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Local History

Tracy Richardson

"One of the great soldiers of fortune of the early twentieth century, and certainly the only man who ever made Pancho Villa apologize publicly and live to tell about it, died the other day, almost a forgotten man.

"He was Col. Tracy Richardson, 59, who had fought under six flags. Once, single-handed he captured Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, in one of the many revolutions in Central America…before the First World War….He had come back here [Lamar, Mo.] a year ago with a heart ailment, his fighting days long over. His ill health kept him in veterans’ hospitals most of his last days.

"Of all the soldiers of fortune of his day, probably none had gathered more glory and glamor than this soft-spoken Missourian, who was recognized as the greatest machine-gunner of his time. He was credited with being the only man who ever jammed the muzzle of a pistol into the stomach of Pancho Villa of Mexico, made him apologize publicly and get away with it.

"He was the private scout of Gen. Frederick Funston at Veracruz in 1914. He fought with the Princess Pats of Canada in the First World War. He won a commission as a British naval aviator; later as an American naval aviator upon the United States’ entry into the war.

"His body bore the scars of 16 wounds. He became a soldier of fortune when he was little more than 21 years old in Nicaragua. It was in a revolution in that country that he and another man wiped out a Nicaraguan federal regiment with two machine guns, mounted behind sandbags camouflaged with shrubbery.

"Richardson’s single-handed capture of Managua was one of his most incredible episodes. His outfit was marching on Managua and Richardson, to get out of the dust, was riding far ahead of the column.

"He rode into the capital before he realized it and was surrounded by a squad of federal soldiers.
‘I am a messenger from the commander of the revolution to your commanding general,’ he bluffed, calmly. ‘Take me to him.’

"The bluff worked. He was taken to the military commander of Managua.

‘Gen. Luis Mena has sent me to you to give you a chance for your life,’ Richardson told him. ‘Managua is surrounded at this minute. We outnumber you 10 to one.’

"The commander of Managua considered the situation a moment and then surrendered to the Missouri kid.

"After the first World War, Richardson quit fighting but he never could settle down. He cruised timber in the tropics; worked as a salesman; wrote stories of his adventure; became a prohibition agent. Several times he was offered an army commission by some South American nation. But he refused all offers.

‘I’ve been shot at enough,’ he said.

But in World War II, he came back to serve his country; this time in Alaska.

"Now aging as a soldier, he left the hard fighting up to the younger men….Then last year he came back to his boyhood home of Lamar to spend his last days with a sister, Miss Lelah Richardson. His wife, whom he married in 1920, died in New York in 1948. He is also survived by two brothers, Wesley of Cleveland, Ohio, and Charles of Seaside, Ore."

Leader-Press, April 22, 1949

The photographs are from a Leader and Press newspaper article published in December 1972. The machine gun photo was believed to have been taken in Honduras about 1910. The photo of Richardson in uniform was when he served as a captain in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during World War I.

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