Otto Wood: The Outlaw and the Ballad

Scope: 

This document is designed as tool to direct researchers towards materials concerned with the life, music, and legend surrounding North Carolina bad man Otto Wood. A Wilkes County native, this self-proclaimed “mountain boy” became nationally known during the 1920s for his repetitive flights from the North Carolina State Prison earning him the nickname, “The Houdini of Cell Block A.” In 1930, Wood made a deal with reform Governor O. Max Gardner in which he promised not to run away as long as Gardner was in office. Wood made his last of ten escapes in July of 1930 and was killed on New Year’s Eve of that year in a gunfight on the streets of Salisbury, North Carolina. The legendary status of Wood was spread in song by early country music artists such as Walter “Kid” Smith who composed and sang the ballad “Otto Wood the Bandit” with his band the Carolina Buddies. Materials included here are sources suited towards preliminary research on the life of Otto Wood and the music he inspired.

Introductory Text: 

Robinson, Catherine L. “Wood, Otto.” Dictionary of North Carolina Biography V. 6. ed. William S. Powell. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1979-1996. pp. 260-261 ASU Reference CT 252. D5

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 
  • Wood, Otto 1895-1930
  • Criminals- North Carolina- Biography
  • Crime- North Carolina- History
  • Old-Time Music- North Carolina
  • Wilkes County- North Carolina- History
  • Wilkes County- North Carolina- Social Life and Customs
Clipping Files Subject Headings - W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Wilkes County, NC
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • HV6533
  • F 262. W6
Books: 

Casstevens, Frances Harding. Death in North Carolina’s Piedmont: Tales of Murder, Suicide, and Causes Unknown. pp. 86-99. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2006. UNC DAVIS LIBRARY HV6533.N8 C37 2006

Jones, Houston Gwynne. Scoundrels, Rogues, and Heroes of the Old North State. Edited by K. Randell Jones and Caitlin D. Jones. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004. pp. 52-55. UNCA SPEC COLL HV6533.N8 J66 2004

Wood, Otto. Life History of Otto Wood: Inmate, State Prison, 1926. Raleigh, NC: Commercial Print Company, 1926. UNC NORTH CAROLINA COLLECTION CpB W878w

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Robinson, Catherine L. “Wood, Otto.” Dictionary of North Carolina Biography V. 6. ed. William S. Powell. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1979-1996. pp. 260-261 ASU Reference CT 252. D5

Russell, Tony. Country Music Records: A Discography 1921-1942 ed. by Bob Pinson and assisted by the staff of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. p. 170, 731, 842, 1123, ASU APP COLL ML156.4.C7 R87 2004

Bibliographies: 

Thorton, Mary Lindsay. A Bibliography of North Carolina, 1589-1956. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1958. “Wood, Otto” 551. ASU SPEC APP COLL Z1319 .T495

Abstracts and Indices: 

Bridgers, Robert S. et. al., ed. The State Magazine Index: June 1966 - May 1987. Wendell, NC: Broadfoot's of Wendell, 1989. ASU App Coll F251 .S77. Under subject heading “Wood, Otto”

Journals: 

North Carolina Folklore Journal. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Folklore Society, V. 1- 1973-. Bi-Annual. ASU SPEC APP COLL GR110.N8 N6

The Old-Time Herald. Galax, VA : Old-Time Music Group, V. 1- 1987-. Bi-Monthly. ASU SPEC APP COLL ML1 .O35

The State. Charlotte, NC: Shaw Publishing, V. 1-64, 1933-1996. Monthly. ASU PERIODICALS

Brown, Roy M. “Recent Contributions in the Field of Crime and Criminal Justice.” Social Forces V. 6 No. 1. Southern Sociological Society: University of North Carolina Press, 1927. p. 645. ASU PERIODICALS

Websites: 

The Record of Wilkes: Wilkes County’s First Worldwide Newspaper. North Wilkesboro, NC: The Record of Wilkes, 1999-. Online at: http://www.therecordofwilkes.com/

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Trevor McKenzie, 1 November 2010