He “was a product, even more than most men are, of his time, soil and circumstance. He was an intent, practical man of driving and determined purpose. . . . But most of all he was an unreconstructed rebel.” B. Byron Price, executive director of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, in his eulogy for J. Evetts Haley, chose that selection from Haley’s biography George W. Littlefield, Texan. Though the passage was J. Evetts’ summary of the great pioneer Texas soldier, cowman, and banker, to Price, “Mr. Haley was also describing himself.”

More readers will remember my father, J. Evetts Haley, by way of his books than from all the biographies and biographical sketches about him. His published works are likely to be far more important to subsequent generations as well.

It was from my father that I first heard the admonition that “a people ignorant of their history are doomed to relive it.” My father, who died at 94 on October 9, 1995, in Midland, Texas, more than any other person I have known in my more than 60 years, was aware of the mistakes of our country’s past. He studied those of governments, societies, and families. His greatest hope was that he could help his family, his state, and his country avoid the stress and danger of confiscation of property, bankruptcy, revolution, and dictatorship during the generations to come.

Searching for answers was a natural part of everyday life for J. Evetts Haley. “What is a historian? How does an observer compare historians? What are the personal characteristics that lend validity to their chronicles?” For my answer, I offer a 1991 description from another contemporary historian. Otto Scott, who may have said it best when he wrote:

He [J. Evetts Haley] is a true historian, therefore, because he deals not only with the facts of behavior, but with their meaning; not only with struggles and outcomes, but with their significances. He does not write to flatter nor to denounce, but to have a record of those who were brave and true as well as those against whom they contended—for we know that in this world virtue must always contend against vice.

Scott went on to illustrate with excerpts from J. Evetts Haley’s best-known book nationally, and his only “negative biography,” A Texan Looks At Lyndon: A Study In Illegitimate Power. As a paperback, that biography sold five and a half million copies.

From my vantage point as his only son, it is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between J. Evetts Haley my father and J. Evetts Haley the observer, sociopolitical critic, and mentor. For instance, at dinner with family and friends, current political affairs were always a subject of discussion, if not the principal one. This does not mean that J. Evetts was derelict in his attention to his ranch business. Far from it. His attention to the details inherent in the care and management of cattle was little short of phenomenal. It just did not take J. Evetts Haley long to decide which work he would go at the next morning. “If it’s not sleeting or snowing here when we get up we will drive the north pasture and shape up a hospital bunch to put in the west trap for extra attention. If it is, and not too wet, we will haul another load of feed. Don’t forget, after you have rustled the horses to make sure that wide-horn cow lets that doggie suck. That calf won’t be able to make it through the weather we’re expecting if he doesn’t get filled up twice a day.”

Then the conversation would be back to the threat to states’ rights. I recall his reaction when President Eisenhower ordered elements of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division to force Little Rock Central High School into accepting the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, an authoritarian and unconstitutional action that troubled Dad greatly.

Our conversations would include observations about the historical precedent of current activities and trends—philosophical, psychological, and racial predilections and their effect on forthcoming election results and legislation. I may have heard more about the British, French, American, and Texas revolutions and about our War Between the States in high school and at the University of Texas, but I learned more about them and their true causes and effects at home.

Often the questions Dad posed were controversial and provocative: “Where can we find the American history professor who will accept the premise that the War Between the States should not have been fought and that Lincoln was wrong about dissolution?” J. Evetts fervently believed that the United States Constitution, correctly interpreted, does not bind the states together against their will. “Where can we find the university professor who understands (or will admit) that ‘the best in American manhood’ was decimated in that tragic war on both sides of the Mason/Dixon, and those among the Anglo survivors in the South who were achievers and property owners were, and for the most part their descendants still are, disillusioned about the equity or viability of our federal system?” “Where is the history or economics department that understands the election of Woodrow Wilson and its portent for the country, or the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt and our country’s adoption of the New Deal welfare state and its entrance to World War II?”

My early recollections of visitors in the modest home of my father and mother include American patriots with service dating from before World War II. Others were met elsewhere, but often discussed at home. Among these was Hilaire du Berrier, who to this day publishes a fine newsletter on military intelligence and political history for his subscribers. There was also Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, formerly with U.S. Army Intelligence, who was attached to the staff of British Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery in North Africa before our entrance into that costly conflict and about whom President Roosevelt said to his Chief of Staff upon reading General Fellers’ reports, “Get that S.O.B. out of there!” There was no doubt in General Fellers’ mind (nor in World War II correspondence Frazier Hunt’s) that Roosevelt wanted to bring our country into the European War and schemed to get it done, as finally happened in another hemisphere on December 7, 1941 (two days before my tenth birthday).

