S. C. Gwynne's Profile Photo

Writer-at-large S. C. “Sam” Gwynne has worked for Texas Monthly in a variety of capacities since 2000. He is the author of six nonfiction books, including Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Tribe in American History, published in 2010. The book was on the New York Times best-seller list for 82 weeks and was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His book Rebel Yell was also a New York Times best-seller and was a finalist for both the PEN Award for biography and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Prior to working for Texas Monthly, he was a correspondent, bureau chief, and senior editor for Time magazine.

74 Articles

August 6, 2014

Can Steve Patterson Fill This Stadium?

It was just last year—amid spectacular losses and dramatic resignations—that the University of Texas saw its sports program go up in flames. As the new athletics director knows, a return to glory now rides on one person: him.

January 21, 2013

Luv and War at 30,000 Feet

Somehow, as every other major airline went bankrupt, slashed its workforce, or grounded planes, Southwest Airlines kept flying high. Today, Southwest is the country’s largest domestic carrier. So how does a feisty underdog vanquish its competitors and dominate a thoroughly beleaguered industry? One Kick Tail-a-Gram at a time.

Politics & Policy|
January 20, 2013


By now we've heard plenty about how smart senior presidential adviser Karl Rove is, and how he's the most powerful political consultant of all time, and how he delights Republicans and bedevils Democrats. But how did the man who made George W. Bush famous get to be famous—and infamous—himself?

January 20, 2013

Dell Freezes Over

It’s not just the stock price. It’s not just the executive exodus. It’s not just the flaming laptops. It’s not just the lousy customer service. It’s not just the sagging employee morale. It’s all of these things—and it’s deadly serious. Inside the sudden decline of the world’s most powerful computer

Politics & Policy|
January 20, 2013

The Great White Hope

During his three terms in office, Houston’s Bill White has been one of the most popular big-city mayors in America. Now he’s just the latest in a long line of Texas Democrats trying to win a statewide election. What makes Mayor Bill think he can break a fifteen-year losing streak?

January 20, 2013

Come Early. Be Loud. Cash In.

How did the University of Texas build the most successful college sports program in history? One visionary coach at a time. One world-class athlete at a time. One state-of-the-art stadium at a time. And with an ambitious, aggressive business model that’s the envy of its rivals everywhere.

January 20, 2013

Head Case

Depending on your point of view, the firing of Mike Leach, Texas Tech’s controversial football coach, was about the state of football (the sport has gone soft), concussions (they are a potentially life-threatening condition), or celebrity meddling (Craig James was a helicopter dad). But is it possible that Leach has

Letter From Fort Worth|
January 20, 2013

Bishop Takes Castle

Fort Worth clergyman Jack Iker’s battle with the Episcopal Church has become an all-out war. And the stakes couldn’t be higher.

True Crime|
January 20, 2013

Lust in Space

The lovesick antics of diapered astronaut Lisa Nowak are some combination of funny and sad but seemingly not revealing of anything larger, until you realize that her tragic, tabloidy breakdown says everything you need to know about NASA’s many troubles.

January 20, 2013

The Next Frontier

How has the state’s most storied ranch managed to survive and thrive in the twenty-first century? By operating in a way that its founder, Captain Richard King, would scarcely recognize.

October 31, 2012

Git Along, Lonesome Ranchers

Cattle ranching in Texas has been endangered almost since its inception. Has the harsh economic reality finally caught up with our most iconic business?

Texas History|
April 30, 2010

Last Days of the Comanches

In an exclusive excerpt from his new book, Empire of the Summer Moon, special correspondent S. C. Gwynne re-creates in thrilling detail the bloody 1871 battle that marked the beginning of the end for the most fearsome tribe to ever ride the plains and its mysterious, magnificent chief, Quanah Parker.

August 21, 2009

Mike Leach Is Thinking . . .

And you would be too if you were an itinerant Rollerblader with a passion for pirates who’d reinvented the game of college football, brought joy to Lubbock, beaten UT, and narrowly missed a shot at a national championship. And what you’d be thinking is, “Gangway!”

April 30, 2008

This Land Is His Land

Jerry Patterson’s enemies make him out to be the Grinch who sold Christmas (Mountains, that is). Of course, he couldn’t give a &$%#.

February 1, 2008

The Last Drop

Texas has the country’s most precise state water plan. So how is it that every one of our major cities is still on track to run dry in the next fifty years?

Web Exclusive|
February 1, 2008

Toilet Tales

In summer months, Houstonians are drinking ice cold . . . toilet water. Courtesy of Dallas.

Letter from San Antonio|
December 1, 2007

Boom With A View

There’s no stopping the skyrocketing growth of San Antonio—until recently the Land That Time Forgot—and there’s no going back.

October 31, 2007

The Old Man and the River

Fifty years after the mythical trip on the Brazos that was the basis for John Graves’s classic book, I followed in his wake. Literally.

Letter From Nocona|
March 1, 2007

Glove Story

Why an iconic sporting-goods company survived a devastating fire.

January 1, 2007

Coal Hard Facts

Facing an energy crisis, Texas is on the verge of a solution that will belch about five billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in the next forty years. Breathe deeply—while you still can.

Politics & Policy|
April 30, 2006

Walled Off

As a record number of demonstrators hit the streets this spring, one Texas border town was rolling the dice on a draconian method of dealing with illegal immigrants. And it’s working.

April 1, 2006

Tree Ring Circus

Why did the feds spend seventeen years pursuing a baseless billion-dollar lawsuit against Houston financier Charles Hurwitz? To help environmentalists take away his old-growth California redwoods. Your tax dollars at work.

January 1, 2006

Retail Politics

Along a seventeen-mile stretch of Interstate 35 sits a theoretical dividing line between red-state and blue-state America. In Austin, the flagship Whole Foods attracts your typical wine-sipping, tree-hugging, Volvo-driving liberals. In Buda, the massive Cabela’s is a magnet for beer-guzzling, gun-toting, flag-waving conservatives. From these consumer preferences, voting habits are

August 31, 2005

Dr. Evil

By almost any measure of performance, including the sheer number of patients who are crippled and maimed, the medical profession has rarely seen anyone like Houston orthopedic surgeon Eric Scheffey. So why did he get to keep his license for so long?

May 31, 2005

Run With the Devils

There was a major don’t-try-this-at-home aspect to my two-day ride on this primitive and unpredictable river. But as scary as it was, it was every bit as beautiful.

April 1, 2005

Safe at Home

Yes, I am one of those parents, the sort who takes his perfectly contented ten-year-old out of a relaxed neighborhood softball league and propels her into the hypercompetitive world of youth tournament sports. But you know what? It’s what Maisie wanted.

January 1, 2005

The Dallas Morning Blues

Why isn’t this man smiling? If you were the chairman of Belo, the suddenly stumbling media conglomerate, you wouldn’t be smiling either. Then again, Robert Decherd is sure there’s only good news ahead.

November 1, 2004

Attack Here

The Houston Ship Channel is considered one of the top strategic targets in the U.S.—an enormous bomb waiting to be detonated by terrorists. But what happens if the bomb actually goes off? Brace yourself for a worst-case scenario of the sort the Homeland Security folks are modeling and simulating and

Magazine Latest