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(Courtesy of Jerry Whittington)
"Wild Bill" Cody

Albert William Cody

Real name:
Frederick Garfield Penniman

1913 - 1988

Left - publicity still of Penniman / Cody. Unknown date.

Special thanks to Jerry Whittington for all the info and photos on his friend, Wild Bill Cody. Sad to report that 74 year old Jerry Lee Whittington passed away on September 13, 2015.

Thanks also to Scott Eckstein for his recollections of visits and chats with Cody at the Windy Hollow museum.

And to fellow Indiana Hoosier Mark Kratzner for additional "detective work".

For many years, there was confusion about a "Bill Cody" or a "Wild Bill Cody" in an Evansville, Indiana nursing home vs. movie youngster Bill Cody, Jr., the son of silent and early sound cowboy movie hero Bill Cody. Bill, Jr. appeared in westerns with his father as well as a few other films before he joined the Navy during World War II.

Hopefully, this webpage will resolve this issue.

What's the confusion? Bobby Copeland provided information on the "Bill Cody, Jr. in Evansville, Indiana person". Bobby writes: "I offer the following comments from expert researcher, Luther Hathcock: On Jan. 2, 1986, the AP ran a story nationwide on a former radio performer born Frederick Garfield Penniman who changed his name to "Wild Bill" Cody and became a star of over 40 Westerns at Columbia. This man whose claim was far over exaggerated as star was now living in an Evansville nursing home at age 72. If he was in 40 Westerns, O. K. then where are his credits? We couldn't find them. Many people mistook this man to be the long lost B-Western kid star. Mentions appeared in publications that Bill Cody, Jr., was still around, now in an Indiana nursing home. When later informed of the mistaken identity, and the protest over it, Cody, Jr. found the matter amusing."

Long ago, the Internet Movie Database filmography on Bill Cody, Jr. had a couple films incorrectly listed for him - for MARSHAL OF WINDY HOLLOW (1972) and ALIEN OUTLAW (1985). That's been fixed and both of those roles were done by the subject of this Old Corral webpage - "Wild Bill" Cody, AKA Albert William Cody, AKA Frederick Garfield Penniman.

Before getting into Penniman / Cody, let's profile Bill Cody, Jr.

About Bill Cody, Jr.
Birth name: William Joseph Cody
1925 - 1989

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above are Bill Cody, his son Bill Cody Jr., and pretty Catharine Cotter looking over the prone William 'Bill' McCall in a scene from OUTLAWS OF THE RANGE (Spectrum, 1936).

Bill Cody, Jr. (birth name: William Joseph Cody) was the real life son of silent and early 1930s range hero Bill Cody. He did some kid roles in four of his father's Spectrum westerns in the mid 1930s. You can also spot him playing the part of singer Nelson Eddy as a child in the Jeanette MacDonald THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST (MGM, 1938). Some of his other film work includes the cliffhangers SCOUTS TO THE RESCUE (Universal, 1939), THE OREGON TRAIL (Universal, 1939) and SKY RAIDERS (Universal, 1941), as well as B westerns with Tom Keene, Johnny Mack Brown, Charles Starrett, and the Frontier Marshal trio series at PRC.

Cody, Jr. enlisted in the Navy during World War II and never went back to the film business upon returning home from military duty.

Researcher Luther Hathcock provided info about Cody, Jr.'s passing in a December, 1989 writeup in Classic Images: "Bill Cody, Jr., the long lost western kid star of the 1930s is dead at age 64. He died in his Studio City, California apartment on August 11, 1989, a suicide. In a note left for his family, he stated how hard the past sixteen months had been without his beloved wife, Liz, and that he missed her so much that he no longer cared to go on living without her. Mrs. Cody died in 1988 of cancer."

(If you would like a copy of the Luther Hathcock article, send an e-mail to ye Old Corral webmeister.)

You may want to check the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral ... and then go to the California Death Index. There you will find a record for: William Joseph Cody, born 4/18/1925, Mother's maiden name of Kanah, passed away on 8/11/1989, and last resided in the Los Angeles area. I could not find a record in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI).

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Bill Cody, Jr.:

Find A Grave website has a photo of the marker for Bill Cody, Jr. at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles:

Frederick Garfield Penniman
AKA "Bill Cody", "Wild Bill Cody", Albert William Cody
Born August 6, 1913 in New York
Died October 25, 1988 in Evansville, Indiana

(Courtesy of Jerry Whittington)

Above are Ken Maynard and Wild Bill Cody, and both worked in the unreleased MARSHAL OF WINDY HOLLOW (1972) film. Below is a lobby card showing Cody. In MARSHAL, Cody played an Indian Scout - he showed star Sunset Carson where the wagons were dumped in the canyon river. He also showed Sunset the outlaws cave and helped the Rangers track down the outlaws.

