Billy Dean Anderson

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Billy Dean Anderson
Billy Dean Anderson (wanted poster).jpg
Wanted Poster for Billy Dean Anderson
FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive
  • Armed robbery
  • Escape
  • Assault to murder a police officer
Born July 12, 1934
Pall Mall area
Fentress County, Tennessee
Died July 7, 1979(1979-07-07) (aged 44)
Pall Mall Fentress County, Tennessee
Cause of death Shot
Added May 14, 1984 (date FBI added to list)
Number 386 (sequence number)
Killed during attempt to capture

Billy Dean Anderson (July 12, 1934  July 7, 1979) gained notoriety in 1975 when he was added to the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list after a long list of crimes  for which he was jailed and paroled three times  including armed robbery and prison escapes, over the course of 20 years. Despite his unlawful behavior, Anderson became somewhat of a folk hero among those in his native Tennessee, even more so after he was shot and killed by FBI officers as he was leaving his mother's home one night after eluding federal authorities for four-and-a-half years.

FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives public list of people by the FBI

The FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives is a most wanted list maintained by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The list arose from a conversation held in late 1949 between J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI, and William Kinsey Hutchinson, International News Service editor-in-chief, who were discussing ways to promote capture of the FBI's "toughest guys". This discussion turned into a published article, which received so much positive publicity that on March 14, 1950, the FBI officially announced the list to increase law enforcement's ability to capture dangerous fugitives.

Tennessee State of the United States of America

Tennessee is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. Tennessee is the 36th largest and the 16th most populous of the 50 United States. Tennessee is bordered by Kentucky to the north, Virginia to the northeast, North Carolina to the east, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi to the south, Arkansas to the west, and Missouri to the northwest. The Appalachian Mountains dominate the eastern part of the state, and the Mississippi River forms the state's western border. Nashville is the state's capital and largest city, with a 2017 population of 667,560. Tennessee's second largest city is Memphis, which had a population of 652,236 in 2017.


Early life

Anderson was born in the Pall Mall area of Fentress County, Tennessee, the same Wolf River valley where World War I hero Alvin C. York hailed. Little is known about his early life. While this is reported in many articles the FBI disputes these claims and his birthplace has been unconfirmed. He attended Rotten Fork Elementary School, where he preferred to fill his notebooks with sketches rather than homework. [1] However, he was believed not to have been a troublesome youth, [2] and volunteered as a preacher at Wolf River Methodist Church in Pall Mall at age eighteen. He used the aliases 'Billie Dean Anderson' 'James Forster' and 'William David Upchurch'. He had a stocky build and stood at 5'8" and weighed between 160 and 170 pounds with fair skin and bluish-green eyes. He worked as an artist, mechanic, unskilled laborer, tree surgeon and farmer. Anderson was severely marked with a scar across the bridge of his nose, the left side of his forehead, a surgical scar on the right side of his stomach and another surgical scar on his lower spine. He reportedly wore braces on both of his legs and suffered from atrophy of the legs.

Pall Mall, Tennessee unincorporated community in Tennessee, United States

Pall Mall is a small unincorporated community in the Wolf River valley of Fentress County, Tennessee, United States. Pall Mall is located near the Kentucky-Tennessee state-line in northeastern-central Tennessee. The population was at 1,398 people according to the 2000 census.

Fentress County, Tennessee County in the United States

Fentress County is a county located in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As of the 2010 census, the population was 17,959. Its county seat is Jamestown.

Wolf River (Middle Tennessee)

The Wolf River is a 40.3-mile-long (64.9 km) river in the U.S. states of Tennessee and Kentucky that rises at the base of the Cumberland Plateau in Fentress County, Tennessee and flows westward for several miles before emptying into the Obey River at the Dale Hollow Reservoir. The river is part of the Cumberland River drainage basin, and flows primarily in Middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky. Via the Cumberland and Ohio rivers, it is part of the Mississippi River watershed. It is not to be confused with the Wolf River of West Tennessee which flows into the Mississippi at Memphis.

Criminal career

In June 1959, Anderson and two friends held an armed robbery at a drive-in theater in Jamestown, Tennessee. When the theater usher revealed he possessed little money, Anderson intentionally missed while shooting near him. [2] The three men managed to evade police, however were arrested the following morning while engaged in a police standoff while inside the Wolf River Methodist Church in Pall Mall. Anderson served a four-month jail sentence, as his lenient sentence was due to being a first-time offender.

Drive-in theater form of cinema structure

A drive-in theater or drive-in cinema is a form of cinema structure consisting of a large outdoor movie screen, a projection booth, a concession stand and a large parking area for automobiles. Within this enclosed area, customers can view movies from the privacy and comfort of their cars. Some drive-ins have small playgrounds for children and a few picnic tables or benches.

Jamestown, Tennessee City in Tennessee, United States

Jamestown is a city in Fentress County, Tennessee, United States. It is the county seat of Fentress County. The population of the city was 1,959 at the 2010 census.

