People Discovered Woody Harrelson’s Dad Was a Convicted Hitman – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

People Discovered Woody Harrelson’s Dad Was a Convicted Hitman

Woody Harrelson, a popular Hollywood actor, has an intriguing family history that has attracted attention from fans and the media alike. Recently, he made headlines when rumors surfaced that his True Detective co-star, Matthew McConaughey, might be his half-brother. However, Harrelson’s family is not just interesting because of his celebrity connections. In fact, his father, Charles Voyde Harrelson, was a convicted hitman and organized crime figure.

In 1979, Harrelson Sr. allegedly assassinated federal Judge John H. Wood Jr., also known as “Maximum John.” The murder took place in San Antonio, Texas, as Judge Wood was changing a flat tire. The hit was ordered by drug kingpin Jimmy Chagra, who paid Harrelson Sr. $250,000 to eliminate the judge. Harrelson Sr. was caught after bullet fragments from his wife’s rifle were found at the scene, and he was subsequently charged and convicted of the crime.

This was not Harrelson Sr.’s first brush with the law. He had previously been convicted of a 1968 murder-for-hire killing and served five years in prison. With his second conviction, he was sentenced to two life sentences. Woody Harrelson has been supportive of his father throughout the years, even hiring the controversial lawyer Alan Dershowitz to represent him.

Despite his family’s dark past, Woody Harrelson has become a successful actor in his own right. He first gained fame in the 1980s with his breakout role in Cheers and has since starred in popular films like Natural Born Killers, Indecent Proposal, and Zombieland. He won an Oscar for his performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. However, as Harrelson’s fame grew, so did interest in his family history.

In 2021, fans on Twitter began sharing their discovery of Harrelson’s intriguing family tree, though it is unclear what prompted the renewed interest. Woody himself has expressed doubts about his father’s guilt in the Judge Wood case, citing an unfair trial and the acquittal of the man who allegedly hired his father. He also claims that his father worked as an operative for the CIA, but he has not elaborated on this point.

Despite their estrangement before his father’s conviction, Woody Harrelson visited him regularly in prison and tried unsuccessfully to have the conviction overturned. Charles Voyde Harrelson died in prison in 2007 at the age of 68. While Woody Harrelson’s family history may be bizarre and troubling, it has certainly captured the attention of many.

Many actors have interesting families, yet one of the most fascinating is that of star Woody Harrelson. Recently the actor made headlines with the possibility that True Detective co-star Matthew McConaughey might be his half-brother. One might remember a while back, the actor’s name was starting to trend on Twitter, and the reason was that many of his fans found out that he’s the son of a convicted hitman and organized crime figure. Back in 1979, Woody’s father, Charles Voyde Harrelson, allegedly assassinated federal Judge John H. Wood, Jr., also known as “Maximum John.”

The murder took place in San Antonio, Texas, as Judge Wood was bent over changing a flat tire. This hit took place because a drug kingpin, Jimmy Chagra, paid Harrelson Sr. $250,000 to get rid of the hard-hitting judge. Harrelson Sr. was caught when bullet fragments from his wife, Jo Ann’s .240 Weatherby Mark V rifle.


Judge Wood was the first federal judge to be assassinated in the 20th century. Harrelson Sr. was subsequently charged and convicted of the crime. This followed a prior conviction for the 1968 murder-for-hire killing of a man in Texas for which the senior Harrelson served five years. Subsequently, with the additional sentence, Harrelson Sr. served two life sentences. Woody Harrelson footed the bill for the notoriously controversial lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

When Woody Harrelson first hit the scene in the 1980s with his breakout role in Cheershis father’s story had gotten some attention in the press and was fairly common knowledge at the time. Over the years, however, that not-so-fun fact about the Harrelson family has become much more obscure. This was likely as Harrelson’s own success as an actor in beloved films like Natural Born Killers, Indecent Proposal, Zombielandand his Oscar-winning performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, made him notable in his own right. Yet that level of fame eventually led to people rediscovering his family history.

Update: June 11, 2023: This article has been updated with additional information regarding Woody Harrelson, his father, and more recent revelations about his family.

Why The News Broke Out In 2021

Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri
Fox Searchlight Pictures

In 2021, various fans on Twitter started to share their discovery of the news of Harrelson’s interesting family tree. What exactly prompted it is unclear, but in 2021 the actor was back in the spotlight for his performance in the Netflix film Kate and in the role of Cletus Kassidy, aka Carnage, in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Here are a few reactions from the time.

Related: Why Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are Set to Be Hollywood’s Next Power Couple

Woody Harrelson’s Relationship with His Father

Woody Harrelson in The Edge of Seventeen
STX Entertainment

For his part, Woody is not quite so convinced of his father’s guilt when it comes to that specific case. In an interview conducted by Barbara Walters years ago, the veteran actor was questioned about his father’s situation, and a clip of the conversation has made its way to YouTube. As seen in the video, Woody notes that his dad wasn’t given a fair trial and expresses his belief that he is innocent.

“Well, he is in prison right now for the killing of a federal judge,” the Cheers star said. “I think that it was not a fair trial, especially because the guy who supposedly hired my father to commit the murder was later acquitted on a retrial. I’m not saying my father’s a saint, but I think he’s innocent of that.”

Related: Best Woody Harrelson Movies, Ranked

Walters then grilled Harrelson a bit more on the subject, asking if he’s undergone any efforts to have the case reopened to help set his father free. The Cheers star responds that he “hasn’t given up hope,” though he doesn’t offer any specifics. Harrelson also reiterates his claims that his dad was an operative working for the CIA, but he similarly holds back on the particulars.

“Yeah, he was [with the CIA],” Woody said. “I shouldn’t get into this right now. This is where we’re going to get into trouble… It’s true. [Does it make a difference] that he was trained by the CIA? Yeah, I think it makes a difference.”

At the time of Charles Voyde Harrelson’s arrest, he had been estranged from Woody, and they hadn’t spoken in many years. Their relationship changed following the conviction, as Woody would visit his father regularly in prison. Woody had tried unsuccessfully to have the conviction overturned, and the elder Harrison died behind bars in 2007 at the age of 68 of cardiac arrest in the Colorado Supermax prison. It’s a bizarre story, but it is understandable why it captured so many people’s interest.

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