In Chambers, Fall 2017

In Chambers | Fall 2017 7 Neal reviews all the sources he can find and assigns the blame to a contract “hit man” named Jim Miller, whom he characterizes as “the most prolific killer and con artist in the state.” 13 Miller seems to have been a cold-blooded killer who, often posing as a “deacon,” was acquitted through perjured testimony numerous times for murders and other crimes until, in 1908, he was jailed for the murder of a deputy US marshal in Oklahoma, and a lynch mob hanged him. In this book,Neal finds that Miller actually confessed the murder of Jarrott—confidentially—to another US marshal who had arrested Miller for an earlier murder in 1906, but the lawman promised not to reveal the confession and lived up to his promise until 1933. Neal then pulls together multiple strands of strong circumstantial evidence to identify the man who hired Miller to “assassinate” Jarrott, a rancher named MarionVirgil “Pap” Brown- field, for whom the town of Brownfield is, ironically, named. It is a great story, and Neal deserves praise for his careful work to accord this forgotten lawyer a measure of posthumous justice.The book could have been strengthened if it had been more tightly edited, and the author might have more explicitly tied into one of the broad themes of Texas and evenWestern American history to which this story pertains, such as the closing of the frontier and the thirst of Americans of that era for free or inexpensive land, 14 as well as the economic and social development of Texas, and law enforcement generally.Additionally, the 56 murders for which Neal finds Miller to have had responsibility, and his repeated acquittals when occasionally placed on trial, might connect to the question whether “the west,” includingTexas, was or was not more lawless than “the east” at the same time. 15 Death on the Lonely Llano Estacado is, nonetheless, a solid accomplishment in the tracking down, after so many years, of both Jarrott’s killer and his employer, as well as in the chronicling of westTexas and its South Plains sub-area at the turn of the 20th century. Furthermore, this book is a useful step in the development of the legal history of Texas. In this regard, judges and attorneys may particularly appreciate the portions of the book that discuss Jarrott as a lawyer.Why Jarrott obtained the tip about The Strip from the Land Commissioner is unclear—both Rogan and Jarrott had for one term served together in the Legislature, so they were at least acquainted—and the ranchers of course complained later about his having “inside” information.And Jarrott did obtain the first copy of the official survey of The Strip in an unusual manner: he loaned part of the cost of the surveyors’ work to the Commissioner, and he received with his loan’s repayment the very first copy of the survey document, well before it became available to the public.With that in- formation, he then solicited and organized the 54 families of tenant farmers quietly, and he staged them outsideThe Strip to be able to move immediately intoThe Strip as soon as the Commissioner opened it for homestead claims. As noted, Jarrott prepared and filed their homestead applications and defended the legal challenges of the ranchers. Why he did all of this for no fee is not revealed, and if Neal could not find the answer, we will probably never know; but everything Jarrott did for his clients was vindicated and survived those attacks inside the legal system. From this distance we may see Jarrott’s work as a remarkable instance of “lawyering.” 16 From this book, the reader will learn not only about the murder of J.W. Jarrott, whom the author calls a “for- gotten hero,” but also may come to appreciate that there is a great deal moreTexas legal history yet to be uncov- ered and published, and that the effort of Texas lawyers such as Neal to do so is both interesting and worthwhile. As a great writer put it: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” -William Faulkner 17 From this distance we may see Jarrott’s work as a remarkable instance of ‘lawyering’.”