Bill O'Neal

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John William "Bill" O'Neal​

(Texas historian, author, professor)

Bill O’Neal.jpg

Born April 8, 1942​
Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas

Resident of Carthage in Panola County

Spouse (1) Kathryn Berry (divorced)

(2) Faye Gipson (divorced) (since Faye G. Frasier)
(3) Karen Jane Ashby O'Neal (married 1993-2016, her death)
Four daughters from second marriage:
Lynn O. Martinez (twin)
Shellie O'Neal (twin)
Berri O'Neal Gormley
Causby Lea O'Neal Henderson
William Causby "Bud" O'Neal
Jessie Standard O'Neal
Alma mater:
Corsicana High School
Navarro College
Texas A&M University - Commerce in Hunt County

John William O'Neal, known as Bill O'Neal (born April 8, 1942), is an American author who has written more than forty books and more than three hundred articles and book reviews on the American West. His work focuses on gunfighters, law enforcement officers, and ghost towns. He has also written on Country music, with emphasis on Texas artists, baseball, and children's books, including one about the first Thanksgiving celebrations held in Texas.


O'Neal was born in Corsicana in Navarro County in east central Texas to William Causby "Bud" O'Neal (1915–1991), a 1939 Bachelor of Science graduate of Texas A&M University in College Station, and the former Jessie Standard (1918–2002), originally from Lampasas in west central Texas. O'Neal's maternal great-grandfather drove cattle on the Chisholm Trail; his maternal grandmother, Janie Lucile Standard, came to Texas in 1881 in a covered wagon. Bud and Jessie married on April 9, 1940, and owned a farm retail store in Corsicana. O'Neal has a younger sister, Judy O'Neal Smith (born March 20, 1944), and a brother, Michael Ross "Mike" O'Neal (born June 25, 1952) of Carrollton near Dallas.

In 1960, O'Neal graduated from Corsicana High School. He thereafter enrolled at, first, Navarro College in Corsicana and then Texas A&M University-Commerce, then known as East Texas State University in Commerce, a city in Hunt County. He received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from A&M-Commerce in 1964 and 1969, respectively. O'Neal served as athletic director and head football coach at Anna High School (1967–1968) and at Waskom High School in Harrison County (1968–1970). He first married the former Kathryn Berry of Dallas. After their divorce, O'Neal married Faye Gipson of Garrison in Nacogdoches County, who remarried and took the name Faye G. Frasier of Corpus Christi.

There are four O'Neal daughters from the second marriage: twins Lynn O. Martinez (born 1972), the wife of Rudy Martinez of Mansfield, Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and Shellie O'Neal, a theater arts professor at Navarro College.A third dauhger, Dr. Berri O'Neal (born 1975), the wife of Drew Gormley of Irving in Dallas County, is the executive director of Universities Center at Dallas ( and an adjunct professor at Texas A&M University-Commerce. The fourth daughter, Causby Lea Henderson (born 1980), the wife of Dusty Lee Henderson of Allen, Texas, north of Dallas. O'Neal's third wife was the former Karon Jane Ashby (1960-2016), the daughter of James W. and Louise Riggs Ashby of her native Carthage. Karon O'Neal was a talented seamstress and musician and a former head of the Panola College mathematics department. She and O'Neal were married in Central Baptist Church in Carthage.[1]

Panola College

​ In the 1968-1969 academic year, O'Neal taught as a graduate assistant in the History Department at East Texas State University in Commerce, Texas. In 1970, he became a full-time faculty member at Panola College, a position that he held for thirty-three years. During his teaching career, O'Neal often dressed in the clothing which might have been worn by various historical characters. He attempted to convince students of the value of history in their daily lives and the unique information available through historical research. He created a "Traveling Texas" history course.[2] Panola College was founded in 1947 to offer educational opportunities, primarily, to returning World War II service personnel. In 1973, O'Neal wrote Panola Junior College: The First Twenty-Five Years. He did an updated version Panola College, 1947-1997 for the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the institution.[3]

In addition to his books, many of which have gained popularity beyond historical circles, O'Neal has written hundreds of scholarly articles and book reviews. He lectures before historical associations and related public gatherings. From 1991-1992, he was president of the Nacogdoches-based East Texas Historical Association. On April 5, 2008, O'Neal addressed the West Texas Historical Association annual meeting at West Texas A&M University in Canyon in Randall County, with a well-received lecture on how Texans, such as Gene Autry, Jim Reeves, Tex Ritter, and Bob Wills, have numerically dominated the field of Country music. Moreover, the state has produced artists in other fields of music too: Mary Martin, Janis Joplin, Buddy Holly, and Van Cliburn.[4]​​

He addressed the WTHA again in 2010, with a report on the depiction of Texas Rangers in film and on television. He found that nearly all western actors except for Randolph Scott played a Texas Ranger character at least once in his acting career.[5] In that presentation, O'Neal noted that the Sons of the Pioneers appeared in 101 films, some with Texas Rangers characters. The character "Lassiter" in Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage is a former Ranger; so is Woodrow Call of Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. John Wayne appeared as a current or former Ranger in three films, The Searchers, The Comancheros, and True Grit (1969 film), with Glen Campbell in the role of the Ranger from Waco.[5] O'Neal was the WTHA president for 2014-2015, having been vice president of the organization the preceding year.​

