Monday, May 9, 2016

Lone Star Conference

"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College ( in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce. 

Following two days of events in Beaumont, I drove to Waco on Friday, May 29, to participate in the “Lone Star History Conference.” The conference was organized by Bob Alexander, a retired U.S. Treasury agent who launched a second career as an author. Bob has focused his research on lawmen and outlaws of frontier Texas. He writes with keen understanding of peace officers and lawbreakers, and his books have been highly popular.

Lt. Wende Wakeman
Bob is well-known in the law enforcement community, and he has shown an affinity for organizing conferences on frontier gunfighting and outlawry and horseback lawmen. Bob lines up a large number of authors and law enforcement personnel as presenters, while arranging refreshments and meals through corporate donors, which makes possible free admission for attendees. He has been able to book the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum for these events. Participants therefore can meet and hear well-known authors and tour a superb museum at no cost. There has been excellent attendance, and during the past few years Bob has staged three of these Lone Star History Conferences. In addition, he organized an afternoon event last year featuring my program on “Gunfighterology,” attracting a crowd of 300.
Friday night reception

Bob’s 2016 Lone Star History Conference focused on Texas Rangers, and the event was expanded to Friday evening and Sunday morning, as well as Saturday and Saturday evening. The conference leadoff program on Friday evening was an hour with Lt. Wende Wakeman, the first woman to advance to the rank of lieutenant in the Texas Rangers. Energetic and personable, Wendy was impressive in her Ranger uniform as she regaled us – aided by PowerPoint images – with the fascinating story of her life and career, in the DPS as well as the Rangers. Back at the hotel later in the evening, we socialized over a delicious spread provided by Bob and his sponsors.

In the John Knox Memorial Center
At the Texas Ranger Museum we met at the spacious John Knox Memorial Center, which comfortably accommodated our crowd of more than 250. Along one wall 40 authors were seated at tables to talk with other attendees and to sign books, which were purchased at the museum gift shop. Throughout Saturday, during breaks and lunch, a string band filled the air with Country Music, and a few couples took to the dance floor. The Rangers are part of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and just outside the Knox Memorial Center, the DPS parked their new Crime Lab Vehicle. It is deployed to crime scenes all over Texas, and officers were available to us the equipment and technology. Nearby stood a handsomely restored 1934 Ford – the same model in which Bonnie and Clyde met their fate – and a life-size mock-up of Ranger Captain Frank Hamer, their chief pursuer, stood beside the vintage automobile.

Frank Hamer is the subject of an outstanding new biography by John Boessenecker, a former policeman and currently a lawyer and author. Boessenecker’s discussion of The Legendary Frank Hamer, Fact vs. Fiction, was a highlight of the conference, at which his book made its debut. Other authors describing their latest books included Bob Alexander (Whiskey River Ranger: Baz Outlaw), Bill Neal (Skullduggery, Secrets and Murder: The Wells Fargo Scam), and Dave Johnson (The Fighting Horrells and the Lampasas Calamity).

Doug Dukes holding a small Colt
five-shooter in his right hand and,
in his left a big Walker Colt
Doug Dukes and Glenn Hadeler, with the aid of the Museum’s crack media expert, Casey Eichorn, have just completed an excellent video about the 1844 Battle of Walker’s Creek. Capt. Jack Hays had armed his small band of Rangers with new Colt five-shooters, and at Walker’s Creek they engaged a large war party of horseback warriors, armed with bows and arrows (a repeating weapon which the warriors used from horseback). Hays had instructed his men in new tactics with their revolving pistols, and the 15 Rangers killed or wounded more than half of the 80 warriors they battled. Both the revolvers and the tactics evolved rapidly, and Doug Dukes – a firearms expert – demonstrated these breakthrough developments.

DPS Crime Lab Vehicle
Aside from Ranger Lt. Wende Wakeman, other ranking law enforcement officers who presented programs were David Turk, Historian of the U.S. Marshals Service, Jim Willett, Director of the Texas Prison Museum, and Frank Malinak, Assistant Chief of the Texas Rangers. Following a barbeque dinner buffet on Saturday evening, Frank Malinak spoke on “Real Rangers,” electrifying us with the state-of-the-art technological and manpower expansion of the modern Ranger force, especially along the troubled Rio Grande border.

Frank Malinak, Assistant Chief of
the Texas Rangers
I followed Frank’s presentation on “Real Rangers” with the final program of the conference, “Reel Rangers,” based on my book of the same title. I took a light approach to the cultural reflection of the iconic Rangers, from silent movie Rangers to Singing Cowboy Rangers, from the Lone Ranger on radio and TV and movies to Lonesome Dove, as a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and as an astonishingly popular TV mini-series. On Sunday morning a panel of publishers and authors shared ideas about publishing books, which concluded an enormously successful Lone Star History Conference.

To watch a brief overview:    
Choose city beat or "Featured Videos"
Rose and Bob DeArment, a WWII vet and a
distinguished author of the Old West

With publisher Billy Huckaby, who recently released
my new book on Sam Houston 

Bob Alexander introducing John Boessenecker,
who premiered his standout new biography
of Frank Hamer at the conference

Ron Chrisman (holding plaque) asked all UNT authors
to join him when he received a award for
publishing Old West books

Bill Neal

Standing beside "Frank Hamer" and a 1934 Ford

Replica of a late 1800s Ranger camp

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