s office, and Toni Jo waited on her last hope in life,
mindful that women – especially unusually attractive women – and
especially in the South – were not generally put to death, no matter
what they’d done.
And she was a looker. Nearly
every description ever printed of her focused on her eyes. Toni Jo was
“slim, hard-faced, flint-eyed,” “smouldering-eyed,” with her “snapping
black eyes, and her long, wavy blue black hair.”
After three trials, three
convictions, and three pronouncements of the awful sentence, she
probably expected to die. But still she was light-hearted about it. As
the photographer fussed with his camera, Toni Jo said, “I’ve smiled
twice, mister. You haven’t shot yet. Have you any idea how much talent
is being wasted here today?”
It was one of many jokes she
cracked as she waited for the phone to ring, chain-smoking and making
small talk. “That lighter is guaranteed for a lifetime,” she said at
one point. “You know one person whose lifetime lighter lasted a
Alas, Toni Jo wasn’t always quite
Her real name was Annie Beatrice,
but that was a little too frou-frou for a girl whose mother died when
she was four. Raised by an aunt, she dropped out of grade school and
started running away and ramming the roads when she was a teenager. By
the time she was 17, she was known all over her home town of Lake
Charles, Louisiana as a “lewd woman.” She fell into prostitution and
drugs and all the other disgusting things implied in “lewd.” She was
arrested several times for assault, larceny, and vagrancy. She snipped
a man’s ears with a pair of scissors and went to jail for awhile.
“Lots of men have loved me – but I hate ‘em,” she said. They called
her “the most ornery gal east of the Mississippi” and the “bad girl of
the bayou” and “tiger girl.”
But when she met Cowboy, a/k/a
Claude Henry, she managed to turn herself around. He
doesn’t look like anything extraordinary, but Toni Jo was all over it.
Cowboy called her a swell kid. He got her off cocaine. He said he
loved her, and so she married him.
But even when they met, he was on
bond for a murder charge, some stupid beer garden brawl in San
Antonio, and after they were married, Cowboy drew 50 years for murder
and went to the big house in Huntsville. Toni Jo went crazy and vowed
that the law could not come between them. She decided she would break
him out of prison if she had to do it with her own two hands, because
she’d do anything – she’d “hang four times” for Cowboy.
Love makes you do crazy things.
Like steal some guns and ammo.
Like set off on foot to get from Louisiana to Texas with some wiry
good-for-nothing half-boyfriend slash accomplice in tow, a punk named
Harold Finnon Burkes.
Like pull a pistol on some
traveling salesman dumb enough to stop to give you both a ride. Like
make the poor automobile owner strip naked and beg for his life before
you shoot him.
After Toni Jo murdered J.P.
Calloway, her squeamish companion made a remark she didn’t like and
she called him a yellow rat and cracked his head with the butt and
left him behind. That, of course, turned out to be a big mistake,
because he was a rat, and before she knew it she was in a jail cell.
She wouldn’t talk, so they
brought her husband from prison to wring a confession from her.
“Please honey tell them the truth,” he said, over and over. So she
did, admitting they bumped the guy off. “I let him say his prayers and
then gave it to him right between the eyes,” she said.
Toni Jo Henry went on trial in
Lake Charles, where her reputation preceded her. The judge let a huge
crowd into a courtroom so packed sometimes the defense lawyers
couldn’t see all the jurors. The flashbulbs sometimes drowned out the
arguments of counsel. And all in attendance let their wishes be known.
During the trial various audience members made the hanging sign by
drawing their fingers across their throats while looking at the
jurors. When jurors went to lunch, they heard men and women alike cry
out, “hang her,” “hang that bitch.”
On the first appeal in State of
Louisiana v. Henry, the Supreme Court of Louisiana said:
The populace clamored for the
death penalty. They demanded the life of the accused and clearly
manifested their desires to the jury by signs and gestures which could
not be misunderstood. The trial was attended by throngs. Hundreds more
than could be seated crowded into the courthouse. The courtroom was
literally packed and jammed with spectators. The judge says that more
than 150 either stood or were seated within the railing which
separated his stand from the space reserved for spectators. The record
clearly shows that they were present not merely through interest, but
for the purpose of letting it be known that they demanded the death
penalty…. public sentiment against the accused was at fever heat…. no
punishment inflicted upon the accused except that of death would
appease the wrath of the throng.
She got a new trial. The same
result followed, so they gave her a third trial. But they ran out of
excuses and finally set a date in 1942 for Toni Jo to sit in the
Chair. Cowboy escaped from a prison farm a few days before she was
supposed to be electrocuted in a desperate effort to reach her; he was
captured two days later.
In a jailhouse interview just
before she was supposed to die, Toni Jo decided she might as well
“kick the lid off.” She talked about Cowboy.
“I was a bad girl at 13, a drug
addict at 16,” she said. “Nobody ever cared about me before him. That
guy is the king of my heart. He gave me a home and he got that drug
monkey off my back.
“I remember the day I told him I
was a cokie and the look on his face. He thought I just smoked
marijuana and grinned. But when I told him my train went a lot further
than marijuana he took me to a hotel room and I lay there in bed for a
week and he would come in now and then and ask me how I was doing.
He’d slap my face with iced towels and we’d both laugh.
“I think condemned persons fret
more about losing contact with human beings than anything else. You
feel so out of it. It’s more than these bars: it’s more like a hellish
battle with long distance when she won’t give you a number – anybody’s
number—not one friendly human being’s number. You get so cold and
pretty soon you’re a freak even to yourself.”
The reporter asked about the man
she killed, the man who left behind a wife and daughter. “I’ve asked
myself a thousand times and I don’t know why I killed that man,” she
said. “I’m willing to walk down to the chair and I’ll take my
Toni Jo said her dying wish was
to talk to Cowboy, and though it violated the rules, they let her call
him. She did all the talking and he did all the crying. ”I know it has
to come and I’m ready for it, honey,” Toni Jo told Cowboy. “I’m glad
to have known you for the short time that I did. I’m sorry that things
had to turn out this way. But you’ve got to live right, Claude.”
Toni Jo hung up after the call
The governor, by the way, never
Toni Jo promised to go quietly,
except she squawked when they shaved her head. They promised to hunt
up a scarf for her to put over her bald head, knowing the
photographers were lined up outside to see her taken to the death
room. One of those photos, at right, shows her jailer looking more sad
than Toni Jo.
Toni Jo Henry was electrocuted
November 28, 1942. The wire services all reported that Cowboy Henry
screamed and thrashed and destroyed his cell in his grief.
In a final awful coda, Cowboy was
released from prison a handful of years after his wife's execution.
The decade didn't end before Cowboy Henry was shot and killed in a
brawl with a barkeep and raced into the dark to be with his bad girl
from the bayou.