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Kings of Texas: The 150-Year Saga of an American Ranching Empire [Hardcover]

Don Graham
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 1 2002
Praise for KINGS OF TEXAS

""Kings of Texas is a fresh and very welcome history of the great King Ranch. It's concise but thorough, crisply written, meticulous, and very readable. It should find a wide audience.""
-Larry McMurtry, author of Sin Killer and the Pulitzer Prize--winning Lonesome Dove

""This book is about the King Ranch, but it is about much more than that. A compelling chronicle of war, peace, love, betrayal, birth, and death in the region where the Texas-Mexico border blurs in the haze of the Wild Horse Desert, it is also an intriguing detective story with links to the present-and a first-rate read.""
-H.W. Brands, author of The Age of Gold and the bestselling Pulitzer Prize finalist The First American

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Review

* Full of myth and misunderstanding, there's a Texas for everyone... Graham writes about Texas recognizing the wide-open country that we love, while at the same time putting longitude and latitude in proper perspective... ""Kings of Texas"" is a pleasure to read. (Austin American Statesman)

 ""is the right man for the task of chronicling this Jonesian expanse of archetypal Texana...a pleasure to read"". (Austin American-Statesman, January 19, 2003)

My mother grew up in Texas in the 1930s and recalls driving with her father for hours past seemingly endless miles of King Ranch Property. Covering 850,000 acres even today, a spread as big as the state of Rhode Island, the King Ranch has been an icon of Texas ranching culture since the 19th century. For six generations, descendants of founder Richard King ran the ranch and its various enterprises until Stephen Kleberg was voted out as ranch manager by the corporate board in 1998. The changing face of the King Ranch from family-run enterprise to corporate entity captures attention precisely because so many ranches and farms have already gone this rou te in the West, and here is the largest of them all following in their footsteps. Graham (literature, Univ. of Texas, Austin) has written several books on Texas life and culture. His latest is an easy-to-read popular narrative that complements another recent title of the King Ranch, John Cypher's Bob Kleberg and the King Ranch: A worldwide Sea of Grass& lt;/I> (1995) which is a amore scholarly look at this modern corporate empire. Highly recommended for Southwestern libraries, both public and academic. Charlie Cowling, SUNY at Brockport Lib. (Library Journal, March 1, 2003)

""A crisp history of the King Ranch... a good read about an era long gone.""--Boston Globe

Review

"This book is about the King Ranch, but it is about much more than that. A compelling chronicle of war, peace, love, betrayal, birth and death in the region where the Texas-Mexico border blurs in the haze of the Wild Horse Desert, it is also an intriguing detective story with links to the present--and a first-rate read." —H.W. Brands, author THE AGE OF GOLD and the bestselling Pulitzer Prize finalist THE FIRST AMERICAN.

"KINGS OF TEXAS is a fresh and very welcome history of the great King Ranch. It's concise but thorough, crisply written, meticulous and very readable. It should find a wide audience." —Larry McMurtry, author of Sin Killer and the Pulitzer Prize winning Lonesome Dove


