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 Texas : Features : Personalities :

A SHERIFF NAMED BUCKSHOT

by John Troesser
Wharton Texas Sheriff Buckshot Lane

Sheriff "Buckshot" Lane of Wharton County
Photo Courtesy Wharton County Historical Museum

He gave up a good paper route to be Sheriff.

Although his name conjures up images of weekly gunfights, he was actually given the matinee-sounding sobriquet when his father set him astride a watermelon and his uncle commented his eyes looked "a little buckshot." This was a fortuitous slip, for nobody would take "Bloodshot" Lane seriously, even without the watermelon.

Newly married, young Buckshot needed a better paying job than his early morning paper route, even though it was the largest in the county. He ran for Sheriff on a campaign slogan of "Vote for me, or get your paper in the mud." While that isn't exactly true, it might have been on the minds of the voters who elected him by a wide margin.

Buckshot served as Wharton Constable for 8 years and as Sheriff for 12 more. Early on he gained a reputation for honesty and fair play. Employing a common sense approach to law enforcement, he would differentiate between the "accidental" and habitual criminal.

One of the highlights of his career was burning the Kentleton Bridge on Highway 59 in 1935. The bridge had caused scores of accidents due to the faulty alignment of the gravel road leading to it. After 3 college students were killed, the bridge mysteriously caught fire, causing the State to built a new (and safer) one. The District Attorney said he would buy "the finest suit available" to whoever would confess. Buckshot learned from none other than J. Edgar himself, that the statute of limitations on bridge burning was 10 years. Shortly after the 10th anniversary, Buckshot asked for his suit.

Buckshot was not without his critics. As he put it: "It's hard to get along with County Commissioners if you count the gravel trucks", which he did.

He taught himself fingerprinting, learned to fly, and raised money for an airplane the county couldn't afford by requesting a dollar from anyone who wanted to donate. His fund-raising slogan was "A Buck for Buck". A total of $6,500 was raised and Buckshot had the name of every donor painted on the aircraft.

If you listened to the radio in El Campo, did that make you a Kulprit?

Long before "America's Most Wanted," KULP Radio in El Campo gave Buckshot an early morning 15 minute "program" six days a week, where he would tell individuals with warrants to turn themselves in. Many did. Talk about a wake-up call. "It's 6 am, 56 degrees and John Johnson, if you're listening, don't make me come get you!"

Buckshot Lane
"Buckshot" Lane
Courtesy of Wharton County Historical Museum
Buckshot had his shoot-outs to be sure. One left his car riddled with 52 bullet holes and his hat with another. His adversary was taken to the hospital and as Buckshot said; "never got over it." Early in his career, Buckshot carried a Luger pistol, but after having three bullets go "clean through" a suspect, he switched to a .45 for more stopping power.

Buckshot made every important national magazine. Life, Time and The Saturday Evening Post all carried stories about or by Buckshot. He was in great demand as a speaker and the Wharton County Historical Museum has his typewritten schedule for several of his speaking tours.

He cut it pretty close. Often he barely had time to get a drink of water on his trip from the bus station to the stage. He once took the Highway Patrol up on their offer to deliver him to an engagement.

As busy as he was, he was photographed typing out "Deputy Applications" for two Wharton boys who appeared to be about 10 years old. Although the photo was surely posed, it's easy to imagine Mr. Lane taking the time to do such a thing. Buckshot also wrote a column for the Houston Post newspaper.

Mr. Lane's son still resides in the City of Wharton, where he is a CPA.

We could easily write more on this one-of-a-kind character, but space is limited. For further information on "Buckshot" look in your library for Texas High Sheriffs by Thad Sitton, Texas Monthly Press.

Information for this article was obtained from the friendly and efficient staff of the Wharton County Historical Museum.
John Troesser

See Wharton, Texas

"The Texas Sheriff : Lord of the County Line" by Thad Sitton
 

 
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