J. Evetts Haley

J. Evetts Haley

James Evetts Haley was born in Belton, Texas, on 5th July, 1901. His father, John Alva Haley, ran a hardware business and hotel in Midland, Texas. Haley worked as a rancher and as a young man competed at local rodeos. After graduating from West Texas Normal College he was appointed field secretary of the Panhandle Plains Historical Society and began interviewing pioneers. Later he returned to college where he completed his thesis on Texas cattle trails.

In 1929 Haley published The XIT Ranch of Texas and the Early Days of the Llano Estacado. Haley was accused of libel and in 1931 the book was withdrawn and he was forced to pay the plaintiffs $17,500 to settle all pending claims. Over the next few months he published articles in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Southwest Review, Ranch Romances, Nature, Cattleman and the Panhandle-Plains Historical Review. His book Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman, was published in 1936.

Haley held strong right-wing views and was an opponent of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. A member of the Democratic Party Haley became chairman of the Jeffersonian Democrats of Texas

In 1937 Haley became manager of the Zeebar Cattle Company in Arizona. He also purchased a small ranch of his own in Hutchinson County. He later managed the Atarque and Clochintoh Ranches in New Mexico. He continued to write and George W. Littlefield, Texan was published in 1943. This was followed by Charles Schreiner (1944), Jeff Milton, A Good Man with a Gun (1948) and Fort Concho and the Texas Frontier (1952).

In 1956 Haley tried to become governor of Texas. He advocated segregation and an end to federal price controls on natural gas. His main rival was George Parr. During the campaign Haley went to Parr's office and told him: "Mr. Parr, I'm J. Evetts Haley, and I'm running for governor of Texas. If I'm elected, it will be my pleasure to lock you up." Haley was easily defeated.

When Lyndon B. Johnson became president Haley published A Texan Looks at Lyndon. It was a best seller and it is claimed that in Texas only the Bible outsold Haley's book in 1964. In the book Haley attempted to expose Johnson's corrupt political activities. This included a detailed look at the relationship between Johnson and Billy Sol Estes. Haley pointed out that three men who could have provided evidence in court against Estes, George Krutilek, Harold Orr and Howard Pratt, all died of carbon monoxide poisoning from car engines.

Haley also suggested that Johnson might have been responsible for the death of 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."

Joachim Joesten argued in his book, The Dark Side of Lyndon Baines Johnson (1968) that Haley's book, A Texan Looks at Lyndon is an important source of information on Lyndon B. Johnson: "Haley's book may not be a masterpiece in the strictly scholarly sense, and it is certainly not a bible of my political creed, but as source material it is invaluable. For the author is not only a fellow-countryman of Lyndon B. Johnson, but an insider of Texas politics and an old political pro in his own right... That this biography of Lyndon B. Johnson is coloured to a considerable extent by bitterness at his own failure in the political game, as well as by an ingrained dislike of the Rooseveltian tradition (which, alas, also produced LBJ) and a generally ultra-conservative stance, I do not doubt. Still, even after making generous allowance for possible exaggeration due to these factors, there remains in his book so much well-documented fact that it cannot possibly be bypassed by anyone seeking enlightenment about the dark recesses of the Johnson story."

Other books by Haley include The Alamo Mission Bell, The Flamboyant Judge, Life on the Texas Range, What a World of Wonder and Rough Times -Tough Fiber: A Fragmentary Family Chronicle.

James Evetts Haley died in Midland on 9th October, 1995, and was buried in Moffat Cemetery, Bell County, Texas.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) J. Evetts Haley, A Texan Looks at Lyndon (1964)

When the count from the run-off election was in. Parr had delivered for Lyndon. But though he had dallied in sending his returns while Lyndon kept in close touch by telephone, it finally turned out that they had closed their own count prematurely. Stevenson was ahead by 113 votes.

Johnson made another frantic telephone call to Parr, who indicated that he might pick up what they needed in Precinct 13 at Alice. Thereupon his henchmen "recanvassed the returns," reporting on September 3 the "corrected" total of 202 additional votes for Johnson and one for Stevenson. Thus Lyndon went into the lead by 87 votes out of nearly a million actually cast.

