of the most popular songs in the U.S. during the mid-1940s was “Pistol
Packing Mama,” which became Billboard Magazine’s most played jukebox
favorite in 1944.
Both Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra performed the song at the peak
of their careers.
But few know that the song came from East
Texas and was written and performed by an Cherokee
Clarence Albert Poindexter, who was born at Jacksonville
in 1902, was working as a house painter when he began performing in
local bars and clubs in East
Texas. For professional reasons, he shortened his name to Al
Dexter was 34 when Cherokee County Sheriff Bill Brunt was killed
in a shootout with bootlegger Red Creel near Rusk
in 1939. Creel also died in the shootout. Brunt’s death prompted the
commissioners court to appoint his 26-year-old wife, Mary Dear
Brunt, as sheriff. Strapping on a pistol, Mary completed her husband’s
1939 front page from the Rusk Cherokeean reported on the slaying of
Sheriff Bill Brunt and the apointment of his wife to succeed him.
Brunt’s elevation to the sheriff’s office caught the attention of
Dexter, who had already written with James B. Paris “Honky Tonk Blues,”
the first country song to use the term.
He soon wrote Pistol Packing Mama and recorded the song with
Autry’s backup band.
The song was released in 1943 and, although controversial because
of its lyrics, sold one million copies in its first six months.
Over time, Dexter’s honky tonk sound
lost its popularity, but in 1971 he was installed in the Nashville
Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. Dexter invested in loan, motel and
real estate businesses in Texas and died
a wealthy man in 1984 at Lewisville,
In 1940, when Mrs. Brunt’s term as sheriff was scheduled to expired,
she decided not to seek a full term and her brother-in-law, Frank
Brunt, filed as a candidate for the office.
He won on November 5, 1940, and took office on January 1, 1941, at
the age of twenty-seven. He remained in the office through 1954 when
he resigned to accept a security position with Exxon USA in Houston.
Brunt was later transferred to Tyler,
where he retired and was appointed to accept a temporary position
as Smith County sheriff,
leaving the office a year later.
The Brunt family legacy in the Cherokee
County sheriff’s office came to a close in 1976--some 37 years
after Bill Brunt’s murder--when John Bill Slover, a Cherokee County
sheriff eight years, left office.
Slover, a cousin of Bill and Frank Brunt, was elected November 5,
1958, and served eighteen years.
Bob Bowman's East Texas
March 7, 2009 Column
weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers