Private N. P. "Doc" Thomas

Private N. P. "Doc" Thomas

Texas Rangers, Texas

End of Watch Tuesday, January 5, 1909

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N. P. "Doc" Thomas

Between 1907-1909, the Texas Rangers were requested to enforce the prohibition laws in the Texas Panhandle because officials felt the local police and sheriff’s departments were not being diligent. A force of rangers, including Ranger Private N. P. “Doc” Thomas, shut down the bowery area of Amarillo, and arrested hundreds of bootleggers. This caused bad blood with the local police and sheriff’s departments. The rangers withdrew to other duties, but Thomas remained in Amarillo. The bootleggers started reopening for business as the rangers left town. Thomas told several people that he was a marked man and would never get out of Amarillo alive.

Around 10 o’clock on Tuesday morning, January 5, 1909, Thomas was sitting in a chair in the county attorney’s office in Amarillo, the county seat of Potter County, with his leg up on the table talking to a local attorney about representing him in a dispute with the Potter County Sheriff’s Department. A man wanted for murder in Arkansas had been taken out of the county jail by Thomas and released to a deputy sheriff from Arkansas who took the prisoner back to Arkansas without any legal proceedings.

Sheriff J. E. Hughes and his chief jailer, Deputy Sheriff James W. “Jim” Keeton were upset over the incident and confronted Thomas. Both Hughes and Keeton accused Thomas of involvement in the “kidnapping” of the prisoner. The local attorney left the room, and he heard Keeton call Thomas a liar. Keeton shot Thomas above the right eye. Thomas was found with his hands in his lap, his head hanging back over the chair. Thomas’ .45 caliber pistol was still in the scabbard. The sheriff, who had just walked out of the room, returned and Keeton surrendered to him. Thomas lingered for one hour before dying from his wound in the room where the shooting occurred. There were no eye witnesses to the actual shooting.

N. P. “Doc” Thomas was buried in the Springtown Cemetery in Wise County. He had been a deputy sheriff in Parker County, joined Company A of the Texas Rangers, re-joined the Parker County Sheriff’s Department, and re-enlisted in the Texas Rangers the last time in January of 1908. He was unmarried and survived by three brothers and two sisters in Parker County.

Keeton was indicted for the murder of the Thomas. At the trial the sheriff testified he fled the room when Keeton accused Thomas of being a liar and that he saw Thomas sit up in the chair and reach for his pistol. Keeton testified to the same thing and both alleged that Thomas had made earlier threats against them. This testimony defies the fact that Thomas was still seated in the chair when shot, his hands were in his lap, and his pistol was still in its scabbard. The circumstantial evidence indicates that the sheriff and Keeton were upset with the Texas Rangers arresting bootleggers, and at Thomas in particular, and the release of the prisoner was just the excuse to confront Thomas and kill him. Thomas had predicted he would never leave Amarillo alive.

Keeton was convicted and sentence of 5 years in the penitentiary for second degree murder. Keeton appealed and the conviction was affirmed.


  • Age 49
  • Tour Not available
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Handgun
  • Offender suspect sentenced to 5 years in prison

Most Recent Reflection

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Pvt. Thomas,
On today, the 110th anniversary of your death I would just like to say thank you for your service and sacrifice for the citizens of the state of Texas. And to your Family and loved ones, I wish to extend my deepest sympathy.


United States Border Patrol

January 5, 2019

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