From Leader to Legend
Military History - World War II - Texas History
6.125 x 9.25, 528 pp.
68 b&w photos. 8 maps. Bib. Index.
Pub Date: 09/16/2014
Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University
Price:        $24.95


Published by Texas A&M University Press

To Receive E-News



From Leader to Legend

Thomas M. Hatfield

In times of war . . . in times of peace . . . in times of sweeping social change . . . a leader for all seasons . . .

Whether scaling the seemingly insurmountable cliffs of Pointe du Hoc with his advance assault troops during the Normandy invasion, restoring integrity to the Texas Land Office, or overseeing transitions in an academic institution with hallowed traditions during a time of contentious cultural change, James Earl Rudder (1910–1970) forged a legacy of wartime gallantry and peacetime leadership that commands continuing respect. Rudder: From Leader to Legend pays tribute to a man who exemplified leadership, vision, and courage.

In this first comprehensive biography of James Earl Rudder, Thomas M. Hatfield has gone far beyond the usual focus on Rudder’s heroism in World War II to recreate with rich detail exciting events on battlefields and in boardrooms. He has painted a full portrait that permits a wider appreciation for every phase of Rudder’s early life, from childhood, to his storied military exploits, to his remarkable postwar achievements and far-reaching public service. Utilizing access to previously unavailable family papers, memoirs, and interviews, Hatfield has crafted an insightful and unsparing view of the man that applauds his accomplishments and reveals his foibles.

Readers who know Rudder primarily through his association with Texas A&M University will be fascinated by his courageous battlefield leadership; those who previously knew only of his military reputation will enjoy learning about his distinguished record of public service. Rudder: From Leader to Legend will captivate a broad general readership, bringing to the fore a well-rounded view of this extraordinary man.

Fall 2011 Military Book Club and History Book Club Selections

THOMAS M. HATFIELD is the director of the Military History Institute in the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, where he  lectures on World War II and is Dean Emeritus of Continuing Education.  The former president of two colleges, he was a military intelligence officer and is an internationally recognized scholar on World War II.

What Readers Are Saying:

" . . . engrossing biography . . . Hatfield has crafted a carefully researched and well-written book . . . a model of combat reporting . . . a meticulously detailed account of his subject's life."--Journal of America's Military Past

" . . . intricately detailed biography . . . Hatfield's view is that Rudder was a product of his generation and his history: as a former football coach and military officer, he thought everyone should be on the team. While such inflexible leadership may not have won him praise in this case, Hatfield argues that in balance, it was the deciding factor in transforming Texas A&M."--Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Rudder: From Leader to Legend is a valuable read for anyone interested in command at the front.”—NYMAS Review

"This book theme is the triumph of humane and purposeful leadership in war and peace and the importance of character."--San Angelo Standard-Times

"This is the extraordinary story of Earl Rudder, a man who came from nowhere to everywhere -- from small town West Texas to the greatest and deadliest battlefields of World War II, back to state politics and government, and finally, on to the mission of turning Texas A & M into a great university. Tom Hatfield tells the story superbly with the detail and compassion required to assure that Earl Rudder and this book about him will never be forgotten."--Jim Lehrer, executive editor and anchor, PBS NEWSHOUR

"Earl Rudder was a West Texan, a war hero, and the most important president in the history of Texas A&M University. In this sterling biography, Tom Hatfield does justice to all phases of Rudder’s life and career, and reminds us how an individual with talent, perseverance and courage can place an indelible stamp on an entire generation."--H. W. Brands, author of twenty-two books, including two Pulitzer Prize finalists: Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (2009); and The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin (2000), a New York Times bestseller


“Tom Hatfield’s scholarly biography of James Earl Rudder represents a remarkable achievement.  Indefatigable in his pursuit of sources, Hatfield has provided the definitive account of Rudder’s role in preparing and leading the soldiers of the 2nd Ranger Battalion in their audacious assault against the Pointe du Hoc battery on D-Day, a feat for which Rudder and his men deservedly became famous.  But the author has done much more than this.  Not only does he cast new light on several important events during the European campaign of 1944-5, but he also tells us much about how leaders of the best kind are formed, and how some of the skills demanded in war can be used or adapted to meet the challenges of public service in times of peace.  Having read this book, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Earl Rudder was far too modest a man ever to have contemplated telling his own life story, regardless of its significance or the lessons that it might offer.  Tom Hatfield is therefore to be congratulated for doing so on his behalf, and for presenting a compassionate yet fair-minded portrait of a loyal, courageous and humane soldier whose post-war contribution to Texan life places him high in the list of those most deserving of his fellow citizens’ regard.” --Simon Trew, Deputy Head, Department of War Studies, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

“Hatfield’s descriptions of Rudder at war may surpass the finest current work in the field of American military history. His expertise, his meticulous research, his careful analysis, and fine touch as an historian combine for path-breaking scholarship. Hatfield has solidified Rudder’s reputation as one of the most extraordinary American battlefield commanders of the war, not through hagiography, or the repetition of myths, but through scholarship. He has persuasively appraised Rudder’s role in the assault on Pointe du Hoc and re-assessed his fighting withdrawal on the Southern Shoulder of the ‘Bulge’ as a precursor to holding Bastogne.  Hatfield demonstrates an amazing ability to handle a broad range of topics, from understanding of Ranger history and operational issues of the European war to his insights into Texas politics in the mid-twentieth century. Rudder: From Leader to Legend may be the finest manuscript I have ever reviewed. I can confidently say that it will greatly enhance Texas A&M University Press’s already fine reputation."--John C. McManus, author, The Americans in Normandy; Grunts; Alamo In the Ardennes; and other World War II books

"Tom Hatfield has gotten inside the mind of the Colonel Rudder I knew during the war."--James W. Eikner, Headquarters Company Commander, 2nd Ranger Battalion, 1943-45

“Dr. Hatfield’s account of how women were admitted to Texas A&M is as complete and accurate as it can be told. This complex story has never been expressed in such persuasive and consummate detail.”--Nelda Rowell Green, executive secretary to President Rudder from 1965 to 1970

"I will never understand how Hatfield accumulated so much interesting information about Earl Rudder.  It is almost as though he was with Rudder most of the time."--DeWitt Waltmon, Houston, Texas

Review Copy Request Form Desk Copy Request Form