Yours to Command (Hardcover)

The Life and Legend of Texas Ranger Captain Bill McDonald (Frances B. Vick Series #5)

By Harold J. Weiss, Jr.

University of North Texas Press, 9781574412604, 480pp.

Publication Date: June 1, 2009

List Price: 27.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Captain Bill McDonald (1852–1918) is the most prominent of the "Four Great Captains" of Texas Ranger history. His career straddled the changing scene from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries. In 1891 McDonald became captain of Company B of the Frontier Battalion of the Texas Rangers. "Captain Bill" and the Rangers under his command took part in a number of incidents from the Panhandle region to South Texas: the Fitzsimmons-Maher prizefight in El Paso, the Wichita Falls bank robbery, the murders by the San Saba Mob, the Reese-Townsend feud at Columbus, the lynching of the Humphries clan, the Conditt family murders near Edna, the Brownsville Raid of 1906, and the shootout with Mexican Americans near Rio Grande City. In all these endeavors, only one Ranger lost his life under McDonald's command.
McDonald's reputation as a gunman rested upon his easily demonstrated markmanship, a flair for using his weapons to intimidate opponents, and the publicity given his numerous exploits. His ability to handle mobs resulted in a classic tale told around campfires: one riot, one Ranger. His admirers rank him as one of the great captains of Texas Ranger history. His detractors see him as an irresponsible lawman who accepted questionable information, precipitated violence, hungered for publicity, and related tall tales that cast himself in the hero's role. Harold J. Weiss, Jr., seeks to find the true Bill McDonald and sort fact from myth. McDonald's motto says it all: "No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's in the right and keeps on 'a-comin'."

About the Author

HAROLD J. WEISS JR. is Emeritus Professor of History, Government, and Criminal Justice at Jamestown Community College. He received his doctorate in history from Indiana University at Bloomington. Weiss has published numerous articles and essays on the Texas Rangers and western law and order in the Journal of the West, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, and South Texas Studies.He lives in Leander, Texas.

Praise For Yours to Command: The Life and Legend of Texas Ranger Captain Bill McDonald (Frances B. Vick Series #5)

"Yours to Command is well written, entertaining, and extensively researched, especially in the reports and other correspondence that McDonald wrote to his superiors in Austin."--Journal of Southern History

"Those seeking a fine narrative of the exploits of a legendary Texas Ranger will be satisfied with this well-researched and well-written book."--Western Historical Quarterly

"At 436 pages it is a richly detailed account of McDonald's storied career. It is both candid and exhaustive."--Journal of South Texas

"Weiss has written the definitive biography of McDonald. His depth of research into primary sources greatly surpasses the quality demonstrated in Albert B. Paine's Captain Bill McDonald, Texas Ranger (1909). Moreover, Weiss has pursued his subject with greater objectivity than his predecessors, and has shown this ranger captain to be a heroic, yet fallible, product of his times."--New Mexico Historical Review

"Weiss's latest work is not only a skilled biography of a noted Texas Ranger but also a case study in the evolution of modern law enforcement during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. . . . Weiss puts to rest the abundant myths regarding McDonald's identity and career, and presents a well-balanced, profoundly nuanced, and deftly interpreted account of this intriguing and enigmatic figure."--Southwestern Historical Quarterly

 "Harold Weiss has explored McDonald's distinguished career with rare insight into law enforcement procedures during the period of the last frontier. His book also boasts three 'photo galleries,' which  offer images of McDonald and his world with captions of unusual length and value. Yours to Command is one of the most impressive and informative lawman biographies ever penned."—Bill O'Neal

— Bill O'Neal

“For a century historians regarded Albert Bigelow Paine’s Captain Bill McDonald, Texas Ranger: A Story of Frontier Reform as the benchmark volume on this legendary lawman. Certainly, the book had a good run. Yet, in terms of research, writing, and erudition, Harold J. Weiss Jr.’s Yours to Command: The Life and Legend of Texas Ranger Captain Bill McDonald, utterly supplants Paine.” --Stephen L. Hardin, author of Texian Iliad: A Military

— Stephen L. Hardin

“Weiss’ book sorts truth from legend about a man credited for one of the Rangers’ prime myths, the ‘One Riot, One Ranger’ story.” --Mike Cox, author of The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso

— Mike Cox

“Veteran Ranger readers from across the West and Southwest will thoroughly enjoy this more accurate account of McDonald’s still-remarkable exploits, finally putting Bigelow Paine’s 1909 work to rest. McDonald’s is a great story to tell, lore and legend notwithstanding, and I believe that Harold Weiss has that story here.” --Paul N. Spellman, author of Captain J. A. Brooks, Texas Ranger

— Paul N. Spellman