Author discovers treasure trove
By Allan Rodriguez
Published March 30, 2020
From secrets kept hidden in a shoe box, an award-winning history professor used letters and photographs to create his newest book.
Growing up in the mountains of western New Mexico, Regents Professor Jerry Thompson often wondered why there were no visits from his grandparents and why his mother never spoke about the other side of the family.
“It seemed like they did not exist,” Thompson recalled.
The truth came out right after his discovery of a shoe box hidden by his mother. He discovered letters and photographs that revealed secrets about his family line and about his grandfather—a Cherokee cowboy by the name of Joe Lynch Davis.
“In the early 20th century, Davis was at the center of rampant cattle rustling, deadly gun battles, a bloody range war, daring bank robberies, equally audacious train heists and prodigious court proceedings, which eventually resulted in 14 years in Leavenworth[, Kansas,] Federal Penitentiary,” Thompson wrote in his new book “Wrecked Lives and Lost Souls.”
Thompson never met his grandfather, yet he got to interview someone 20 years ago who did.
When Davis got out of jail, someone by the name of Niece asked him about his reasons for those lawless actions. Davis replied, “It was just what kids did back then.”
“Had I knew that he existed, I think I could have gone out there, found him and maybe said, ‘I am your grandson. Talk to me,’” Thompson said.
Thompson is the author and/or editor of 27 books. He won several awards and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
“It is always a great thrill when you are invited to give lectures like that one I gave last week and be invited to speak to the Civil War Round Table in Houston or Dallas,” he said. “It is always good to see your old friends and people pat you on the back and say, ‘I read your work.’”
Among his other publications are “Vaqueros in Blue & Gray”; “A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers and Militia”; “Cortina: Defending the Mexican Name in Texas”; and one of his most sold books, “Laredo: A Pictorial History.”
Thompson joined the TAMIU faculty 33 years ago.
“There have been times where we have been so hooked on his lecture that we accidentally go over the class time,” history major Jose Meyo said. “Nevertheless, the way he is involved and the way he has motivated me and my fellow classmates has inspired me more to finish my history degree here at TAMIU.”
Meyo said Thompson is a vault full of archives and no one can get access except here at TAMIU.
“He’s a great professor, even though he’s completely opposite from my views,” junior Cristian Rios said. “He encourages every-one in the class to not be afraid of speaking your own views.”