GATESVILLE — Bobbie Faye Thornton, who made Coryell County history her life’s work for more than a decade, became part of that history when she died Dec. 20 at 74.

“Her passion was Coryell County history,” County Judge John Firth said of Thornton.

Born in King to Millard Augustus Mohler and Mabel Fern Shoaf, she attended Gatesville High School.

She married Al Thornton in 1957, and she worked as an executive secretary in Dallas for many years before returning to Coryell County in the 1990s.

Whether it was digging into the history of an old courthouse, a lost cemetery or a forgotten school, Thornton, by all accounts, could find the facts better than anyone.

“She was just a bulldog in research,” said James Powell, a member of the county historical commission who worked with Thornton on the application for historical markers.

“There was nobody else who could do research and write the way she could,” Powell said. “It will be difficult to replace her.”

“She was the very best,” said Sherry Lawrence, who counted Thornton as “a dear friend” and mentor.

“Bobbie was always very generous in sharing information,” said Lawrence, a researcher and historian with the county genealogical society who worked with Thornton for 10 years.

“She was the go-to person for county history,” Lawrence said. “We have lost an invaluable asset.”

When Angela Medley tries to talk about Bobbie Thornton, the words catch on a sob in her throat.

“She knew it all,” said Medley, a deputy county clerk for the past six years. “She taught me everything.”

Medley said her job is to take care of “the dungeon” in the basement of the Coryell County Courthouse, where land records — “all the old stuff” — reside.

“When her health was good, Bobbie was a permanent fixture down here,” Medley said. “She might as well have lived here.”

At the request of Thornton’s family, Medley spoke at the funeral.

“She was my Obi-Wan,” Medley said, referring to the “Star Wars” mentor. “I could say, ‘Hey, Bobbie Faye, where do I find this?’ and she would just go right to it. She knew where to find this stuff that wasn’t written down.”

Thornton is buried in King Cemetery.

Contact Tim Orwig at

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