Killers of the Flower Moon

by

David Grann

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William K. Hale Character Analysis

A well-loved figure in Osage County who is even known by the moniker “King of the Osage Hills.” A former cattleman who has risen to prominence over the years and become a deputy sheriff and a respected man about town, William K. Hale is eventually revealed to be the cruel mastermind behind several murders of members of the Osage tribe—namely those of Henry Roan, Anna Brown, Rita Smith, and Bill Smith, along with the ordered killings of several of his own hired “guns” including Asa Kirby and Henry Grammer. Hale’s power, influence, and ability to incite feelings of greed and entitlement maneuvered many prominent lawyers, bankers, doctors, and lawmen into his service—he even roped Ernest and Bryan Burkhart into his evil schemes. As Tom White begins to uncover the depths of his power, he worries that Hale is invincible and will never be brought to justice. Hale is ultimately convicted alongside his co-conspirator John Ramsey in the murder of Henry Roan—though as both Tom White and David Grann come to realize, Hale was responsible for the deaths of countless Osage for which he was never brought to justice.

William K. Hale Quotes in Killers of the Flower Moon

The Killers of the Flower Moon quotes below are all either spoken by William K. Hale or refer to William K. Hale. 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 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:
Chapter 22 Quotes

The most dramatic photograph in the museum spanned an entire side of the room. Taken at a ceremony in 1924, it was a panoramic view of members of the tribe alongside prominent local white businessmen and leaders. As I scanned the picture, I noticed that a section was missing, as if someone had taken a scissors to it. I asked Red Corn what happened to that part of the photograph. “It's too painful to show,” she said.

When I asked why, she pointed to the blank space and said, “The devil was standing right there.”

She disappeared for a moment, then returned with a small, slightly blurred print of the missing panel: it showed William K. Hale, staring coldly at the camera. The Osage had removed his image, not to forget the murders, as most Americans had, but because they cannot forget.

Related Characters: David Grann (speaker), William K. Hale, Kathryn Red Corn
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:

By the time Margie drove on, the prairie was shrouded in the dark of night. Only the beams from the headlights illuminated the dusty road. Margie said that her parents first told her what Ernest and Hale had done when she was a child. “l used to worry whenever I did something naughty, ‘What if I'm the bad seed?’” Margie recalled. She said that occasionally The FBI Story would air on local television, and she and her family would watch it and cry.

As she spoke, I realized that the Reign of Terror had ravaged—still ravaged—

generations. A great-grandson of Henry Roan's once spoke of the legacy of the murders: “I think somewhere it is in the back of our minds. We may not realize it, but it is there, especially if it was a family member that was killed. You just have it in the back of your head that you don't trust anybody.”

Page Number: 275
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 26 Quotes

Though the bureau estimated that there were twenty-four Osage murders, the real number was undoubtedly higher. The bureau closed its investigation after catching Hale and his henchmen. But at least some at the bureau knew that there were many more homicides that had been systematically covered up, evading their efforts of detection. An agent described, in a report, just one of the ways the killers did this: “ln connection with the mysterious deaths of a large number of Indians, the perpetrators of the crime would get an Indian intoxicated, have a doctor examine him and pronounce him intoxicated, following which a morphine hypodermic would be injected into the Indian, and after the doctor's departure the [killers] would inject an enormous amount of morphine under the armpit of the drunken Indian, which would result in his death. The doctor's certificate would subsequently read ‘death from alcoholic poison.’” Other observers in Osage County noted that suspicious deaths were routinely, and falsely, attributed to “consumption,” “wasting illness,” or “causes unknown.” Scholars and investigators who have since looked into the murders believe that the Osage death toll was in the scores, if not the hundreds.

Related Characters: David Grann (speaker), William K. Hale
Page Number: 307
Explanation and Analysis:
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Killers of the Flower Moon PDF