(2) J. Evetts Haley, A Texan Looks at Lyndon (1964)

At mid-afternoon on October 22, 1951, thirty-year old "Mac" Wallace drove up to the Pitch and Putt course, walked in on "Doug" Kinser at the keeper's house and shot him dead. Wallace fled, but was caught, indicted for murder with "malice aforethought," and released on $30,000 bond. Strangely, no counsel appeared for him at first; only William E. Carroll, "a university friend," who somehow arranged the bond - later reduced to $10,000; while Carroll refused to say who the counsel would be.

Strangely too, District Attorney Bob Long called in a psychiatrist. Wallace, arrogant throughout the hearing, refused to see him. Still with no attorney, but with his "University friend" contending he was being held "without cause," and with bond posted, District Judge Charles A. Betts issued a writ of habeas corpus and released him.

He was brought to trial in the 98th District Court of Travis County before Judge Betts, with John Cofer, Johnson's every ready and able lawyer in times of trouble, and Polk Shelton, as attorneys for the defense. Cofer was not unduly searching hi his examination of jurors, but qualified each on his attitude toward the "suspended sentence law".

The case went to trial. District Attorney Bob Long - notwithstanding the identity of the car, a bloody shirt and a cartridge of the same caliber as used in the shooting, found in Wallace's possession, and witnesses who heard the shots and saw the departure of a man who fit Wallace's description - described it as "a near perfect murder."

Wallace did not take the stand. No evidence was presented to suggest cause or extenuating circumstances. Cofer simply filed a brief, one-page motion for an instructed verdict, pleading that there was no evidence upon which the State could "legally base a judgment of guilt." Long said nothing whatever in rebuttal. After less than two hours of testimony which was shut off so "abruptly" that it "left the packed courtroom with jaws ajar." Long urged the jury to "punish punish Wallace in whatever degree you can agree upon."

Thus after one of the briefest and most perfunctory trials of a prominent murder case on record, even in Texas, the jury nonetheless found, March 27, 1952, that Wallace was, as charged, guilty "of murder with malice aforethought." Its penalty, a five-year suspended sentence - for murder in the first degree.

Long was on his way out of the courtroom while the verdict was being read. His staff seemed "dumbfounded," but his own comment to the press was no less strange than his action: "You win cases and you lose them... usually everything happens for the best." Somewhat understandable, therefore, was the comment of The Austin Statesman that this case, "marked from the start to finish by the unusual," had left the people of Austin shocked and "quizzical.''

(3) J. Evetts Haley, A Texan Looks at Lyndon (1964)

On the night of April 4, 1962, at the western end of Texas, a ranchman came upon the body of George Krutilek in the sandhills near the town of Clint, slumped in his car with a hose from his exhaust stuck in the window. He had been dead for several days, and the El Paso County pathologist, Dr. Frederick Bornstein , held that he certainly did not die from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Krutilek was a forty-nine-year old certified public accountant who had undergone secret grilling by FBI agents on April 2, the day after Billie Sol Estes' arrest. . . . Krutilek had worked for Estes and had been the recipient of his favors, but he was never seen or heard of again after the FBI grilling until his badly decomposed body was found.

(4) J. Evetts Haley, A Texan Looks at Lyndon (1964)

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.

(5) Joachim Joesten, The Dark Side of Lyndon Baines Johnson (1968)

Haley's book may not be a masterpiece in the strictly scholarly sense, and it is certainly not a bible of my political creed, but as source material it is invaluable. For the author is not only a fellow-countryman of Lyndon B. Johnson, but an insider of Texas politics and an old political pro in his own right. A self-styled 'Jeffersonian Democrat' and conservative, Haley has been for years active in regional politics and in 1956 he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for Governor.

That this biography of Lyndon B. Johnson is coloured to a considerable extent by bitterness at his own failure in the political game, as well as by an ingrained dislike of the Rooseveltian tradition (which, alas, also produced LBJ) and a generally ultra-conservative stance, I do not doubt. Still, even after making generous allowance for possible exaggeration due to these factors, there remains in his book so much well-documented fact that it cannot possibly be bypassed by anyone seeking enlightenment about the dark recesses of the Johnson story.

The principal merit of Haley's A Texan looks at Lyndon lies in exploring those parts of Johnson's past that have been most zealously kept from view by the official biographers. In particular, the author relates in great and obviously authentic detail how Lyndon B. Johnson got started on his long and crooked road to the White House through a fraudulent vote.