Jack McCall is Hung for the Murder of James Butler 'Wild Bill' Hickok

As I write the closing lines of this brief sketch, word reaches me that the slayer of Wild Bill has been re-arrested by the United State authorities, and after trial has been sentenced to death for willful murder. He is now at Yankton, D.T. awaiting execution. At the trial it was proved that the murderer was hired to do his work by gamblers who feared the time when better citizens should appoint Bill the champion of law and order - a post which he formerly sustained in Kansas border life, with credit to his manhood and his courage.”

— Leander Richardson

McCall was hanged in a public execution at 10:15 am on Thursday, March 1, 1877, in Yankton. He was buried in the southwest corner of the Catholic cemetery there. In 1881, when the cemetery was moved, his body was exhumed. It was discovered that he had been buried with the noose still around his neck.

The motive for the killing is still debated. McCall may have been paid for the deed, or it may have been the result of a recent lovers quarrel between the two. Most likely McCall became enraged over what he perceived as a condescending offer from Hickok to let him have enough money for breakfast after he had lost all his money playing poker the previous day. At the resulting two-hour trial by a miners jury (an ad hoc local group of assembled miners and businessmen), McCall claimed that he was avenging Hickok's earlier slaying of his brother, which may have been true. A Lew McCall is known to have been killed by a lawman in Abilene, but it is unknown if he was related, and the name of the lawman was not recorded. McCall was acquitted of the murder, resulting in the Black Hills Pioneer editorializing: "Should it ever be our misfortune to kill a man ... we would simply ask that our trial may take place in some of the mining camps of these hills." Calamity Jane was reputed to have led a mob that threatened McCall with lynching, but at the time of Wild Bill’s death, Jane was being held by military authorities.

McCall was subsequently rearrested after bragging about his deed, and a new trial was held. The authorities did not consider this to be double jeopardy because at the time Deadwood was not recognized by the U.S. as a legitimately incorporated town, as it was in Indian Country and the jury was irregular. The new trial was held in Yankton, capital of the territory. Hickok's brother, Lorenzo Butler Hickok, traveled from Illinois to attend the retrial and spoke to McCall after the trial, noting that he showed no remorse. This time McCall was found guilty.

McCall was hanged on 1 March 1877 and buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery. The cemetery was moved in 1881, and his body was exhumed and found to have the noose still around his neck.