William Longley was born in Austin County, Texas, on 6th October, 1851. He grew up with strongly held racist views and was strongly opposed to the government's Reconstruction policy. At the age of sixteen he murdered a black member of the police force in Lee County (he claimed the man had insulted his father). Later that year he killed two more black men in Lexington.
Longley worked as a cowboy before joining an outlaw in a gang led by Cullen M. Baker in Arkansas. Captured by vigilantes he was lynched as a horse thief. However, as the mob rode off, one man turned and aimed a shot at Longley, the bullet missed and hit the rope and weakened it. The weight of Longley's body broke the weakened rope and saved his life.
Longley now became a cowboy in Abilene but after a disagreement killed his trial boss. He fled to Leavenworth where he killed a soldier. This time he was arrested and convicted of murder. He was sentenced to 30 years but managed to escape and eventually returned to Texas.
In 1875 he killed Wilson Anderson. A man Longley accused of murdering his cousin, Cale Longley. During his trial local newspapers claimed he had killed thirty-two men, most of them blacks. Longley denied this and claimed that most of the killing had been carried out by the Ku Klux Klan.
William Longley, found guilty of the murder of Wilson Anderson, was executed on 11th October, 1878.