Director Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ tells the story of a series of inexplicable murders in the Osage region of Oklahoma during the 1920s. In the film, William King Hale, a powerful individual from the Osage region, is at the center of the murders, and his wealth and political influence largely affect the investigation. Given the film’s depiction of William King Hale and veteran actor Robert De Niro’s portrayal of the real-life figure who played an important role in the real-life Osage Indian murders, viewers must be curious to learn about Hale’s wealth and eventual fate. If you wish to find out how rich William King Hale was and how he met his eventual demise, here is everything you need to know! SPOILERS AHEAD!
How Did William King Hale Earn His Money?
Born on December 24, 1874, William King Hale was a cattle rancher and political boss in Osage County, Oklahoma. Hale was born in Hunt County, Texas, to parents Peyton Hale and Mary Elizabeth Gaines. He was primarily known for his involvement in the Osage County murders between 1921 and 1926, involving the members of his nephew’s wife, Mollie Kyle’s family. According to his nephew, Ernest Burkhart, Hale was the primary mastermind of the murders of his wife’s family.
At the time of these murders, Hale had gained a powerful socio-economic standing in Osage County and was the self-proclaimed “King of the Osage.” However, Hale actually came from a humble background and initially worked as a cowboy herding cattle from Texas to Kansas. He married Myrtie Margaret Fry, and the couple had at least one daughter. Hale arrived in the Osage Nation (present-day Osage County, Oklahoma) from Texas at the start of the 20th century. He later moved to Gray Horse, a town in Osage, where he found some success as a trader.
During his time in Osage, Hale quickly amassed a lot of wealth and had several business interests in the area. However, according to reports, most of his wealth was derived from insurance fraud. He was also a renowned cattle rancher, owning roughly 5,000 acres of grazing land. Hale had leased another 45,000 more from Osage landowners. His assets included a house, a ranch near Gray Horse, and another house in Fairfax. Hale had a controlling interest in Fairfax Bank and had invested in the local convenience store and funeral home. Hale was also a reserve deputy sheriff for Fairfax. As a result, it is safe to say that Hale had several business interests and a diversified revenue stream.
Consequently, his political influence and friendly relations with the Native Americans in Osage are said to have greatly benefited his business interests. However, there is no exact estimate of Hale’s wealth since there is no record of his income from livestock raising and shares in the bank, store, and funeral home. According to some sources, like New York Times, Hale’s estimated net worth was $500,000 in 1926, when he was arrested on charges of murder. However, considering the plot to obtain headrights belonging to Osage natives, it is safe to say that Hale’s net worth may have exceeded the $500,000 figure due to his unscrupulous dealings with the natives. Some sources allege that Hale was a millionaire, ranking among the wealthiest people in Oklahoma.
How Did William King Hale Die?
William King Hale was arrested in January 1926 for the murders of Bill and Rita Smith. His nephew, Ernest Burkhart, was also arrested and interrogated by the Bureau of Investigation (now the FBI). Burkhart eventually pleaded guilty to being a part of the murder conspiracy and turned a state’s witness. Burkhart’s testimony was crucial in linking John Ramsey, a local cowboy, and Hale to the murder of Henry Roan. Ultimately, the court convicted Hale of one count of first-degree murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment in 1929. However, Hale never confessed to the murder of Roan and other crimes he was accused of. Hale served his sentence at the Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas.
Hale spent the following 28 years in prison before he was released on parole in 1947. However, Hale was barred from ever returning to Oklahoma. Hale spent the later years of his life in Montana, where he worked as a cowboy and dishwasher. Hale reportedly worked as a ranchhand for Lester Ben Binion, aka Benny Binion, known for running an illegal gambling operation in Texas. Hale eventually moved to Phoenix, Arizona, sometime in the 1950s. Hale died on August 15, 1962, at a nursing home in Phoenix, presumably from natural causes. According to official documents, Hale died from uremia caused by an extended kidney infection. He was 87 years old, and his last rites were performed at St. Anthony’s Church in Wichita, Kansas, where he was buried. Despite being convicted of a solitary murder, Hale is largely regarded as the mastermind behind the Kyle family members’ murders in Osage between 1921 and 1926.