Frazier and Emmy Hunt visited our three-room clapboard ranch house on Lake Creek in Hutchinson County in the Texas Panhandle just months after my marriage to Frances Shaller in 1954. Frazier, a historian and an ex-war correspondent, was beginning to write history at his home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. By this time, I had been to the University of Texas and returned without a degree a semester after my savings had run out. J. Evetts had earned a master’s in history there in 1927 and at least one respected contemporary of his was a professor of Texas history at the university in the 50’s. It was with apprehension that he agreed to send me there. Since his university days, Marxism had become pervasive in many institutions of higher learning, and the pseudo-ideals of John Dewey had virtually destroyed the standards of learning in the name of progressivism in our public schools, of which I was a product.

My mother, Nita Stewart Haley (who died in 1958), was an orphan. Her parents had died at Longview, Texas, by the time she was eight years old, and she was raised in the Oddfellows Home at Waxahachie. She worked her way through college, first by waiting tables, later by tutoring. By teaching college English and dramatic arts, she managed to pay off her one loan before marrying my father.

Perhaps it follows that J. Evetts Haley as an observer and historian was unalterably opposed to government support for tuition and board for college and university students. He was decidedly cool toward private support for college enrollment as well. He often told me, “Those deserving of an education will work to provide the means for it or figure out how to secure scholarships or private loans sufficient to get it.” He was also cool toward “degrees” as evidence of achievement, considering them more symbolic than substantive, even though he had earned two. He believed the country and its economy were decidedly better off if a preponderant majority of the population were not “educated” to think that manual labor was somehow not necessary and honorable. Maids, yardmen, ditch diggers, wood choppers, porters, taxi drivers—all should be respected and never considered members of an “underclass,” a term he abhorred.

He often commented during the last 20 years of his life, particularly regarding certain individuals with a university education, that “the trouble with them is they think they think!” He believed that general affluence created artificially by inflation and the welfare state had given many people too much time to think.

Like most real cowmen, J. Evetts was a strong believer in breeding. Yet in social life or in political approach, he was no elitist. Unlike many talented people of an artistic bent, he took time to invite into his study (or kitchen) visitors of the most meager circumstances and origins. With them he was invariably courteous and unpretentious, yet he could be caustic and blistering with governors or others in high office. On one occasion, I was with him when he told a college president that he (or one of his professors) had lied about him and that it had better not happen again. (He got an apology forthwith.) On another in the early 50’s, I was with him on a car trip when one morning at a diner in an obscure New Jersey suburb a would-be tough was verbally abusing the young woman behind the coffee counter, and refused to pay. Other patrons acted embarrassed and tried to ignore what is today fairly typical rudeness. J. Evetts got up from his table after a couple of minutes and stepped between the obnoxious man and the cash register and said, “The lady has heard enough from you and so have I. Pay her and hush or I’m going to take you outside with me.” The fellow sheepishly paid and left.

One of the last few out-of-town friends to see my dad was a man who drove over 300 miles to visit him. This visitor was a man sophisticates do not try to understand and the supercilious are apt to ridicule. But Dad not only made time for him whenever he stopped by, he had actually refinanced the man’s truck, his only business or property, back in the late 50’s when Dad could ill afford to do so. This independent driver/owner hauled many of our family’s cattle for some 20 years without a relief driver and without serious mishap. And, he retired the note.

Months before the Pearl Harbor attack, I had the opportunity to accompany J. Evetts on one of his day trips to the Clear Lake Ranch south of Houston. Dad was at that time the general ranch manager for J.M. West (the older) of Houston, who was until his death the largest individual rancher in Texas. He left in 1942 after the death of Mr. West and after World War II got fully underway. The West ranches were scattered from Clear Lake (the ranch became the site of NASA and the sprawling subdivisions surrounding it) to the Figure 2’s, a great West Texas ranch stretching across more than 100 square miles beneath the renowned Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas. On that peaceful Sunday afternoon on our way back to town, Dad drove along the Houston ship channel. I’ll never forget his not incidental observation as he pointed to a freighter flying the Rising Sun flag and being loaded with scrap iron, our country’s waste at that time, and said, “We will see that iron being shot back at us.” Among other accurate predictions were the advance of our own welfare state and America’s burgeoning inflation following the reelection of FDR in 1936.

As an opposing Jeffersonian Democrat that year, he was in an unpopular position, and was fired from the University of Texas and the best job he had held to that time. He was the collector of history and historical artifacts for the museum at the university on a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Through the years following, he often observed that political liberals do not really believe in “academic freedom.” They issue the cry shamelessly in order to protect the tenure of their own liberal professors, who are bent on subverting the free enterprise system. Then college and university boards that dare to represent the taxpayers and defend capitalism and the economic system that produced the funds to pay the professors who then become propagandists of the left are labeled “extremist.”

Some 20 years following J. Evetts’ dismissal from the University of Texas, he sat on the other side of the academic fence as a member of the Board of Directors of Texas Technological College, appointed by then-governor Allan Shivers. (During that same period, Governor Shivers also appointed J. Evetts the first member from Texas to the founding Board of Directors of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City. Twenty-five years later he was inducted into the Cowboy Hall’s Hall of Great Westerners.) While J. Evetts was on the Board of Texas Tech, the Board suspended two professors as subversives (communist fellow travelers), and a brouhaha ensued. The Board members, particularly J. Evetts, who had pushed for the dismissal, were called everything imaginable in the media, except American patriots.

