And Now You Know More: Defining Bravery in the Midst of Evil: Part II

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By Thomas Best

Last week, I spoke to you about a book which defined an example of exceptional bravery in the midst of evil.  This book related to the true story of an escapee from the Auschwitz death camp during the Holocaust. After finishing that incredible account, I began reading David Grann’s historical drama, “Killers of the Flower Moon.” As had happened to me with “Boys in the Boat,” I was able to read the book and never see the movie.  Nevertheless, I sought—once more—to discover the amount of bravery demanded to stand up to unprecedented cruelty.

Without spoiling too much, if you intend to read this book—or, see the movie—let’s say that this is an account of one man’s drive to bring evil people to justice.  The setting is Oklahoma in the early 20th century.  Tom White was a relatively new agent in the federal government’s BOI—Bureau of Investigation (today the FBI).  J. Edgar Hoover had recently taken over the lead role in this new branch of law enforcement (interestingly, this was at a time when BOI agents only had investigative powers—not the power to arrest them). While wanting to improve his fledgling agency’s using new forms of scientific investigation to solve crimes (think identifying criminals by their finger prints), Hoover, nevertheless still needed tough “old school” officers of the law who understood criminal behavior. Tom White was one of these men—specifically, a one-time Texas Ranger.

The crimes being investigated were the deaths of dozens Osage people. Due to the discovery of valuable oil on their native lands, they had quickly become some of the richest people per capita in the world.  Tragically, the U.S. Government still considered them to be intellectually unable to manage their new wealth based in “headright” allocations. It was common knowledge that unscrupulous white men became the designated guardians of their funds. Given a legacy of corruption and greed among such caretakers, it was not surprising that manipulative men such as William Hale took advantage of his leadership in Osage County. But he did more than swindle these people out of their new found riches—he arranged for their murderers—during what became known as the “reign of terror.”

Grann expertly chronicles the difficult and complicated journey Tom White undertook to discover the evidence to arrest and prosecute Hale and his cohorts for these heinous murders. White, with his team of agents, knowing the dusty plains of this region and the criminal element living therein, sought out the people who could tell of Hale’s injustice and offer supporting evidence. This anxious process for he and the Osage people was plagued with further obstruction of justice ranging from extortion to threats for anyone who dared tell the truth.  By the end of this tale, you will be impressed with how White, having an unclouded sense of ethical behavior and dedication to the rule of law, overcomes much adversity in his quest for justice. 

This story, imaginatively told, will keep you spell-bound. Seeking justice is never a mistake. Grann’s narrative is proof of this belief.

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