Arnold, a foreign correspondent during the Spanish Civil War who once operated a two-man news bureau with Walter Cronkite for the International News Service in El Paso, was a well-known and colorful figure in Texas. A novel based on his war reportage, Reunion in Barcelona, was serialized in Cosmopolitan magazine, and his short story "A Mission to General Houston" served as the basis for the 1950 Paramount film The Eagle and the Hawk, which starred John Payne and Rhonda Fleming. On January 3, 1964, Arnold's body was found at the Garza Ranch on Brodie Lane near Austin, Texas. The 46-year-old writer had fully dressed and packed a suitcase before firing a fatal shot into his chest with a British made .38-caliber pistol that he had asked a friend to sight for him a few days earlier. Several years before when he talked of living to be a hundred, Arnold wrote his own obituary, dated it March 11, 2016, and gave it to a friend for safekeeping. It read:
"Jess Arnold, the centaur passed away today, The rootingest, tootingest, non-fightingest, runningest Texan that ever lived died quietly.... The Mighty Arnold died as he lived -- with his boots off. He never wore a hat. The Mighty Arnold never wrote anything of note, but did keep on living. He was always going to write a novel, but never got around to it.... 'Hell,' he would say, 'that takes work.'"