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Written in Blood

The History of Fort Worth's Fallen Lawmen, Volume 2, 1910-1928

Richard F. Selcer and Kevin S. Foster

Publication Year: 2011

In 2010 Written in Blood: The History of Fort Worth’s Fallen Lawmen, Volume 1, told the stories of thirteen Fort Worth law officers who died in the line of duty between 1861 and 1909. Now Richard F. Selcer and Kevin S. Foster are back with Volume 2 covering another baker’s dozen line-of-duty deaths that occurred between 1910 and 1928. Not counting the two officers who died of natural causes, these are more tales of murder, mayhem, and dirty work from all branches of local law enforcement: police, sheriff’s deputies, constables, and special officers, just like in Volume 1. This era was, if anything, bloodier than the preceding era of the first volume. Fort Worth experienced a race riot, two lynchings, and martial law imposed by the U.S. Army while Camp Bowie was operating. Bushwhacking (such as happened to Peter Howard in 1915) and assassinations (such as happened to Jeff Couch in 1920) replaced blood feuds and old-fashioned shootouts as leading causes of death among lawmen. Violence was not confined to the streets either; a Police Commissioner was gunned down in his city hall office in 1917. Even the new category of “vehicular homicide” claimed a lawman’s life.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Written in Blood

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pp. i

Written in Blood

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pp. ii

The History of Fort Worth's Fallen Lawmen

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pp. iii


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pp. v-vi

Table of Contents

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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. viii

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pp. ix-x

"AFTER THE LONG SLOG OF WRITING A BOOK, making revisions and more revisions, and getting this far in the publishing process, it’s time to sit down and write the traditional authors’ thank-you to all the people who contributed along the way. We start by rounding up..."

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Introduction to Volume II

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pp. 1-8

"THIS IS VOLUME II in the story of Fort Worth’s fallen lawmen. Volume I of Written in Blood (University of North Texas Press, 2010) covered the years 1861 through 1909, telling the stories of thirteen local peace officers killed in the line of duty. This volume takes the..."

Part I: When Blood Ran in the Streets (1910–1919)

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pp. 9-10

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pp. 11-26

"THE SO-CALLED PROGRESSIVE YEARS of the early twentieth century witnessed a mass movement to make the country a better all-around place to live. By the second decade, the movement was in full swing with reformers lambasting political corruption and social evils with..."

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Chapter 1: Police Officer James R. Dodd (January 27, 1912)

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pp. 27-38

"OFFICER JAMES DODD is the odd man out among Fort Worth’s fallen officers because he was the only one to die peacefully in his own bed. He was a victim not of bullets or natural disaster but of the killer microorganism that causes meningitis."

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Chapter 2: Police Officer John A. Ogletree (May 15, 1913)

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pp. 39-87

"TOMMIE LEE WAS A BAD MAN; there could be no doubt about that to the Fort Worth police. But they saw him as something even worse: a 'bad nigger,' which in the Jim Crow era was perhaps the worst epithet in police..."

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Chapter 3: Police Captain George Frank Coffey (June 26, 1915)

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pp. 88-117

"SOMETIMES WHAT INITIALLY SEEMS to be a line-of-duty death does not stand up to close scrutiny, usually because the officer himself provoked the fatal chain of events either in pursuit of a personal vendetta or out of simple belligerence."

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Chapter 4: Police Officer Peter Howard (August 16, 1915)

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pp. 118-147

"THE STORY OF PETER HOWARD is one of murder, mayhem, and manhunts. More importantly, it is also the story of Fort Worth’s changing ethnic makeup and the failure of the Fort Worth Police Department to keep up with the changing times. By 1915, Fort Worth was..."

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Chapter 5: Constable Robert Emmett Morison (November 8, 1916)

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pp. 148-177

"ROBERT EMMETT MORISON was the first Tarrant County constable to die in the line of duty, a victim of old-fashioned 'lead poisoning,' as they used to call it. But demon rum was just as much to blame. The Constable’s death was an example of what happens when strong..."

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Chapter 6: Police Commissioner C. E. “Ed” Parsley (September 29, 1917)

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pp. 178-204

"IN THE SPRING OF 1917, the nation’s attention was focused on the war in Europe, now in its third year. On April 6, the United States had entered the war, and mobilization shifted into high gear. Locally, the U.S. Army was getting ready to open Camp Bowie out..."

Part II: When Life Was Cheap (1920–1928)

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pp. 205-206

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pp. 207-218

"BY THE 1920S, LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT had become highly compartmentalized: the lines between police and sheriff’s departments were firmly drawn, and constables were nearly irrelevant when it came to fighting crime. Relentless urbanization put the policeman on the front line of local law enforcement. The police department..."

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Chapter 7: Police Officer George Gresham (April 8, 1920)

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pp. 219-231

"ANY YEAR AN OFFICER IS KILLED is a bad year for law enforcement; two in the same year constitutes a disaster. In 1920, two officers were gunned down on the job, one of them a special policeman, the other a nine-year veteran of..."

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Chapter 8: Special Officer Joseph Burch Loper (October 20, 1920)

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pp. 232-260

"FIVE MONTHS AFTER GEORGE GRESHAM WENT DOWN, violence claimed its second victim that same year. The second officer killed was Joseph Burch Loper, known to friends and colleagues as..."

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Chapter 9: Police Officer Jeff Couch (December 20, 1920)

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pp. 261-288

"WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN?' is a classic gospel hymn whose sentiment also happens to describe the powerful bond existing among members of the law enforcement fraternity.1 The fraternal ties binding officers together make them like an extended family. Sometimes,..."

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Chapter 10: Special Officer Webster C. “Jack” Gentry (April 25, 1922)

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pp. 289-304

"WEBSTER GENTRY WAS AN OFFICER who just happened to be working in the private sector at the time of his death. He lost his life performing one of the countless duties that are all in a day’s work for the average lawman. The fact that he..."

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Chapter 11: Deputy Constable Bob Poe (December 23, 1925)

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pp. 305-317

"THE AUTOMOBILE PUT POLICEMEN on wheels, but it also created new fields of criminal enterprise: the fast getaway, drive-by shootings, selling stolen vehicles and their parts. There was, for instance, a highly profitable black market for..."

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Chapter 12: Deputy Constable Mordecai Hurdleston (October 9, 1927)

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pp. 318-350

"OCCASIONALLY A MAN COMES ALONG who is head and shoulders above his peers figuratively speaking. Mordecai Hurdleston was such a man. During a career that lasted only sixteen years, he dragged the Fort Worth Police Department..."

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Conclusion: Better Days to Come?

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pp. 351-366

"BY THE 1920S, MODERN MACHINES were becoming as much a threat to life and limb as old-fashioned bad guys. Between the time the first motorcycle cop (Henry Lewis) took to the roads in 1909 and the mid-1920s, four Fort Worth Police Department officers died..."


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pp. 367-414


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pp. 415-424


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pp. 425-440

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781574414424
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574413229

Page Count: 464
Illustrations: 45 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011