Black History Month: Amarillo trailblazer Matthew ‘Bones’ Hooks
Matthew “Bones” Hooks was a trailblazer in Amarillo. The son of slaves, Hooks is best known as a cowboy, an Amarillo civic leader, and the first black person to serve on a Potter County grand jury according to a recent article in the Amarillo Globe-News.
Hooks was also a leader in the religious community and a businessman, living in Mobeetie and Clarendon. He worked to establish the North Heights subdivision in Amarillo. Bones Hooks Park at North Hughes and Northwest 20th Avenue in Amarillo was named after him.
- Born November 3, 1867 in Robertson County
- Began driving a meat wagon at age 7
- Drove a chuck wagon for Denton County cattleman D. Steve Donald at age 9
- Was one of the first black cowboys to work along side the whites as a ranch hand
- Worked for Donald until he was an adult, then joined the J.R. Norris ranch on the Pecos River
- Participated in many cattle drives with Norris
- Raised horses and became a top horse breaker
- Lived in Mobeetie before moving to Clarendon in 1886
- Operated a grocery store in Texarkana
- Established one of the first black churches in West Texas while working as a cowboy
- Cowboyed in Clarendon until 1900, when he became a porter an Amarillo hotel
- Worked as a porter for the Santa Fe Railroad for 20 years, starting in 1910
- Retired from the railroad in 1930, and became an Amarillo civic worker
- Was a “Range Boss” for the Dogie Club, an organization for underprivileged black children
- Was well known for giving white flowers to the families of deceased pioneers
- He sent over 500 single flowers in his lifetime, including one to each of the 48 nations present at the 1945 United Nations conference in San Francisco
- Participated in pioneer and cowboy associations across the country
- Was a charter member of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society
- His generosity left him penniless toward the end of his life, but that spirit paid it forward when friends established a fund for his care when he became ill
- Bones Hooks died in Amarillo, February 2, 1951. He is buried in Llano Cemetery by his wife Anna.