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Living History Performance: Herbert Niccolls, Jr., the Youngest Washington State Penitentiary Inmate

  • Fort Walla Walla Museum 755 Myra Road Walla Walla, WA, 99362 United States (map)

Herbert Niccolls, Jr. was the youngest inmate ever incarcerated at the Washington State Penitentiary. He was born into a troubled family, witnessed his father kill a neighbor lady, caused problems in foster homes, and was sentenced to the Idaho State Industrial School. When his grandmother gained custody, she often beat him and deprived him of food "because of his sins.”

At age 12, the boy ran away from her home wearing ragged overalls and a stolen gun. Cold and hungry that night, he broke into a local store to steal cigarettes, gum, and cash. When the local sheriff discovered his hiding place behind a cabinet and called him out, his blindly-aimed shot killed the beloved lawman almost instantly.

What followed was a drama that would gain national attention, including a campaign supported by Father Flanagan of Boys Town who declared “There’s no such thing as a bad boy.” His story included years in the penitentiary, a diploma from Walla Walla High School, and an eventual career as an accounting executive for Twentieth Century Fox.

The aging Mr. Niccolls will be portrayed by Chuck Hindman. Also present to introduce him will be Nancy Bartley who researched his story and wrote the book The Boy Who Shot the Sheriff.