During Fort Worth’s gangland era of the late 1940s and 1950s, there were A-list hoodlums and B-list hoodlums.
The A-list hoodlums—Gene Paul Norris, Tincy Eggleston, Cecil Green, Jim Thomas, Floyd Allen Hill—committed more lucrative crimes, more audacious crimes. The A-list hoodlums hired the best attorneys, made the biggest headlines, generated the most awe and fear along Jacksboro Highway. The B-list hoodlums just plodded along, petty crime to petty crime, with an occasional stretch behind bars.
Willard and Darlene Hauer were B-list hoodlums.
Willard even sold cars when he had to.
But the Hauers would prove that for A-listers and B-listers alike, the final headlines were often the same.
Willard Buford Hauer was born in 1911, Darlene Fern in 1918. They had married two days before Christmas in 1952. By then both husband and wife had long police records. His record dated back to the early 1930s with arrests for chicken theft, assault, burglary, hijacking, narcotics violations, forgery, and extortion. Her record was mostly arrests for prostitution and narcotics violations—both selling and using.
Sometimes husband and wife worked as a team: forgery, theft, robbery, and extortion.
Hauer had done time in Leavenworth federal prison. That’s where he had met Harry Huggins, another B-lister. But Harry Huggins was a B-lister with an edge: He knew some A-listers. After both men got out of prison, the Hauers rented a room of their house to Huggins. The Hauers lived at 2504 Whitmore Street just off White Settlement Road and Henderson Street.
In March of 1953 Hauer and Huggins were questioned by police after two armed men robbed gambler Edell Evans of $5,000 in cash and jewelry in his driveway. No charges were filed, no headlines made.
And that’s the way it was with Willard and Darlene Hauer. If they had kept a scrapbook of their criminal careers, they would have very few newspaper clippings to cut and paste. Their names were rarely mentioned in the local newspapers.
That was going to change.
On May 19, 1953 Harry Huggins was living with the Hauers on Whitmore Street. Twice that day Huggins had been visited by two A-listers: Cecil Green and Tincy Eggleston. Hauer must have been honored—and nervous—to have Green and Eggleston in his home. He knew them by reputation: ruthless. They were two diversified lords of the underworld: contract killing, extortion, robbery, gambling.
Hauer could tell by the secretive manner of the other three men that they were planning something big.
Hauer minded his own business. He knew that a man who crossed Eggleston or Green could wake up with a tag on his toe.
Huggins, Eggleston, and Green left the Hauer home in the afternoon.
Late that night the trio drove to the exclusive Park Hill enclave just south of Forest Park. They parked in the circular driveway of the mansion of millionaire oilman William P. Clark. The three men walked to the front porch. Eggleston and Green hid in the shadows as Huggins knocked on the door. Clark was alone in the big house: He and his wife Mary were estranged. He had filed for divorce but later had amended the petition to seek an annulment of the marriage.
When Clark came to the door Huggins told Clark that he had a Western Union message for him and that Clark must sign for it. When Clark opened the door, Eggleston and Green pushed their way in and grabbed Clark. Huggins followed.
“Mr. Clark put up a struggle,” Huggins later said. “Tincy slapped him and knocked a cigar out of his mouth.”
According to Huggins, Clark said, “She sent you to kill me, didn’t she?” Clark was referring to his estranged wife.
The three intruders escorted Clark upstairs to his bedroom. Huggins and Green emptied Clark’s pockets and then searched other bedrooms on the second floor. Eggleston remained with Clark.
While Huggins and Green were in another room they heard a gunshot and rushed back to Clark’s bedroom. They met Eggleston in the door. When Green asked him what he had done and why, Eggleston said only, “Let’s go.”
The three men left the Clark mansion and drove north on University Drive. Near Rockwood Park they threw a rifle and pistol taken from the Clark home under a bridge over the Trinity River.
They returned to Willard Hauer’s home about 11 p.m., disappearing into Huggins’s room.
Again Hauer could tell by the demeanor of the three men that he should continue to mind his own business.
So, he retired to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee.
When he walked into Huggins’s room with the coffee, Hauer later testified, “Two of them were sitting down and one was standing up. I saw some money on the bed. It was stacked like somebody had been counting it. I could tell from their actions that they didn’t want anybody in there.”
The three men were dividing the money in Clark’s wallet—about $500—and prying diamonds from two rings they had pulled from Clark’s fingers.
Huggins later testified that after Green and Eggleston had left the Hauer house that night, Hauer drove Huggins to a warehouse near the West Freeway. There Huggins burned Clark’s wallet and disposed of the shoes that Green had worn in the Clark mansion.
William Clark’s body was discovered three days later.
The murder of a wealthy resident received the full attention of Fort Worth police detectives. Was it an inside job? Was the primary motive robbery? Or murder? Who stood to benefit from Clark’s death?
The usual suspects were questioned but little progress made.
Meanwhile Willard Hauer committed three petty burglaries in Bosque and Erath counties and was sent to prison in Huntsville.
Fast-forward to 1955. The cold case got red hot as B-lister Willard Hauer was drawn by two A-listers into one of the most sensational crimes of the 1950s.
Harry Huggins had cracked. Unburdening his conscience to police, he confessed to his role in the murder but claimed that Eggleston had assured him that Clark would be just robbed, not killed.
After Eggleston killed Clark and Huggins asked why, Eggleston admitted that murder had been part of the deal from the start.
