Chuck Lanehart

Chuck Lanehart is a shareholder in the Lubbock firm of Chappell, Lanehart & Stangl, P.C., where he has practiced law since 1977, and is a 1977 graduate of Texas Tech University School of Law. He is board certified in the field of Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is statewide co-coordinator of the annual TCDLA Declaration readings and serves on TCDLA’s ethics committee. He previously served as director of the State Bar of Texas and of TCDLA. In 2018, the Lubbock Area Bar Association presented Chuck the James G. Denton Distinguished Lawyer Award, the Bar’s highest honor. In 2008, Chuck was named among the “200 Most Influential People in the History of Lubbock” by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. He can be reached at or 806-765-7370.

Celebrating What Freedom and Independence Mean: Declaration Readings – 2022

Every year we gather together, across the State of Texas and beyond, to read the Declaration of Independence on the courthouse steps in order to remind those that seek to do injustice that we are here to defiantly stand in their way. This symbolic gesture probably means something different to each of the folks that read. However, regardless of our political and social backgrounds, we all read to protect the rights and liberties that we hold dear and that we fight to defend each and every day. The founder of this wonderful 13‑year‑old tradition—Robert Fickman of Houston—will join me in coordinating statewide readings again this year. Those of you who have been involved in the past—you know who you are—will soon be contacted with information about the 2022 readings.

If you are not familiar with the TCDLA Declaration readings, you have not been paying attention. Patriotic criminal defense lawyers across Texas gather at the local courthouse and simply read the Declaration of Independence. (Our readings have inspired similar events in other states and in foreign countries.) Sometimes, it means just one lawyer reading to an audience of none on a small town square. Sometimes, it means a dozen or more lawyers reading to large crowds on expansive courthouse lawns as flags fly and children play, and with everyone singing patriotic songs. We hope those who witness or participate in a reading come away with an appreciation of what Independence Day truly means.

The 2022 readings will take place on July 1 or on whatever date works best for your community around Independence Day. If you  have been involved as an organizer of a local Declaration reading in the past, we would appreciate you confirming with us you will organize again this year. If you have not been involved in a Declaration reading in years past but want to get involved this year, please contact us: Robert Fickman of Houston, 713‑655‑7400 (), or Chuck Lanehart of Lubbock, 806‑535‑2689 (

Please join us in honoring our nation’s most sacred document in the spirit of independence.

Claim your Community!

Who Shot the Sheriff? The South Plains Trial of the Century

The following article was first published in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s “Caprock Chronicles” column. It is also included in Chuck Lanehart’s upcoming book, “Marvels of the Texas Plains: Historic Chronicles from the Courthouse to the Caprock,” published by The History Press.

In the winter of 1935, two trials dominated South Plains newspaper headlines. The celebrated New Jersey trial of Richard Hauptmann for the kidnapping and murder of the Lindberg baby became known as “The Trial of the Century.” But on the South Plains, Hauptmann news coverage was overshadowed by the Lubbock trial of Virgil Stalcup, accused of murdering the Dickens County Sheriff.

Stalcup was born in New Mexico in 1907. He was small—five-feet-six and 140 pounds—with fair complexion, green eyes and balding light brown hair. Described as “pug-nosed,” he sported a gold-capped front tooth and smoked constantly. He was married at age 20, and the couple had a daughter. Stalcup found work as an auto mechanic but soon embarked on a more lucrative, brief, and intense life of crime.

His specialty was armed robbery, stealing from victims throughout the Southwest. At age 23, Stalcup landed in the Texas penitentiary, serving 125 years for robberies out of Wilbarger, Potter and Wichita Counties.

On April 13, 1934, Stalcup escaped from prison and made his way to the home of his father—O.B. Stalcup—near Lawton, Oklahoma. There, he hooked up with 38-year-old Clarence Brown of Snyder, Texas. They pulled off a string of robberies in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.

When authorities closed in on O.B.’s home on June 17, there was a shootout. Stalcup was shot in the shoulder and his 54-year-old father was killed. Two police officers were wounded by gunfire. Stalcup and Brown surrendered.

After their arrest, Stalcup and Brown confessed to a number of crimes. Both were transferred to Dickens County to face trial for the robbery of a bottling company truck driver. Stalcup was transferred to Lamb County for a plea of guilty to a Littlefield robbery. After the judge sentenced him to a ten-year prison term, Stalcup told the judge he “had no intentions of serving the sentence.” He was returned to Dickens County.

The Dickens County Sheriff was 43-year-old Bill Arthur. Born in New Mexico in 1886, Arthur moved to Dickens County as a young man. He married Nannie Stegall in 1908 and the couple had six children. In 1931, he was elected sheriff and the family moved into the first-floor living quarters of the 1909 Dickens County Jail. Prisoners were housed on the second floor of the quaint stone structure.

In mid-July of 1934, Sheriff Arthur confronted W.J. “Jenks” Yarborough in McAdoo. Yarbrough, a 40-year-old farmer, was suspected of illegally carrying a handgun. Yarbrough pulled his .25 caliber pistol and shot Sheriff Arthur five times. The Sheriff did not fall. He pulled his pistol and fired but missed as the shooter fled. The Sheriff walked to a nearby icehouse and told the proprietor, “Let’s go to the hospital.”

He was treated at a Lubbock sanitarium. Doctors were unable to remove four bullets lodged in the Sheriff’s thigh, buttocks and chest. Nevertheless, the Sheriff was soon well enough to resume his duties.

His wife Nannie told Sheriff Arthur he should find another line of work. “I had rather he pick cotton – anything,” she said. But her sound advice was ignored.

Yarbrough was soon arrested and taken to the Dickens County Jail and housed in a cell adjacent to Stalcup and Brown.

On August 18, Stalcup and Brown—brandishing a knife—escaped from the jail. Within days, Brown was re-captured at his home in Snyder and returned to the Dickens County Jail. His attractive 27-year-old wife, Thelma, often traveled to see her husband in the hoosegow. On one such visit, she charmed jailers in order to smuggle a pistol into the jail. The pistol would later factor into the killing of the Dickens County Sheriff.

Stalcup remained free for a couple of months. In the badlands near Clarendon, the outlaw was spotted by a large posse of well-armed lawmen. During a wild ten-mile car-and-foot chase, deputies fired at him with machine guns. He was captured unharmed on October 23 and was returned to Dickens County. During his two months on the lam, Stalcup had committed robberies in at least three Texas counties. A reporter wrote he faced 254 years in prison.

Just four days later, the commode on the second floor of the jail overflowed. The layout of the tiny, five-cell jail required Sherriff Arthur to enter the cellblock in order to examine the problem with the toilet.

Stalcup and Brown played cards in the southeast cage as Yarbrough read in the northeast cage closest to the commode. Apparently, none of the cell doors were locked.

The Sheriff knelt over the commode to repair the plumbing. Suddenly, a shot rang out! Sheriff Arthur stumbled into Yarbrough’s cell and fell to his knees by the cot, mortally wounded from a bullet to his neck.

Stalcup and Brown were gone, along with the Sheriff’s weapons and car. Investigators suspected Sheriff Arthur had carelessly entered the cellblock armed and was killed with his own pistol.

A nationwide manhunt for Sheriff Arthur’s alleged murderers—Stalcup and Brown—paused on October 30 for the Sheriff’s funeral. More than 5,000 mourners, including dozens of law enforcement personnel from several states, attended.

Four days later, both desperados were arrested near Houston without incident. “I guess this is the last break I’ll ever make,” Stalcup said.

Talk of vigilante justice in Dickens meant the duo would be housed in the more secure Lubbock County Jail. Stalcup and Brown were indicted for capital murder. Stalcup’s case would be tried first, on a change of venue to Lubbock County.

Trial began Monday, February 5, 1935, in Lubbock’s stately 1916 courthouse. Described as “calm, cocky and pudgy-faced,” Stalcup smoked constantly during the proceedings. With his blonde wife holding his hand, Stalcup’s five-year-old daughter clambered over his lap, kissing him repeatedly—as two dozen officers stood nearby for security.

Stalcup’s young court-appointed lawyers were from Lubbock: Hugh Anderson, Dub Benson and Robert Allen. The prosecution was led by special prosecutor George Dupree, a legendary Lubbock trial lawyer. Dickens County DA Alton Chapman and Lubbock County DA Dan Blair augmented the State’s team. They subpoenaed 60 witnesses.

Jury selection was completed on Tuesday, and when testimony began Wednesday morning, the courtroom was packed with observers. Another 200 were turned away.

The State’s first three witnesses were prisoners present in the jail when Sheriff Arthur was murdered though none saw the attack. Jenks Yarbrough, serving a 15-year prison sentence for a previous shooting of the Sheriff, testified he looked up when he heard the shot and saw Stalcup “holding a big gun.”

Inmates Curtis Squyres and Luther Hall both saw Stalcup with a “drawn pistol” after the shot rang out. Squyres hollered for help as Stalcup ran down the stairs. Stalcup yelled, “Shut your (expletive) mouth.” Hall saw Stalcup open the cell block door with keys in his left hand and saw Brown follow Stalcup down the stairs.

The Sheriff’s 12-year-old daughter Creola was home in her family’s first-floor jail apartment when she heard the shot. Tearfully, Creola told the jury she saw the jail door open and Stalcup with a gun. As Stalcup drove away in the Sheriff’s car, Creola chased on foot, returning to see her daddy’s lifeless body being carried down the stairs.

