About Don Bendell
A best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize nominee, Don Bendell has penned 33 books with over 3,000, 000 copies in print worldwide. A 10th degree black belt Grandmaster, Soke, (Head of Style) in 2 martial arts (Shita Jujitsu & Shita Judo), a 7th degree black belt Grandmaster in 2 other martial arts (Song Moo Kwan Tae Kwon Do & Freestyle Karate) , and a black sash instructor in Muay Thai, as well, Don is a 1995 inductee into the International Karate & Kickboxing Hall of Fame and 1996 inductee into the Martial Arts Museum of America and retired from owning a successful karate school, Bendell Karate, in southern Colorado which he operated with his late-wife Shirley, a 2009 inductee into the Hall of Fame. His son Brent took over running the school in February, 2014 after Shirley's passing and opened a branch in Florence, CO and another in Penrose, CO. Don and the late Master Shirley Bendell are the only couple in history to both be inducted into the International Karate and Kickboxing Hall of Fame. A former Green Beret, in the early 1970s, Don taught a combination of tae kwon do, kickboxing, and jujitsu at the Fort Bragg (NC) Boxing Club twice per week to members of Special Forces and the 82nd Airborne. He also helped then Commanding General Hank Emmerson set up the US Army's "Fit to Fight" program.
He was previously on the National Advisory Board of the American Indian Registry for the Performing Arts along with such notables as Burt Reynolds, Wayne Newton, Will Sampson, and Jonathan Winters. In 2007, Don was highly-honored in a speech by US Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Nicholson along with friend NFL Hall of Fame quarterback and Denver Broncos President and General Manager John Elway. Secretary Nicholson said in his speech that Don was the ideal example of what a disabled veteran could do with a good diet and healthy lifestyle, pointing out that at that time, Don was 60 years old and doing 1,000 pushups at a time, 1,000 crunches per day, and more after surviving illnesses and being wounded, taking on alcoholism in 1969 and not having a drink since, and quitting smoking 4 packs per day in 1983. Despite eating and exercising well, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Don developed Ischemic heart disease and Type II diabetes "due to excessive exposure to Agent Orange." He is rated by VA as a 100% disabled Vietnam veteran.
Don has worked extensively with Vietnamese Montagnard refugees and on Montagnard issues and has also been listed in Marquis' WHO'S WHO IN AMERICA and WHO'S WHO IN ENTERTAINMENT ever since 1992. From December of 2001-2003, he was President of the Rocky Mountain Chapter (Chap. 4/24) of the Special Forces Ass'n where he is a Decader Life member(#DL-8421), a Life member of the Special Operations Ass'n (#1920-GL), Life member of VFW, Life member of DAV, member of the American Legion, a former member of the International Platform Ass'n, and is a member of the Western Writers of America, where he was nominated for 4 prestigious SPUR Awards for 4 of his 10 popular western Colt novels. He is also a member of the Military Writers Society of America. Bendell was honored in 2011 for “Excellence in Western Literature” by the ReadWest Foundation. He was also nominated by the publisher in 2011 for the prestigious Pultizer Prize for his non-fiction memoir Tracks of Hope . . A Modern Day Western (GoldMInds Publishing, LLC, Nashville: 2011). Don was appointed by former Colorado Governor Bill Owens, then reappointed twice by his successor former Governor Bill Ritter, and then served at the pleasure of Governor John Hickenlooper until 2012 on the Colorado Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness. Don also testified for the Colorado Legislature on a bill about Search and Rescue and another bill Don had first suggested to Representative Tom Massey about economic and other incentives to attract film and TV producers to Colorado. Both bills were passed and made into state law. In 2004, Oklahoma Governor (then-Lieutenant Governor) Mary Fallin and State Representative Thad Balkman made Don an "Honorary Oklahoman." In 2018, Don ran unsuccessfully for the Colorado House of Representatives, HD 47 in southern Colorado.
Bendell has traveled the country giving speeches, especially for conservative groups.. Don was also previously on the National Board of Directors of Combat Veterans for Congress. In November of 2016, 3 days before the Presidential election, Don was personally requested by then-republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump to emcee and host one of President Trump’s biggest rallies at the Denver at the National Western Stock Center. Three weeks prior to that, Don emceed another Trump rally in Denver introducing Eric Trump and other dignitaries at the Centennial Institute, Colorado Christian University. Don and Eric really hit it off well.
Don has a Master of Science in Leadership degree from Grand Canyon University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business from Colorado Christian University. He has also been a US Army Special Forces (Green Beret) captain, a licensed Colorado big-game guide and outfitter, bodyguard, executive sales rep, TV Talk show host, and radio disc jockey. A widower, Don is the father of 6 grown children and grandfather of 11. On September 15, 2017, he married Dr. Janet Bendell, who is a social psychologist, also a former Army captain and Vietnam-era veteran, who received her doctorate from UMASS and also attended Harvard and Rutgers. Don and Janet wrote a self help motivational memoir entitled Cowboy the F Up! How to be a Real Man in Today's World., which was released on Amazon and Amazon Kindle on September 15, 2019. The first two-thirds of the 73,000 word non-fiction book, are sometimes dramatic, even heart-breaking, sometimes humorous, and most often action-packed true stories from Don's very colorful, adventure-filled life. The final third of the book is Janet's clinical breakdown of the 5 types of men and what makes some men appealing to women, while others turn women off.