Huggins accompanied police to the Clark mansion and reenacted the crime.
Huggins claimed that Eggleston told him that Mary Clark had offered Eggleston $10,000 to kill her estranged husband in an apparent robbery. Her motive? To prevent Clark from carrying out his plan to amend his will, which made her a major beneficiary.
She even provided Eggleston with a floorplan of the mansion, Huggins told police.
After Eggleston tried to collect the rest of the $10,000 from Mrs. Clark, she refused to pay at first because newspapers contained no report of the murder.
But that was because the body was not discovered for three days.
After the news stories finally appeared, Huggins said, he was present when Mrs. Clark paid off: $6,000.
Based on Huggins’s confession, Huggins, Eggleston, Green, and Mrs. Clark were arrested. The three men were charged with murder; the widow Clark with being an accomplice to murder.
In April 1955 Willard Hauer was still in Huntsville. Investigators hoped he would corroborate the confession of Harry Huggins. But Hauer claimed to know nothing, denied having been with Huggins when Huggins disposed of William Clark’s wallet and the shoes worn by Cecil Green at the crime scene.
Another clipping for the Hauer family scrapbook. Hauer continued to claim to know nothing and refused to take a lie detector test. He wasn’t going to risk the wrath of two of the most-feared gangsters in town, even from the safety of prison walls.
Fast-forward to November 1955. Hauer had been released from Huntsville. The widow Clark went on trial as an accomplice in the murder of her husband.
And the state presented its “mystery witness”: Willard Hauer.
He testified that he drove Harry Huggins when Huggins disposed of William Clark’s wallet and the shoes that Cecil Green had worn at the crime scene. A Star-Telegram reported testified that Hauer in April had denied driving Huggins.
Hauer also testified about seeing the three suspects apparently counting money in Huggins’s room on the night Clark was killed.
Newspaper coverage of Hauer’s testimony as a “mystery witness” provided Hauer with the biggest headlines of his criminal career.
But why would Hauer, who had been so reticent to talk in April, present damning testimony against Eggleston and Green in November?
Because a corpse can’t kill you.
Both men had been killed in gangland slayings while free on bond awaiting trial. Green was ambushed in May on Jacksboro Highway as he sat in a parked car with Eggleston. Eggleston’s shotgunned body was found August 31 in a well near Saginaw-Watauga Road.
Hauer had nothing incriminating to say about the widow Clark, and Huggins had confessed, turned state’s evidence, and was going to prison no matter how Hauer testified.
So, no harm could come to Willard from his testimony.
It might even earn him some leniency with the law the next time he was arrested.
And with B-listers there was always a next time.
Mary Clark was acquitted.
Her attorneys had weakened Huggins’s credibility by presenting a witness who testified that she had seen Mrs. Clark at a funeral during the time that Huggins claimed Mrs. Clark was meeting with Huggins and Eggleston to deliver the rest of the payment.
The jury was shown a guest book from the funeral. It contained Mrs. Clark’s signature.
But if the widow Clark had hoped to prevent her estranged husband from writing her out of his will, she acted too late. Before he was murdered he had indeed amended his will, leaving Mrs. Clark ten bucks.
One more loose end to tie up: Harry Huggins, because of his cooperation with the state, was given a “softened” five-year prison sentence for the murder of William Clark.
Fast-forward to 1959.
There’s not much to see there now, a vacant lot on St. Louis Avenue at Daggett Avenue a half-block north of Broadway Baptist Church on the near South Side.
But in 1959 that lot was occupied by a two-story brick building that contained a dozen cheap furnished apartments. ($12.50 would be $100 today.)
One of those apartments was occupied by Willard and Darlene Hauer.
By 1959 Willard was forty-seven; Darlene was forty.
Darlene, at forty showing the ravages of her struggle with addiction, was no longer able as a prostitute to entice wealthy married men into compromising situations for blackmail.
Willard still had to resort to selling a used car now and then.
Between 11:20 and 11:45 p.m. on the night of January 2 a tenant who lived elsewhere in the apartment building heard a “quite loud noise” that sounded like gunshots. When she looked out a front window she saw someone running toward a parked car.
The bodies of Willard and Darlene Hauer were discovered by T. C. Ruby, manager of the apartment building. He said he had passed the apartment door en route to another apartment.
“I heard the dog barking and they didn’t seem to pay any attention to it,” he said. “I figured something was wrong.”
The Hauers’ television set was still on when their bodies were discovered. Husband and wife had been shot in the head.
Ruby said the Hauers had occupied the apartment about a year.
Patrolman R. W. Richardson said the apartment was filled with gas when he arrived.
The killer apparently pulled the hose from a gas space heater to allow gas to escape, perhaps hoping for a fire or an explosion.
Police detective A. C. Howerton said that no weapon was found in the apartment and that the killings apparently were a “double murder.”
Howerton recalled arresting A-lister Cecil Green in the same apartment after the robbery of a drug company several years earlier.
The new year was four days old when Willard and Darlene Hauer made the biggest headline of their lives: the banner headline, which was usually reserved for the slaying of A-list hoodlums. Willard and Darlene had topped a Soviet rocket launch and even Alaska’s admission to the Union as the forty-ninth state.
At the time of her death Darlene Hauer was awaiting trial for shoplifting a four-pound ham and two home permanent kits from a Safeway grocery.
At the time of his death Willard Hauer was two months behind in the rent.