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James Evetts Haley Sr. (July 5, 1901 – October 9, 1995), usually known as J. Evetts Haley, was a Texas-born political activist and historian who wrote multiple works on the American West, including an enduring biography of 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. His political views were ultraconservative.

James Evetts Haley Sr.
Born(1901-07-05)July 5, 1901
DiedOctober 9, 1995(1995-10-09) (aged 94)
Alma mater
OccupationHistorian, rancher
Political partyRepublican-turned-Democrat; returned to Republican affiliation in 1964
  • Mary Vernita "Nita" Stewart Haley (m. 1928–1958)
  • Rosalind Kress Haley (m. 1970)

Early years and educationEdit

Haley was born to John Alva Haley and the former Julia (née Evetts) Haley in Belton, Texas on July 5, 1901.[1] In 1906, Haley's family moved to Midland, Texas where his father operated a hardware store then a hotel.[1] 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.[2][better source needed]

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 drove a Model T to various homes and businesses in the Panhandle and asked for historical materials for donation to the museum. In 1928, by which time Timothy Dwight Hobart, a noted land surveyor from Pampa, was the president of the historical society, Haley said that the materials accumulated were rich and broad: "The foundation is laid. I trust the superstructure we raise will be commensurate with the possibilities."[3]

For the Goodnight biography and other works, Haley employed as his illustrator the artist Harold Dow Bugbee, former curator of the museum. In his work of gathering historical information, 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.[2][better source needed] He taught at UT from 1929 to 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." [4]


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 in 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), an heiress in the Kress family who was born in New York City and raised at the Kress family plantation in South Carolina, near Savannah, Georgia.[5] 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 Roosevelt supporter while he had been organizing voters against Roosevelt. She died at 97 from complications from a stroke and is buried in her paternal family plot in Savannah.[6] Haley, meanwhile, is buried beside Nita in the Moffat Cemetery in Bell County.[2][better source needed]


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.[7] 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. Since 2002 it houses the collection of papers (letters, diaries, etc.) held by the closed Texas Confederate Museum. The Haley Centers attempt to find common thread among the cowboy, the range cattle industry, the military presence, and the railroads.[8] Haley was also instrumental in the development of the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Also is the Rosalind Kress Haley Library, Inc., affiliated with Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum at 7800 Bonhomme Avenue in St. Louis.[6][9]

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."[10]

Congressional and gubernatorial racesEdit

In 1948, Haley ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for Texas's 18th congressional district seat in the United States House of Representatives.[11] He polled 6,266 votes (11.3%) 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 (before majorities were required to win special elections in Texas). Guill was defeated narrowly by Walter E. Rogers in November 1950.[12]

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 Berham 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."[2][better source needed] 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.

Haley finished a distant fourth in the primary balloting with 88,772 votes (5.6 percent). The leading candidates were then U.S. Senator Price Daniel, of Liberty, and future US Senator Ralph Yarborough of Austin. In the runoff election, Daniel, considered a moderate conservative edged out the liberal Yarborough, 50.1% to 49.9%. 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.[13]

Critic of Roosevelt and JohnsonEdit

In a meeting at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, Haley had organized, with financial assistance from Orville Bullington, the 1932 Republican gubernatorial nominee, 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.[2][better source needed]

A Texan Looks at Lyndon: A Study in Illegitimate PowerEdit

Haley's self-published paperback A Texan Looks at Lyndon: A Study in Illegitimate Power was released in 1964.[14] The book has been described as portraying "Johnson as a vain and vicious man whose climb to the presidency was wrought with malevolence on every rung of the ladder."[14] Haley stated that Johnson "accepted second place for money" and suggested that he was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.[14]

Although 100,000 copies of the book were initially printed, sales increased dramatically prior to the 1964 presidential election.[14] At a cost of $0.30 to $0.50 per book, bulk orders by the John Birch Society and supporters of Barry Goldwater pushed sales to 50,000 copies per day by late August.[14] A Texan Looks at Lyndon eventually sold 7.5 million copies to become the most successful political book of all time.[14]

Houston Harte, a newspaper publisher in San Angelo, who supported Johnson, 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.[10]

Historical worksEdit

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.[15] 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 about the Hill Country rancher and landowner Charles Schreiner Sr. (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.[2][better source needed]

Other Haley works include the following:

  • 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[16]
  • Robbing Banks Was My Business: The story of J. Harvey Bailey, America's most successful bank robber 1973

Haley's family and legacyEdit

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. 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.[17]


  1. ^ a b Price, B. Byron. "Haley, James Evetts Sr". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "J. Evetts Haley". Archived from the original on 2004-04-28. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
  3. ^ Lester Fields Sheffy, The Life and Times of Timothy Dwight Hobart, 1855–1935: Colonization of West Texas (Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1950), pp. 282-283.
  4. ^ Biffle, K. (1993). A Month of Sundays. University of North Texas Press. p. 232. ISBN 9780929398563. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
  5. ^ Todd, Ed (April 23, 2008). "Rosalind Kress Haley, 'true southern belle,' dies at 97 | Midland Reporter-Telegram". Retrieved 2019-01-01.
  6. ^ a b "Rosalind "Ros" Kress Haley | | Amarillo Globe-News". Retrieved 2015-04-13.
  7. ^ "Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library & J. Evetts Haley History Center, Midland, Texas".
  8. ^ "Haley Memorial Library and History Center". Archived from the original on 2000-01-23. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
  9. ^ Julia Algya (28 April 2008). "Mrs. Rosalind Kress Haley (1910-2008)" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-04-13.
  10. ^ a b "Texana Book Reviews (February 1997)". Retrieved 2015-04-13.
  11. ^ Lawrence Kestenbaum. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Hale-showalter to Haling". Retrieved 2015-04-13.
  12. ^ Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections U.S. House elections, p. 1140
  13. ^ Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, Governor returns, 1956
  14. ^ a b c d e f Adler, William (September 1987). "A Texan Looks at Lyndon". Texas Monthly. Austin, Texas. Retrieved August 1, 2015.
  15. ^ "A Guide to the James Evetts Haley and XIT Lawsuit Scrapbook, 1930-1936".
  16. ^ " J. Evetts Haley: Books". Retrieved 2015-04-13.
  17. ^ Tom Musser, West Texas State University Class of 1980, member West Texas Historical Association, April 22, 2013

Further readingEdit

  • Price, B. Byron (2013). "J. Evetts Haley". In Cox, Patrick L.; Hendrickson, Kenneth E. Jr. (eds.). Writing the Story of Texas. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292748752.

External linksEdit