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Chapter 4: Marshal Sam Farmer: Fort Worth’s First Professional Peace Officer

Richard F. Selcer University Of North Texas Press ePub

CHAPTER 4

Marshal Sam Farmer: Fort Worth’s First Professional Peace Officer

Sam Farmer was a man of principle. Sam Farmer was a scoundrel. Sam Farmer was a dedicated lawman. Sam Farmer was a slacker. He was all of these depending on which aspect of his life and career one chooses to focus on. Like so many Western lawmen (see Jim Courtright), Sam Farmer’s character had its dark side. When I first started digging into his life, I thought here was a breath of fresh air after Jim Courtright’s stormy tenure in the Marshal’s Office—a paragon of virtue, a pillar of law enforcement. That impression lasted until I dug into his life in Missouri before he came to Fort Worth and into the court records of his divorce. No Fort Worth marshal was re-elected more times than Sam Farmer, but he proved to be far more than just an eight-term marshal.

On April 1, 1879, Sam Farmer was elected city marshal of Fort Worth against a field of five other candidates, most of them with larger reputations and more impressive résumés. It was a bitterly fought campaign with name-calling and charges of ethical misconduct flying back and forth. His opponents were all friends and fellow officers before the election, including former marshal H. P. Shiel, veteran policeman W. P. Thomas, and incumbent marshal T. I. Courtright. When he entered the race, he had an understanding with Courtright that the three-time marshal would not run for a fourth term but instead would throw his support to Farmer. Courtright reneged on the deal four months before the election and jumped into the race with both feet. Sam’s first reaction was to drop out and not challenge the popular Marshal, but when the Fort Worth Democrat publicly urged him to reconsider, he jumped back in. To assist the voters, the Fort Worth Democrat limned the top three candidates in broad, symbolic strokes: “Farmer smokes, Courtright takes [his] beer straight, and Thomas drinks lemonade.”1 In the end, the electorate preferred the smoker over the two imbibers and the rookie over the two veterans. Farmer’s margin of victory was forty-nine votes more than the total of the other five candidates, but his election represented more of a protest vote against the status quo than a ringing endorsement for the novice Marshal.

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Chapter 11: The Race Is Not Always to the Swift

Richard F. Selcer UNT Press PDF

498

A History of Fort Worth in Black & White

and the city’s richest African American. He operated a string of nursing homes and was the president of an insurance company and a funeral home. He owned a big house in a nice, integrated neighborhood and did not have to look up to any man. He was the new Bill McDonald.1

Some things, however, had not changed. J.W. Webber and Bill

McDonald were exceptional. Both had achieved the American Dream, yet as a black minister pointed out in 1967,

Ninety-nine percent of all Negroes are [still] employed by whites.

Ninety-eight percent of all the home mortgages are [still] held by whites. Whites hold ninety-nine percent of all the car notes. 2

In other words, whites still held the keys to the kingdom. Booker

T. Washington might have seen an object lesson in those numbers; he always said only when the black man achieved economic equality could he hope to achieve full equality with the white man, but for most African

Americans it was the same old same old.

Music Hath Power

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Chapter 1: The Antebellum and Civil War Years

Richard F. Selcer UNT Press PDF

18

A History of Fort Worth in Black & White

post’s founder, owned a body servant, and so did his First Lieutenant,

Washington P. Street. In that day and age, white men who grew up in the South, regardless of where they had been born, considered slavery part of the normal order of things. Men owned slaves, not necessarily a field full, but more than likely a personal or body servant if they could afford one. Lieutenant Washington Street grew up in the upper Midwest of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa—abolitionist country. But when military service took him to Texas he was accompanied by London Triplett, a black man who had worked for the family in some unspecified capacity for years. Family lore has it that Triplett was a free man, and having a last name suggests that, but it is also hard to imagine a black man in antebellum Texas being able to come and go as he pleased. It is equally hard to imagine a young Army lieutenant paying servant’s wages out of his meager salary. Army life on the frontier was different from the world that gentlemen officers came from. Far beyond the pale of civilization, they might keep a black slave or live with an Indian squaw when they would never have done either back home.2

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Chapter 5: World War I: Jim Crow Comes Marching Home

Richard F. Selcer UNT Press PDF

Chapter 5

World War I: Jim Crow

Comes Marching Home

When the United States entered “the Great War” in 1917, President

Woodrow Wilson called on the American people to rally ’round the flag and “make the world safe for democracy,” without reference to race or creed. This stirring call did not resonate equally with African

Americans and whites. W.E.B. DuBois, one of the founders of the National

Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told his people, “We the colored race have no ordinary interest in the outcome” of this war.

Still, he advised them to forget their “special grievances and close ranks shoulder to shoulder with our white fellow citizens.” In 1917 the U.S.

Army had four all-black regiments numbering 10,000 men in all (with no black commissioned officers). Another 10,000 African Americans served in Negro National Guard units. All of them were liable to being called up and shipped out to the Western Front despite the fact that the high command had long-standing reservations about the black man’s fitness for combat. Their intelligence, initiative, and vigor were all suspect.

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Chapter 8: Quanah Parker: Fort Worth’s Adopted Native Son

Richard F. Selcer University Of North Texas Press ePub

CHAPTER 8

Quanah Parker: Fort Worth’s Adopted Native Son

In the heart of the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District stands a statue of legendary Comanche Chief Quanah Parker. It is fitting that the statue stands in front of a hotel because Quanah himself was never more than a visitor to Fort Worth. He never resided here, did not have family roots here, and visited the city only rarely. Yet this son of a Comanche father and an Anglo mother became Fort Worth’s “native son” in the truest sense of that term. The city virtually adopted him. City fathers such as W. T. “Tom” Waggoner and Samuel Burk Burnett called him friend and he always had a special place in his heart for the town even while making a home among his people in Oklahoma. How Quanah Parker came to be Fort Worth’s Native Son is one of our city’s great stories.

It is the remarkable story of a man straddling two cultures, alternately embraced and rejected by both, who in the end helped heal the wounds of war and hatred. He was born and grew up in the world of the fearsome Comanches but died in the white man’s world after making peace with his people’s longtime enemies. His given name, Quanah, was Native American and the only name he needed among his father’s people. Years later he added the surname Parker as acknowledgment of the white half of his ancestry. The two names symbolized the two worlds that Quanah Parker lived in.

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