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“Robin Hood of the Blue Ridge”: The Life, Legend, and Songs of Otto Wood, the Bandit

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Trevor Jackson McKenzie (Creator)
Institution
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: http://www.library.appstate.edu/
Advisor
Bruce Stewart

Abstract: Otto Wood, a native of Wilkes County, North Carolina, became nationally known during the 1920s for his repetitive flights from the North Carolina State Prison. Wood began his rambling at an early age and spent his childhood years in the coalfields of southern West Virginia. After killing a Greensboro pawnbroker in the fall of 1923, he was sent to the North Carolina State Prison. Between 1924 and 1930, Wood made four escapes from the penitentiary and rose to the status of a criminal celebrity. He wrote his autobiography, Life History of Otto Wood, while incarcerated in 1926. In his Life History, Wood claimed that the poverty and neglect he experienced in childhood formed the roots of his criminal lifestyle. Governor O. Max Gardner attempted to use Wood as an “experiment in humanity,” but failed after Wood made his fourth escape in 1930. He died on December 31, 1930, following a gunfight with police on the streets of Salisbury, North Carolina. Wood’s legend was later spread in song by early country music artists. Drawing on primary sources, this thesis provides a biography of Otto Wood and places him within the economic and social context of the period in which he lived.

Additional Information

Publication
Thesis
McKenzie, T.J. (2012). “Robin Hood of the Blue Ridge”: The Life, Legend, and Songs of Otto Wood, the Bandit. Unpublished master’s thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2012
Keywords
Crime, North Carolina, Outlaw, Ballad, Folklore