TAMIU’s Thompson Publishes 27th Book on his Cowboy Grandfather, Last of Oklahoma Outlaws
A new book that delves into the lawless and adventure-fueled life of a cowboy in the early 1900s is the latest work of award-winning author and Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) Regents and Piper Professor of History Dr. Jerry D. Thompson.
Titled, “Wrecked Lives and Lost Souls: Joe Lynch Davis and the Last of the Oklahoma Outlaws,” (University of Oklahoma Press, 2019), Dr. Thompson’s book tells the story of his grandfather, a cowboy named Joe Lynch Davis.
Thompson, a prolific author, said he is proud of this, his 27th published book.
“In some ways, it is a very personal story of discovery and learning about a grandfather I had never known,” he said about the book, “In many ways, the story was painful, but I felt it was a story that had to be told. I am grateful that the University of Oklahoma Press liked it.”
As shared by the publisher…”growing up, Thompson knew only that his grandfather was a gritty, “mixed-blood” Cherokee cowboy named Joe Lynch Davis. That was all anyone cared to say about the man. But after Thompson’s mother died, the award-winning historian discovered a shoebox full of letters that held the key to a long-lost family history of passion, violence and despair. ‘Wrecked Lives and Lost Souls,’ the result of Thompson’s sleuthing into his family’s past, uncovers the lawless life and times of a man at the center of systematic cattle rustling, feuding, gun battles, a bloody range war, bank robberies and train heists in early 1900s Indian Territory and Oklahoma.
“Through painstaking detective work into archival sources, newspaper accounts, and court proceedings, and via numerous interviews, Thompson pieces together not only the story of his grandfather—and a long-forgotten gang of outlaws to rival the infamous Younger brothers—but also the dark path of a Cherokee diaspora from Georgia to Indian Territory. In fleshing out the details of his grandfather’s life, Thompson brings to light the brutality and far-reaching consequences of an obscure chapter in the history of the American West,” the publisher states.
Thompson outlined his research process.
“The research took 20 years, mostly looking at small town Oklahoma newspapers and National Archives records in regional archives in Fort Worth; Kansas City; Seattle; and Laguna Nigel, California, as well as the main archives in Washington, D.C. Once, while searching a cemetery near the village of Porum, Okla., I stepped on a rattlesnake, but this is another story,” Thompson said.
He continued, “I think the book tells a story that some readers will find incredible. I only wish my mother had not been so ashamed and embarrassed and would have told me about her father before she passed away.”
Thompson, who has been part of the TAMIU faculty since 1987, is the author or editor of 27 books, including “Texas and New Mexico on the Eve of the Civil War: The Mansfield and Johnston Inspections, 1859–1861” (UNM Press).
Among other publications are “Civil War in the Southwest, A Wild and Vivid Land: An Illustrated History of the South Texas Border,” “Fifty Miles and a Fight: Samuel Peter Heintzelman's Journal of Texas and the Cortina War,” and “Into the Far, Wild Country: True Tales of the Old Southwest.”
He has also authored an award-winning biography of Juan Nepomuceno Cortina and, with Larry Jones, a history of the Civil War on the Rio Grande.
Thompson is the recipient of the Texas State Historical Association’s 2018 Kate Broocks Bates Award for Historical Research for his Pulitzer-Prize nominated publication, “Tejano Tiger: José de los Santos Benavides and the Texas-México Borderlands, 1823-1891” (Texas Christian University Press). He has received the prestigious Pate Award twice—in 2016 for “A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers and Militia” (University of New Mexico Press) and in 2006 for “Civil War and Revolution on the Rio Grande Frontier.” He is regarded as one of the country’s leading Civil War historians, especially regarding the Southwest Campaign. He is one of only a handful of writers to twice receive the Texas Institute of Letters Best Non-Fiction Award and is the only three-time recipient of the Clotilde P. García Tejano Book Prize.
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TAMIU is celebrating its 50th Anniversary and its 25th Anniversary at its north Laredo campus throughout 2019-2020. A dedicated website shares the University’s transformation from a hybrid upper-level university to a full doctoral degree-granting University. It includes a calendar of Anniversary events and more at tamiu.edu/50.
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