Friday, June 29, 2012

Meet Friendswood Author Bob Arnold

Meet Friendswood author Bob Arnold at the Friendswood Public Library on Wednesday, August 15 at 7pm.  Bob Arnold’s book First in Texas chronicles the lives of three men who made significant contributions to more than one hundred and fifty years of Texas History. These men include Josiah Bell, successful entrepreneur and businessman and the founder of two towns, one of which was briefly the capitol of the Republic of Texas; Josiah's third son, James Hall Bell was the first native-born Texan to serve as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court; and Red Arnold, known as the "law in Northeast Texas," serving 25 years as a Texas Ranger.  

The book begins with the struggles of the early Texas settlements and continues with the slavery and states’ rights issues that led to a terrible civil war and the difficulties in reestablishing Texas’ rightful place within the United States after the conflict was concluded. The history spans the development of Texas law as a frontier justice administered by honest and moral men, through the infancy of written Texas law, and into the enforcement of today’s complex code of criminal law. Each of these men offers lessons of responsibility, commitment, and resolve to many of today’s difficult social and political issues. ~from the author 

Bob Arnold graduated from Texas Tech and entered the United States Army as a Signal Corps officer. Following his military service, he was employed by Union Carbide Corporation as a polymer chemist and had a 35 year career in various roles within the laboratory, manufacturing, and business organizations of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical. After his retirement, Bob spent several years of research and writing First in Texas. 

The interview below was conducted and written by Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune editor Bob Palmer in July of 2011. Author Bob Arnold answers questions about his book, First in Texas.

Posted: Saturday, July 30, 2011 12:00 am
Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune

It's Like This By BOB PALMER - Tribune Editor and  

My memories of Texas Ranger Red Arnold are vivid. The first come from that period when the Arnolds lived next door to the Palmers on East 5th when I was about 10. The sight of Red’s sawed off shotgun mounted inside the driver’s door made an impression on me. Later we would interact as reporter and lawman. And then, I helped report his death.  When Red’s son, Bob, called a couple of weeks ago to tell me he had written a book, “First in Texas,” about Red and two of his mother’s forbearers, I was leery this might just be another exercise in ancestor worship. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Bob’s efforts are well worth the read.

I enjoyed getting to know Josiah Bell, a friend and associate of Stephen F. Austin, and Judge James Bell, who opposed succession and helped found the Republican Party in Texas. There were also several intriguing stories about Red, ranging from his service as a Marine Gunny Sergeant on Peleliu to cases Titus County residents will easily recall.

After I finished reading “First in Texas,” Bob and I sat down last week for a visit. 

Why the book? 

Originally, I had been asked to write a book about my dad. I had written a couple of articles for the Texas Ranger Dispatch Magazine. At the same time, I had begun research on my mother’s family. The research let me understand how interesting her family was as well. So, I decided to incorporate those two individuals in a book with my dad. 

What anecdote or story did you uncover in your research that touched or struck you the most? 

It was very easy for me to know about my father. I was not as struck by what he did as I was about the Supreme Court Justice Bell. His life was the most interesting part of the research that I did.

The Reconstruction era was the period that gave me the most new ground. Was there some point where James Bell or someone could have made the process smoother in Texas? Or was that moment when Bell met with Grant and convinced him to tell Gov. Davis to go? 

A lot of that information that I had in the book was new to me as well. I think the confrontation when E.J. Davis refused to relinquish the governor’s office to Richard Coke was probably the turning point in Reconstruction.

How painful was it for you to write about your father’s death? 

I’m doing this 30 years after his death. It was not as painful as you might think it might be. I accepted it for what it was. There were parts that were very painful that I chose not to include in the book. They brought back memories that were too painful for us. 

I found your picture of the Bells to be somewhat uncritical. Do you feel that you have missed something in their portraits or this was as complete a picture as you were willing to go?

I didn’t find anything (negative). I wrote what I could find on them. I had to piece together a lot of sources. For Josiah Bell I used primarily the letters of Stephen F. Austin. There was not a whole lot of other information. The same thing was true with Judge Bell. I didn’t find anything that might have shed a different view of them, other than he took positions that were out of the mainstream and he lost a lot of friends. I didn’t try to judge why he took positions or didn’t. I didn’t try to understand why he did what he did. 

What advice would you give someone contemplating a similar project? 

This is a long story. Most people writing a book for the first time think it will be easy getting a book published. Over a year, I learned that was wrong. Most publishers are not interested in publishing first time authors. I had finished my draft and was in a used bookstore in Fredericksburg. A man was there who had written a book on how to get a book published. He told me to throw away any thoughts I had about how to get a book published. You need to have a group of people to look at the manuscript and comment on it. He recommended about 25 people. I sent them portions of the book. Once the book was completely read, I sent them a questionnaire and used their comments to make quite a bit of changes. I did find a publisher, but unfortunately they pulled back. I decided to have someone edit the book; then, I had it printed without a major publisher. For anyone wanting to do this: make sure you have something people enjoy reading before you take it to a publisher, otherwise you will be disappointed.

“First in Texas, Three Texans and Their Contributions to Texas History, 1821-1978” is available at Hastings. I think you will find it as enjoyable and interesting as I did.

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