Killers of the Flower Moon

by

David Grann

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Tom White, an imposing former Texas Ranger, is in 1925 sent by J. Edgar Hoover’s bureau of investigation to look into the Osage murders and hopefully unearth the perpetrator—or perpetrators. Throughout the text, Grann highlights White’s lawfulness, decency, and steadfast pursuit of the truth in contrast to the deep, pervasive greed and corruption which have taken hold of Osage County. Ultimately, though White succeeds in securing the conviction of William K. Hale, the mastermind behind many Osage murders, White finds that the corruption which has spread through Osage County precludes him from solving many other murders—and prevents him from stopping those still to come.

Tom White Quotes in Killers of the Flower Moon

The Killers of the Flower Moon quotes below are all either spoken by Tom White or refer to Tom White. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Killers of the Flower Moon published in 2018.
Chapter 8 Quotes

When Hoover met with White, his grip on power remained tenuous, and he was suddenly confronting the one thing that he'd done everything to avoid since becoming director: a scandal. The situation in Oklahoma, Hoover believed, was “acute and delicate.” Even a whiff of misconduct coming so soon after Teapot Dome could end his career. Only weeks earlier, he'd sent a “confidential” memo to White and other special agents, stating, “This Bureau cannot afford to have a public scandal visited upon it.”

As White listened to Hoover, it became evident why he'd been summoned. Hoover needed White—one of his few experienced agents, one of the Cowboys—to resolve the case of the Osage murders and thereby protect Hoover's job. “I want you,” Hoover said, to “direct the investigation.”

Related Characters: David Grann (speaker), J. Edgar Hoover (speaker), Tom White
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

This so-called Indian business, as White discovered, was an elaborate criminal operation, in which various sectors of society were complicit. The crooked guardians and administrators of Osage estates were typically among the most prominent white citizens: businessmen and ranchers and lawyers and politicians. So were the lawmen and prosecutors and judges who facilitated and concealed the swindling (and, sometimes, acted as guardians and administrators themselves). In 1924, the Indian Rights Association, which defended the interests of indigenous communities, conducted an investigation into what it described as “an orgy of graft and exploitation.” The group documented how rich Indians in Oklahoma were being “shamelessly and openly robbed in a scientific and ruthless manner” and how guardianships were “the plums to be distributed to the faithful friends of the judges as a reward for their support at the polls.” […] An Osage, speaking to a reporter about the guardians, stated, “Your money draws 'em and you're absolutely helpless. They have all the law and all the machinery on their side. Tell everybody, when you write your story, that they're scalping our souls out here.”

Related Characters: David Grann (speaker), Tom White
Page Number: 165-167
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

White and his men felt a growing sense of progress. A Justice Department prosecutor sent Hoover a note, saying that in the few months since White had assumed command of the investigation, "many new angles of these cases were successfully developed" and a "new and enthusiastic spirit seemed to pervade the hearts of all of us."

Still, White faced the same problem with the investigation of Mollie Burkhart's murdered family that he did with his inquiry into Roan's death. There was no physical evidence or witnesses to prove that Hale had carried out or ordered any of the killings. And without an airtight case White knew that he'd never be able to bring down this man [Hale] who hid behind layers of respectability—who called himself the Reverend—and who used a network of patronage to influence the sheriff's office, prosecutors, judges, and some of the highest state officials.

Related Characters: David Grann (speaker), Tom White, Mollie Burkhart, William K. Hale
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

White was feeling pressure not just from Hoover. In the short time that White had been on the case, he had seen the lights burning each night around the homes of the Osage, and seen that members of the community wouldn't let their children go into town alone, and seen more and more residents selling their homes and moving to distant states or even other countries like Mexico and Canada. (Later one Osage called it a “diaspora.”) The desperation of the Osage was unmistakable, as was their skepticism toward the investigation. What had the U.S. government done for them? Why did they, unlike other Americans, have to use their own money to fund a Justice Department investigation? Why had nobody been arrested? An Osage chief said, “I made peace with the white man and lay down my arms never to take them up again and now I and my fellow tribesmen must suffer.”

Related Characters: David Grann (speaker), Tom White, William K. Hale, J. Edgar Hoover
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:
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Killers of the Flower Moon PDF

