J. Evetts Haley

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James Evetts Haley, Sr.
Born (1901-07-05)July 5, 1901
Belton, Bell County, Texas, USA
Died October 9, 1995(1995-10-09) (aged 94)
Midland, Midland County, Texas
Alma mater

West Texas A&M University

University of Texas at Austin
Occupation Historian; Rancher
Political party
Republican-turned-Democrat; returned to Republican affiliation in 1964
Religion Methodist Episcopal, South
Spouse(s)

(1) Mary Vernita "Nita" Stewart Haley (ca. 1899-1958, married 1928-her death)

(2) Rosalind Kress Haley (1910-2008, married 1970-his death)
Children

J. Evetts Haley, Jr.

Stepsons:
Alexander M. "Sandy" Frame
Peter C. Frame
Christopher K. Frame

James Evetts Haley, Sr., usually known as J. Evetts Haley (July 5, 1901 – October 9, 1995), was a Texas-born political activist and historian who wrote multiple works on the American West, including an enduring biography of legendary cattleman Charles Goodnight. Haley determined Goodnight to have been a man of greatness and claimed that Goodnight's detractors were less-than-successful persons envious of Goodnight's achievement and bearing.

Early years and education[edit]

Haley was born to John Alva Haley and the former Julia Evetts in Belton in Bell County near Temple in central Texas. The senior Haley operated a hardware store and hotel in Midland, the seat of Midland County in West Texas. Haley worked as a rancher and as a young man competed in popular rodeos. He graduated from Midland High School and West Texas A&M University (then known as West Texas Normal College) in Canyon, the seat of Randall County in the Palo Duro Canyon country south of Amarillo.[1]

After he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Haley was named field secretary of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society in Canyon, which operates the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest Western history institution of its kind in Texas. Haley's illustrator for the Goodnight biography and other works to follow was artist Harold Dow Bugbee, former curator of the museum. Haley interviewed nearly seven hundred pioneers, including Goodnight, with whom he developed a personal friendship. He obtained his master of arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied under Texas history specialist Eugene C. Barker and wrote a thesis on early Texas cattle trails.[1] He taught at UT from 1929–1936 and claimed that he was unjustly dismissed because of his opposition to the New Deal: "I was fired because of my vigorous fight against the insidious invasion of socialistic federal power." [2]

Haley's family and legacy[edit]

On August 27, 1928, Haley married the former Mary Vernita "Nita" Stewart in Alpine, the seat of Brewster County. An educator who like her husband graduated from West Texas A&M, Nita was born in Longview, the seat of Gregg County in east Texas. She was descended and orphaned from trail drivers. The couple had one son, Evetts Haley, Jr. Nita died of ovarian cancer on December 20, 1958.

On May 31, 1970, the Protestant Haley married a divorced Roman Catholic, former debutante Rosalind "Ros" Kress (July 21, 1910 - April 23, 2008), who was born in New York City and also lived in Savannah, Georgia. Rosalind had three sons from her first marriage in 1935 to Charles Wesley Frame of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Alexander M. "Sandy" Frame of New York City, Peter C. Frame of Tazewell, Virginia, and Christopher K. Frame of Savannah. Her father, Claude W. Kress, owned the Kress Variety Stores (not to be confused with The S.S. Kresge Company, the forerunner to K-Mart). Haley met Rosalind through their mutual involvement in the Goldwater campaign though she had originally been a Franklin Roosevelt supporter while he was organizing against FDR. Rosalind died at the age of ninety-seven of complications from a stroke and is buried in her paternal family plot in Savannah.[3] Haley, meanwhile, is buried beside Nita in the Moffat Cemetery in Bell County.[1]


Haley endowed his Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library (established 1958) and the J. Evetts Haley History Center (established 1976) at 1805 West Indiana in Midland. The facilities are privately maintained and not affiliated with a university.[4] They are dedicated to the preservation of America's western heritage. The library houses more than 25,000 books, manuscripts, and other printed materials documenting western history. The Haley centers attempt to find common thread among the cowboy, the range cattle industry, the military presence, and the railroads.[5] He was also instrumental in the development of the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. And there is the Rosalind Kress Haley Library, Inc., affiliated with Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum at 7800 Bonhomme Avenue in St. Louis.;[3][6]

Bill Modisett of Midland has published a biography of Haley, J. Evetts Haley: A True Texas Legend, through Staked Plains Press. In his introduction to Modisett's book, the Western novelist Elmer Kelton of San Angelo writes: "History will probably be kinder to J. Evetts Haley than many of his contemporaries have been. History has always favored the leaders, the individualists who blazed their own trails and lived by their own lights, those who chose to be out in front -- alone if necessary -- rather than simply fit in with the crowd. Not even his detractors could ever accuse Evetts Haley of being one of the crowd."[7]

Congressional and gubernatorial races[edit]

In 1948, Haley ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the District 18 seat in the United States House of Representatives.[8] He polled 6,266 votes (11.3 percent) to the incumbent Democrat Eugene Worley, who received 48,985 ballots (88.7 percent). Two years later in May 1950, another Republican, Ben H. Guill was elected to Congress from the 18th District with 23% of the vote (this being before majorities were required to win special elections in Texas). Guill was defeated narrowly by Walter Rogers in November 1950.[9]

In 1956, Haley ran unsuccessfully as a conservative Democrat for governor of Texas. During the campaign, Haley urged a halt to price controls on natural gas. He approached George Parr, the political boss based in Duval County in South Texas, and told Parr that if he became governor, "it will be my pleasure to lock you up."[1] Haley vowed if elected to use the Texas Rangers to enforce continued segregation of public schools in the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education.[10]