William K. Hale Character Timeline in Killers of the Flower Moon

The timeline below shows where the character William K. Hale appears in Killers of the Flower Moon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Vanishing
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...to Oklahoma at nineteen to live with his uncle, a domineering cattleman named William K. Hale. Ernest ran errands for Hale and worked as a livery driver—he met Mollie while chauffeuring... (full context)
Chapter 3: King of the Osage Hills
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...have little concern for a “dead Injun,” and so Mollie turns to Ernest’s uncle, William Hale, a “powerful local advocate for law and order.” Hale, once a scrappy cattleman, has worked... (full context)
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Hale, who has close ties with the county prosecutor (after effectively securing the election for the... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Devil’s Disciples
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...the arrest of those responsible for Anna’s death, and the Whitehorn family offers $2,500. William Hale promises his own reward as well. When Sheriff Freas is charged with willfully “failing to... (full context)
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Hale recruits a “brooding” detective from Kansas City who goes by the name of Pike. Anna’s... (full context)
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...of 1922, the investigations of both cases seem to have stalled—Pike, the eye hired by Hale, has moved on, and Freas has been expelled from office. One night that month, however,... (full context)
Chapter 7: This Thing of Darkness
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...his body. The lawmen return to town, notify the justice of the peace, and inform Hale of the murder—Roan considered Hale his best friend, and, because Roan’s access to his finances... (full context)
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The deputy and the marshal—along with Hale and the Shoun brothers—return to the scene of the crime (which is, incidentally, the same... (full context)
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...she is the “likely next target in the apparent plot to eliminate her family.” William Hale—having returned from Texas after the news of the bombing—assures Mollie that he will avenge her... (full context)
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Seeing that even Hale is vulnerable, Mollie retreats into her house—she no longer entertains neighbors and friends or attends... (full context)
Chapter 10: Eliminating the Impossible
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...The former sheriff and the former Ranger, acting as cattlemen, soon ingratiate themselves with William Hale, while another agent, under the guise of an insurance salesman, visits the houses of several... (full context)
Chapter 12: A Wilderness of Mirrors
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The private eye called Pike—who was hired by William Hale back in 1921 to solve the murders but abandoned the case after failing to make... (full context)
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...crime and help him “shape an alibi.” His orders, Pike reveals, came directly from William Hale. White realizes that if Pike is telling the truth, it means that Hale—the “King of... (full context)
Chapter 14: Dying Words
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...in the hospital, Bill stated that he only had two enemies in the world—William K. Hale, and his nephew Ernest Burkhart. (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 he once torched his own land for insurance money.... (full context)
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...to the salesman who sold Roan the insurance policy back in 1921 and discovers that Hale—claiming that Roan owed him a sum between ten and twenty thousand dollars—pushed for Roan to... (full context)
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White discovers that when the first insurance company rejected Roan’s application, Hale went to another company—and this time, produced a trumped-up creditor’s note to prove that Roan... (full context)
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...been having an affair with Roan’s wife, rather than even look for a moment at Hale as a suspect. Hale even approached Bunch and warned him to get out of town... (full context)
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White has gathered circumstantial evidence that implicates Hale in the murder of Henry Roan, but has no concrete proof in the form of... (full context)
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...more headrights are being passed down to one person: Mollie Burkhart, who is married to Hale’s nephew Ernest—and who, one of White’ agents writes, is “absolutely controlled by Hale.” (full context)
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...now rest with Mollie—whose wealth is controlled by Ernest, who is allegedly under his uncle Hale’s control. (full context)
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...to Mollie, four years before Anna’s murder, was part of the plot all along—or whether Hale, at some point, “prevailed upon” Ernest to betray her. (full context)
Chapter 16: For the Betterment of the Bureau
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...they still have no physical evidence or credible witnesses to use in their case against Hale. Without an airtight case, White knows he’ll never be able to bring down a man... (full context)
Chapter 17: The Quick-Draw Artist, the Yegg, and the Soup Man
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White meets with Gregg personally, but finds the young man reluctant to cross Hale for fear of losing his own life. When White offers Gregg the chance to shave... (full context)
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...robbery—a botched robbery which authorities were tipped off about by none other than William K. Hale. Another outlaw White interviews tells him that Hale allegedly set up the robbery, creating a... (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 committed than ever to make... (full context)
Chapter 18: The State of the Game
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...he worked as a ranch hand for Bill Smith, and also got to know William Hale and his nephews Ernest and Bryan. Lawson claims that in 1921, he discovered “an intimacy”... (full context)
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...she will soon be killed so that her inheritance falls to Ernest—and, by proxy, to Hale. When one of White’s agents John Wren hears from Mollie’s priest that Mollie believes someone... (full context)
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...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 Rita Smith and their servant Nettie.... (full context)
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...up and return Burkhart to his cell. The next day presents even more trouble, as Hale announces that he can prove he was in Texas at the time of the explosion.... (full context)
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Desperate, White hunts down and questions the dangerous outlaw Blackie Thompson about Hale and Burkhart’s role in the Osage murders. Blackie states that Ernest and Hale once approached... (full context)