There is a section on the Old Corral about the making of that film - on the Old Corral homepage, click on the menu item "Sunset, Ken & Tex in the MARSHAL OF WINDY HOLLOW". Or click HERE and the WINDY HOLLOW page will open in a separate window / tab.

(Courtesy of Jerry Whittington)

Jerry Whittington worked in front and behind the camera on the Sunset Carson MARSHAL OF WINDY HOLLOW (1972) film and knew the other Cody. I asked Jerry how Wild Bill Cody wound up in the MARSHAL OF WINDY HOLLOW film: Sunset Carson knew him, and at the time, Cody lived in Madison, Tennessee and Sunset resided in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1975, Jerry used Cody (portraying a gold prospector) in a Panasonic 8-track tape player network television commercial that aired nationally. Jerry also shared some letters he received from Penniman / Cody. There were mentions of appearances on various early TV shows including YOU ASKED FOR IT, WHAT'S MY LINE, SUPER CIRCUS, STRIKE IT RICH, more. And there were thanks for Jerry's friendship as well as that of Sunset Carson and Lash LaRue. As one would expect, he was not happy living in the nursing home.

Wild Bill Cody's real name was Frederick Garfield Penniman. In his later years, Penniman / Cody lived in Evansville, Indiana, initially at the McCurdy Residential Center nursing home, and later, at the Brentwood Convalescent Center. He passed away on October 25, 1988 at the Welborn Baptist Hospital, Evansville, Indiana.

There is a record in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) for Albert W. Cody, born August 6, 1913, and passed away on October 25, 1988.

Hoping to find more about him, I obtained his Indiana death certificate:

Death certificate: 75 year old Albert William Cody was born August 6, 1913 in Bridgeport, New York. He was widowed; occupation of "Actor - Movie Industry"; and parents were Pearly Russell Tenninan [sic] and Mary Clemens. He passed away on October 25, 1988 at the Welborn Hospital, Evansville, Indiana and cause of death was pneumonia and contributing condition was COPD. Death certificate informant was daughter Mary Hurst. Cremation by Memorial Gardens Crematory, Owensboro, Kentucky, and funeral director was Glenn Funeral Home, Owensboro, Kentucky.

(Courtesy of Jerry Whittington)

Above is a 1950s publicity flyer handed out by Penniman / Cody. When ye Old Corral webmaster first saw this flyer, I thought it was a photo of B-western bad guy Terry Frost or Pierce Lyden.

Cody's daughter, Mary Alice Hurst, identified this flyer as June, 1959, when Cody and wife Mamie Alice were performing at the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Bicentennial Exposition.

(Courtesy of Jerry Whittington)

Above - letterhead from several letters from Cody to Jerry Whittington.

(Courtesy of Jerry Whittington)

Above are Jerry Whittington and Penniman / Cody during the filming of MARSHAL OF WINDY HOLLOW (1972). MARSHAL was filmed in July, 1972. During that same period, Penniman / Cody was performing with Sunset Carson's All-Star Show (which featured Cody, Joe Powell and the Country Sounds, and Tex Barr).

(Courtesy of Jerry Whittington)

Cody at the Windy Hollow Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Jerry Whittington had several newspaper interviews and articles along with obituary information.

1. An interview dated December 26, 1985 by Joyce A. Venezia of the Associated Press may be the cause of the confusion about Penniman's life. Excerpts from that article follows:

Article Headline: "Rodeo legend is still dressing the part at 72 years"

"Fading, cracking scrapbooks are pulled from a nearby drawer, and Cody begins his story."

"... rodeo hero and star of more than 40 movie Westerns, lives in a nursing home at the age of 72."

"He says he's three-quarters Indian, something he's immensely proud of now, although he quit school in upstate New York after the fourth grade ..."

"Walk-on parts in the movies led to bigger roles and finally stardom."

"Cody stayed with Columbia Pictures until 1952 and made more than 40 westerns. He then set off on a worldwide tour with other western actors as part of the "All-American Wild West Rodeo".

"Cody's third wife, Alice Collins Penniman, was accidently [sic] shot with her own gun by a curious 9-year old boy during a rodeo tour."

"After my wife got killed ... I married again."

2. An interview by Joe Aaron of the Evansville, Indiana Courier newspaper. The date is missing from the article, but Cody had sent it to Jerry in an envelope postmarked June 5, 1986. Excerpts from that article follows:

Article Headline: "From jail cell to Cowboy Hall of Fame spot, Wild Bill has been there"

"Wild Bill Cody was sitting on his bed at the McCurdy Residential Center ..."

