Stephen F. Austin State University

When 'Lone Wolf' ran for Gregg County sheriff (October 2017)

When 'Lone Wolf' ran for Gregg County sheriff

By Van Craddock

"Lone Wolf" Gonzaullas was the quintessential Texas Ranger: utterly fearless, slow to anger but quick on the draw. A survivor of numerous gunfights, the Ranger had helped bring law and order to the rowdy East Texas Oil Field in the 1930s.

But the famed lawman couldn't get elected Gregg County sheriff in 1934.

Born in Spain in 1891, Manuel Trazazas Gonzaullas joined the Texas Rangers in 1920. He quickly earned a reputation for effective, heavy-handed law enforcement.

Gonzaullas arrived in Kilgore in 1931. The handsome Ranger wore a white Stetson and carried two pearl-handled pistols. He quickly rounded up lawbreakers and ne'er-do-wells attracted to the oil boom.

His "Lone Wolf" nickname came, one Texas paper noted, "from admiring fellow officers when he persisted in working alone on particularly dangerous and complex cases."

In January 1933, Gonzaullas and 43 other Rangers were fired by Texas Governor Miriam "Ma" Ferguson for their support of her election opponent. "Lone Wolf" went to work as a special agent for the Spartan Refining and Atlas Pipe Line companies.

On April 8, 1934, the Longview Daily News reported Gonzaullas' intention to run for Gregg County sheriff, calling him "one of Texas' most colorful and fearless peace officers."

The Rusk Cherokeean quickly endorsed "Lone Wolf:" "We hope Gonzaullas is elected sheriff of Gregg County … The victims of circumstances will receive sympathy and the hardened criminals will receive unmitigated h---."

Gonzaullas' opponent would be the popular W.H. "Will" Hayes, who had been elected Gregg County sheriff in 1932 and was seeking re-election. The man receiving the most votes in the July 28 Democratic primary would become sheriff since there was no Republican opponent in the November 1932 general election.

Several days before the primary election, Gonzaullas ran a large ad in the Longview Daily News. The ad included a letter Sheriff Hayes had written to Governor Ferguson in 1932, urging her to promote Gonzaullas to Ranger captain.

"I consider (Gonzaullas) as excellent peace officer, a gentleman, and I know he is honest, faithful, trustworthy, efficient and a fearless officer," the sheriff had written.

Gonzaullas's tactics didn't please Sheriff Hayes. He then claimed Gonzaullas "is not a voter of Gregg County, but rather Dallas County," and thus ineligible to even run for the East Texas post.

Gonzaullas noted he had recently paid taxes on property he owned in Gregg County, thus establishing his residency. He ran another ad asking if Hayes "thought I was not a citizen and a qualified voter of Gregg County, why didn't he ask for an injunction" to keep Gonzaullas' name off the ballot?

Gonzaullas then said "underworld hirelings and racketeers" were spreading false rumors about him because "with my election as sheriff they will be driven from the community."

Gonzaullas had plenty of friends in Gregg County, but he also had attracted enemies with his sometimes-harsh style of law enforcement.

The former Ranger lost the Gregg County sheriff's race by some 900 votes. There were allegations of voter fraud but the results stood. The campaign left a sour taste in his mouth. Gonzaullas announced he would never again seek elective office.

Gonzaullas continued to work as an oil company special agent until January 1935, going to work as chief investigator for the Gregg County district attorney's office. In August Gonzaullas was appointed superintendent of the Bureau of Intelligence of the newly created Texas Department of Public Safety.

In 1940 Gonzaullas returned to the Texas Rangers, named captain of Company B in Dallas. He retired from the Rangers in 1951.

The legendary "Lone Wolf" went to Hollywood to serve as a "technical consultant" for television and motion pictures but eventually returned to Texas.

The lawman was elected to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame in Waco in 1976. Gonzaullas died a year later in Dallas. He was 85.