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Living History: Herbert Niccolls, Jr, the Youngest WSP Inmate

  • Fort Walla Walla Museum 755 Northeast 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.

A Living History performance at Fort Walla Walla Museum brings history to life with reenactors portraying real people from the area's past. This year’s schedule continues the company’s tradition of 2 pm presentations every Sunday from April through October, and also on Saturdays from June through August.