"Cody, who was born Frederick Garfield Penniman but later changed his name to honor his favorite character out of the Old West, appeared in his first western movie sometime back in the late '30s, although he has forgotten just when it was, and he estimates that he appeared in 40 of them over the years, with such old-time western stars as Sunset Carson, Bob Steele, Don Red Barry and Ken Maynard ..."

"... he joined the circus as a wrangler, and occasionally got a chance to crack a whip or throw a knife, things he was really good at. He had perfected both skills as a kid back on the Onondaga Indian Reservation where he had lived, since he was three-quarters Indian. He used to throw tomahawks too, and could split an infinitive at 50 paces."

"... he finally reached Hollywood and began appearing, after awhile, in walk-on parts in westerns. After awhile the parts got bigger and he was in great demand.

Sometimes he played the part of an Indian."

"Cody said he would like to show me his skill with a whip ...    But somebody stole his three whips when he sold his mobile home in Owensboro, Ky., so he said I'd just have to take his word for it. And I do. I read enough of his scrapbooks to know he speaks the truth."

"He smiled at me as I reached the door and gave me a loose wave of his arm. The pile of scrapbooks still littered the bed."

3. Death announcement and article from the Owensboro, Kentucky Messenger-Inquirer newspaper. Date not shown, but has to be from October 26-27, 1988. Excerpts from both follow:

In Memory article reads in part:

"Albert William 'Wild Bill' Cody, 75, of Brentwood Convalescent Center, Evansville, Ind., formerly of Maceo, died Tuesday, Oct. 25, 1988, at Welborn Baptist Hospital, Evansville. He was born in New York and was a retired actor, showman and performer. His wife, Mamie Alice Collins Cody, died in 1959 ... "

Article Headline: "Western Movie Actor, Cody, dies in Evansville"

"Cody, whose real name was Frederick Garfield Penniman, ran away from the Onondaga Indian reservation in Syracuse, N.Y., where he was born in 1913, to live with an uncle in Springfield, Mass. The 15-year-old, who was three-quarters Indian, ran away from his uncle's home a year later to join the circus."

"... he began announcing and working in a rodeo. The stunt work he learned being thrown off bucking broncos landed him a job as a stunt man in a movie ..."

"He portrayed both cowboys and Indians in movies filmed during the 1930s and '40s."

"Cody then took his act on the road, developing a sharp-shooting, knife-throwing, whip-cracking show for vaudeville, burlesque and Wild West tent shows."

"Cody had a dream of becoming a colonel like his idol, Buffalo Bill, but was turned down when he tried to enlist in the military during World War II. However, his wish was partially fulfilled when then Gov. Wendell Ford made Cody a Kentucky Colonel in 1972."

"During his years in Daviess County, Cody served as honorary "Ambassador of Good Will" while he was living near Diamond Lake in West Louisville."

4. The funeral/memorial service was held on Saturday, October 29, 1988 and the memorial card from the Glenn Funeral Home, Owensboro, Kentucky, has the following info:

Albert William Cody
"Wild Bill"
August 6, 1913
October 25, 1988

5. All of the articles include Cody talking about run-ins with law and serving time in jail: picked up for vagrancy; arrested in New York for illegal possession of a handgun; "cops hassled him"; wound up in a Mexican jail; etc.

As mentioned earlier, Jerry Whittington had several letters from Cody, including one that includes mention of him working for several circuses. I jotted off an e-mail to circus expert Fred Pfening, Jr. who quickly responded: "A Bill Cody did appear with the Walter L. Main Circus in the 1930s." (Not Penniman / Cody. This was B-western hero Bill Cody who toured with several circuses in the 1930s.)

Scott Eckstein e-mailed with information on Cody in the Evansville, Indiana nursing home. Scott wrote that when he was 10-12 years old, he would sit with Wild Bill in the Windy Hollow museum (in Owensboro, Kentucky) on Saturdays and listen to his stories: "He would roll a cigarette, light it up, and tell me things about his life in that deep gravely voice. He was a side show person most of his life. He would drive a nail with a bullet, hit two targets with a single shot by shooting a knife, and would end the show by cracking a whip".

Mark Kratzner made contact with the Evansville funeral home and they replied: "... cremated ... cremains were suppose [sic] to be buried in Bluff City, TN. His mother's name is Mary Clemens and his father's name is Pearly Russell Tenninan [sic]."

(Courtesy of Paula Smith)
Paula Smith and her husband were on vacation in Tennessee. She writes in a July, 2014 e-mail:

"While visiting with an old friend of my husband in Bluff City, TN, he took us on a tour of the town. One of the stops was at the local cemetery, perched high up on a hill, to see where his family was buried. There were many very old headstones there, and as we took a stroll through the cemetery, he asked if we'd like to see the site of a famous "resident" ... Wild Bill Cody ... and, of course, we said yes!"

