There have been more criminals than we care to count who have passed through Arkansas’s correctional facilities and on to either death row or life behind bars, but then there are the infamous criminals who have given our state a truly bad name by garnering national attention through their malfeasance and murderous ways. These are the worst of the worst – Arkansans who will go down in history as being guilty beyond any doubt for their crimes; terrible acts that were committed and make you wonder how anyone from such a place as great as Arkansas could cast such a dark shadow on the good name of the Natural State.
5. "Deacon" Jim Miller
Anyone who's known by the name of "Killin' Jim" can't be a standup citizen. Also called "Deacon", Jim Miller was a notorious American outlaw who was born in Van Buren. Miller was known to not indulge in tobacco or alcohol, to his credit (and hence the nickname "Deacon"), but he was indeed known for having killed at least 12 people during gunfights. Miller served briefly as a Texas Ranger before advertising himself as a professional assassin, murdering people on contract for a price of $150 per head. It wouldn't be long before citizen's justice would catch up to Killin' Jim, however; he met a violent end at the hands of angry Oklahoma citizens who lynched Miller after he assassinated a former deputy U.S. Marshal. Miller's legacy lives on though. A caricature of Killin' Jim exists in the game "Call of Juarez." In the game, gunslinger Ray McCall takes on the appearance and ways of the professional assassin from Van Buren.
4. Mack Ray Edwards
Mack Ray Edwards was born in Arkansas in 1918 and later moved on to the West Coast in the early 1940s. His time on the coast would prove quite dark, as Edwards went on to commit horrendous acts. Between the years of 1953 and 1970, Edwards confessed to killing at least six children in the Los Angeles area. In 1970 Edwards was convicted and sentenced to death after three girls he'd kidnapped escaped and led authorities to find Edwards, who at the time was traveling with a male accomplice to his crimes. Mack Ray Edwards, however, would never see execution. After two unsuccessful suicide attemps, Edwards finally hit paydirt on October 30, 1971 when authorities found him dead in his cell, hanging from a noose.
3. Andrew Golden
Along with Mitchell Johnson, Andrew Golden holds a place in Arkansas history not only as one of the state's youngest convicted murderers, but also as the cause of the deadly Jonesboro school shooting in March 1998, where five people were gunned down and 10 others were injured. The school shooting took place at a disturbing turning point in American education; it was a year later that the tragic Columbine school massacre in Colorado occurred, creating awareness about the reality and possibility of gun violence in schools. Golden is a free man as of 2015, having been released from incarceration after his 21st birthday.
2. Mitchell Johnson
Mitchell Johnson was born in Minnesota and moved to Jonesboro when he was seven years old, and it only took a few years for his life to take a turn for the absolute worst. Johnson was a middle schooler when he and Andrew Golden murdered five people and wounded 10 more at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro. Johnson, along with Golden, would be incarcerated until they reached adulthood, but Johnson would prove to be incorrigible--he was convicted again in 2007 on drug charges and again in 2008 for theft and identity fraud. He is currently still incarcerated.
1. Ronald Gene Simmons
Ronald Gene Simmons was not born in the Natural State--he was raised an Arkansan from childhood, yet his actions certainly did garner the state a lot of attention --and none of it was positive. Simmons is infamous for being the catalyst behind Arkansas's worst murder spree; 16 innocent members of not only his family, but also innocent Russellville residents, were brutally murdered by Simmons. In addition to the murders, four people were injured by his inexplicably evil actions, and an entire state was shocked in the days following the Christmas of 1987 and leading into the new year. Simmons, who was summarily executed in 1990 for the murders, still remains a haunting part of Arkansas history to this day with a "boogey man" stigma attached to his name.
Fortunately for Arkansas, the heinous acts of these individuals don’t reflect on the Natural State’s overall greatness. It is chilling, however, to know that Arkansas will forever be tied to these criminals as a birthplace, or as the location where they committed their crimes. What are your thoughts on these people and their misdeeds? Will they ever be forgotten or have their actions been solidified in the history books as true evil?