Leon Claire Metz (born November 6, 1930) is an American cultural historian, author, television documentary personality, and lecturer on the American Old West period. Metz has presented hundreds of his programs to groups all over the U.S. particularly in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona. Metz has also made numerous TV appearances television documentaries most notably, A&E's The Real West series, which is also shown on The History Channel. Metz was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and graduated from Parkersburg High School in 1948. He then joined the US Air Force during the Korean War. He was primarily stationed at Biggs Field, El Paso where he was a propeller mechanic, attaining the rank of staff sergeant, which he would later portray in his book Fort Bliss: An Illustrated History. C.L. "Doc" Sonnichsen a noted historian himself, would serve as an early mentor for the young Metz. Metz has penned 17 books, most notably John Selman: Texas Gunfighter and a biography of Old West lawman Pat Garrett. Metz also hosts a weekly column in the El Paso Times. Metz also hosts a radio show, The Leon Metz Show on KTSM, which relates to Southwestern U.S. history. He can also be seen often on BBC television specials on the west. On June 16, 2012 Metz contributed his voice to an alternative hip hop album entitled Greetings from El Paso, a concept album about El Paso, Texas by local rapper Zyme One.
“We are always on the lookout for little-known rarities,” wrote Leon C. Metz in the 1968 summer issue of U.T. El Paso’s NOVA magazine. Mr. Metz, a native of West Virginia, became the University of Texas at El Paso’s first archivist in 1967. He soon after claimed that “The University of Texas at El Paso should have the finest archives collection this side of the Mississippi in a few years.” Leon Metz was not only an archivist, but an author as well. He wrote works like Turning Points in El Paso, Texas (1985), John Wesley Hardin: Dark Angel of Texas (1996), and John Selman: Texas Gunfighter, a book he published in 1966, prior to becoming the university’s archivist. Leon Metz first became acquainted with El Paso and the Southwest while he was in the U.S. Air Force and stationed at Biggs Field in the early 1950s. He quickly came to like the Southwest and after his discharge in 1953 he began attending night classes at Texas Western College (now UTEP) while also working for the Standard Oil Refining Company. After being offered the position of becoming archives librarian in 1967, Mr. Metz played an important role in developing and organizing U.T. El Paso’s Special Collections Department, located in the university library.
In 1968, Leon Metz also stated in NOVA magazine that “No doubt our future reputation will hinge on the amount of Southwestern material we manage to collect. An archives is only as good as the material filed therein. In this respect I would like for every reader to consider himself an honorary U.T. El Paso archivist. In your lifetime you have happened across records, papers that were being lost and destroyed through neglect and indifference.” During his time at U.T. El Paso, Metz wrote dozens of articles, conducted many interviews, and helped collect valuable information about the American Southwest, El Paso, and the university. He traveled extensively throughout the El Paso region and Mexico in search of the “little-known rarities” he felt were so important to the school’s archives. Metz’s work on John Selman won the Texas Writers League book award, and until recent years, he maintained a weekly column in the El Paso Times, which were about Southwestern and borderlands history.
Leon Claire Metz
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