Billy Ray (Red) Callahan

Wes Morgan

Billy Ray (Red) Callahan

          Billy Ray Callahan was born in Knoxville General Hospital on February 24, 1934, the third child of Clifford and Anna Callahan. According to a newspaper report at the time of his death, Red had a rap sheet consisting of 33 charges including public drunkenness, fighting, prowling, housebreaking and larceny between 1953 and 1963. On February 3, 1963, Red Callahan was shot and killed by George Kenneth Wagner, the operator of the Copa Club at 4422 Clinton Highway. Wagner stated that he asked Callahan to leave because he was a “troublemaker.” Later, five customers complained that they had seen the victim going through purses that were left on tables as the couples danced. Wagner told Captain Lane that he approached Callahan and told him to give back what he had taken and leave. Callahan, instead, reached into his pocket for what Wagner thought was a weapon, he told Lane. Wagner then pulled a .38 caliber pistol from his own pocket and told Red to leave. Red then made a grab for the gun and Wagner pulled the trigger according to Lane. The bullet entered the front of Reds head at the nose and exited behind an ear at the rear of his head. The shooting took place about 3:45 AM and Callahan died later that afternoon at 1:40 PM at the University of Tennessee Hospital. He is buried in an unmarked grave in Mount Olive Cemetery.

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Wesley G. Morgan, Ph.D.

Last Revised: 28 May 2011