In October 1962, Anderson brandished a shotgun on a group of state police troopers in Jamestown, which escalated to his shooting an officer. Anderson decided to surrender when a bullet grazed his head, and he was shot twice in the stomach. Anderson received a ten-year prison sentence, and only served four years due to being a model prisoner. At the recommendation of a lawyer, Anderson moved to Muncie, Indiana, in order to leave Tennessee. However, he received a suspended prison term for armed robbery/assault in Muncie, and was banished from the state. When he returned to Tennessee, he was involved in a standoff with the sheriff and a deputy sheriff in Fentress County, and served four years of two consecutive seven-year prison terms.

Muncie, Indiana City in Indiana, United States of America

Muncie is an incorporated city and the seat of Delaware County, Indiana. It is located in East Central Indiana, about 50 miles (80 km) northeast of Indianapolis. The United States Census for 2010 reported the city's population was 70,085. It is the principal city of the Muncie metropolitan statistical area, which has a population of 117,671.

In 1970, he returned to Muncie, despite his sentence to leave Indiana. While working as a gas station attendant in Muncie, Anderson brandished a pistol on a customer, and was sentenced to a 10 to 25-year sentence at the Indiana State Prison. Anderson was paroled in 1972, and moved to Morgan County, Tennessee, due to his notoriety in Fentress County. In late 1973, he was arrested for non-fatally shooting a deputy sheriff in Morgan County. On January 15, 1974, a Morgan County jury convicted Anderson of aggravated assault, attempted burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, and as a habitual criminal. [3] That December, he and a fellow inmate escaped from the Morgan County Jail. [4] The escape led to Anderson being placed on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list on January 21, 1975. [4]

Indiana State of the United States of America

Indiana is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern and Great Lakes regions of North America. Indiana is the 38th largest by area and the 17th most populous of the 50 United States. Its capital and largest city is Indianapolis. Indiana was admitted to the United States as the 19th U.S. state on December 11, 1816. Indiana borders Lake Michigan to the northwest, Michigan to the north, Ohio to the east, Kentucky to the south and southeast, and Illinois to the west.

The Indiana State Prison is a maximum security Indiana Department of Corrections prison for adult males; however, minimum security housing also exists on the confines. It is located in Michigan City, Indiana, about 50 miles (80 km) east of Chicago. The average daily inmate population in November 2006 was 2,200, 2,165 in 2011. The Indiana State Prison was established in 1860. It was the second state prison in Indiana. One of the most famous prisoners to be in the Michigan City prison was bank robber John Dillinger, who was released on parole in 1933.

Parole is a temporary release of a prisoner who agrees to certain conditions before the completion of the maximum sentence period, originating from the French parole. The term became associated during the Middle Ages with the release of prisoners who gave their word.

Labelled "the mountain man" by federal agents, Anderson evaded police for more than four years, by hiding within the mountainous terrain of Pickett County, Tennessee. He was also assisted by local residents, some of whom were involved with moonshine trade and were sympathetic to him. Anderson became self-sufficient and lived in a cave near the Fentress-Pickett line. He accessed the cave through an opening, 3 feet (0.91 m) in diameter, located halfway up the side of a hill and hidden in a rock outcropping. Inside the cave there was a 20-foot (6.1 m) drop to where Anderson had fashioned his home. [2]

Pickett County, Tennessee County in the United States

Pickett County is a county located in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As of the 2010 census, the population was 5,077, making it the least populous county in Tennessee. Its county seat is Byrdstown.

Moonshine high-proof distilled spirit, generally produced illicitly

Moonshine was originally a slang term for high-proof distilled spirits that were usually produced illicitly, without government authorization. In recent years, however, moonshine has been legalized in various countries and has become a commercial product.

According to an FBI release, Anderson's whereabouts was tipped to them by an informant they called the "Mountain Man". This tip led to the death of Anderson as he was leaving the home of his 75-year-old mother in the early hours of July 7, 1979. As he had attempted to run away from the state troopers, he was shot twice in his lower back. The bullet exited through his stomach and Anderson died immediately as a result of his wounds.


Legends abound in Fentress County regarding the man known as Billy Dean Anderson, as his story takes on much the same interest locally as that of Jesse James. There are many legends about his death, including some that tell that the authorities only managed to get him because he got tangled in a barbed-wire fence or that he stopped because they tricked his mother into calling his name. [2]

Anderson was a sympathetic figure to many in the area, which had a long history of violence around moonshine stills and logging camps.

Of the five other fugitives placed on the FBI Most Wanted Fugitives List in 1975, Anderson eluded federal authorities for the longest period. His nearly four-and-a-half years on the list were longer than all but nine of the more than 60 placed on the list during the 1970s.

What is not legend is that Anderson was a gifted painter. While in prison he produced over 300 paintings, most of them were idealized versions of a muscular Christ. He was also an accomplished woodcarver. [1] Brushes and paint were found in his cave hideout in Pickett County.

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  1. 1 2 Dickinson, W. Calvin and Michael E. Birdwell (2004). Rural Life and Culture in the Upper Cumberland. The University Press of Kentucky. p. 268. ISBN   978-0-8131-2309-7.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Killings: Folk Justice in the Upper South by William Lynwood Montell
  3. The Worst Criminal of 1975
  4. 1 2 Only Criminal Elite Apply article from Kingman Daily Miner (June 19, 1979)