Four Brothers in Blue, One Black Sheep

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, one surname dominated local law enforcement: Maddox.

There were four brothers:

Walter Maddox served three terms as sheriff (1880-1886).

James Hodge Maddox served as city marshal and deputy sheriff. According to retired Fort Worth police sergeant and historian Kevin Foster, Maddox also was the first chief of police after the city reorganization in 1905 and served as fire chief and then commissioner of fire and police—the only person to hold all three positions. Maddox also had worked for Jim Courtright’s T.I.C. detective agency.

Walter and James helped keep the peace during the railroad strike of 1886.

Peyton Maddox was a police officer.

Seaborn P. Maddox was a police detective.

And then there was Palmer Maddox. Palmer was of the next generation of Maddoxes. Palmer was the son of Seaborn and the nephew of Walter, James, and Peyton. Palmer, unlike his father and uncles, did not pursue a career in law enforcement. To the contrary, Palmer Maddox was more likely to be on the other end of a pair of handcuffs.

In 1907 Palmer owned three bars in Hell’s Half Acre and lived in the Acre. He was occasionally fined for opening his saloons on Sunday and for more physical infractions. For example, he once was arrested for brawling with deputy sheriff Hamil Scott, who in 1907 would be killed by the killer of County Attorney Jefferson Davis McLean.

One of Palmer Maddox’s saloons was at 1215 Calhoun Street. Nearby were three buildings labeled “F.B.” (“female boarding,” a euphemism for “brothel”).

During the winter of 1907-1908 perhaps members of the hot stove league whiled away the time between baseball seasons in Maddox’s saloons by analyzing the previous season of the Fort Worth Panthers and debating the team’s chances in the coming season.

The 1907 season of the Panthers had been a disappointment. But there had been one bright spot. In August, when the team record was 42-60, Panthers club president William Ward signed Dan Gallegos, “a full blood Mexican” from “the land of the Aztecs.” (Gallegos was born in the U.S. territory of New Mexico to parents born in Mexico.) Gallegos had been pitching for a team in Amarillo and was considered to be the best “twirler” in that part of the country.

Gallegos did not disappoint. In his first game for the Panthers a few days after signing he was the winning pitcher.

Ten days later Gallegos again was the winning pitcher and, in fact, was the star of the game, hitting a double, scoring two runs, and starting a double play.

(That “Speaker” playing right field for Houston was future Hall of Famer Tristram Edgar Speaker. In 1905 he had played for the Polytechnic College team.)

Yes, the prospects of the down-and-out Panthers looked better after the signing of Dan Gallegos. As the new year 1908 began, how much, sports fans wondered, might Gallegos help the team come opening day?

They would never know.

Just after midnight on January 18 Palmer Maddox shot Dan Gallegos outside the building that housed Maddox’s Calhoun Street bar and a restaurant.

As always, the two parties in the altercation and witnesses gave different accounts of the shooting.

Maddox said he had closed his saloon for the night and was about to walk home. Because he was carrying a large amount of money, he also carried a .38-caliber revolver. He said Gallegos—who was among a party of Mexicans who had been drinking in the restaurant and had been ejected—attacked him with a knife outside the building.

Maddox did not deny shooting Gallegos but claimed self-defense.

Gallegos said he and another Mexican had been invited by a local resident to eat at the restaurant. But a waitress had ordered the Mexicans to leave. After they left, Gallegos said, Maddox shot him outside the restaurant, one bullet grazing his head and another glancing off a rib. Gallegos said he was too dazed to know if he had a knife, only that he grabbed the wrist of Maddox’s gun hand to try to turn the barrel of the revolver away.

The Star-Telegram wrote that a witness—a worker in Maddox’s saloon—said Gallegos “advanced toward him [Maddox] with an open knife and Maddox backed away from him until he fell against the curbing. He then fired one shot and the two clinched. After that two more shots were fired.”

Gallegos was taken to the hospital of the medical college of Fort Worth University.

