- James L. Penick
Railroad Bill (?–07 March 1896), thief and folk hero, was the nickname of an African-American man of such obscure origins that his real name is in question. Most writers have believed him to be Morris Slater, but a rival candidate for the honor is an equally obscure man named Bill McCoy. But in song and story, where he has long had a place, the question is of small interest and Railroad Bill is name enough. A ballad regaling his exploits began circulating among field hands, turpentine camp workers, prisoners, and other groups from the black underclass of the Deep South, several years before it first found its way into print in 1911. A version of this blues ballad was first recorded in 1924 by ...