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The Rincon de Santa Gertrudis, an old Spanish land grant, lies at the heart of King Ranch, for it was here, on these untenanted lands, that Capt.Richard King, in 1853, first laid claim to a dream of ownership that would make his nascent rancho the envy of the world. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars King of Texas more than Kings Nov. 14 2003
Format:Hardcover
I took one star away because I dont think the title tells you what the book is about. Most (9 of 14 chapters) of the book is about Richard King, the founder, and the history that took place in South Texas. Only one chapter is devoted to the men who ran the ranch after King. Robert Kleberg, who really made the ranch so wealthy is given little treatment.
However, I did like this book. Its well-written and easy to read. One really gets a sense of what life was like in the late 1800's in South Texas. The later part of the book deals with the impending lawsuit against the King Ranch. Did Richard King swindle his partner's widow out of what was rightfully her's? (about 7,000 acres of prime real estate). The widow's descendants sure think so. Can they win their claim over the power King Ranch? This is a complicated question to answer but the author digs deep into the story. The only bad part is that the case has not yet been settled, so there is no resolution to the engaging battel for money and land.
If you like Texas or western history, you should read this book.
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Format:Hardcover
The King Ranch is on of the U.S.'s largest working ranches. Its development is a big story in Texas. Its owner, Richard King, migrated to Texas before the Civil War. The ranch was so big, it could swallow up those little states up North with no sweat. Today, the ranch is much bigger as it is international in scope.
There are several books on the King ranch. Some were sponsored by the owners. This is an independant and recent book by an important Texas author.
I found the first 2/3's of the book to be really intriguing and well written. Somewhere about 1/2 way I felt the beginnings of the drumbeat on the Chapman lawsuit against the King ranch. The last part of the book details the lawsuit as it updates the ranches history to modern times. In doing so the book loses its riveting advenuresome focus.
The author did his best in describing the early South Texas conditions and the development of this great Texas accomplishment. I really liked the descriptions of the raids by the Texas Rangers among others.
A Mr. Chapman was an early partner with Richard King on one of the main pieces of this huge ranch. The issue was rooted in a verbal partnership contract on land ownership. Chapman moves away, appears to forget about the property, then dies. The heirs, various decades later, sue for a hunk of the now successful ranch. You would think they would have played a more active role in a huge piece of property... like paying property taxes, approving invoices, etc.
I kept waiting for the author to side with the Chapman's on the lawsuit but that didn't happen. But somehow I just felt a prejudice underneath the surface that the author sided with Chapman. But in the end, the author tried to present both sides of the story.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Postcard from the edge May 16 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Mr. Graham sub-titles his book 'the 150 year saga of a ranching empire' but his enthusiasm for the saga seems to have died with Captain King. The author devotes nine pages to Bob Kleberg's forty-odd year reign as the King Ranch dictator and scarcely mentions several other prominent and important figures in the ranch's history. Like Gone With the Wind without mentioning the Civil War. The author's research and writing on Capt. King's early years and the history of South Texas is very well done. Similarly, the treatment of the Chapman/King Ranch dispute is quite entertaining. Other than the current status of the Chapman lawsuit, the discussion of King Ranch in the present is nothing more than a brief postcard from the author's obviously quick and unfruitful trip to the edge of the King Ranch property line. If Mr. Graham had entitled the book 'Chapman v. King Ranch - a War With 125 Years Between Battles' I may have not been so disappointed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Surprising insight into King Domain May 5 2004
Format:Hardcover
I bought this tome for my spouse and it sat around the house, unread, until I picked it up myself. I was surprised that this slim volume could explain so much about the founding of the King Ranch and the controversy surrounding its ownership. I was especially interested in the property rights of the missing character, a military cohort and investor of King's whose heirs later sued the King heirs for their ancestor's part of the ranch. All unsuccessfully, of course.
However, this work by Don Graham, whose work I often read in "Texas Monthly Magazine", which centers more on Kleberg than on the later years and workings, is quite interesting. I couldn't put it down until the end. And after yakking it up to my husband, he finally indulged himself in the read. We both recommend it for anyone fascinated by the legends of this gigantic property and its landlords.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Kings of Texas Feb. 17 2003
Format:Hardcover
The worst book on King Ranch I've ever read. Not very interesting, does not hold your attention. If you aren't paying close attention, you'll read right over when Capt. King dies. One sentence. It just slips up on you. You can tell this guy is a liberal academe with an agenda. You get to read more anti-King & Kleberg bull than is necessary. This book is more about anti-capitalism & racism then anything. Anti-white as usual. Of course there wasn't any Mexican racism this guy saw to much. I don't believe he was fair on both sides. He doesn't really grasp the history of that area & what one had to go thru to establish oneself. Also, his dislike of the Texas Rangers was throughout the book. This is typical revisionist history & not recommended to getting a balanced view of this magnificent family & history of that area.
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