Don Bullis can nearly always be seen these days wearing a western hat, set jauntily on the back of his head.
He has worn various hats in his law enforcement career. He has been a sheriff’s deputy, a sergeant of detectives, a city marshal, state organized crime commissioner, and criminal intelligence operational supervisor serving the state under Special Investigations Division of New Mexico Department of Public Safety. DPS is the division that heads New Mexico State Police. Don retired from NMDPS July 1, 2002.
In his earlier years, he had also been a small town newspaper editor, so a writer’s hat also fits him comfortably. While still employed in law enforcement, he had written the first edition of New Mexico’s Finest: Peace Officers Killed in the Line of Duty, published in 1990 by NMDPS. He has continued to write subsequent editions of that work. That book, which chronicles the on-duty deaths of law enforcement officers beginning in 1847, is given to every new officer completing NMSP training academy, and is also free to anyone else. That helped make Don Bullis a recognized name among authors of state history. Also before his retirement, he had written and published The Old West Trivia Book (Gem Guide Books, 1993) that details many little-known facts about the American West; it went into a second printing in 1998.
Bullis wrote, and in 2002 published Bloodville, a fictional but accurate adaptation of the 1967 Budville, New Mexico murders, which have never been satisfactorily solved. “Don is the single most knowledgeable writer on New Mexico law enforcement history, practices and personalities,” wrote William Kuehl, former NM State Police captain, retired municipal police administrator, and instructor of local, state and international law enforcement academies. “Bloodville has the steel-on-steel ring of unflinching truth told in a style and setting which makes this book difficult to lay aside …”
Bullis wrote, and in 2005 published Ellos Pasaron por Aqui (They Passed by Here): 99 New Mexicans … and A Few Other Folks. This book is a compilation of many biographical tales. Each first appeared in his weekly Rio Rancho Observer newspaper column, Ellos Pasaron por Aqui, that focuses on the history of New Mexico and the Southwest. Each chapter of this book is a stand-alone piece, an interesting vignette; his subjects are the famous and also ordinary folks, saints as well as sinners. All interesting. Tony Hillerman wrote this book’s introduction.
Bullis wrote, and published Bull’s Eye, a novel, in 2006. For a review of this book, go to this issue’s Bull’s Eye-Bullis page.
His newest work, the Biographical Dictionary of New Mexico, will soon be released by Rio Grande Books.
Bullis also electronically publishes the New Mexico Historical Notebook, with pieces about various historical events and people. He serves as president of the Albuquerque Corral of Westerners International, belongs to many writing and historical societies, and is a sought-after speaker for many of their functions.
With all else that he does, when does he find time to write books?
The Writing Hat sits comfortably and naturally upon the head of Don Bullis.