The Last Sheriff in Texas: A True Tale of Violence and the Vote (Hardcover)
A True Tale of Violence and the Vote
Counterpoint LLC, 9781619029965, 272pp.
Publication Date: November 14, 2017
An Amazon Best History Book of the Month "A true-crime story centering on a South Texas lawman who became a law unto himself . . . Of interest to students of Texas history as well as aspiring law enforcement officers, who should read it as an example of how not to conduct themselves." --Kirkus Reviews Beeville, Texas, was the most American of small towns--the place that GIs had fantasized about while fighting through the ruins of Europe, a place of good schools, clean streets, and churches. Old West justice ruled, as evidenced by a 1947 shootout when outlaws surprised popular sheriff Vail Ennis at a gas station and shot him five times, point-blank, in the belly. Ennis managed to draw his gun and put three bullets in each assailant; he reloaded and shot them three times more. Time magazine's full-page article on the shooting was seen by some as a referendum on law enforcement owing to the sheriff's extreme violence, but supportive telegrams from all across America poured into Beeville's tiny post office. Yet when a second violent incident threw Ennis into the crosshairs of public opinion once again, the uprising was orchestrated by an unlikely figure: his close friend and Beeville's favorite son, Johnny Barnhart. Barnhart confronted Ennis in the election of 1952: a landmark standoff between old Texas, with its culture of cowboy bravery and violence, and urban Texas, with its lawyers, oil institutions, and a growing Mexican population. The town would never be the same again. The Last Sheriff in Texas is a riveting narrative about the postwar American landscape, an era grappling with the same issues we continue to face today. Debate over excessive force in law enforcement, Anglo-Mexican relations, gun control, the influence of the media, urban-rural conflict, the power of the oil industry, mistrust of politicians and the political process--all have surprising historical precedence in the story of Vail Ennis and Johnny Barnhart.
About the Author
JAMES P. McCOLLOM is the author of The Continental Affair: The Rise and Fall of the Continental Illinois Bank. A native son of Beeville, Texas, he has worked as a banker and business executive in the Northeast before settling back in his hometown.