Maddox was charged with assault to murder and released on bond. He retained as attorney William Pinckney “Wild Bill” McLean Jr., brother of Jeff McLean.

Meanwhile, Gallegos was confident that his wounds would not affect his performance in the coming season. “The big pitcher is but slightly injured,” the Star-Telegram wrote on January 18.

“Resting well,” the newspaper reported on January 19.

But on January 20 the Star-Telegram reported that Gallegos had died. He had actually been shot three times, the third bullet, lodging in his abdominal cavity, resulting in his death. He was thirty-one years old.

The Star-Telegram wrote that Gallegos “made no dying statement implicating Maddox” as his assailant. And Foster says that after doctors realized that Gallegos was dying, neither police nor prosecutors attempted to get a statement from him.

Palmer Maddox was rearrested and his charge elevated from assault to murder to murder.

Fort Worth citizens took up a collection to send Gallegos’s body to New Mexico for burial.

In February the Mexican consul contacted the county attorney about the case. The Star-Telegram said Mexico was considering employing a special counsel to assist the county during the trial.

That trial, like Dan Gallegos’s 1908 baseball season, was not to be.

A year later the Palmer Maddox case was one of six homicide cases set to go to trial. Maddox would claim self-defense.

But because the state had failed to subpoena any witnesses, the case was continued (postponed). The Maddox saloon worker had not been the only witness to the shooting. The shooting was witnessed by “a party of Mexicans” who had been ejected from the restaurant and was outside the building when the Maddox-Gallegos confrontation occurred. But as the trial was set to begin, witnesses suddenly became as rare as an unassisted triple play. Perhaps they were reluctant to be dragged into the legal system. Historian Foster has another theory: He suspects that the Maddox family persuaded witnesses who would testify against Palmer to leave town.

By July 1909 the case still had not gone to trial, witnesses (“most of whom are negroes and who have left the city, going no one knows where”) could not be found, and the newspaper speculated that the case against Palmer Maddox would be dropped.

Indeed, the case was continued indefinitely, and Maddox was soon out of jeopardy.

But he had only three years to live.

In 1912 Palmer Maddox and wife Maud Wells lived in a cheap hotel at 305 East 13th Street in the Acre, just around the corner from his saloon. Their block of the Acre contained fifteen brothels.

On the night of August 19 Maud and Hazel Rinley were having a heated debate in the Maddox rooms. Palmer Maddox was not present. But as the women’s debate turned physical, he returned. As Maud and Hazel grappled, Maddox handed Maud his pistol and suggested she hit Hazel over the head. Maud complied. The two women continued to grapple. As Maddox attempted to insert himself further into the affray, the gun discharged. A bullet hit Maddox above the right eye.

Like Dan Gallegos, Palmer Maddox was taken to the hospital of the medical college. Maud accompanied him.

Palmer Maddox died a few hours later.

Maud was initially charged with assault to murder. After Maddox died, the charge against Maud was elevated to murder.

Hazel Rinley also was arrested.

Both women claimed that the shooting was accidental.

Maud Wells said Rinley was about to hit her with a coat hanger when Maddox entered the room.

Maud said: “He handed me his gun, telling me to hit her over the head. I struck Hazel with it and as I did it went off.”

Just as Dan Gallegos had grabbed the wrist of Palmer Maddox’s gun hand, Hazel Rinley grabbed Maud’s wrist. Rinley said: “She struck me over the head with the gun and I grabbed her wrist. Maddox then reached for the gun and while we were all scuffling, it was discharged and he fell to the floor.”

Foster says Maud Wells was never tried for the shooting of her husband. Indeed, two months later she was jailed for vagrancy.

Palmer Maddox, a black sheep in a family with four brothers in blue, is buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

(Thanks to retired Fort Worth police sergeant and historian Kevin Foster for his help.)

Posts About Crime Indexed by Decade

This entry was posted in Crime, Downtown, Downtown, All Around, Life in the Past Lane. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *