Friday, March 2, 2018

Booknotes: Captain Jack Helm

New Arrival:
Captain Jack Helm: A Victim of Texas Reconstruction Violence by Chuck Parsons
  (Univ of N Texas Pr, 2018).

In his new book Captain Jack Helm: A Victim of Texas Reconstruction Violence, Texas history scholar Chuck Parsons "explores the life of John Jackson “Jack” Helm, whose main claim to fame has been that he was a victim of man-killer John Wesley Hardin. That he was, but he was much more in his violence-filled lifetime during Reconstruction Texas. First as a deputy sheriff, then county sheriff, and finally captain of the notorious Texas State Police, he developed a reputation as a violent and ruthless man-hunter. He arrested many suspected lawbreakers, but often his prisoner was killed before reaching a jail for “attempting to escape.” This horrific tendency ultimately brought about his downfall. Helm’s aggressive enforcement of his version of “law and order” resulted in a deadly confrontation with two of his enemies in the midst of the Sutton-Taylor Feud." The author has also written a full study of that last-mentioned violent dispute titled The Sutton-Taylor Feud: The Deadliest Blood Feud in Texas (2009).

The book begins with a helpful literature review. Though the early life section is very brief and includes just a handful of pages describing Helm's Civil War service with the 9th Texas Cavalry (perhaps available sources are scarce on both accounts), the volume appears to be a full biography that concentrates on his violent law enforcement career in SE Texas. The appendix section contains some documents, an 1870 roster of Capt. Helm's Texas State Police command, and the text from a Goliad County historical marker.

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