Paul Lee Johnson ’71, P’08 recently wrote and published his first book, “The McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona: An O. K. Corral Obituary.”
The book explores the storied events of Tom and Frank McLaury, two brothers who were gunned down on the streets of Tombstone, Arizona by the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday in 1881. The deadly event became known as the “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral,” and in a quirk of fate, the brothers’ names became well-known, but only as bad men and outlaws. Did they deserve that reputation?
“The McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona: An O.K. Corral Obituary” explores this question, revealing details of their family background and the context of their lives on the frontier. Johnson begins the story with the McLaury brothers’ decision to go into the cattle business with an ambition to have their own ranch. When they moved to Arizona, they finally achieved that goal, but along the way they became enmeshed with the cross-border black market that was thriving there. As “honest ranchers” they were in business with both the criminal element as well as the legitimate businesses in Tombstone.
Another principal in this story was an older brother, William, who set aside his law practice in Fort Worth to settle his brothers’ affairs, and associated himself with the prosecution of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. Despite his efforts, the Earps and Holliday were exonerated, and the “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” became the opening salvo of a feud that took several more lives.
Johnson has interviewed family descendants and mined their sources, government correspondence, and letters that have never before been published to reveal the human lives behind the storied events. For the first time the events of the O.K. Corral gunfight are presented from the viewpoint of the McLaurys, two brothers who lost their lives and reputations, and a family who tried in vain to find restitution.
At Hobart, Johnson majored in music. He is the author of several articles on the famous gunfight in Tombstone, Arizona and is a featured speaker at the annual Tombstone Territory Rendezvous. In addition, he has been a pastoral musician for more than 35 years, serving as a guitarist, drummer, vocalist, bass player and hammered dulcimer player at All Angels’ Episcopal Church in Manhattan. He recently retired as director of the Nightwatch program at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and is working part-time at Young Life, a ministry for teens.