It was in 1954 that Frazier and Emmy Hunt visited our ranch home on Lake Creek in the Texas Panhandle. Frazier Hunt wrote the definitive biography of General Douglas MacArthur, following which for “fun” he wrote a biography of “Billy the Kid.” Much of his research for this book was from the notes and files of J. Evetts Haley (who had himself considered doing a book on the Lincoln County, New Mexico war). These hies today are in the archives of the Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library in Midland, and since being on deposit there, two more books on the Lincoln County War have been written and largely researched from J. Evetts’ files, and a third book is forthcoming.

Frazier Hunt’s natural wit and innate Scots/Irish sense of humor complemented Dad’s own, and my bride and I were captivated by the charm of summer evenings beside coal oil lamps, after the day’s work was done, with no sounds to interrupt the conversation of the two historian- patriots of widely differing American backgrounds except those of crickets, whippoorwills, hoot owls, coyotes, and an occasional cow seeking to reassure her calf of mama’s proximity. The Weller’s bourbon and fresh well water (later Rebel Yell, strictly sold in the South) fueled exuberance and no doubt some extensions of these conversations.

Much could have been learned by listening to J. Evetts and Frazier Hunt discuss not only the tragic maneuvers of politicians without principle that led to combat deaths and the subjugation of vast numbers of people by armies and secret police, but also about the content and form to be used in chronicling history. J. Evetts was decidedly skeptical of the work of even the best among journalistically trained writers when they attempted to write history. Of course, Frazier was himself a journalist.

J. Evetts argued that newspaper writers were apt to be shallow or disinclined to do the research necessary for writing history. He believed that the newspaperman’s “deadline” became his commanding motivation rather than a desire to get to the bottom of the story. To some extent Frazier agreed with him, but he also believed in the necessity of a regular deadline in order for a writer to acquire a habit of producing copy.

I remember Frazier looking at me across the kitchen table and remarking, “I understand you are inclined toward doing some writing yourself. Let me give you some advice. Get your dad to help you buy a small rural weekly newspaper anywhere in Texas. “You go to work there and do all the work, except typesetting, yourself. Meeting that deadline will get you in the habit of writing. I have known very few people in all my years of experience who had the self-discipline to produce serious writing without having had years of experience in meeting at least a weekly deadline. Your dad is the rare exception!”

Perhaps more than anything other than Dad’s great integrity, I now hope the intellectual community will remember that he lived to produce some 23 books and pamphlets of biography of Texas and the Southwest. He did this almost entirely while making his living in the cattle business. He did not believe an author should promote his own work. He believed that the work should be promoted by the publisher only, after which it should sell itself. He was aghast at the modern practice of authors appearing on television talk shows plugging their own books. He thought they were prostituting themselves. In spite of J. Evetts’ attitude toward promotion and a general lack of it done on any of his books, his 1956 biography Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman has been in print for 61 years.

Sometime in the late 50’s, following Frazier Hunt’s advice to me. Dad and I went to look at what was then a rural weekly newspaper with the thought of buying it. After a couple of days of negotiation and serious deliberation on Dad’s part, he decided against the purchase, somewhat to my disappointment. Today, I could be far better off financially had we gone through with the purchase. That little weekly is now a major newspaper in Mesquite, Texas, and is one of the best in the Dallas suburbs. But Dad knew back then (James Evetts III was a baby) that life on the ranch for me and his grandchildren would be a whole lot more conducive to character building. One exchange of letters with Dad in the spring of 1951 stands clear in my mind. I had written him a rather hasty and superficial response to the famous farewell address (“old soldiers never die, they just fade away”) of General Douglas MacArthur before Congress, subsequent to his dismissal by Harry Truman.

Dad answered as follows:

I was disturbed and disappointed over your reaction to MacArthur’s great speech. It will go down in history. I sat in the study with your mother and cried as he talked. . . . You show evidence of the cynicism that is the curse of this age. When you have labored, fought and slaved for your country, unselfishly, as long as I have, to say nothing of MacArthur’s 52 years of service, you will, I hope, realize the difference between deep and moving sentiment and mushy sentimentality. More than that, if you do not realize it much sooner, you and the country too will be sunk.

Midway through the next paragraph, he warned: “But the youthful, callow cynics of the make-believe university atmosphere where you are stand above sentiment, love of country, and deep abiding devotion. Shake yourself out of this dishonest, dilettante atmosphere or it will ruin you.”

In February of the following year, I did “shake out” of that “false atmosphere,” and ever since I’ve been punching cows, hauling hay, digging postholes, fighting drought and government controls and predatory taxes—making a living from cattle produced for and sold on a free market. For these 44 years, I have followed the course in partnership with J. Evetts Haley.

What remains is the memory. One final memory is that of a man past 90, already in decline, saying to me, “Don’t you ever forget, I’m behind you. My hand is always on your shoulder.”