Stalcup never testified but granted interviews to a reporter during the trial. “I didn’t kill the man,” he said, refusing to name the shooter. He praised Sheriff Arthur. “I admired him myself. I respected him. He was always kind to me.”

A firearms expert testified the gun used to kill the Sheriff could not have been either of the two weapons known to belong to the Sheriff, a .38 and a .45. An older model revolver was presented as evidence. It had been left at Brown’s brother-in-law’s home by Stalcup and Brown after their jail break. However, no evidence was offered to show Brown’s wife smuggled the revolver into the jail, and no evidence connected the revolver to the Sheriff’s murder.

The State rested. The defense called a dozen quick but ineffective witnesses, most of whom had already testified for the State. Impassioned final argument lasted six hours on Monday, February 11, 1935, and jury deliberations began. The unanimous guilty verdict came at 9:13 Tuesday morning, and the jury recommended the death penalty. It was the first death sentence ever imposed by a Lubbock County jury.

Upon hearing his fate, Stalcup’s lips began to twitch. It was the only emotion he displayed during the entire trial, but it did not last long. Two minutes after the verdict, the condemned man was smiling as he shook hands with his lawyer.


In April of 1935, a slender and bespectacled Clarence Brown pled guilty to the Sheriff’s murder and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. He died in the Texas penitentiary in 1959. His wife Thelma was sentenced to two years in prison for smuggling the pistol into the jail. She served 13 months in the pen and seemed to disappear.

A year later, Stalcup’s appeals failed over the next year. He was returned from death row to Lubbock to receive his execution date. He spoke to reporters, who wrote he had, “lost his bravado and embraced the Catholic faith.” Again, he denied killing the Sheriff and complained of “perjured testimony” during his trial. “There’s a higher power that will even up all these things some time. They’ll have to pay for it someday.”

His execution date was scheduled for May 4, 1936. Stalcup left the courtroom arm-in-arm with his mother, but his wife and daughter were not present. During a search, authorities found he was in possession of Sheriff Arthur’s handcuff key, though it did not fit the shackles he was wearing.

The evening before he was to be electrocuted, Stalcup was offered a special last meal. He refused. At 12:03 am, he walked firmly to “Old Sparky” and died calmly without making a statement.

Stalcup was the 129th man to be executed by electrocution in Texas. The state’s electrocution method of execution, which began in 1924, took the lives of 361 men, no women. Since the first lethal injection took place in 1982, Texas has executed 573, including six women (through February of 2022).

A Diary of Declaration Readings

Declaration reading in Gail, Borden County, Texas, USA. Population 231. There may not be much to this one-jail-cell-town out on the Caprock of West Texas – except a great sense of American pride. The entire courthouse staff (yes, all six) showed up to support the reading today!

-Laurie Key, Lubbock

My Dad, Philip Fickman, despised tyrants and bullies. Perhaps that is because most of our family was murdered in the pogroms.

My Dad loved this country and the freedoms we are all guaranteed. He always made July 4th a fun celebration for my brothers and me. Annually, my Dad and the other young fathers on the block put on a large, joyous, and probably illegal, fireworks display in the middle of our street.

When I became a dad, I always hosted a big barbeque on July 4th. Everybody was eager to eat, but before we ate I had my young sons, Sam and Daniel, read aloud the first and last paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence. I wanted them to understand the meaning of this holiday.

By 2010, many members of the Harris County judiciary were acting as if they were King George III. They were stepping all over the rights of our clients. Like our Founders, the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association had finally suffered enough of this tyranny.

So, in 2010, before we headed out to our family barbeques and fireworks,  members of HCCLA staged a symbolic protest against our local tyrannical judges by reading the Declaration of Independence on the courthouse steps. We sought no permission. That would be akin to our Founding Fathers asking the king for permission to declare independence.

I told my sons about our readings and about how it all started in our backyard with them. They liked it and they were supportive. For several years, Sam, who has a film degree, has edited TCDLA Declaration reading videos.

This year, Sam and Daniel were in town. I invited them to join us in the reading.

Watching my sons read the Declaration of Independence was something I will always treasure. In strong, resolute voices, they joined me and my colleagues in open defiance of tyranny. These readings are not about my family or how we celebrated the 4th of July. These readings are about all our families and our communal rejection of tyranny inside and outside of the courthouse.

-Robb Fickman, Houston

The Henderson County Bar Association gathered on the courthouse steps Friday to read the Declaration of Independence. Congress signed the unanimous declaration of the united thirteen colonies of America on July 4, 1776. It is the foundation for this country.

As the words rang out over the square, flags waving, the voices of speakers bounced back in echoes from the other buildings confirming the eloquent and courageous words of freedom and independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness . . .”

A crowd gathered on the lawn to hear the words that still ring true today. Shana Stein Faulhaber, local event organizer, said the words move her to this day every time she reads or hears it.

“I still get goosebumps,” she said.

Although she is new to the area, she has quickly jumped in and embraced community involvement.

Zane Faulhaber closed the ceremony by playing the “Star Spangled Banner” on electric guitar.

The practice was originally started by a group of criminal defense attorneys and has quickly grown to a state-wide event.

-The Athens Review

Following our first reading in Hopkins County, we hit the road to read in Delta (Cooper) and Rains (Emory) counties. We then joined up with Mac Cobb to read the Declaration of Independence in Morris (Daingerfield), Marion (Jefferson), and Cass (Linden) counties. Six counties, lots of miles, a few mispronounced words, but high spirits.

-Brent McQueen, Sulphur Springs

Shelby County criminal defense lawyers Deck Jones, Jeff Adams, April Prince, and Stephen Shires gathered at the front of the Historic Shelby County Courthouse July 2, 2021, to give a ceremonial reading of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

The Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association has encouraged this annual event since 2016 across the state of Texas.

An audience gathered in front of the courthouse to hear the lawyers recite the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Although a heavy rain moved in on the event, the lawyers pushed through until they completed their task.

A handful of citizens came out Friday at noon to the Hale County Courthouse as county lawyers conducted their annual reading of the Declaration of Independence as part of the Fourth of July holiday celebration. This was the eighth annual reading of the Declaration, a tradition started in Plainview in 2013. The reading is an event put on annually by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. Mayor Charles Starnes was among the nine readers during Friday afternoon’s reading.

-Plainview Herald

A long-standing tradition for South Plains lawyers kicked off Independence Day celebrations with a reading of the Declaration of Independence reminding us of all the Fourth of July isn’t just for cookouts and fireworks. It’s a time to celebrate the official beginning of our country.

It was a great day for the readings in Archer, Baylor, Knox, Foard, and Wilbarger Counties. Thanks to Robb Fickman and Chuck Lanehart for helping with this tradition and my dear friends Scott Stillson and Todd Greenwood of Wichita Falls for the fun road trip.

-Dustin Nimz, Wichita Falls

Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Bowie County (Texarkana, Texas) and Miller County Texarkana, Arkansas) simultaneously in front of the Federal Courthouse with Mac Cobb and Jeff Harrelson.

-Brent McQueen, Sulphur Springs

Freedom and the liberties that come with it were celebrated ahead of the 4th of July holiday on Friday when attorneys recited the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights in front of the Brazos County courthouse.

The annual tradition is celebrated across more than 150 Texas counties. Locally, the event is organized by the Brazos County Defense Lawyers Association.

Local criminal defense attorney Shane Phelps helped organize the event. He says the time for complacency about freedoms in the United States and Texas is over. Phelps says citizens need to appreciate why we celebrate this holiday and understand and exercise our rights.

“We stop every year to celebrate the 4th of July, but sometimes we don’t really appreciate what it’s all about. This is an effort to try and remind people of the sacrifice that was made by our founders so that we can enjoy the freedoms we do,” said Phelps. “So before we get started on our parties and our barbecues and boating, it’s a good thing to hear the words of the founders in the Declaration and the Bill of Rights, so that we understand and appreciate as we enter this festive holiday weekend just how important those rights are to Americans in Texas.”

Phelps says it’s up to everyone, including attorneys, to help protect the rights of American citizens.

“Criminal defense attorneys are champions of liberty. We step into the courts of Texas every single day, and we defend these rights. We remind jurors and judges of the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, the Sixth Amendment, all of those rights that guarantee freedom to citizens,” said Phelps. “An important message and important part of that is to understand that if you don’t know what your rights are and if you don’t exercise them, then when you really do need them, they’re just not going to be there.”

Cameron Reynolds, president of the Brazos County Defense Lawyers Association, says knowing your rights and freedoms is crucial, and more people should take the time to read the constitution and Bill of Rights. Reynolds says those documents are more than just words on paper.

“I’ve been doing this defense work for the better part of 25 years. I’ve represented judges, police officers, doctors, lawyers, and I can tell you it’s a lot different when something’s happening to them,” said Reynolds. “It doesn’t mean that much until something happens to you or your family. Then you realize, man, I really need this. I need these rights to mean something.”

-KBTX-TV, Bryan

To commemorate the Fourth of July holiday, the Harrison County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association will host the group’s ninth annual public reading of the Declaration of Independence, this Friday, July 2.

The event will begin at 11:30 a.m., in front of the working 1963-model Harrison County Courthouse, located at 200 West Houston St, and not at the historic courthouse.

“The public is invited,” organizers stated.

Those who want to participate remotely can watch the live broadcasting on KMHT radio’s Facebook page.

“This is the ninth annual reading in front of the Harrison County courthouse,” organizers said. “Your local defense bar is committed to protecting and ensuring by rule of law the individual rights guaranteed by the Texas and Federal Constitutions in criminal cases.”