Tom White Character Timeline in Killers of the Flower Moon

The timeline below shows where the character Tom White appears in Killers of the Flower Moon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 8: Department of Easy Virtue
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One day in the summer of 1925, Tom White—the special agent in charge of the Bureau of Investigation’s field office in Houston—receives an urgent... (full context)
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White, an “old-style” lawman and a former Texas Ranger, stands six-foot-four and is often dressed like... (full context)
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White, primarily a fact-gatherer, has no formal training as a law-enforcement officer, and little experience with... (full context)
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As White arrives at headquarters, he takes note of the new “breed” of agents—college boys who “type... (full context)
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Hoover asks White—a veritable “cowboy” familiar with the wild ways of the west—to direct the investigation of the... (full context)
Chapter 9: The Undercover Cowboys
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In July of 1925, Tom White arrives in the Oklahoma City field office and gets to work poring over the voluminous... (full context)
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Another thing White notices about the files is that there is no “signature” to the killings—the murders have... (full context)
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The files are so confusing that White believes the widespread corruption throughout Osage County has led to an intentional spread of disinformation,... (full context)
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White sets to work assembling a team. He recruits a former New Mexico sheriff, a former... (full context)
Chapter 10: Eliminating the Impossible
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White’s team slips into Osage County one by one—all undercover. The former sheriff and the former... (full context)
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White is unsure of where to begin the investigation. Many records have mysteriously vanished, and virtually... (full context)
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White questions David and James Shoun, who both insist that they searched diligently for the bullet.... (full context)
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White begins the process of methodically corroborating each suspect’s alibi—David Grann quotes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Third Man
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Hoover is anxious about growing criticism pertaining to the case and dissatisfied with White’s infrequent updates. Hoover begins studying reports about the Osage murders from his office in Washington... (full context)
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By the end of July 1925, White has turned his “full attention” to Bryan Burkhart, Mollie’s brother-in-law—the last of the listed suspects... (full context)
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In August of 1925, White sends his undercover operatives to the town of Ralston to follow up a lead: on... (full context)
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White is now tasked with establishing where Anna and Bryan went after leaving Ralston. He makes... (full context)
Chapter 12: A Wilderness of Mirrors
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By the end of the summer of 1925, White begins to suspect that there is a mole inside of the investigation. Two private eyes... (full context)
Chapter 13: A Hangman’s Son
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Tom White is a sheriff’s son—his father Emmett was in charge of the county jail in Austin,... (full context)
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The young Tom White knew how dangerous his father’s profession was, and often feared that his father would lose... (full context)
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White joined the Texas Rangers in 1905 at the age of twenty-four. He worked for a... (full context)
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In 1909, after the death of a fellow Ranger, Tom White settled down, married, and left the force for good. He worked as a railroad detective,... (full context)
Chapter 14: Dying Words
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In September of 1925, Tom White begins to wonder whether the slain Bill Smith, Mollie’s brother-in-law, had begun to unravel the... (full context)
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White meets with the nurse who had been on duty when Bill was in the hospital... (full context)
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White begins to speculate that the Shouns orchestrated the meeting with Bill Smith not for his... (full context)
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White begins unraveling the flow of oil money from Osage headrights, and discovers “layer upon layer... (full context)
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White discovers that “this so-called Indian business” is an elaborate criminal operation which pervades many sectors... (full context)
Chapter 15: The Hidden Face
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In September of 1926, one of White’s operatives learns from a Fairfax woman that William Hale “control[s] everything in these parts”—and that... (full context)
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White talks to the salesman who sold Roan the insurance policy back in 1921 and discovers... (full context)
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White discovers that when the first insurance company rejected Roan’s application, Hale went to another company—and... (full context)
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White learns that local lawmen actively tried to build a case against Roy Bunch, the man... (full context)
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White has gathered circumstantial evidence that implicates Hale in the murder of Henry Roan, but has... (full context)
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There is one legal way, White knows, that a person who is not a member of the Osage tribe can obtain... (full context)
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White sees now that the chronology of the murder is part of a ruthless plan to... (full context)
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What White can’t figure out is whether Ernest’s marriage to Mollie, four years before Anna’s murder, was... (full context)
Chapter 16: For the Betterment of the Bureau
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Though White and his men are making progress, they still have no physical evidence or credible witnesses... (full context)
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Hoover wants White’s investigation to be “a showcase” for the new, restructured bureau. Hoover, too, longs to cast... (full context)
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...taught formal rules of evidence-gathering. Many agents “despise” these new edicts and vast changes, and White, too, “chafe[s]” at many of the reforms—yet he adheres Hoover’s new protocols, replaces his cowboy... (full context)
Chapter 17: The Quick-Draw Artist, the Yegg, and the Soup Man
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During the fall of 1925, White feels the pressure to solve the case continuing to mount—both from Hoover and from his... (full context)
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White knows that many prejudiced and corrupt citizens will not implicate one of their own in... (full context)
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White meets with Gregg personally, but finds the young man reluctant to cross Hale for fear... (full context)
