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Portrait of a Lawman: U.S. Deputy Marshal Heck Thomas, by Bonnie Stahlman Speer, Reliance Press (Speer),Norman, Okla., 1996, $11.95 paperback.
One heck of a lawman! Few Western historians would dispute that description of Henry Andrew “Heck” Thomas, whodedicated his life to law enforcement. Born in Georgia in 1850, Thomas was a policeman in Atlanta at 18 before becoming adetective in Fort Worth, where he captured outlaw Pink Lee. It was in Indian Territory and later Oklahoma Territory that hereally made his mark as a lawman. Thomas and fellow U.S. Deputy Marshals Bill Tilhman and Chris Madsen were sosuccessful hunting down hard cases that they became known as “The Three Guardsmen.” Thomas’ exploits as a fearlesslawman have been well documented (see feature on Heck in the October 1991 Wild West and Glenn Shirley’s outstandingbook Heck Thomas, Frontier Marshal), so Bonnie Speer decided to concentrate on Heck Thomas the warm and caringhuman being rather than Heck Thomas the relentless hunter of men. Speer was provided a trunkful of letters, photographs anddocuments by Thomas’ youngest daughter and staunchest supporter, Beth Thomas Meeks. Thus we learn that the determinedlawman who headed the posse that killed outlaw Bill Doolin also sang religious songs, had a wry sense of humor and was kindto animals.