Published in the Rains County Leader on September 1, 2020:
I was supposed to meet Harold G. “Tex” Midkiff at Reka’s at 9:30, but as usual, I was running about five minutes late. Hoping I’d recognized him from the author photo in the back of his newly published book, I rushed in the door. I needn’t have worried. Sitting on the sofa was a gentleman dressed in neatly pressed jeans, a long-sleeved starched button-down shirt, boots, and a black cowboy hat with a unique metal headband. He was indeed, as his media package had described, the consummate Texas man.
Midkiff is a native Texan, born in Houston and raised in Palestine. Although his career in homeland security has taken him all over the country, he has always returned to East Texas. He and his wife LaJuana now live on Lake Fork near Yantis in a house they built twenty-four years ago in anticipation of their golden years. Ultimate withdrawal from the work force was slow in coming as Midkiff retired in 2005, again in 2009 and finally in 2017. Several situations contributed to his various returns to work including the stock market crash in 2008, but the main reason was that he enjoyed his work and he was very good at it.
After graduating from high school, Midkiff’s intention was to study physics at the University of Texas. He said that when he walked into his first physics class, instead of 500 students like there were in most of his classes, there were seven including him – and they all had slide rules clipped onto their belts and pocket protectors in their shirt pockets. He had a pretty good idea then that he was in the wrong field, and his grade at the end of the semester confirmed it. In the meantime, he had become a married man and needed to find a way to support his family, so he went into the family business.
The Midkiff family had worked in criminal justice and security for several generations, and their name opened doors. Midkiff said that he met the warden at dinner one night and was hired the next day. He worked full time in security for the Texas Department of Corrections and took classes when he could at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. His principal job involved setting up and managing prisoner visits to schools where they presented motivational talks about staying off drugs and out of trouble. After seven years, he graduated cum laude with a BS in criminal justice in 1976.
After graduation, Midkiff went to work for Guardsmark, LLC, an international contract security provider headquartered in New York City. He continued to learn and holds certifications as a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). He is also Board Certified in Security Management and has written and lectured extensively on the subject. Because of his leadership abilities, he soon became a senior executive in charge of up to twenty-two branch offices and over 4,000 security personnel, and because of his self-taught computer skills and his communication talents, he created the company’s first on-the-job computer training module on letter and parcel bombs. One of his most memorable assignments was performing security risk assessments for several major sports venues after 9/11.
After twenty-five years with Guardsmark, Midkiff retired. When he later returned to the work force, it was as Vice President of the Western Region for Pinkerton Government Services, the last U.S. part of The Pinkerton National Detective Agency, the rest having been sold to Sweden. His primary function involved providing security for Fortune 500 companies, various federal buildings, and companies that had top secret governmental contracts. I got the feeling there were some interesting stories there, but I was afraid if he told me he’d have to kill me, so I didn’t press.
While Midkiff’s exciting career was very interesting, I wanted to know more about the consummate Texas man, so I asked about how he became known as Tex. It seems that the security business involves a lot of travel, and as soon as he opened his mouth, he would be asked what part of the Bible best he was from. When he said Texas, they immediately began calling him Tex. It seemed to fit, so he adopted it officially. After all, Texas is his first love.
His biography material says that Midkiff was baptized in the Trinity River. I asked if that was a literal baptism, but he laughed and said no. When he was a boy in Palestine, he loved to wade and play in Long Lake which was created from the Trinity River. He feels like his close connection with the water of this Texas icon, along with being raised in the Piney Woods of East Texas, is part of what made him a true Texan. When asked what he loves so much about East Texas, he immediately said the people. They have a pride and a spirit that borders on the braggadocious, and it’s a good place to raise a family.
Besides a Texas upbringing and a Texas-style career, Midkiff has hobbies suited to a real Texan. He is a prize winner in both bass fishing and poker, and although he hasn’t been awarded any medals yet, I’d call him a prize-winning local historian and storyteller. And he writes!
Midkiff is a featured columnist in The Community Chronicle and Fencepost Magazine and has published four books. He said that he began writing way back, and that his first book, Divorce Made Easy (In 100 Difficult and Very Expensive Lessons), was a therapeutic endeavor. That book as well as his next two, Some People Call It (Poetry) and The Midkiffs: Early Tejas Settlers and Sons of Old Virginia, were self published. His latest effort, Hidden History of East Texas, was released on July 27 by Arcadia Publishing and The History Press.
Hidden History of East Texas traces little known historical facts about the Lone Star State from prehistoric to modern times. Midkiff’s extensive research, which took him to almost every county office in the eastern half of the state, turned up such gems as archaeological discoveries that have pushed back the timeline of human habitation of North America, Custer’s post-Civil war station in Austin, Big Tex’s history as Big Santa, and much more. One of his more personal stories is of Candace Midkiff Bean, Midkiff’s GGGG aunt, who was part of an expedition that settled in Texas when it was still a part of Mexico called New Spain. She was honored with a 1936 Texas Centennial Marker that reads in part: One of those pioneer women who braved the menace of Indians and frontier life and rocked the cradle of Texas liberty.
When asked about the best and worst parts of his latest book, Midkiff said it was hard trimming the manuscript to the forty-thousand-word limit imposed by the publisher, and getting approval for all the photos and illustrations that add so much to the stories was challenging. However, he really enjoyed the research and is pleased with how it all came together.
At this time Midkiff has no plans for future book projects, but he is working on an interesting article called Tecumseh’s Curse 2020: Is the Curse Dead? He also has no public appearances scheduled due to COVID restrictions. But Hidden History of East Texas is available on Amazon and from Arcadia Publishing – and rumor has it that he can be found most mornings having breakfast at the Yantis Café, telling stories at The Table of Knowledge.
When asked if he had a message of his readers, Tex Midkiff shared what has become a life goal for him – keep history alive for future generations. He has done his part in reaching his goal by making East Texas history come alive on the pages of his book.