The local defense lawyers will be joining other defense lawyers across Texas and the United States as they recite the Declaration of Independence.

In honor of the nation’s freedom, lawyers across the state pause for a few moments of the designated day to read the Declaration in front of Texas county courthouses, and anywhere globally that a Texas attorney is.

“Since 2010, Texas criminal defense lawyers have gathered on courthouse steps across the state early each July to publicly read the Declaration of Independence,” the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association’s website,, states. “The tradition—unlike any other in the nation — is supported by members of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.”

The event has been carried on locally, in Marshall, since 2012.

-The Marshall News-Messenger

Miles: 250

Courthouses: 5

Speeding tickets: 1

Happy Birthday, America!


-Michelle Ochoa, Beeville

After I participated in the wonderful, colorful,  inspirational 11th annual Lubbock Criminal defense Lawyers Declaration reading the morning of July 2, I changed into my snazzy US flag shirt in honor of my great friend, the late David Hazlewood, who never missed an LCDLA Declaration reading and always wore is lag shirt. Then  it the road for the Texas  Hill  country, companionless, in my beat-up Chevy Tahoe. Along the way, I read the Declaration  of Independence in Post, Sweetwater, Coleman, Brady, and Llano.

Unfortunately, I forgot my own advice and did not forewarn the citizenry to witness my oratory until I was five miles outside of Post. I phoned my buddy Ted Weems, the Garza County Attorney, but he was out. His assistant promised to come downstairs with the County Judge, his secretary, and maybe others to hear my presentation.

I guess the assistant was like me—forgetful—and no one from inside the courthouse appeared. A random young lady happened to wander up the courthouse steps, and she enthusiastically took my photo,  but she did not stick around to hear my rendition of the Declaration.

In Sweetwater, another young lady—wearing a US flag scarf—firmly refused to photograph me and hurried away as if I were a leper. So, I took my first snapshot self-portrait—known as a “selfie”—with my trusty cell phone camera.

The friendly Justice of the Peace court coordinator was my only audience in Coleman, and she graciously agreed to take my picture.

The courthouse in Brady was closed. With no assemblage, I delivered the most eloquent recitation of the Declaration heard anywhere ever, and there is no evidence to the contrary. Having mastered the art of the selfie, I snapped away, shuddering at my semblance.

When I arrived at the beautiful Llano County Courthouse, I was confronted with driving rain, so I ducked into the quaint gazebo on the courthouse square and read the Great Document. I did the selfie thing again: I hope it was my last.

What a hoot! Six counties, 304 miles, and three selfies. God Bless America!

-Chuck Lanehart, Lubbock

Over in Marathon, there was a Dog and Pony Show parade Saturday morning with  Brewster County Sheriff Ronnie Dodson leading participants through downtown. There was also a chili cook-off, dancing under the stars, and fireworks.

Marfa was mostly quiet over the weekend but famed criminal defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin continued his tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence aloud to a gathered crowd in front of the Presidio County Courthouse.

-Big Bend Sentinel

Judy and I  have read the Declaration in ten countries, including Russia twice on our travels as United Methodist missionaries. Here we are in Prague, only a few feet from a Jewish internment camp from Hitler’s death squads. It gave us a great sense of pride to be free and standing over so many who were gassed and horribly mistreated. So many people from foreign countries came up to us and simply said, “Yah! Yah!” Meaning yes to the end of tyranny and injustice!

-Ken Mingledorff, Houston

Travis County attorneys and TCDLA staff gathered outside of the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Courthouse in Austin for our annual Declaration of independence reading. While this year’s reading didn’t feature our usual donut and coffee reception, we were pleased to keep the tradition alive, even during a pandemic. In the rare in-person gathering, the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyers Association members were pleased to see their colleagues and participate in this meaningful reminder of our shared passion for defending our community.

 – Bradley Hargis, Austin

Get Back to Where You Once Belonged: TCDLA Declaration Readings July 2, 2021

It is early July. The morning is crisp and cool in the Texas town. Just before 9 o’clock, people converge from all directions, mingling on the shady west lawn of the courthouse square. Nearby, a historic whitewashed gazebo is the meeting place for a dozen or so well-dressed local attorneys.

A young lawyer curls her baby in her arms as an older lawyer shoos his toddler grandson from the makeshift stage. Children seem to be everywhere, running across the expansive grassy space with little American flags. Clerks, judges, and prosecutors file out from the courthouse to join the multitude for the familiar annual patriotic ceremony.

A man stands tall before the gazebo and proudly announces the reason for the gathering. He leads the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. “God Bless America” follows, performed by a talented young lawyer in a dazzling blue dress. A few tears are dabbed away.

The lawyers take turns reading the paragraphs of the great document. Some readers are talented orators, powerful advocates familiar to all. Others have lesser voices, but even the small children are silent, spellbound by the majesty of the message.

Another lawyer in a blue dress belts out a rousing rendition of “This Land is Your Land,” with everyone joining the chorus and clapping hands. Kids dance. There are hugs and group photos, interviews from the local media and salutations all around. Everyone is excited to do it all over again next year.

But next year is 2020. The pandemic hamstrings TCDLA’s great tradition of sponsoring local readings of the Declaration of Independence. Many local criminal defense lawyers are able to stage modified readings, mindful of health concerns. It is certainly not the same.

Meanwhile, the pandemic kills more than half a million Americans. What it can never kill is the American quest for liberty. The principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence are eternal for all Americans.

By July 2021, it seems likely the TCDLA Declaration readings will return to normal. It is a chance for Texas criminal defense lawyers to publicly champion liberty and individual rights.

The founder of this wonderful tradition—Robert Fickman of Houston—will join me in coordinating statewide readings again this year. Those of you who have been involved in the past—you know who you are—will soon be contacted with information about the 2021 readings.

Visit to see county coordinators. Email  to be added. Watch the 2020 TCDLA Declaration Video.

Please join us in honoring our nation’s most sacred document in the spirit of independence.

WE WILL NOT BE DETERRED: Reading of the Declaration of Independence 2020

TCDLA is committed to celebrating our freedoms by organizing local readings of the Declaration of Independence throughout Texas every year. This year, perhaps more than ever, our annual patriotic project is especially warranted.

Criminal defense lawyers are at the point of the spear against despots, unreasonable laws, and misguided regulations. We therefore must remind the public how America’s founding document is relevant even in the face of a worldwide pandemic.

State Declaration reading co-organizer Robert Fickman and I invite all members to celebrate the Declaration of Independence on or about July 3 in a reasonable fashion depending on health risk circumstances. We hope you will follow whatever social distancing measures are recommended in your community. It may mean just one TCDLA member will read the Declaration on the courthouse steps without inviting an audience. It may mean a ZOOM reading. Whatever works best in your town is okay, as long as the Declaration gets read. As always, your event should be properly memorialized, so please send TCDLA your best photos/selfies of the reading, and please post the pix on social media.

We will not be deterred by the pandemic. Our commitment to the principles enunciated in the Declaration has never been stronger.

THE SAGA OF SLIPPERY SAM CATES, Crosby County’s Crafty Miscreant

Two shotgun blasts 100 years ago rocked Crosbyton, exposing the tiny Texas South Plains town as a seeming cauldron of sexual promiscuity, leading to death, scandal, and intrigue. Yet the compelling Roaring Twenties tale of Sam Cates, at the center of the drama, seems to have been forgotten. Until now…

Cates and Burton

Samuel Wavely Cates was born to Maggie and Samuel Absalom Cates in McKinney, Texas, in 1896.1 The fourth of 11 children, he completed eight years of school.2

Little is known of his childhood, but a family tragedy must have had a devastating effect on young Sam. In 1915, Sam’s father, Samuel, attended a Methodist Church ladies’ box supper at Jean, in north Central Texas. Following the meal, Samuel was shot three times and killed.3 He was 49 years old.

Two young men were arrested for the killing of Samuel but no-billed by the grand jury.4 Predictably, there was idle talk in the Young County community about the reason the men were not prosecuted.5 Samuel’s 47-year-old widow, Maggie, was left to care for her three youngest children on her own. She never remarried and died at age 82.6

Samuel’s son, Sam, was rather small, 5’8” tall and 135 pounds, with brown eyes, light hair, and gold crowns covered his two front teeth. He did not smoke or drink.7

His registration form for the 1918 World War I draft listed his occupation as “farmer,” and he listed his residence with his mother in Walters, Oklahoma.8 Perhaps Sam was attempting to dodge the draft, for he did not live in Oklahoma in 1918. Since 1917, he had lived in the tiny South Plains town of Crosbyton—population 800.9

Sometime prior to 1920, Sam was accused of homicide, though no details of the crime are known. Attorney J.W. Burton of Crosbyton was said to have helped him avoid the hoosegow.10

Joseph Warren Burton was born in Iowa in 1873. He and his wife, Metta, an Indiana native, were married in 1905. According to a newspaper account, he was the first man to settle the town of Crosbyton, yet no evidence backs the dubious claim.11 12 He was “a well-known practicing lawyer” on the South Plains and was called “Judge” Burton.13 There is no record of J.W. having served on the bench, but his father was once a district judge in Iowa.14

Despite the mysteries surrounding the relationship between J.W. and Sam, it is clear J.W. hired young Sam to work as a clerk in his law office and as a chauffeur for his wife, Metta.15 16 Sam also boarded at the Burton home.17

The Killing

On Monday, March 8, 1920, Sam drove to Lubbock to pick up Metta, who had been hospitalized for a “mental and nervous” condition.18 When Sam and Metta returned to their Crosbyton home at about 10 p.m., J.W. was waiting.19

Jealous accusations flew, as Metta accused her husband of having an affair with her young niece, Florence Carlton, a houseguest. Sam had informed Metta that, while she was away, J.W. and Flo had taken two excursions, one to Lubbock and one to “the canyon,” each time returning home after midnight.20

Sam told Metta, “They might have found an opportunity for the gratification of any mutual desire they might have had.”21 According to Sam, “Mrs. Burton had been taught from past bitter experiences that her husband was not immune from the lure of the opposite sex.”22

Then all hell broke loose.

