51–75

From Donald Chambers founding the Bandidos in Houston to Gordon Granger reading General Orders No. 3 in Galveston

51 | Donald Chambers founds The Bandidos

Houston Ship Channel, Houston | March 1966

Before weekend warriors straddling $30,000 custom Harleys turned motorcycle culture into an exercise in middle-class escapism, there were the Bandidos. In 1966, the same year that Hunter S. Thompson published his famous book about the infamous Hell’s Angels, Donald Chambers, a stevedore at the Houston shipyards, started his own motorcycle gang, whose outlaws lived by the motto “We are the people our parents warned us about.” He dubbed the club the Bandidos after Mexican bandits, chose red and gold as its colors in deference to his Marine Corps roots, and recruited from biker bars across Texas. As their numbers grew—there were more than one hundred members by the early seventies—the Bandidos emerged as the most dangerous gang in the state. In 1972 Chambers lived up to that reputation when he was convicted of murder and given two life sentences. — ANDREA VALDEZ

52 | Sam Houston defeats Santa Anna

Along Independence Parkway, La Porte | April 21, 1836


Mathew B. Brady

For our country’s sake,” David Burnet pleaded during the monsoonal Texas spring of 1836, “let something be done, something that will tell upon our enemies and upon ourselves.”

Burnet, the interim president of the hastily organized Republic of Texas, was writing to Thomas Rusk, his interim Secretary of War, about the conduct of General Sam Houston, who was at the head of what remained of the Texas army after the disasters of the Alamo and Goliad. “Interim” does not begin to describe the chaotic and wildly improvisational weeks in which the entity now known as Texas managed somehow to survive its creation. The citizens were in panicky flight, and the government and the army were filled with men who held one another in contemptuous distrust. Burnet, for example, thought Houston was a coward who would not fight, as did many of the men he uncertainly commanded.

The enemy are laughing you to scorn,” the president wrote Houston as the general kept retreating, first across the Colorado, then across the Brazos. “You must fight them.”

Houston was a man prone to duels, tempestuous love affairs, and abrupt acts of political theater. But at times he could have a surprisingly cool head, and he needed all the calm he could summon as he led his almost openly mutinous forces to

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