Back at OK Corral, Clantons Defend Their Family Name


Terry (Ike) Clanton denies he’s trying to revise history concerning his distant relatives, the pivotal characters in Wyatt Earp’s celebrated 1881 gunfight at the OK Corral.

But he thinks his family has been maligned by myths about Ike and Billy Clanton and their friends Frank and Tom McLaury, and their deadly run-in with Earp, his brothers Virgil and Morgan and alcoholic, tubercular Doc Holliday.

Joseph Isaac (Ike) Clanton escaped injury but younger brother Billy and the McLaurys died in the shootout, an event that has grown to epic proportions and has kept this tiny town alive as an Old West tourist mecca.


“Magic words--Tombstone, Earp, OK Corral,” says historian Ben T. Traywick. “Without them, this town would have dried up and blown away in the desert 50 years ago.”

Clanton relatives held their second annual “Notorious Clanton Gang OK Corral Reunion” last weekend, in part to provide what they consider perspective.

“I want people to know the other side of the story,” said Terry Clanton, 37, an actor from Whittier, Calif. “Hollywood spends millions and millions of dollars and they keep getting the story wrong. . . .

“The gunfight at the OK Corral was a murder cover-up conspiracy. That’s what it comes down to.”

He said he believes authors and screenwriters writing about Earp feel the public “will not accept an American hero clearly blowing away unarmed men.” So they’ve made it appear that Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury were armed “when they were unarmed,” he said.

There was conflicting testimony about that at a court hearing after the shootout, Traywick said.

The Earps skirted both sides of the law, while the Clantons were crooks but “not a whole lot more crooked than most” people in the region surrounding the silver-mining boomtown, said Gordon Clanton, 53, a sociology professor at San Diego State University.

Ike and Billy Clanton’s father, Newman Haynes Clanton, referred to in most stories as “Old Man” Clanton, was a broker of rustled cattle, Traywick said, and was killed in Mexico two months before the shootout.

“They all had shades of gray,” he said.

“In a sense, there have always been two sides of the story,” said Gordon Clanton. “It’s just not as well publicized. It’s an open-ended story” with different versions that never will be proven.

Terry Clanton remembers his grandfather telling him not to talk about the family’s connection to the OK Corral “because you don’t want people to think you’re an outlaw.”