Steven Gouldman

GOLEMON, THOMAS JEFFERSON (1909–1940). Thomas J. (Red, T. J.) Golemon, legendary outlaw of the Big Thicket, was born on January 9, 1909, near Kountze, Texas, to Henry Daniel and Agnes Ellen (Collins) Golemon. He spent much of his childhood readjusting to new environments; his father frequently moved the family in search of stable employment. Golemon struck out independently at eighteen to became an oilfield roughneck, and his migratory life continued. For twelve years he traveled through Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma and earned a reputation for brawling. On January 13, 1939, at Corpus Christi, he and two companions were arrested and charged with the murder of a rig builder who had been killed in a drunken fight. Golemon was released on bond in June but failed to show up for trial. He soon appeared in Hull, Texas, where he gained his first widespread notoriety. On July 26, 1939, he and Francis Alva Smith walked into the Hull State Bank, locked two women employees in the vault, and escaped with $12,000 in cash. The two men fled west to Hobbs, New Mexico. On July 31 they parted company; Smith headed south, Golemon went east.

Meanwhile the Liberty and Hardin county sheriffs drove throughout East Texas, warning residents of the penalties for harboring criminals. For a few days Golemon hid in Houston with relatives, one of whom told the police, who then delivered Golemon to the Liberty county sheriff. In December 1939 Golemon was once again out on bond, and once again he failed to appear for trial. He disappeared into the Big Thicket, and stories began flowing from residents connecting him with robberies, kidnappings, and other crimes they believed he committed while using the thicket as a hideout. On December 21 a man reported to officials that he and his two sons had been kidnapped by Golemon, whom they knew. The three victims escaped unharmed. During January 1940 Golemon was also identified as the man who robbed and shot a Beaumont taxi driver before stealing his cab. In addition, on March 27, Golemon allegedly captured and held a man hostage but freed his prisoner when the man agreed to commit a robbery with him. The victim notified officers, who set a trap, but Golemon failed to appear. The following day officers from Texas and Louisiana intensified the search after Golemon was positively identified as one of two armed men who robbed the Kirbyville State Bank. Although another man later confessed, exonerating Golemon, the authorities refused to discontinue their quest.

The search ended on April 11, 1940, when the notorious "Red Fox of the Big Thicket," discovered at his parents' home in Hardin County, died in a barrage of gunfire. He was buried in the Old Hardin Cemetery.

Wanda A. Landrey, Outlaws in the Big Thicket (Quanah, Texas: Nortex, 1976). Campbell and Lynn Loughmiller, Big Thicket Legacy (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1977).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Steven Gouldman, "GOLEMON, THOMAS JEFFERSON," accessed February 22, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fgo33.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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