O'Neal is a member of the Panola County Chamber of Commerce and serves on the executive board of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in Carthage, whose inductees include Jim Reeves and Tex Ritter, the latter the subject of an O'Neal book.​

O'Neal has for more than thirty years been a part-time radio personality on KGAS (AM) and (FM) in Carthage.[6] His interest in radio began with the popular songs of the 1950s and 1960s.​


In 1973, O'Neal received the first annual "Excellent Teacher" award at Panola College. In 1987, he was named "Alumnus of the Year" by both Navarro College and Texas A&M University-Commerce. He was "Panola County Citizen of the Year" in 1988. In 2000, he was awarded Minnie Stevens Piper Professorship, and he remains the only Panola College faculty member ever to receive a Piper Professorship.[2]

O'Neal has been cited for his "meticulous research" by The Western Historical Quarterly, published by Utah State University at Logan, Utah.[7]

In 2005, O'Neal received the National Association of Outlaw and Lawmen Association (NOLA) award for his The Johnson County War, a study of the 1892 struggle between small farmers and wealthy ranchers in Johnson County in northern Wyoming.

In 2007, he was named the "Best Living Non-Fiction Writer" by True West Magazine.

O'Neal is a former Texas state historian, a position to which he was appointed in 2012 by Governor Rick Perry. He spoke at a public forum on March 24, 2013, at the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum in Austin on the topic, "The Leadership Roles of Sam Houston."[8]

On August 10, 2013, O'Neal addressed the summer advanced degree commencement at his alma mater, Texas A&M at Commerce; university president Dr. Dan Jones presented him with an honorary doctor of letters degree. The Bill O'Neal Hall, a new dormitory at Panola College, is named in his honor.[9]​ ​


Western titles

  • The Arizona Rangers (1987).
  • Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters (1991).​
  • Henry Brown, the Outlaw-Marshal (The Early West); published 1980.​
  • Arizona Rangers (1988)​.
  • Cattlemen v. Sheepherders: Five Decades of Violence in the West, 1880-1920 (1989).​
  • Fighting Men of the Indian Wars (1991)​.
  • Legends of the Wild West (1995); with co-authors Dale Crutchfield and Dale L. Walker​.
  • Ghost Towns of the American West (1995)​.
  • Best of the West (1997)​.
  • Historic Ranches of the Old West (1997)​.
  • The Bloody Legacy of Pink Higgins: A Half Century of Violence in Texas (1999).​
  • Great Gunfighters of the Wild West: Twenty Courageous Westerners Who Struggled With Right and Wrong, Good and Evil, Law and Order (2001)​.
  • The Wild West (2002)​.
  • Harry Wheeler, Arizona Lawman (2003).​
  • The Johnson County War (2004)​.
  • Cheyenne, 1867-1903: A Biography of the Magic City of the Plains (2006)​.
  • Brick Book Best of the West (2007)​.
  • Border Queen Caldwell, Toughest Town on the Chisolm Trail (2008)​.
  • The Johnson-Sims Feud: Romeo and Juliet, West Texas Style (2010).
  • West Texas Cattle Kingdom" (2013).
  • Frontier Forts of Texas." (2018).

Baseball titles

​​*The Texas League 1888-1987: A Century of Baseball (1987)​.

  • The American Association: A Baseball History, 1902-1991 (1992).​
  • The International League: A Baseball History, 1884-1992 (1992).​
  • The Pacific Coast League, 1903-1888 (1990).​
  • The Southern League, 1885-1994 (1994).​

Children's books

​​*Great Gunfighters of the Wild West (2001).​

  • The First Thanksgiving - It Happened in Texas (2000)​.
  • Doris Miller, Hero of Pearl Harbor (2007).​

Other titles

  • Tex Ritter: America's Most Beloved Cowboy (Austin:Eakin Press, 1998​).
  • Reel Cowboys (2000)​.
  • The Sons of the Pioneers (2001), with co-author Fred Goodwin.​
  • Sam Houston Slept Here: Guide to the Homes of Texas' Chief Executives (2004).​
  • War in East Texas: Regulators vs. Moderators (2018).
  • Reel Rangers': Texas Rangers in Movies, TV, Radio, and Other Forms of Popular Culture.


  1. Karon Jane Ashby O'Neal obituary. (July 4, 2016). Retrieved on December 13, 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 End Of An Era. Retrieved on August 19, 2013; no longer on-line.
  3. Panola College. The Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved on December 13, 2019.
  4. West Texas Historical Association, West Texas A&M University, Canyon, Texas, Annual meeting, April 4–5, 2008.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bill O'Neal, "Reel Rangers," East Texas and West Texas historical associations, annual meeting in Fort Worth, February 26, 2010.
  6. Meet the KGAS Radio Staff. KGAS AM-FM Radio. Retrieved on June 17, 2013; material no longer accessible.
  7. Book Review. The Western Historical Quarterly, 36.4. The History Cooperative. Retrieved on August 17, 2013; no longer on-line.
  8. West Texas Historical Association newsletter, March 20, 2013.
  9. Tai Kreidler, "Texas State Historian Awarded Honorary Doctor of Letters and Dormitory Named in His Honor," West Texas Historial Association newsletter, August 19, 2013.