is a tale worth telling in more ways than one.”
—Western Horseman magazine
“They used to tell me that I couldn’t stay in this country, that they wouldn’t let a Negro stay. But I did not believe that and that is the very reason that I am here today; I still don’t believe it.”
—Mathew “Bones” Hooks
Texans still talk about Bones Hooks and his famous ride. In 1910, the forty-three-year-old former cowboy, then working as a Pullman porter (one of the few quality jobs open to black men at that time), stepped off his train during a brief stop, carefully removed his uniform jacket, and proceeded to ride a notoriously wild bronco. To the delight of the large crowd gathered to witness the event, Hooks stayed on the animal’s back until it calmed down, then donned his jacket and departed with the train. “The Ride,” as it is known throughout the region, would be enough to make Bones Hooks a legend, but it is only one of his accomplishments.
The son of former slaves, Mathew “Bones” Hooks left home at the age of twelve to pursue the rough-and-tumble life of a cowboy, during which he rubbed shoulders with other legends such as Col. Charles Goodnight. After his retirement, he devoted himself to civic and social improvements in Amarillo. Mr. Hooks’s achievements included being the first black man to serve on a grand jury in Texas, founding the first black church in the Texas Panhandle, and establishing North Heights, a black community where members were free to purchase property. Particularly concerned with juvenile delinquency, he served as “Range Boss” of the Dogie Club, an organization for underprivileged black male youths. Throughout his life, Bones Hooks stepped over prejudice and mediated between the races, crossing paths with such luminaries as Eleanor Roosevelt, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong. This is the first biography of a man who broke both wild horses and racial barriers.