2345Pancho Villa's Death Car
- Jan 11, 2013
Trish Long: El Paso arcade owner linked to Pancho Villa death car
Click photo to enlarge
The car in which Pancho Villa was reportedly killed. (Times file photo)
My father passed away in 1973. He appeared in the newspaper multiple times. I still have the clippings, but most do not have dates on them.
His name was Clarence W. Ansley and he joined the Navy in 1935. Soon after being assigned to the battleship USS Maryland, he came down with spinal meningitis, which left him completely deaf. There was an article about him, which mentioned his efforts to find work after he was discharged.
He later owned and operated Happy's Arcade on South El Paso Street for many years. Also, my father purchased the rights to Luz Corral de Villa's book "Pancho Villa En La Intimidad." He was attempting to have it made into a movie. He even had Pancho Villa's death car brought to El Paso and was
arranging to tour it all around the country to promote the movie.
I would sincerely appreciate any and all assistance you can offer.
Jack C. Ansley
Thanks for the email, Jack. I was able to find dates for most of the articles you have, they ran in the Herald-Post. I also found a couple of articles in the Times.
I didn't, however, find a date for the first article about your father looking for work.
The next mention I found was March 25, 1950, when Ansley was fined $15 for disturbing the peace. According to witnesses, Ansley backed his truck into a parked car and repeated the action after being warned. Charges of using abusive language and malicious mischief were dismissed.
On Jan. 28, 1952, the Herald-Post reported
"Row Looms Over Villa's Automobile."
The article reports that Clarence Ansley brought the car in which Pancho Villa was killed to El Paso the prior Saturday.
Ansley said that the car was stored in a garage of a friend of his and that Mexican officials were trying to take the car from him and return it to Mexico.
Ansley estimated that it had cost him more than $2,000 to bring Mrs. Villa and the touring car to El Paso and that he did not intend to return the car to the Mexican authorities until he received payment for his expenses.
Ansley reported to El Paso police that someone was attempting to break into the garage where the car was stored. The police went to the residence and spoke to two men who were trying to get the car. The police asked that they get away from the car and not to return to that address unless they had the owner's permission to remove the car.
On Jan. 29, 1952, both the Herald-Post and the Times printed articles about Villa's death car arriving in El Paso. The Times reported:
"The car in which Pancho Villa was assassinated is in El Paso -- but for how long, no one knows.
"Temporarily stored in a garage on West Yandell Boulevard, the car is awaiting either shipment back to Mexico or restoration for a tour of the United States.
"Clarence W. Ansley, El Paso businessman, is reported to have brought the car to El Paso, together with Pancho's widow, with the idea of restoring the car to nearly original condition and sending it on a tour of the United States.
"But according to C.D. Merari, with whom Mrs. Villa is staying, the Mexican government is attempting to get the car back to Mexico for its value as a historic relic.
"The car is an ancient Dodge touring and is riddled with bullet holes. Merari said the vehicle has not been used since that fatal day in 1923 when Pancho was mowed down by assassins near Parral, Mexico. And it looks it. The paint is completely gone, leaving bare rusty metal showing through.
"There is no glass in the windshield, and the upholstery has disappeared. However, the body and running gear are fairly solid and the car could be restored with no great difficulty. Merari says the old Dodge, about a 1919 model, has been stored in Mrs. Villa's garage in Chihuahua City since 1923. It was brought to El Paso by truck."
The next day, the Herald-Post reported, "Attorneys Confer to Settle Squabble Over Villa's Car."
"Joseph Roybal, attorney for Mrs. Luz Corral vda. De Villa, said it may take two or three days to reach an agreement. He conferred with William E. Ward, attorney for Clarence W. Ansley, El Paso arcade operator, who claims Mrs. Villa had made a verbal contract with the guerrilla chieftain's widow to exhibit the bullet-ridden car.
"Mr. Roybal, who also represents the Mexican government, said Mexico had no official interest in the car.
"Ansley charged that threats of government intervention, assertedly made by a representative of a Mexican newspaper publisher, caused Mrs. Villa to breach the verbal contract.
On Feb. 2, 1952, a contract signed by Ansley and Corral de Villa is filed with El Paso County. The contract gives Ansley limited rights to the book "Pancho Villa En La Intimidad," to include motion picture and television rights.
On Feb. 5, the Herald-Post reports that it may be another week before an agreement was reached on the car. On the 21st, it is reported that Villa's widow returned to Chihuahua City without the car.
I didn't find another mention of the car until July 1953, when it is reported that Ansley shot Alva Clifford Knowles six times after Knowles entered Ansley's arcade and handed him a note.
The note reportedly contained a reference to Villa's death car that Ansley "once had an interest in the car and that it is being exhibited on the west coast by Villa's widow."
Knowles survived the shooting and denied having any knowledge of the car. He said he went to the arcade because Ansley had threatened his sister Georgiana.
Ansley admitted to the shooting but denied making a threat against Georgiana. Ansley said he shot Knowles because he thought he had a gun.
Trish Long is the El Paso Times' Archivist and spends her time in the morgue, where the newspaper keeps its old clippings and photos. She shares some of this history in her blog, Tales from the Morgue.