Texas will always be known for its larger-than-life founders (Sam Houston), places (the Alamo), and outlaws (John Wesley Hardin). But two lawyers and their task force of history buffs are out to prove that Texas was much more, that it was a place where ordinary settlers were just trying to do the right thing—to build communities and to find justice. Since 2008, Bill Kroger and Wallace Jefferson, who is also chief justice of the state Supreme Court, have traveled the state researching cases, searching for documents, and piecing together information. They fear Texas is losing its history—one ancient court record at a time. In this month’s issue, senior editor Michael Hall writes about the many discoveries the duo have made and what keeps them passionate about preserving the truth. Here’s the story behind the story.
How and when did you first learn about Bill Kroger and Wallace Jefferson and their mission? Did you know immediately that this had the makings for a good story?
Bill emailed me about a year ago. He had seen a story I wrote on Blind Willie Johnson in our December 2010 issue. Bill is a huge Texas music fan, especially old blues guys, and though Johnson was a gospel singer, he was one of the most influential acoustic guitarists ever. When Bill got the task force together, he emailed me, knowing I loved Texas music history too. When I saw the music stuff they had—Bob Wills, Leadbelly—as well as the other stuff on regular citizens, I was pretty sure this could be a great story.
As a reporter