Metta began “fighting and upbraiding” her husband, Sam said. J.W. accused Sam of spreading lies about Flo and the lawyer. He told Sam to leave the Burton home the following morning. As Sam described the scene, an enraged J.W.—over six feet tall—suddenly attacked the smaller Sam and then backed Metta against a wall, violently beating and choking his wife.23 24 25 

Sam settled the dispute. He grabbed a shotgun and fired two blasts, the first hitting the lawyer’s arm, a superficial wound. The second blast, to J.W.’s side, proved fatal.26

Sam placed a pillow beneath the head of the dying lawyer and apologized.  “Mr. Burton, I’m awful sorry this happened.” He heard J.W.’s reply, “Sam, I jumped on the wrong man, I jumped on two innocent kids.”27 J.W. clung to life and remained conscious for hours, whispering his last words early Tuesday morning. He was 46 years old.28

Metta’s Will

If J.W. Burton left a will, it was never probated.29

Immediately after J.W.’s death, Metta executed her will, leaving almost half of her estate to Sam Cates! Within a few weeks, the widow was dead. “Her constant refusal of nourishment in any form, together with the sorrow caused by the untimely death of her husband is conceded to have been the cause of her death,” according to her obituary.30 She was 45. Sam’s inheritance amounted to about $7,000, worth $90,000 in present-day dollars.31

The relationship between 23-year-old Sam and 45-year-old Metta must have generated much local gossip. Sam eventually admitted the couple was involved in a torrid two-year sexual affair.32

Another major beneficiary of Metta’s estate was her maid and cook, 22-year-old Mary Steffen. Mary, who had worked for the Burtons since age 16, was—like Sam—bestowed property valued at $90,000 in modern dollars.33

A smaller bequeath went to J.W.’s law partner, Parke N. Dalton, who may have also had a love affair with Metta.34 35 

Despite the shameful controversy, J.W. and Metta Burton were buried side-by-side in an Iowa cemetery.36

The First Trial

The district attorney and district judge arrived in Crosbyton and conducted a “preliminary trial,” probably an examining trial. Sam was immediately arrested and jailed.37

In May of 1920—only three months after the shooting—the Crosby County Courthouse was the setting for Sam’s trial. The indictment charged “murder with malice aforethought,” a capital crime. If convicted, Sam faced the prospect of execution by hanging.38 39

The prosecution alleged Metta and Sam conspired to murder J.W..40 There was speculation Sam would enter a plea of insanity, but instead Sam said he acted in self-defense and in defense of Metta.41 42

The jury was told of Metta’s generous bequest in favor of Sam. They also heard of Sam’s intense interest—from jail—of whether Metta had executed her will before her death.43

Sam testified, and denied having a sexual relationship with Metta.44 But in later court documents, he described their love affair in quaint prose.

Sam “had access to the person of Mrs. Burton almost as unlimited and free as that of the deceased himself,” court pleadings revealed. “Such relations were invited by Mrs. Burton and took place not only in distant parts of the country, but also in the home of the deceased.”45

Sam attempted to deflect the issue of his inheritance from Metta. He alleged one of the State’s witnesses, attorney Parke N. Dalton, had engaged in a love affair with Metta. Dalton was J.W.’s law partner and was left a small inheritance from the lawyer’s wife.46

An eyewitness to the shooting was 22-year-old Mary Steffen, the Burton’s maid and cook.47 She was expected to be the prosecution’s most important witness.48 Instead, Mary testified for the defense. She portrayed J.W. as the aggressor on the night of March 8, “jumping” on Sam and choking Metta.49

However, on cross-examination, Mary’s testimony did not help Sam.

The defense argued the prosecution used unreasonable pressure to persuade Mary to reveal evidence harmful to Sam’s defense. According to Sam’s lawyers, “She was not accustomed to quick thinking . . .  readily susceptible to psychological suggestion.”50

She described in explicit detail Sam’s love affair with Metta, including far-flung liaisons she witnessed in Texas, Iowa, and Illinois.51 Mary’s testimony may have sealed Sam’s fate. She said a defenseless J.W. was on the ground—and not choking his wife—when the fatal second shot was fired.52

Several State’s witnesses discredited Sam’s claim that J.W. choked Metta, offering testimony that there were no marks or bruises found on Mrs. Burton’s neck.53

The defense countered, “Mrs. Burton was wearing a high fur collar closely fastened about her neck . . .  of sufficient thickness to have prevented . . .  the leaving of marks upon the flesh of her neck.”54

The prosecution made a “herculean effort” to obtain the death penalty.55 Sam dodged the hangman’s noose but was convicted and sentenced to 99 years in prison.56 He appealed.57

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in Sam’s favor: The evidence of his inheritance from J.W.’s wife Metta was inadmissible.58 The matter was returned to Crosby County for a new trial, but the case was so notorious, an impartial jury could not be found.59 Lubbock County was chosen for a change of venue.60

The Second Trial

Lubbock was four times larger than Crosbyton but was still a small town—population of 4,000. The city was just 40 miles west of Crosbyton, so the residents had been subjected to a fair amount of publicity on the Sam Cates case in the Lubbock Avalanche. But it was June of 1921, and the Burton killing was now a year in the past. Twelve male jurors were chosen in less than a day.61

Sam’s defense lawyer was the powerful W.H. Bledsoe of Lubbock, famous for winning an acquittal for his client in the first Lubbock County murder trial eight years earlier.62 In 1923, as state senator, Bledsoe would sponsor legislation that brought Texas Technological College to Lubbock.63 The establishment of the college was the defining moment in the educational, economic, and cultural history of Lubbock.

How Sam was able to afford such a prominent attorney is curious, as Sam’s inheritance from Metta never materialized. Her sister, Letta McCullough of Illinois, contested the will. Many witnesses testified Metta was of “unsound mind” when she executed the document.64 Affidavits were filed claiming she was “ranting and raving” much of the time following her husband’s death.65

Witnesses said Metta suffered from a variety of “mental and nervous diseases” for many months. After her husband’s death, she would talk about how much she loved “poor Jodie,” which was J.W.’s nickname. In the next breath, she would talk about her affection for “poor Sam,” and then she would rage against everyone in Crosbyton in the most “vile and obscene language.”66

The probate judge agreed the will was illegitimate.67 Both Sam and Mary Steffen lost their claims to Metta’s estate.68 Ironically, Bledsoe represented the successful will contestant, Letta McCullough.69

It seems the lawyer who convinced the court to deny Sam his inheritance would have a serious conflict of interest representing the same man in his murder trial, but that’s exactly what happened. Perhaps legal ethical rules of the day were not well understood or enforced. Or did Bledsoe feel guilty and offer to represent Sam pro bono? No records show Bledsoe was court-appointed, so the matter remains a mystery.70

The Crosbyton Review and the Lubbock Avalanche published dramatic accounts of the second trial in June 1921.

The gathering of legal talent could have been called the West Texas “dream team” of the 1920s.

The defense was led by Bledsoe, assisted by Lloyd Wicks of Ralls and Lubbock lawyers W.C. Huffhines and Clark Mullican. Prosecutors were District Attorney Gordon McGuire of Lamesa, R.E. Underwood of Amarillo, Parke Dalton of Crosbyton, and John R. McGee, Lubbock county attorney.71 Judge W.R. Spencer, the first district judge to be based in Lubbock, presided.72

Many witnesses were “taken through a close examination, and when the State would draw out several points in their favor, the counsel of the defendant would tear down the evidence until so to speak, they would break about even.”73

Metta’s niece, Florence Carlton, a houseguest at the time of the shooting—and accused by the defense of having an affair with J.W.—testified she heard no threats from the lawyer.74 She saw Sam fire both shots and saw J.W. lying on the ground when the second shot was fired.75

Sam testified for five hours. “Answering in a very mild and polite tone of voice, and sometimes with a smile,” he swore J.W. attacked him and then attacked Metta.76

He said his first shot was not to kill, but to show he meant business. Sam said he accidentally wounded J.W. in the arm. The lawyer did not fall but continued to choke his wife. J.W. cried, “Kill me, damn you!” Sam then shot to kill.77

“I knew at this time my life was in danger,” Sam testified. “Judge Burton was in the habit of keeping a revolver in the house. I have known him carrying a revolver with him. He was looking for trouble all the time.”78

If J.W. was in the act of choking his wife when Sam fired the shotgun, it is remarkable Metta was not injured by the deadly blast.

The prosecution subpoenaed Mary Steffen to repeat her vivid description of Sam and Metta’s love affair, and to testify she saw a defenseless and wounded J.W. on the ground when Sam shot-gunned the lawyer to death.

However, in a bizarre but brilliant move, minutes before she was to take the witness stand, Mary and Sam were joined in holy matrimony in a civil ceremony at the courthouse! Mary’s testimony, harmful to Sam’s case, was never heard, barred by the marital privilege.79

The legal-stunt marriage probably saved Sam from a much longer prison term. After a week-long trial, the Lubbock jury convicted Sam and sentenced him to 14 years in the Texas penitentiary.80

The law of the era provided a successful appeal and retrial could result in no worse than the lenient 14-year sentence Sam received. So, with little downside to filing an appeal, Sam’s lawyers took his case to the Court of Criminal Appeals a second time.81

But this time his appeal did not get far, because Sam took an unauthorized leave of absence.

