2008 Hall of Fame Inductee
Matthew “Bones” Hooks
2008 Hall of Fame Inductee - (Posthumous)
Matthew "Bones" Hooks, who was born to former slaves, is best remembered as a famed cowboy, an Amarillo civic leader and the first black person to serve on a Potter County grand jury. Hooks was also a religious leader and businessman who lived in the early Texas Panhandle towns of Mobeetie and Clarendon. He worked to establish the North Heights subdivision in Amarillo.
Hooks, a cowboy and horse breaker, was born on Nov. 3, 1867 in Robertson County. At 7, he began work as the driver of a butcher's meat wagon and at 9 began driving a chuck wagon for Steve Donald. Hooks became one of the first black cowboys to work alongside whites as a ranch hand. He remained with Donald until adulthood and then joined the J.R. Norris ranch on the Pecos River. With Norris, he made many trail drives from the Pecos country, raised horses in partnership with a white man and became a top horse breaker.
Hooks lived at Mobeetie before moving to Clarendon as a ranch hand in 1886. He operated a grocery store near Texarkana, but after 18 months returned to Clarendon. While working as a cowboy, he established one of the first black churches in West Texas. He worked as a cowboy at Clarendon until 1900, when he became a porter at an Amarillo hotel. In 1910, he took a job as a porter on the Santa Fe Railroad, where he worked for the next 20 years.
He retired from the railroad in 1930 and became a civic worker in Amarillo. He had a concern for young people and served as "Range Boss" for the Dogie Club, an organization for underprivileged black children. He gained additional popularity for his presentation of white flowers to the families of recently deceased pioneers and to others with worthwhile accomplishments. He sent out more than 500 single flowers in his lifetime, including one to each of the 48 nations present at the 1945 United Nations conference in San Francisco.
Hooks, whose given name appears in some records as "Mathew," participated in pioneer and cowboy associations across the country in his later years, including the Old Settlers associations of Amarillo and Pampa, the Western Cowpunchers Association, the Montana Cowpunchers Association and the XIT Ranch organization. He was a charter member of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society.
His generosity toward needy friends left him penniless near the end of his life, but when word that he was ill became publicized, friends established a fund for his care. Bones Hooks died in Amarillo on Feb. 2, 1951, at the age of 83. He was buried in Llano Cemetery along side wife Anna Hooks, who had died in 1920. An Amarillo city park is named in Hooks’ honor.
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