Ye Old Corral webmeister did a B&W crop/blowup so you can better see the names on the marker.

Paula - thanks for the info and photo.

In April, 2006, a Penniman family member e-mailed ye Old Corral webmaster. Excerpts follow:

"... the Penniman family has been thoroughly researched and documented by George Dobbin Penniman, Jr. in his book, "The Penniman Family" by Gateway Press. Bill Cody, AKA Frederick Garfield Penniman is the first child of Perley Russell Penniman and Irene J. Lynch. Apparently, this name changing runs in the family as Perley chose to be called Edward Raymond Penniman. I have often heard that Bill was 3/4 Indian, but cannot find documentation. His grandparents are Frank Oscar Penniman and Mattie Wyman. Interestingly enough, Bill Cody's uncle (Perley's brother) was name Frederick Garfield. This book was published many years ago, so the entries are dated. It lists Frederick Garfield Penniman as being born on Aug 6, 1913 at Bridgeport, NY and married to Mamie Alice Collins. A child, Mary Alice Penniman Cody was born on Jan 10, 1951 in Williamsport, PA. She married Michael Deicken, and has a daughter. No other info, but I hope that helps."

(The book referenced above: THE PENNIMAN FAMILY, 1631-1900 by The Rev George Wallace Penniman, D.D., Universalist Minister, Stoughton, Mass. With ADDITIONS By Paul Bigelow, Edited By George Dobbin Penniman, Jr., published 1981 by Gateway Press, Baltimore, Maryland. There is a Book II: The PENNIMAN FAMILY to 1980, by George Dobbin Penniman, Jr. and published 1987 by Gateway Press, Baltimore, Maryland.)

More ... and some updates.

Who was this man? And what to make out of all this?

We do know that Penniman / Cody (and his wife and daughter) did many shows and public appearances at rodeos, wild west shows, and circuses (and he may have even worked in 1930s vaudeville and burlesque). His act consisted of fast draw, knife throwing and bull-whip crackin'.

On June 7, 1959, he and wife Mamie Alice were performing at the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Bicentennial Exposition. A nine year old boy picked up a .22 caliber rifle used in the act and it discharged, killing 38 year old Mamie Alice Penniman.

On the next webpage, there's photos with Duncan Renaldo, Tex Ritter, singer Hank Williams, many others.

The Newspaper Archive had mid 1950s - early 1960s ads for Penniman / Cody's show in Virginia, North Carolina, and other locales. Ad blurbs for the show included:

"WILD BILL CODY and 'The Black Whip'"
"Featuring Mary Alice in 'The Wheel of Death'"

Cody toured with Sunset Carson in 1972 - 1973 (after filming wrapped on MARSHAL OF WINDY HOLLOW (1972).

As to his MOVIE work circa 1930s - early 1950s - that's suspect. However, he did have roles in MARSHAL OF WINDY HOLLOW (1972) and ALIEN OUTLAW (1985) and Jerry Whittington was involved in both productions.

  The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Wild Bill Cody:

Perhaps someone will recognize his face doing a bit or support role in a western for Columbia Pictures or some other production company. Perhaps someone will remember seeing Penniman / Cody and his wife and daughter doing their act at some circus.


September 1, 1972 Owensboro, Kentucky Messenger-Inquirer had an ad for Sunset 'Kit' Carson's show at the Windy Hollow Race Track during Labor Day. "Whip master" Wild Bill Cody was one of the acts:

In February, 2010, Jerry Whittington uploaded a couple of Wild Bill Cody videos to YouTube:

30 second long video of Wild Bill starring in a 1970s commercial for the Panasonic Dynamite 8 track tape player:

Approximate 3 1/2 minute video of Wild Bill Cody's 1950s knife throwing, whip cracking western show with wife Alice and daughter Mary ... and special guest star George Reeves as Superman:

January 4, 1937 Bristol, Tennessee Herald Courier had a notice that Frederick G. Pennman [sic] and Mamie Alice Collins were issued a marriage license. The City of Bristol is located on the state line separating Tennessee and Virginia. (I do have a copy of their December 29, 1936 marriage license in Bristol, Virginia. Shoot the Old Corral webmeister an e-mail if you want a copy.):

Mamie Alice Collins was born circa 1921 and hailed from Bristol, Tennessee. Her hometown newspaper, the Bristol, Tennessee Herald Courier, had coverage of her death:

1988 newspaper death notice and photo of Cody / Penniman:

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