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...and Rita, he knows who did, and wants to tell his story. He reveals that Hale did indeed scheme to kill Rita and Bill; when Hale told Ernest of the plan,... (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 evidence to convict Hale of... (full context)
Chapter 19: A Traitor to His Blood
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...remains consumed with the cases involving Roan and Mollie Burkhart’s family—and with trying to connect Hale to even more of the twenty-four Osage murders, plus the deaths of the attorney Vaughan... (full context)
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Though the crimes Hale is being charged with are increasingly soulless and brutal, many white people throughout the country... (full context)
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Meanwhile, in Osage County, the Osage tribe is fearful that Hale and his conspirators will find a way to “wriggle free” and avoid judgement. The Society... (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 influence make it likely... (full context)
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A formidable prosecution team is assembled while Hale secures his own array of lawyers. Ernest Burkhart tells White that he heard Hale assuring... (full context)
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...case cannot be adjudicated in federal court and must be tried at the state level. Hale and Ramsey are going to be released. The two men begin celebrating in the courtroom,... (full context)
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...is packed with Osage men and women (many of them relatives of the victims of Hale’s crimes,) journalists, cowboys, society men and women, and schoolchildren. One journalist present wrote that everyone... (full context)
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...away from all the madness—Mollie Burkhart. Ostracized by her white neighbors who are loyal to Hale and rejected by many Osage for her own continued loyalty to Ernest, Mollie sits silent... (full context)
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...begin and continue rather uneventfully into the afternoon—when Ernest Burkhart takes the stand. One of Hale’s lawyers denounces Ernest as a “traitor to his own blood,” and it becomes plain that... (full context)
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...devastated, knowing that he has lost one of the most important pillars of evidence against Hale. (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 “brutally coerce[d]” confessions from him... (full context)
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...prosecutors call as a witness Kelsie Morrison, one of their former informants. Morrison testifies that Hale plotted to eliminate the members of Mollie’s family so that “Ernest would get it all.”... (full context)
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...now has to successfully get Bryan Burkhart, John Ramsey, and, most improbably of all, William Hale, convicted. On June 21, 1926, Ernest Burkhart is sentenced to life imprisonment—as he is led... (full context)
Chapter 20: So Help You God!
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...end of July 1926, as the summer heat climbs to “infernal” temperatures, the trial of Hale and Ramsey for the murder of Henry Roan begins. The press remains transfixed by the... (full context)
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As the proceedings begin, Hale and Ramsey seem relaxed and even bemused. On July 30, when Ernest Burkhart is called... (full context)
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...judge learns that more than one member of the jury has indeed been bribed by Hale’s people, and orders them dismissed, and the defendants held for further trial. White is stunned... (full context)
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As the trial begins again, the defense attempts to implicate Ernest Burkhart—not Hale—in all of the killings, calling into question whether or not Burkhart could have been responsible... (full context)
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...end of October, the jury delivers their verdict. They find John Ramsey and William K. Hale guilty of the murder of Henry Roan in the first degree. The jurors, however, have... (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... (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 recognizable,... (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... (full context)
Chapter 22: Ghostlands
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...moment and then returns with a print of the missing panel: it shows William K. Hale “staring coldly at the camera.” Grann notes that the Osage removed Hale from the photograph... (full context)
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...Osage home and was sent back to prison. In 1947, while Ernest was still incarcerated, Hale was released for good behavior after twenty years at Leavenworth. Though he was forbidden from... (full context)
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Margie has never met Hale, who died in 1962 in an Arizona nursing home. She saw Ernest once after he... (full context)
Chapter 23: A Case Not Closed
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The authorities insisted that once Hale and his conspirators were convicted, the guilty parties had been found. The cases were closed... (full context)
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Though many members of Vaughan’s family assume Hale wanted him silenced, they also suspect there is more to the murder. First, the inquest... (full context)
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...rates, between 10 and 50 percent. Grann also learns from one report that Burt and Hale were associates, and that the two had “split on the boodle,” or divided evenly, the... (full context)
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...a financial motive for the killing of Bigheart. There is no evidence that Burt or Hale inherited Bigheart’s fortune, which was passed down to his wife and daughter. Grann finds, though,... (full context)
Chapter 24: Standing in Two Worlds
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When Grann arrives, she shows him a letter signed “W.K. Hale.” It is a letter Hale sent from prison to a member of the tribe, and... (full context)
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...of Charles Whitehorn more closely. The murder, to Grann, bears all the markings of a “Hale-orchestrated hit,” but despite his extensive research he hasn’t found any evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, tying... (full context)
Chapter 25: The Lost Manuscript
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...to most historical accounts—spans from Anna Brown’s murder in 1921 to January of 1926, when Hale was arrested—Lewis’s murder in 1918 and Red Corn’s grandfather’s poisoning in 1931 show that the... (full context)
Chapter 26: Blood Cries Out
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...likely poisoned by the Shoun brothers, the same men who botched Anna’s autopsy, covered for Hale, took hold of Rita’s estate, and injected Mollie with poison. Grann realizes that the success... (full context)