For years, Don rode a big pinto National Showhorse named Eagle, and now rides a chocolate Palomino with flaxen mane and tail Rocky Mountain gaited Horse. named Jubilee. Don and Janet own the Strongheart Ranch south of Florence, Colorado (named for his number one best-selling western). Don's custom-built office, where he writes, has tongue-in-groove blonde aspen walls and cathedral ceilings and many windows with beautiful mountain views. It is adorned with western and military art, including signed and numbered prints from close friend and former (platonic date) Anita LaCava Swift, John Wayne's oldest grandchild, (Actually, Don was her official escort for a Special Forces convention in SC in 2014). It also has signed art work from friends such as artist/film-TV star Buck Taylor (Tombstone, Gunsmoke) and artist Dave Merrick.
He wrote many westerns for Berkley/Penguin-Random House Group-USA, has authored military thriller novels for Berkley/Penguin-Random House, and authored a non-fiction book about his tracking experiences, TRACKS OF HOPE a Modern Day Western, published in hardcover and eBook from Goldminds Publishing, LLC, who nominated Don's book for the Pulitzer Prize. Many of his westerns and non-fiction books have been re-released in e-book format by Speaking-Volumes.com. In the early nineties, Don also created and wrote the first six books of the popular science fiction “Tracker” series under the pen name Ron Stillman for Diamond-Harvest Books (Berkley). Don's long-time friend and editor at Penguin-Random House, Tom Colgan, Executive Vice President of Editorial, was also Tom Clancy's editor for over a quarter century and editor for many NYT best-selling authors such as Ed McBain, Clive Cussler, W.E.B. Griffin, and Jack Higgins.
Don also writes screenplays and wrote, produced, directed, and co-starred in the successful low budget action/adventure feature film, The Instructor, (Shapiro Entertainment, Corp./Vestron, Hollywood, 1983) which was shown and sold in 164 countries worldwide. There is a special "Thank you" to Don in the tail credits of the Walt Disney feature film Operation Dumbo Drop starring Danny Glover, Ray Liotta, and Denis Leary. Don also executive produced, wrote, and starred in a one-hour TV pilot entitled Cowboy with guest stars Buck Taylor and Rex Allen, Jr. Don left the motion picture business after the unexpected death of his close friend and partner Dar Robinson, who the film Lethal Weapon was dedicated to. Dar was considered "the greatest stuntman in the world," and he and Don were planning to make a series of action-adventure films together when Dar was tragically accidentally killed doing stunts on a Dino Delaurentis film. In 2016, Don decided to return to the motion picture business he loves so much, and is working on a number of projects now. His goal is to direct film again, especially based on his traditional historic westerns.
Don hit number one on amazon.com’s best-seller list three times in the past few years and the sequel to his popular number 1 best-selling western Strongheart, called Blood Feather, was released in paperback worldwide on August 6, 2013 by Berkley/Penguin-Random House Group. Although a paperback western, Blood Feather was one of three finalists for "Colorado Mainstream Novel of the Year" by the Colorado Authors League in May, 2014. Another sequel, The Indian Ring (Berkley/Penguin-Random House Group, Jan., 2016) was released worldwide January 5, 2016 and is dedicated to Don's late wife Shirley. It was followed by yet another Strongheart sequel, The Rider of Phantom Canyon, released worldwide on October 4, 2016. It was the fourth and last in the Strongheart series.
Feature stories have been written about Don in Black Belt, Soldier of Fortune, Bowhunter, American Cowboy, Playboy, the Washington Times, The Beacon Journal, The Denver Post, the Deseret News, the Rocky Mountain News, American Spectator, and many other national magazines, newspapers, and blogs. He has been interviewed live by Martha McCallum on Fox News and on many national radio talk shows. In June, 2015, several National Public Radio interviews with Don about his tracking experiences were broadcast nationwide to over 1,000,000 listeners on the popular show Snap Judgement. Don's conservative editorials were often featured in the Buffalo Gap News, which goes to many small towns all over western Texas, the Pueblo Chieftain, American Thinker, and numerous blogs and other periodicals.
Don was born on Elvis Presley's birthday January 8, 1947 in City Hospital, Akron, Ohio and grew up in Akron attending both Coventry High School and Tallmadge High School, where he graduated in 1966. He has longtime friendships with several internationally famous major celebrities, such as Bo Derek, John Elway, Shannon Bream, the late billionaire H. Ross Perot, a number of Medal of Honor recipients, a number of world-famous martial arts legends, the stunt great the late-Dar Robinson, and he had a longtime friendship for four decades with the late-Muhammad Ali.