Haley finished a distant fourth in the primary balloting with 88,772 votes (5.6 percent). The leading candidates were then U.S. Senator Marion Price Daniel, Sr., of Liberty, and future U.S. Senator Ralph William Yarborough of Austin. In the runoff election, Daniel, considered a moderate conservative edged out the liberal Yarborough, 50.1 to 49.9 percent. Yarborough then won the special election held in 1957 to fill the remaining months of the Senate term to which Daniel was originally elected in 1952.[11]

Critic of LBJ and FDR[edit]

A sharp critic of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and a member of the John Birch Society, he published in 1964, A Texan Looks at Lyndon: A Study in Illegitimate Power. The bestseller[citation needed] exposes Johnson's relationship with swindler Billie Sol Estes of Pecos. Haley pointed out that the three men who could have provided evidence in court against Estes—George Krutilek, Harold Orr, and Howard Pratt—all died mysteriously of carbon monoxide poisoning from car engines. Haley's admirers claimed in 1964 that the book was outsold in Texas only by the Holy Bible.[1] Haley's fellow conservative, Phyllis Schlafly self-published the best-selling A Choice, Not an Echo to bolster the Goldwater campaign, with emphasis on what she saw as the destructive legacy of the Republican "Eastern Establishment" formerly headed by New York Governors Thomas E. Dewey and Nelson A. Rockefeller.

In 1936, in a meeting at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, Haley had organized a short-lived third party, the "Jeffersonian Democrats of Texas", to offer opposition to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal within Texas. In 1964, Haley returned to his previous Republican affiliation to endorse then U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona, who was challenging President Johnson but fared poorly in Texas.[1]

Haley also claimed that Johnson had a motive for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy: "Johnson wanted power and with all his knowledge of political strategy and his proven control of Congress, he could see wider horizons of power as Vice-President than as Senate Majority Leader. In effect, by presiding over the Senate, he could now conceive himself as virtually filling both high and important positions - and he was not far from wrong. Finally, as Victor Lasky pointed out, Johnson had nursed a lifetime dream to be President. As Majority Leader he never could have made it. But as Vice-President fate could always intervene."[12]

Houston Harte, a newspaper publisher in San Angelo, who supported LBJ, said that his friend Haley had gone to the extreme in writing A Texan Looks at Lyndon. "Haley can no longer be considered a serious historian," Harte claimed.[7]

Historical works[edit]

In 1929, Haley published The XIT Ranch of Texas and the Early Days of the Llano Estacado. Accused of libel in a dozen lawsuits, Haley was compelled in 1931 to withdraw the book from circulation and to pay the plaintiffs $17,500 to settle all pending claims. He defended his work in which he had exposed "outlaws" and even made a trip into Mexico to authenticate a particular point in question.[1] The XIT Ranch, based in Dalhart, covered parts of ten counties in the Texas Panhandle and West Texas. The book was later returned to circulation.

In 1937, Haley became manager of the Zeebar Cattle Company in Arizona. He also purchased a small ranch of his own in Hutchinson County near Borger in the northern Panhandle. He owned another ranch near Sequoyah, Oklahoma. He also managed the Atarque and Clochintoh ranches in New Mexico. On the death of his father, he inherited the Haley Ranch in Loving and Winkler counties. In 1943, he published George W. Littlefield, Texan, a biography of cattleman George W. Littlefield, for whom the city of Littlefield in Lamb County is named. He followed with Charles Schreiner (1944), Jeff Milton, A Good Man with a Gun (1948), and Fort Concho and the Texas Frontier (1952), a reference to an early fortification in San Angelo.[1]

Other Haley works include:

  • The Alamo Mission Bell
  • Diary of Michael Erskine
  • A Cowman's Comment on Art
  • Life on the Texas Range
  • Personal Justice on the Arizona Desert
  • Rough Times - Tough Fiber
  • When School Was Out
  • F. Reaugh: Man and Artist (biography of Frank Reaugh)
  • What a World of Wonder
  • On His Native Health...In His Natural Element[13]
  • Robbing Banks Was My Business; the story of J. Harvey Bailey, America's most successful bank robber 1973

Haley's family and legacy[edit]

The Haley History Center in Midland

"A few days later 1,800 delegates attended a meeting of the National Indignation Convention at the Memorial Auditorium in Dallas, Texas. One speaker [J. Evetts Haley), to the delight of the crowd, complained that the chairman of the meeting had turned moderate: 'All he wants to do is to impeach [Chief Justice of the United States Earl] Warren — I'm for hanging him.'" (p. 753, Thousand Days)

Haley was a friend of Clayton Wheat Williams, Sr., the rancher, oilman, geologist, and historian from Fort Stockton, whose son, Clayton Wheat Williams, Jr., was the unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1990. A picture of Clayton Williams, Sr., and his wife the former Chicora Lee Graham, hangs in the Haley Museum.

In 2013, the West Texas A&M University Alumni Association posthumously designated Haley as one of three recipients of its annual "Distinguished Alumnus Award." The association noted:

History was his passion ... he received a bachelor's degree from WTAMU in the subject he loved so much. He worked as the field secretary for the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society and interviewed area pioneers for a lasting legacy and archive of the Texas Panhandle region. His work led directly to the creation of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. Haley, a rancher, historian, author and political activist, wrote more than twenty books as well as numerous articles about the American West and is probably best known for his book Charles Goodnight Cowman and Plainsman. He also established the Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library and History Center in Midland ... to preserve the western heritage. [The Haley Center] continues today to provide unparalleled research resources for students, researchers, writers, and ... the Haley Scholars. His role in preserving the history of Texas is remarkable and marks him as a Distinguished Alumnus of WTAMU.[14]

References[edit]

External links[edit]