Carthage historian Bill O’Neal writes one book at a time.
Though one time he tried working on three books at once and said, “It just like to have driven me nuts.”
So for his latest tome about plainsman Billy Dixon and his adventurous wife Olive, O’Neal did his research in 2017 and wrote it in October 2018. The research trip was planned out, and at each place he went, people went all out to help him with the research.
“Billy and Olive Dixon: The Plainsman and His Lady” was recently published as a paperback through Eakin Press. A book-signing and several programs are currently in planning stages.
Billy Dixon is noted for the most unprecedented gunshot in the history of the West at the Battle of Adobe Walls in 1874, between the southern Oklahoma panhandle border and Amarillo.
Not too much later, while serving 10 years as an army scout, Billy earned a Medal of Honor during an even more desperate engagement, as one of six men against a band of 125 warriors at the Buffalo Wallow Fight.
Both these actions took place in the Texas Panhandle, where Dixon became an icon of heroism.
Dixon was given land at Adobe Walls. It was then that he met Olive.
Fellow adventurer Olive King came to the Texas Panhandle from back East to visit her cowboy brothers. She became a frontier schoolmarm and met her famous and much older neighbor, Billy Dixon. Billy and Olive fell in love, married and had eight children in 15 years.
In later times, Olive persuaded Billy to dictate his memoirs to her, and the result was a 1914 classic frontier biography, “Life of Billy Dixon: Plainsman, Scout and Pioneer.”
As the Indian wars were over, Billy died, and her children grew up and moved on.
During a long widowhood, Olive Dixon became a major force in Panhandle history, helping to establish the Panhandle-Plains Museum, writing and speaking about her own pioneer experiences as well as Billy’s, and erecting impressive monuments at Adobe Walls and at Buffalo Wallow.
Olive became a news writer and moved to Amarillo and the Amarillo Globe. She grew into a real grassroots historian. She has had only one book written about her life, “Adobe Walls Bride,” until now.
O’Neal is nearing a total of 50 books written since 1979-80.
He’s currently working on a book about Wyoming. He has spent time in Cheyenne and Laramie. He waded through tons and tons of newspapers looking for daily stories, stories that tell you of everyday life in the state.
His Wyoming book is all digital. A friend, Chloe Martinez, was his typist. She kept up three manuscripts in one summer for him. His late wife Karon had always kept him on task and up-to-date, but now he hires someone to help him.
Photos also caused him trouble since Karon died three years ago. He hired a “tech wiz” Shay Jones to help him there. Digital is the way to go now, he said.
O’Neal recently concluded six years of service (2012-2018) as State Historian of Texas, traveling tens of thousands of miles across the Lone Star State as an ambassador for Texas history. He is a past president and fellow of both the West Texas Historical Association and the East Texas Historical Association.
He received the Panola County Citizen of the Year award in 1988 and 2014.
He is the author of almost 50 books, as well as 300 articles and book reviews. His most recent writing award, the A.C. Greene Literary Award, was presented at the 2015 West Texas Book Festival in Abilene. In 2012, O’Neal received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Wild West Historical Association, and in 2007 he was named True West Magazine’s Best Living Non-Fiction Writer.
O’Neal has appeared on TV documentaries on TBS, The History Channel, The Learning Channel, CMT, A&E and the American Heroes Channel Series, “Gunslingers.” During a long career at Panola College, his most prestigious teaching award was a Piper Professorship, presented in 2000.
In 2013, Panola’s new dormitory was named Bill O’Neal Hall, and in that same year, he received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from his alma mater, Texas A&M University at Commerce.