In 1929, Wyatt Earp died in Los Angeles, nearly broke. For years, he had tried unsuccessfully to sell his life story to Hollywood producers. At his funeral, one of his pallbearers was Tom Mix, the rich, famous, and handsome star of silent westerns. Eleven years later, his movie career in decline, Mix died in a car accident 20 miles south of Florence. He was 60 years old.
Before the completion of I-10, Arizona State Route 79 was the main highway between Tucson and Phoenix. Now it’s considered the back road and is far more interesting than the Interstate. On an October afternoon in 1940, Tom Mix was driving his 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton near Florence doing 80 mph. He swerved to miss a road repair crew and ran off the road into a wash.
He had stashed a large aluminum suitcase packed with lots of cash, traveler’s checks, and jewels in a shelf behind the driver’s seat. The force of the impact caused the heavy suitcase to slam into the back of Tom’s head, breaking his neck. He died almost instantly. The Cord sustained little damage.
Today, you can see a stone marker along the side of Route 79 just south of Florence, AZ commemorating the spot where Tom Mix died. Florence is worth a visit.
The inscription reads;
“In memory of Tom Mix whose spirit left his body on this spot and whose characterization and portrayals in life served to better fix memories of the old West in the minds of living men.”