Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Body Armor Saves Gunfighter's Life by Tom Rizzo


A homemade bullet-proof vest saved the life of one of the deadliest professional killers in the Old West. 

 James Brown Miller–known as Deacon Jim, Killer Miller, and Killin’ Jim–has been credited with killing at least 12 people, although some put the number closer to 50, likely an exaggeration.

Miller hired himself out as an assassin, with a list of victims that included lawmen, cattle ranchers, political figures and even famed Sheriff Pat Garrett, who killed Billy the Kid. Miller's weapon of choice was a shotgun.

On April 12, 1894, Pecos, Texas, Sheriff Bud Frazer confronted Miller about his role in the killing of a local cattleman. Miller tried to pulled his gun on Frazer, but the sheriff reportedly pumped six shots into the outlaw.

Miller sustained only a minor wound to his arm. But, Frazer shot again, this time hitting Miller in the groin.

When a friend dragged the assassin to a doctor’s office, it was discovered Miller had been wearing a metal plate under his shirt, which had blocked all of Frazer’s bullets --likely his own version of a bullet-proof vest.

Not one to forget, Miller tracked Frazer to Toyah, Texas, a couple of years later, where the former lawman was working as a stablehand.

Miller leveled a shotgun at Frazer’s face and killed him.

Miller’s life of crime started at an early age when he was accused of several murders, including those of his own grandparents.

Law enforcement, however, had little success in convicting Miller for his crimes.

Deacon Jim usually was represented by expert legal counsel, thanks mostly to the wealthier clients, who had hired him.

At the same time, lawmen would often look the other way when it came to his record, especially if they needed help in capturing or killing a dangerous outlaw.

Miller finally met a bitter end in 1909

Taken into custody for the murder of a U.S. Marshall, a mob broke into the jail and dragged Miller and three other outlaws to a nearby barn and lynched them.

Just before being hanged, Miller is reported to have shouted “Let ‘er rip!”



  1. Tom, this reminds me of that scene in the spaghetti western and I always get the titles mixed up--where Clint Eastwood had made himself a metal shield he wore under his serape when he faced down the outlaws. Always seems like I come in when that scene is on for some reason--karma, I guess. LOL This is really interesting. Thanks for posting this today!

    1. Hi Cheryl, Eastwood wore a steel plate under his poncho in "A Fistful of Dollars." Hmmmm, I wonder if that's where Miller got the idea . . . ?

    2. Miller may of gotten the idea from Ned Kelly, a infamous 1880 Australian outlaw who's gang used fully armored suits looking like the Tinman in Oz.

    3. Thanks, Gordo, for filling in the blanks.

  2. This just does not seem fair, does it? Miller was supposed to have been a real piece of work: family man, attended church every Sunday, upstanding citizen in his community (Fort Worth, if I'm not mistaken)...and a cold-blooded, methodical, sneaky killer for hire. How come HE got the bullet-proof underwear instead of the good guys? :-|

    1. Maybe the good guys didn't think they needed bullet-proof underwear.

    2. A white hat will only protect you from so much. ;-)

  3. History is full of such interesting and colorful characters, Miller being one. The ones who survived to an older age not only used their skills, but probably were innovators and thinkers. (Along with being shot with luck in the early days)

    A most interesting and informative post. Doris

  4. Interesting coincidence... the main bad guy in my Lone Star Ranger series also has been shot several times but rides away uninjured. He's not wearing a metal plate, though. To find out you'll have to read the series.