Sam Houston: A Study in Leadership, by Bill O’Neal, Eakin Press, Fort Worth, Texas, 2016, $19.95
“Sam Houston,” Bill O’Neal writes, “radiated leadership.” Few, if any, will argue that statement from the Texas state historian. Houston—a combat veteran who rose from private to major general, a lawyer, a U.S. congressman and senator, an emissary for the Cherokee Nation, a governor of Tennessee and Texas, and a two-time president of the Republic of Texas—was unquestionably an “assertive, independent, ambitious Type A personality.”
O’Neal’s book focuses on Houston’s leadership qualities, how he obtained them and how this Tennessee, Texas, Western and American icon managed them. It’s not always a glamorous portrait of the controversial and hardheaded figure. O’Neal reveals Houston’s warts, too, including his hard drinking.
That Houston loved Texas is manifest, but he also loved America, and his words to the U.S. Senate during the Compromise of 1850 predated Abraham Lincoln’s on the eve of Civil War: “For a nation divided against itself cannot stand.”
Houston is the subject of many excellent biographies, including Marquis James’ Pulitzer Prize–winning The Raven and James L. Haley’s Spur Award–winning Sam Houston. Although not as in-depth, O’Neal’s engaging and informative study deserves a place alongside those masterpieces.
—Johnny D. Boggs