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White’s continues desperately searching for a witness, and soon alights upon Henry Grammer—the rodeo star and... (full context)
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Finally, a yegg—slang for a safecracker—gives White and his team the name of another witness to the bombing plot: Asa Kirby, an... (full context)
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Another informant, Kelsie Morrison, warns White and his agents that Hale knows they are onto him—sure enough, Hale has been more... (full context)
Chapter 18: The State of the Game
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In late October of 1925, Tom White receives a tip out of the blue. While meeting with the governor of Oklahoma, he... (full context)
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Lawson tells White that in 1918 he worked as a ranch hand for Bill Smith, and also got... (full context)
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Meanwhile White continues worrying about Mollie—he has suspicions about her complications from “diabetes,” and worries that she... (full context)
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On January 4, 1926—despite not having finished confirming many details of Lawson’s statement—White issues arrest warrants for William Hale and Ernest Burkhart for the murders of Bill and... (full context)
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White and Smith begin questioning Burkhart, but the man denies any knowledge of Lawson. White and... (full context)
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Desperate, White hunts down and questions the dangerous outlaw Blackie Thompson about Hale and Burkhart’s role in... (full context)
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Burkhart tells White that though he didn’t kill Bill and Rita, he knows who did, and wants to... (full context)
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With the case “broken wide open,” White has his agents arrest John Ramsey and bring him in. Ramsey, too, confesses to his... (full context)
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White goes back to Burkhart to question him about Anna’s murder, and Burkhart reveals that Kelsie... (full context)
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Armed with statements from Burkhart and Ramsey, White and Agent Smith confront Hale. White tells Hale, with no pretense, that he has enough... (full context)
Chapter 19: A Traitor to His Blood
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...seizes upon the story and sensationalizes it, spreading the “blood-curdling” details far and wide. Meanwhile, White remains consumed with the cases involving Roan and Mollie Burkhart’s family—and with trying to connect... (full context)
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...on January 15, 1926, begging federal and state officials to “vigorously prosecute” the alleged perpetrators. White, too, is aware of the corruption in America’s judicial systems, and is nervous that Hale... (full context)
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A federal prosecutor urges White to ensure that Hale is not tried at the state level, as his power and... (full context)
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...prosecution team is assembled while Hale secures his own array of lawyers. Ernest Burkhart tells White that he heard Hale assuring John Ramsey that he—Hale—has “everything fixed from the road-overseer to... (full context)
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...approached by Sheriff Freas, who arrests both men under state charges for the bombing murders. White is relieved that the men will not go free but daunted by the idea of... (full context)
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...hour. When Burkhart emerges, his “new” lawyer announces that he has flipped for the defense. White tries to get Burkhart’s attention, but he is swept away “by a mob of Hale’s... (full context)
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...and recants his confession, denying his involvement in or knowledge of the crimes in totality. White is devastated, knowing that he has lost one of the most important pillars of evidence... (full context)
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In May, when Burkhart’s trial begins, White faces an even greater crisis—Hale takes the stand and testifies that White and his agents... (full context)
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In early June, Hoover catches sight of a headline referring to White’s alleged coercion tactics in a local newspaper. Hoover, fearing a scandal, writes to White and... (full context)
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White is relieved, and quickly sends a message to Hoover informing him of the news. Though... (full context)
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A small bit of good news comes through, to White’s continued relief: the federal government has reassessed their previous ruling and agrees to try the... (full context)
Chapter 20: So Help You God!
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...press remains transfixed by the whole affair as the drama and violence continue to escalate. White is forced to station extra guards at the jail, after attempts are made to break... (full context)
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...bribed by Hale’s people, and orders them dismissed, and the defendants held for further trial. White is stunned and disappointed, and the Osage are outraged. (full context)
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White begins investigating the corruption in the first trial and uncovers a series of bribes and... (full context)
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...country and spreading far and wide the news of the bureau’s success. Hoover privately commends White and his men for their success—but in the public dissemination of information about the case,... (full context)
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The Osage Tribal Council is the only governing body to single out and praise White and his men as they pressure Congress to pass a new law barring anyone who... (full context)
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Shortly after Hale and Ramsey’s conviction, White is offered a position as warden of Leavenworth prison in Kansas—the oldest federal penitentiary and... (full context)
Chapter 21: The Hot House
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Though Leavenworth is a violent and difficult place which houses many ghosts of White’s past—Hale and Ramsey, but also the men who murdered his brother Dudley and many other... (full context)
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Over the years, Hale never admits to orchestrating any of the murders. White orders a neurological and psychological examination of Hale which finds that he has “extremely vicious... (full context)
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...1931, an attempted breakout by two members of the notorious Al Spencer Gang pulls Tom White into the crossfire. The two prisoners take him hostage as they make their escape from... (full context)
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A decade later, in December of 1939, Tom White is working at La Tuna prison in El Paso Texas and is nearly sixty years... (full context)
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...the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby and John Dillinger’s bank robberies. In the late 1950s, White fears that the Osage’s suffering—and his and his fellow agents’ toil on their behalf—will be... (full context)
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In December of 1971, White dies, and his story and memory fade from history. It is not until years later,... (full context)