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 Texas : Features : Columns : "Texas Tales"

Lone Wolf

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox

The Lone Wolf, at least in the figurative sense, is once again at the center of a mystery.

Long-time Ranger Captain Manual T. Gonzaullas, one of Texas’ best-known 20th century law enforcement officers, died at 85 on Feb. 13, 1977 in a Dallas hospital. Old-time Rangers, Department of Public Safety officials, younger officers and many friends packed his funeral service two days later.

Born in Spain on July 4, 1891 to a Spanish father and Canadian mother, Gonzaullas was orphaned by the devastating 1900 Galveston hurricane. He got his first taste of gunfire as a major in the Mexican Army in 1911 and later spent five years as a U.S. Customs border guard. Joining the Rangers in 1920, he served until fired by Gov. Miriam Ferguson in 1933.

Two years later, when the Department of Public Safety was organized, Gonzaullas was hired to set up the new law enforcement agency’s crime lab. In 1940, he opted to return to the Ranger service and soon became captain of Co. B in Dallas. Among numerous other high-profile cases, Gonzaullas spearheaded the investigation into Texarkana’s infamous Phantom Killer murders in 1946. The captain usually prevailed in what he set out to do, but Rangers never apprehended a suspect in the Texarkana slayings. He retired in 1951.

“In my opinion,” his old boss DPS director Col. Homer Garrison said in 1963, “Gonzaullas will go down in history as one of the great Rangers of all time.”

Indeed, historians consider Gonzaullas a key player in the modernization of the Rangers. But a third of a century after his death, a writer has made a surprising discovery.

Ron Franscell, who is working on a book called “Outlaw Texas” that will explore some 400 outlaw-related sites from pirate Jean Lafitte’s base in Galveston to the former Enron headquarters in Houston, decided the final resting place of Lone Wolf was definitely worthy of inclusion.

The San Antonio resident went to Dallas last fall to collect Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates and photograph various graves in the area for his book, due out in 2010. One of his stops was Dallas’ Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery, where Franscell had read that the famed former Ranger captain had been laid to rest. That’s when he got a shock.

“The cemetery had no record of him, or anyone by that name,” Franscell said. “Later research shows he had been cremated but his wife Laura died the following year and she, too, was listed as being buried at Sparkman-Hillcrest.”

Finding no “Gonzaullas” in their records at Sparkman-Hillcrest, a helpful funeral home clerk even checked under “Gonzales” in case someone had made a spelling error back when. Again, nothing that fit Lone Wolf and his wife came to light.

The sprawling cemetery, located at 7405 W. Northwest Highway on Dallas’ north side certainly has its share of notables. Oil tycoon H.L. Hunt, blues musician Freddie King, baseball great Mickey Mantle and actress Greer Garson among others are buried there.

Franscell says he walked around the cemetery looking for a grave marker for Gonzaullas and his wife but found none.

“It’s possible he is really at Sparkman-Hillcrest and their records are wrong,” Franscell continues, “or that when he was cremated and given to Laura, she scattered the ashes somewhere or was buried with them herself when she died…or they were both scattered somewhere else. They had no children.”

Gonzaullas had married Laura Isabel Scherer, a New Yorker, on April 12, 1920 in Riverside, CA. The definitive biography on Lone Wolf, Brownson Malsch’s “Lone Wolf,” says that the old Ranger died holding her hand, but makes no mention of Gonzaullas’ burial. The Dallas Morning News noted on Feb. 15, 1977 that Gonzaullas would be cremated, but did not report what would be done with his ashes. (Laura joined her late husband in death on Aug. 15, 1978.)

Shortly after Gonzaullas’ death, former Carson County sheriff John Nunn, who had been a Highway Patrol trooper in Dallas in 1947-48 and shared an office with Gonzaullas for seven months, reminisced about the old lawman.

Noting that the captain had piercing blue eyes, Nunn recalled in an interview published in the Pampa Daily News how he had kept “pestering” Gonzaullas to show him his quick draw. Finally, Gonzaullas assented.

“He only showed me one time,” Nunn said. “He was the fastest man I ever saw.”

The former sheriff said he asked Gonzaullas how he came by his famous nickname and got this reply: “I guess I got that nickname because I went into a lot of fights by myself – and I came out by myself, too.”

Nunn said he traded a pair of revolvers to Gonzaullas for a fine saddle made by the renowned leather craftsman Sam Myers of El Paso. The former sheriff used the saddle off and on for years before loaning it to the Square House Museum in Panhandle.

So, while various museums have firearms and other artifacts associated with Gonzaullas, no one seems to know where his ashes ended up.

“Whatever the circumstances are,” Franscell concludes, “I’d hate for one of the great Rangers to be ‘lost.’”

© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales"
January 7 , 2010 column

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