The Escape

In August of 1921, while housed at the Lubbock County Jail awaiting transfer to prison, Sam wrote a letter to Clyde Anderson of Dallas: “Listen, Clyde, we are in great need of some ‘hack saws.’ You get a half dozen, and pack them in a box of candy. You know how to pack them so ‘would-be Sheriff’ won’t find them. Do this as quick as possible. Address the candy to Hewlett Smith, your brother. Have it to return to a fake name, you will know how to do that old stuff.” A deputy intercepted the note, and no hack saws were delivered to the jail, averting a possible getaway.82

A month later, when Lubbock County Sheriff Charles A. Holcomb and his wife, Minnie, served lunch at the jail, Sam and two other prisoners attacked.83

The sheriff fought back, but the prisoners overpowered him, and Sam took the sheriff’s gun, commanding Holcomb: “Throw up your hands! Put ‘em up!”84

As Sam held the gun on the sheriff, the others attempted to gag his wife and “choked her severely.”85 Suddenly, Deputy Sheriff John McCulloch appeared and leveled his pistol on Sam.86

The sheriff shouted, “Shoot him, John!” The deputy fired, but the bullet passed under Cate’s arm. After the deputy’s miss, Sam sprang for the door. The sheriff took advantage of the chaos and tackled Sam, wrestling the gun away. All prisoners were subdued.87

When the dust settled, the inmates were locked away in the jail’s “dark cell,” which the sheriff thought was escape-proof.88 As Sheriff Holcomb busied himself investigating a major chicken theft involving 35 hens and seven fryers, he was confident the prisoners were secure in his dungeon.89

But the sheriff was wrong.

On September 30, 1921, Sam and his accomplice, Hewlett Smith, busted out of jail.90 Parts of their cots were strewn about the cell, and a small steel bar about the size of a pencil was also found.91 It was a mystery how the two broke out of the escape-proof dark cell.

Later, the sheriff gave the editor of the Crosbyton Review a tour of Sam’s escape route. The editor wrote, “It is a miracle how Cates and his companion effected their escape from the dark cell, but after going through the jail and having the situation fully explained, one is convinced that such a thing is possible, for the time lock on the cell is defective and a mastermind with nothing else to do but experiment with such things might do wonders.”92

Sam left what might be described as a sarcastically tender parting note to Sheriff Holcomb: “Dear Charlie and Family, I hope you all the best of luck all the rest of your days. Don’t think too hard of me for doing this. I too am very sorry for our other troubles so please forgive me. If you people don’t ever catch me, you can bet that I will always be a good boy. Give my best regards to my Mary. With love, always, Sam.”93

Sam and his accomplice, Smith, went their separate ways after the jailbreak.94 Three days later, traveling by foot at night, Sam reached Seminole. He caught a ride to Midland, sold his watch to his driver, and used the money to reach El Paso. He made his way to Mexico and eventually surfaced in the remote desert town of Indio, California. Using the name of John Lewis, he waited tables at a restaurant and made many friends in the small town of about 1,000 residents.95

The Recapture

Unfortunately for Sam, he made the mistake of telling a friend he was wanted by the law in Texas. The remark was passed along and reached the local sheriff’s office. In January of 1922, a deputy approached Sam from behind as he was cutting bread in the restaurant. He pressed the barrel of a revolver against Sam’s back and ordered him to put his hands in the air, but the outlaw kept the knife in his hands until forced to drop it. Sam was handcuffed and initially feigned ignorance of his Texas arrest warrants, but he soon admitted his identity.96

Upon his recapture in California, Sam had $250 in the bank ($3,000 in current dollars), fine clothes, and other valuable possessions. A letter signed by Indio’s most prominent citizens attested to his excellent character.97 He had been in Indio less than four months.

His employer said, “He was very faithful and honest with me,” and asked authorities to keep him informed of Sam’s fate.98 He seemed always to be “a good boy” in Indio.

Sheriff Holcomb hurried to California to retrieve Sam, the man who had held a gun on the sheriff and choked his wife during a failed escape attempt. He was naturally curious how Sam had broken out of the sheriff’s not-so-inescapable “dark cell.”99

Sam was happy to brag on his intricate and complicated jailbreak. The Avalanche reported, “He and Smith worked out a plan for turning the combination on the jail with a belt made of strips of their cot, opening the other doors and locks with a mechanical device constructed of the lumber in the cot, using as a guide to direct their work on one of the taps they had to take off a small looking glass which was fastened to a long cot rail. The wrench they constructed of two pieces of the cot, making a V shape instrument out of it, pounding the tap off after several tedious attempts and when they finally reached the top of the jail and the open windows, made a ladder of what sheeting and other cloth they had in their cell and swung to the ground.”100

Meanwhile, the Court of Criminal Appeals refused to hear Sam’s appeal of his 14-year Lubbock County murder sentence, deciding “the jurisdiction of the appellate court does not attach because of the escape pending appeal.”101

The Penitentiary

Soon transported back to Lubbock for court, Sam had two years added to his penitentiary term for his assault of Sheriff Holcomb during his failed jailbreak in 1921.102 In addition, Sam was sentenced to four years in prison for a Crosby County forgery, with the sentence to run concurrently with his other convictions.103 The assault sentence was stacked atop the 14-year murder judgment, so he was to be imprisoned for a total of 16 years.

His prison release date was calculated: February 25, 1938, when Sam would be 42 years old.104  Sam set about to rearrange his release date. 

Soon after arriving at an East Texas penitentiary in March of 1922, Sam appeared to assume the demeanor of a model prisoner. He wrote to the Avalanche, reporting the prison library had burned all its books. Sam politely requested donations for the new library, and the newspaper promised to send a carload of books and magazines.105

But Sam had no plans for casual reading.

Within a year of writing the letter, Sam sawed through the bars of his cell window, stole a car, and escaped.106 When recaptured, “20 lashes” were ordered, but somehow the “punishment [was] set aside and lost [good] time restored,” according to his prison conduct record.107

In 1926, after having served less than four years of his 16-year sentence, Sam was granted a full pardon by Texas Governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, and he was released from prison.108

Governor Ferguson—who granted more than 4,000 pardons during a four-year period—was rumored to have granted many reprieves in exchange for cash payments.109 Most of Ferguson’s pardons were for those convicted of liquor-related crimes during the Prohibition era.110 As Sam was not a bootlegger and apparently had little money, it is a mystery why he was favored by the governor’s pardon.

The Aftermath

In 1940, census records show Sam was living in Harris County and was employed as a cook at a downtown restaurant. He was divorced, and there is no record he ever fathered children.111

Mary—the girl Sam wed just before she was to testify against him—seems to have disappeared after her name appeared in the 1920 census as a “servant” in the Burton home.112 Records indicate she may have been buried in Wisconsin in 1966 at age 66 or 67.113

When he registered for the 1942 World War II draft, Sam was 45 years old. In 1918, he had registered for the draft during World War I, but never served in the military during either World War.114

In his 1942 draft registration documents, Sam described himself as self-employed and gave the same address he gave as his place of employment in the 1940 census. Perhaps by 1942 he was the proprietor of the downtown Houston restaurant.115

Nothing more is known of Sam’s life after 1942. He died in 1984 at age 87 and is buried in Parker County, Texas.116

It seems Sam Cates, Crosby County’s crafty miscreant, was “always a good boy” after his pardon by Governor Ferguson. He had no more troubles with the law and made no more daring escapes.

It remains a mystery how Slippery Sam—mostly—got away with it all.

A History Mystery: 
Who Shot J.W.?

J. W. Jarrott was a trail-blazing lawyer and a courageous advocate. As a tragic consequence, he became the first person murdered in the recorded history of the South Plains of Texas.1 In the tradition of Stephen F. Austin, Jarrott brought some of the first waves of settlers to a vast wasteland once known as the Great American Desert, becoming a hero to his friends and clients, and then a martyr. Yet his death remains an unsolved mystery, and it is a shame that Jarrott’s name has been all but forgotten.

James William Jarrott was born in 1861, the year Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as president of the United States. He was commonly referred to in contemporary documents by his initials, “J. W.,” but he was affectionately called “Jim” by friends and family. A native of Hood County, Texas, he was formally educated at Add-Ran College.2 Jim was described as a man who showed “a commendable degree of cultivation, and is refined in his manners, small in stature, and of light figure; his action is quick, and his speech rather rapid.”

The single existing photograph of a young Jim Jarrott depicts him as rather plain, with odd features, but some historians have written that he was handsome. In 1886, he married 20-year-old Mollie D. Wylie of Thorp Spring, the daughter of a prominent pioneer ranching family in the Hood County area. She was a beautiful young lady, with high cheekbones and dark features. The Jarrotts first lived in Hood County, and then Parker County, where Jim was elected to the Texas Legislature at the age of 24.

But he spent just a short time as a lawmaker, moving on to Stephenville. There, Jim studied law, was admitted to the bar, and became Erath County Attorney. The wandering Jarrott family next made a brief attempt at ranching in Arizona before other opportunities beckoned. Meanwhile, Jim befriended a fellow former county attorney and state legislator named Charles Rogan, the new Texas Land Commissioner.

The Move to Lubbock

With land speculation in mind, the ambitious young attorney made an exploratory journey to the South Plains, and in early 1901 he decided to bring his wife and children to Lubbock, almost 300 miles west of their Hood County roots. The Jarrott family delayed their move until June, when school was out for their four young children, and took up temporary residence in the Nicolette Hotel on the courthouse square, as they began establishing themselves in Lubbock. It was a tiny community with fewer than 300 residents, but the area was booming with real estate deals happening everywhere.

In official documents, J. W. is first mentioned as one of the lawyers who elected H. C. Randolph of Hale County as “special judge” of the 64th District Court on September 1, 1901, along with pioneer Lubbock lawyers John R. McGee, J. J. Dillard, George R. Bean, and others. He also attended a March 31, 1902, Lubbock bar association meeting where a resolution was adopted lamenting the death of 50th District Court Judge S. I. Newton of Baylor County.

In just a few short months, the same association of lawyers would hold a memorial service in remembrance of a younger member of the bar, J. W. Jarrott.3

Opportunity Arises on the Llano Estacado

The flat, treeless plain Jim sought to develop was part of the Llano Estacado, so named by Spanish explorer Francisco Coronado some three centuries earlier. This semi-arid plateau was later described as the Great American Desert, wholly unfit for human habitation or cultivation. Today it is part of a region called the Great Plains, a land offering fertile soil and known as one of the finest agricultural regions anywhere in the world.

Though early settlers found little water in lakes or rivers here, the region sat atop the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground water resources. Here, tall wooden windmills began dotting these windswept plains, drawing water from the earth for cattle and cattlemen. Farmers would soon draw from the same source to irrigate crops of fiber and grain.

At the beginning of the 20th century, this grassland could sell for less than a dollar an acre, and town lots in the village of Lubbock were trading hands for three bucks each. So, the South Plains of Texas was ripe for discovery by opportunists and colonists looking for cheap, abundant land. It was common for lawyers of the era to invest in real estate and to solicit clients for land deals.

But Jim had an angle, and a distinct advantage over others in the business of South Plains real estate speculation. With the encouragement of his friend, Land Commissioner Rogan, he paid to re-survey the area west of the unincorporated hamlet called Lubbock. Much of the land had been previously claimed or leased by nonresident cattle baron corporations from Chicago and elsewhere. Huge, unfenced ranches dominated the landscape, populated by corporate employees with job descriptions like cowboy, wrangler, and foreman.

The new survey revealed there was prairie land to be had from the State of Texas for 50 cents an acre, with four years to pay the debt, in the almost vacant, unorganized Texas counties of Hockley, Terry, and Cochran. Rogan proclaimed that the person who financed the survey, Jarrott, was to be given first claim to the land. This meant the existing ranchers in the area who were required to remove their cattle from the property could easily identify a young Lubbock lawyer, J. W. Jarrott, as an enemy.

Trouble was brewing on the broad West Texas horizon.

The Struggle to Settle the Land

In 1901, the Jarrotts filed for themselves and 24 other families under the 1895 Four-Section Act on a 100-section strip of public land extending from the western boundary of Lubbock County almost to the border of the Territory of New Mexico, a huge expanse of real estate. A hundred sections is roughly equivalent to a hundred square miles of land, an area greater than five times the size of the island of Manhattan. So, the diminutive nickname bestowed on the property, “The Strip,” was a bit of a misnomer.

The Strip did, however, properly describe the shape of the property, which extended some 60 miles in length, and less than two miles to five miles in width. The tent the Jarrott family pitched on their Hockley County claim was the only human habitation within a 30-mile radius, but friends from the east—Parker, Erath, and Hood counties—would soon follow.

The law required settlers to occupy and make improvements to the land. So, with small landowners feverishly stretching canvas and digging dugouts—and certain to soon build fences— the hostile ranching conglomerates became alarmed. Lined up against what they called “The Jarrott Gang” were ranchers from spreads with colorful names: the Mallet, Slaughter, L7, Jumbo, J. Cross, Osxheer, DOV, QIV, YellowHouse, XIT, K, Spade, TFW, Lazy S, Cros C, Flying D, 9R, and Fish.

Ranching interests labeled the newcomers “nesters” and took action. Their attorneys filed lawsuits and complaints against Jim and the other settlers. An Illinois corporation, the Lake-Tomb Cattle Company, spearheaded the ranchers’ litigation.

Jim zealously defended his clients’ rights to The Strip in far-flung South Plains courthouses and in the Texas Capitol at Austin, with Land Commissioner Rogan steadfastly taking the settlers’ side in the bitter litigation. By the summer of 1902, Jim had firmly established all of his clients and their families on the land.

But the controversy was about to get uglier, and bloody.

According to legend, when Jim filed his family claim on land in Hockley County, a man named Painthorse Hamilton complained that he had been cheated. Hamilton threatened Jim more than once, but there was no violence.4

An Ill-Fated Journey

On Wednesday, August 27, 1902,5 Jim departed from Lubbock in a wagon with provisions for John Doyle, an employee who was camping on the proposed site of the Jarrott residence, some 30 miles southwest of Lubbock. Jim had a choice of two roads to his destination. He chose the southern route, which midway through his journey offered a spot with two windmills for watering—known as the “Twin Sisters”—near present-day Ropesville, Texas.6

The journey would take the unarmed lawyer through the L7 Ranch, owned by his chief adversary, the Lake-Tomb Cattle Company.

Doyle expected his grocery delivery by Thursday, but when Jim failed to show, the hungry Doyle traveled by horse to Lubbock, taking the northern route. He arrived Friday night and went directly to the Nicolette Hotel to inform Mrs. Jarrott that his food and her husband were both missing.

She panicked, immediately fearing the worst. “Oh, he has been murdered!” she cried. Mollie Jarrott was right.

Saturday morning, Doyle and Lubbock pioneer merchant J. D. Caldwell traveled the southern road in search of Jim. At the Twin Sisters, the lawyer’s lifeless body was found lying in a stock tank on the L7 Ranch, property of the Lake-Tomb Cattle Company. He had been shot to death, probably on Wednesday, and scavengers had gnawed on the remains.7 Jim’s wagon was nearby, his harness was hanging in a windmill tower, and his horses were found hobbled, grazing on the prairie grass.

Jim Jarrott was only 41 years old.

Investigation and Indictments

Lubbock County Sheriff Barrett Penny’s investigation was hampered because of rain on Thursday. Nevertheless, the lawman made notes in an attempt to reconstruct the crime:

A man standing by the tower shot him with a Winchester rifle. This shot seems to have caused the team to whirl suddenly to the left as shown by wagon tracks. Blood was found on the right rear wheel and Mr. Jarrott was either thrown or jumped out at the first shot. Traces of blood and tracks were found leading to the lake in which he was found. Two empty shells were found near the water tower and two near the lake, indicating that at least four shots were fired, the last and perhaps the fatal one, taking effect in the small of his back. It is believed Mr. Jarrott ran into the lake and was chased by the assassin . . . A reward of $1000 has been offered for the arrest and conviction of the assassin or assassins.

The murder polarized the West Texas community. Townsfolk and farmers in the area blamed the ranchers, accusing them of hiring a professional gunman to kill Jim in order to frighten away The Strip’s settlers. The ranching interests claimed to be appalled at the deed, but rumors were soon spread that Jim’s wife Mollie may have been involved.

The widow was summoned to testify before a grand jury investigating the murder. She hired a lawyer from her Hood County hometown, but she did not stand on any legal privilege, and gave the grand jurors a blistering lecture on her bleak situation and the unfairness of the inquisition. However, the offended Mollie was unable to shed much light on the case. The murder became the South Plains’ major unsolved mystery.

Prime suspect Painthorse Hamilton had an airtight alibi. He was in Portales, New Mexico, on the Wednesday Jim left Lubbock, well beyond traveling distance to have committed the crime within the supposed time frame.

The case went cold for more than a year.

Finally, in late 1903, murder indictments were handed down against four men with ties to Jim’s adversary, the Lake-Tomb Cattle Company: Ben Glaser, Morgan Bellows, B. F. Nix, and William Barrington. Barrington was accused as the shooter and the others as accomplices. In addition, Nix was charged with perjury.8 All were quickly released on bail supplied by prominent area ranchers Frank Wheelock, Van Sanders, W. T. Petty, and M. V. Brownfield.

Bail bondsman Wheelock would later become the first mayor of the City of Lubbock, in 1909,9 and a school in Lubbock was also named in his honor. Bail bondsman Sanders was a cousin of George Wolffarth, who would be the namesake of the misspelled City of Wolfforth, just west of Lubbock. And the City of Brownfield, 35 miles southwest of Lubbock in Terry County, was to be named in honor of bail bondsman M. V. Brownfield. Known as “Pap,” M. V. Brownfield would assume a much larger role in the Jarrott than that of a surety for a poor cowpoke.

During the grand jury investigation, Glaser testified that he had unharnessed Jim’s rig at the Twin Sisters that fateful Wednesday, hung the harness on the windmill, and then watered his horse. But he claimed he did not see the body.10 The four ranch hands indicted for Jim’s murder did not face trial in Lubbock County or elsewhere. Their cases were moved to Floyd County, 55 miles northeast of Lubbock, on a change of venue, and each case was eventually dismissed for lack of evidence.11

Again, the case went cold—this time for decades.

The Settlers, the Widow Jarrott, and Monroe Abernathy

Jim’s assassination failed to scare settlers off The Strip. “We became more intent and closely allied in our fight for survival,” wrote Mary Blankenship, who with her husband had staked a claim. “The name Jim Jarrott became a legend among us, and his martyrdom served to spur us on. We were determined not to pull up stakes and retreat back to the East.”

In years to come, Jim’s settlers and their descendants prospered. Some raised small herds of cattle, and others became farmers. They soon learned to grow valuable crops of cotton on this inhospitable prairie. The South Plains of Texas would become the largest contiguous cotton-growing region in the world.

Burdened with four children less than 15 years of age, Jim’s 36-year-old widow Mollie successfully developed the land that had cost her husband his life. She expanded the original Jarrott claim from 4 to 16 sections, naming the spread the Swastika Ranch,12 where she raised a prime herd of registered Hereford cattle.

In 1905, Mollie was remarried to Monroe G. Abernathy, a local real estate developer. The city of Abernathy was later named in honor of Mollie’s new husband.13 She began investing in business property in the fledgling town of Lubbock, eventually financing the construction of the J. C. Penney building, one of the largest of downtown commercial structures.

The couple led the promotion of the construction of the Santa Fe Railroad into Lubbock. The arrival of the railroad in 1909 immediately began to transform the small village into a thriving city. Mollie’s astute management of ranch and business holdings led to her reputation as Lubbock’s first pioneer businesswoman. In 1960, she died in Lubbock at the age of 94.

Mollie never lost her love for Jim Jarrott, and always honored his memory. Shortly before her death, she said in an interview: “I tell you the way I’ve always felt . . . [No person has] done as much for this country as Mr. Jarrott . . . He did more for the settlement of this country than anybody else who ever came here, and he lost his life for it.”

Deacon Jim Miller and the First Suspicious Confession

In 1909, an infamous outlaw and professional killer named James B. Miller was lynched along with three members of his gang by a mob of perhaps 40 men in Ada, Oklahoma. “Deacon Jim” Miller earned his nickname because he usually dressed the part, wearing a black hat and a long black frock coat. He pretended to be a pious, church-going man.

For 29 years, there seemed to be no connection between the 1909 Miller lynching and the 1902 Jarrott murder. Then in 1931, Lubbock lawyer and writer Max Coleman wrote a colorful yarn that tied Deacon Jim to Lawyer Jim, in the Frontier Times magazine.

In 1909 . . . Jim Miller was hanged by a mob. Just before being swung up he told Gib Abernathy, a cousin of [Monroe Abernathy] that he killed Jarrott, being paid the sum of $500 for so doing. He refused to say who paid him. He stated that in all his killings Jarrott was the only man he ever hated to kill. He said he was hid in the windmill tower when Jarrott drove up. He shot him twice, but not fatally. Jarrott plead with him to spare his life, but he told him that he was paid to do that deed, and that he would not fall down of his employer.

Among the problems with Miller’s supposed confession is that Gib Abernathy somehow forgot to tell anyone about it until 1914, five years after the fact. Coleman wrote that none of the Lubbock oldtimers ever believed the tale about Miller’s confession. There is no evidence that Monroe Abernathy had a relative known as “Gib,” but the Palo Pinto County Sheriff between 1914 and 1931 was named Gib Abernathy.

Another problem with the confession is that no one named Abernathy can be connected to the Miller lynching in news accounts of the era. No contemporary evidence exists that Miller made a confession related to Jim Jarrott or any other individual victim prior to his death, though the supposed confession has spawned much speculation among historians over the years. The story is probably a legend recounted by Max Coleman—or pure fiction invented by Coleman.

Deacon Jim Miller and the Second Suspicious Confession

Seemingly out of the blue, in March of 1933, John “Jack” Abernathy wrote a letter to his cousin Monroe Abernathy, who had married Jim’s widow, Mollie.14 In Jack’s startling message, he informed his family members of the Miller confession.15 Jack Abernathy, a hunting buddy of iconic United States President Theodore Roosevelt, was the U.S. Marshall for Oklahoma at the time of the Miller lynching. He wrote that he had arrested Miller and transported him to Ada shortly before the outlaw was hanged. On the train ride to Ada, Miller discussed his life as a hired gun, and the marshal asked the deacon which of his many victims16 was the hardest to kill.

“I had to shoot Jarrott five times before I ever killed him,” Miller answered. The outlaw confirmed his victim was J. W. Jarrott of Lubbock, and recounted his memory of the attack. Jack’s account of Miller’s confession is similar to Coleman’s published article written two years earlier, though in Coleman’s account it is clear that Miller said he regretted killing Jim, and not just because he was “the hardest to kill.”

On March 27, 1933—four days after Jack’s letter was dated—Monroe Abernathy wrote a letter to a San Antonio judge, and the letter supported his cousin’s account of Miller’s confession. Monroe claimed to have been involved in the discovery of Jim’s body, and wrote that he took part in the 1902 investigation of the original murder scene, which he said matched Miller’s description of the crime, as confessed to Jack Abernathy. Yet there is no evidence that Monroe Abernathy—the 1903 Lubbock County Justice of the Peace—participated in the Jarrott case except to set bail for the four original murder suspects.

Mollie was asked about the Miller connection to her husband’s murder shortly before her death. She said she believed Miller to be the killer, but it seems her allusion to Miller’s involvement originated from Wild West pulp magazines like those featuring Max Coleman’s stories.

Questions Abound

Why would a respected lawman like Jack Abernathy wait 24 years—much less a day, a week, or five years—to tell anyone of Deacon Jim Miller’s blockbuster confession, especially if the murder victim was related to his own family members? Maybe he didn’t need the $1,000 reward for Jim Jarrott’s killer. Maybe he was just lazy or forgetful. Or, could it be that he needed to establish some credibility for his soon-to-be-published autobiography, Catch ’em Alive Jack: the Life and Adventures of an American Pioneer?

Why were the 1902 investigative notes of an obscure Texas sheriff and the 1903 grand jury testimony of a forgotten cowboy transformed into dramatic, colorful accounts in Wild West literature by Max Coleman, known teller of tall tales, almost three decades later? How could Coleman have known about the Miller confession two years before Jack Abernathy first disclosed the confession to Monroe? Are Gib Abernathy, the man Coleman says obtained Miller’s confession, and Jack Abernathy actually the same person?

Was Jack Abernathy’s tale true, or was he just trying to get his book published? Or was he attempting to collect the 1902 reward offered “for the arrest . . . of the assassin”? Did Jack and Monroe create the Miller confession, perhaps with help from Max Coleman, in order to squelch lingering suspicion that Mollie was involved in Jim’s murder?

Jack’s memoirs were finally published in 1936. It seems strange that Abernathy did not mention Miller’s confession of Jim’s murder anywhere in his book. In fact, he wrote only three short paragraphs about his arrest of Deacon Jim, one of the most notorious outlaws of the era. But Abernathy did write: “A reward of one thousand dollars had been offered for the capture of Miller. I never did receive that reward, but I still have hopes.” Jack did not tell his readers that the $1,000 reward related in any way to slain Lubbock lawyer Jim Jarrott, whose name does not appear in his memoirs.

Land Deal Connects Miller to Cattle Barons

The confession stories may have just been a convenient way to wrap up a cold case in a way easily understood by the folks still interested in the case decades later. But the fact that Deacon Jim Miller probably did not confess to the murder of Jim Jarrott does not mean he did not commit the crime. Miller was probably the killer. Circumstantial evidence and direct evidence indicates he was well connected to the ranching interests suspected of paying to assassinate Jarrott.

In 1903, less than six months after the Jarrott murder, one “J. B. Miller”17 participated in a sinister real estate transaction in Terry County, which borders both Hockley and Lubbock counties.18 Four sections of land near The Strip were flipped in just a few months, and a careful look at the complicated deal reveals a suspiciously close relationship between Miller and the enemies of Jim Jarrott.

On January 23, D. J. Howard conveyed 2,560 acres of land to Miller for $3,900, which the outlaw promised to pay in the form of a promissory note secured by land in East Texas. A week later, Miller sold the land to W. H. Fisher for $4,100, which looked like a nice $200 profit. But the notes securing Miller’s debt to Howard turned out to be worthless, so it seems Miller made out like a bandit with the whole $4,100 he received from Fisher. In less than six weeks, Fisher dumped the four sections on A. M. “Dick” Brownfield for $800, apparently incurring a $3,300 loss. Then Dick made a huge profit when he sold the property, creating another layer of intrigue to the Jarrott legend.

The cheated Howard should have looked to Miller to cover the bad debt, it seems, but instead he chose to sue Dick Brownfield. Howard claimed Dick was involved in a conspiracy with Miller and Fisher to swindle him out of his four sections of grassland. Miller testified on behalf of Dick, and Howard lost his lawsuit and his land.

Howard was a settler in the area who early on partnered in cattle deals with Dick Brownfield’s ranching family, but later often feuded with them. W. H. Fisher, another player in the land flip, was a Fort Worth banker. His connection with Miller and Dick Brownfield is not clear, but it is clear Fisher sold the land to Dick for substantially less than fair market value. It is rare indeed to find a banker so unwilling to make a profit. If Howard’s allegation of a conspiracy is true, it would make sense that Miller and Fisher may have divided a profit on the deal, and Dick Brownfield wound up with four sections of land for less than 31 cents per acre, which had sold a few weeks earlier for $1.52 an acre. Then, just three months later, Dick Brownfield sold the property again, this time for $3 an acre.

It is quite interesting that the shady transaction involved Dick, who was the son of M. V. “Pap” Brownfield, a rancher who was connected to the Lake-Tomb Cattle Company, Jim Jarrott’s main enemy. Pap Brownfield, less than a year earlier, had helped post bail for the four L7 Ranch cowboys who were originally accused of conspiracy to murder the Lubbock lawyer.

In a strange twist, the land likely used to compensate Deacon Jim Miller for murdering Jim Jarrott became a town named after one of the ranchers who should have been investigated for arranging the killing.19 Dick sold the four sections to real estate developers, who transformed the open prairie into a town that would be named Brownfield in honor of his father, Pap.

So, there is compelling circumstantial evidence that Deacon Jim Miller was near the scene of the Jarrott murder within five months of the commission of the crime, that he was doing business with ranchers who had been aligned against Jarrott, and that the business he conducted with the ranchers resulted in Miller reaping a windfall profit.

But there is other evidence that directly connects contract killer Miller to M. V. Brownfield, bail bondsman for the Lake-Tomb Cattle Company cowboys.

Miller’s Convenient Witnesses

In 1904, Miller was arrested for killing detective Frank Fore at Fort Worth. One of the witnesses he called in his defense was Pap Brownfield, who claimed that he was in the hotel washroom with Miller and Fore, and that Fore drew his pistol first. Miller was acquitted on the testimony of Pap, the father of Dick Brownfield, who only a year before apparently profited on a crooked land deal brokered by Miller.20 This is further evidence that contract killer Deacon Jim Miller well knew Pap, a prominent rancher connected to cattle barons aligned against Jim Jarrott.

Miller also knew a man by the name of Tom Morrison. As early as 1897, Morrison was called as a character witness for Miller in his Eastland County trial for the murder of Bud Frazier at Pecos. Miller was tried twice, and acquitted. In what seems a bizarre coincidence, the same Tom Morrison appeared on the list of witnesses subpoenaed some six years later for the four L7 Ranch cowboys indicted for conspiring to kill Jim Jarrott. Did Deacon Jim Miller offer up his favorite magic character witness in order to keep the cowboys quiet about Miller’s involvement in Jim Jarrott’s murder?

The answer to this question, and all the others surrounding the Jim Jarrott assassination, will probably be forever lost in the lore of the Llano Estacado.

Jarrott or Brownfield?

The Deacon Jim Miller confession legend is an “O. Henry” type ending to the Jim Jarrott story. It probably created more questions than answers to the mystery.

It is likely that Jarrott was killed at the behest of powerful South Plains ranching interests. Whether the actual shooter was the infamous Miller or some poor ranch hand is interesting, but the real inquiry should always have been, “Who ordered Jim Jarrott’s assassination?” The official investigators of the 1902 crime were unable or unwilling to trace the origins of the killing, and they were probably afraid to probe into the influential ranchers’ affairs. Some of those who should have been prime suspects are now regarded as South Plains pioneer heroes, with towns and schools bearing their names.

Any evidence tending to positively connect anyone to the crime is likely long gone. Over the years, authors and historians intrigued by the case have chosen not to raise many questions about the cattle baron connection to the murder or the unlikely Miller confession. They have concentrated on the colorful and romantic nature of the story—the Twin Sisters, the four cowboys, the poor widow who made good, the contract killer who pretended to be a deacon—instead of posing perhaps a better question.

The better question is this: Shouldn’t the South Plains City of Brownfield be renamed “Jarrott”?

Sources: “Who Killed This Man?” by Max Coleman, Frontier Times magazine, Volume 8, No. 12, September 1931; “Courts of the Panhandle,” by Max Coleman, Frontier Times magazine, Volume 9, No. 8, May 1932; From Mustanger to Lawyer, Part A, by Max Coleman, Carleton Printing Company, 1952; From Mustanger to Lawyer, Part B, by Max Coleman, Carleton Printing Company, 1953; Texas State Historical Association Handbook of Texas Online; the Southwest Collection of Texas Tech University; Death on the Plains: The Murder of Jim Jarrott, by Yvonne Perkins and Judy Womack, self-published, 2010; Catch ?em Alive Jack: the Life and Adventures of an American Pioneer, by John R. Abernathy, Bison Books, 2006 (originally published in 1936 by the Association Press of New York); Personnel of the Texas State Government, compiled and published by Lewis E. Daniell, Austin: Press of the City Printing Company, 1887; Archives of the Lubbock County District Clerk; Archives of the Floyd County District Clerk; Archives of the Terry County Clerk.

Dan Kim, Texas Tech MBA candidate, assisted in researching this article. Lubbock County Court-at-Law Number 3 Judge Paula Lanehart (retired) contributed to this article, as did Waco historian Ellis Lindsey.


1. An earlier killing in Dickens County resulted in a murder trial. However, the jury ruled that the killing was not a murder, and the defendant was acquitted. Getting Away with Murder on the Texas Frontier, by Bill Neal, Texas Tech University Press, 2006.

2. Add-Ran College, established at Thorp Spring, eventually found its way to Fort Worth, where it is now known as Texas Christian University.

3. This was the first of hundreds of similar memorial services, the most honored and unique tradition of the Lubbock County Bar Association. The Lubbock County Bar Association is believed to be the only organization in the State of Texas that memorializes each local departed attorney with a special meeting of the bar, usually at the courthouse.

4. The Painthorse Hamilton story is based on the writings of Lubbock lawyer Max Coleman, an early chronicler of South Plains legal history. Unfortunately, Coleman admitted he often embellished his memoirs, books, and magazine articles with tall tales, and he rarely provided source references.

5. Max Coleman’s account of the Jarrott case dates the murder “Wednesday, August 7, 1902.” But August 7 of that year was a Thursday. Jarrott was last seen alive on Wednesday, August 27, 1902. His gravestone in the City of Lubbock Cemetery was engraved with his date of death as August 28, 1902.

6. There is no record of a place known as Twin Sisters in Lubbock or Hockley County records, though there is no question that the murder was committed at a windmill. Max Coleman probably invented the name of this colorful setting.

7. Max Coleman wrote that wolves had feasted on Jarrott’s carcass. But the last gray wolf (a “loafer wolf” or ‘buffalo wolf”—canis lupus nubilus) in the area was reported to have been killed before the turn of the century by Lubbock pioneer rancher, farmer, and civic leader George C. Wolffarth (namesake of the town misspelled Wolfforth), so it is unlikely wolves molested Jarrott’s corpse, though other critters may have participated in this dastardly deed.

8. The indictments were handed down by a Lubbock County grand jury, though the murder had taken place in Hockley County, an unorganized Texas county. Only 44 people lived there at the time of the 1900 census. Therefore, Hockley County was attached to Lubbock County for judicial purposes until it was organized in 1921.

9. Wheelock also distinguished himself by being the first person in the history of Lubbock County to be indicted for a felony crime, fence-cutting, and cattle theft, in 1891. The charges were dismissed.

10. There is no existing transcript of Glaser’s grand jury testimony, and there is no reference to this account except in Max Coleman’s writings, so this information is suspicious.

11. Archives of the Floyd County District Clerk, Cause Nos. 250 and 251.

12. The swastika was a popular symbol of luck in Western culture until the German Nazis adopted the swastika as an icon for the repressive regime in the 1930s.

13. Perhaps by coincidence, Abernathy was the Lubbock County Justice of the Peace who arraigned the original four murder suspects in 1903. And his name, along with Mollie’s, appears on a defense subpoena application filed in the perjury case of B. F. Nix, one of the four L7 Ranch men accused of conspiring to kill Jarrott.

14. Just as there is no evidence that Monroe Abernathy was related to Gib Abernathy, there is no verifiable evidence that Monroe Abernathy was related to Jack Abernathy, other than the fact that the men claimed to be cousins.

15. A copy of Jack Abernathy’s letter to Monroe Abernathy is among the papers in the James William Jarrott reference file at the Southwest Collection, Texas Tech University.

16. Some accounts claim Miller killed as many as 51 men, among them Pat Garrett, the lawman who took the life of Billy the Kid. But the story of Miller’s assassination of Garrett is the subject of much historical debate.

17. Terry County deed records indicate the transactions involved “J. B. Miller and wife S. B. Miller.” Tarrant County records show that Deacon Jim Miller, a native of Tarrant County, was married to Sarah B. Miller. So there is little question that Deacon Jim Miller was the same person as the J. B. Miller involved in the Terry County transactions.

18. Terry County deed records, 1903.

19. It is noteworthy that Pap Brownfield “counted little on law enforcement, believing himself fully capable of handling his own problems.” Unpublished paper “Three Major Crises in the Life of Terry County,” by Glen H. Mitchell, 1957, Southwest Collection of Texas Tech University.

20. Miller was represented by Texas lawyer Moman Pruitt. Pruitt was a legend, a dynamic litigator who never had a client executed, winning acquittals in 304 of his 342 murder cases.

Chuck Lanehart is a shareholder in the Lubbock firm of Chappell, Lanehart & Stangl, PC, where he has practiced law since 1977. A 1977 graduate of Texas Tech University School of Law, he is board certified in the field of Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Chuck served as director of the State Bar of Texas, District 16, and as president of the Lubbock County Bar Association. He was the founding editor in 1987 of LCBA’s monthly publication, The Lubbock Law Notes. A former director of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Chuck received the President’s Commendation for “Outstanding Service to the Citizen Accused” in 1990 from TCDLA. In 1993, TCDLA honored him with the President’s Award for his service to the TCDLA Strike Force. Chuck is a charter member and former president of the Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. Texas Monthly magazine has named him a “Super Lawyer” in the field of criminal law. He is a Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation. In 2008, Chuck was named among the “200 Most Influential People in the History of Lubbock” by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.