"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College (www.panola.edu) in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce.
The Murphy-Payne Lecture Series was established at Panola College through the generosity of Foster and Mary Frances Payne Murphy. A number of years ago Mr. and Mrs. Murphy created what is now termed the B.F. and Mary Payne Murphy Fund for the Preservation of Texas Culture. When the lecture series was created, I was chairman of the Panola College history department, and for a few years I secured program participants. For the first Murphy-Payne lecture, Dr. Archie McDonald of Stephen F. Austin State University agreed to provide an address on "Music of World War II." An eminent historian, author, and speaker, Dr. McDonald was Executive Director of the East Texas Historical Association and past president of the Texas State Historical Association. His address was complemented by period music of the Sounds of Swing, veteran musicians who had formed a swing band and who rehearsed on the Panola College campus. A capacity crowd of 600 filled the Q.M. Martin Auditorium, and the inaugural Murphy-Payne event was a grand success.
Mr. Murphy knew that I was constantly at work on one book or another, and with customary generosity he often told me that if I needed research assistance to let him know. I did not avail myself of his gracious offers - until I was appointed State Historian. The office was created in 2006, a year when state funding was strictly contained. In order to secure the position, the office of State Historian would have to be unfunded. When it seemed likely that I would be appointed, probably in the summer of 2012, I visited with Dr. Greg Powell, President of Panola College. Dr. Powell immediately recognized the advantages to our college of an academic affiliation with the State Historian of Texas. He told me that I would be provided with an office on campus and with a computer. When I pointed out that as an ambassador for Texas history I would engage in constant travel, he offered to seek transportation funding from, the Murphy-Payne Foundation. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, always supportive of Texas history, promptly agreed to provide basic travel costs. After a year and a half I have traveled more than 32,000 miles as State Historian. Occasionally housing has been provided to me for an event, but every request from the college for gasoline and hotel funding has been met. Furthermore, the college has sponsored on campus a conference on "Gunfighting in East Texas" and another that I hosted on the "Civil War in East Texas." During my service as State Historian I've received invaluable assistance from Mr. and Mrs. Murphy and from Dr. Powell.
|Reception for Mr. and Mrs. Foster Murphy|
With my tenure as State Historian scheduled to end in August 2014, Dr. Powell asked me to provide the Murphy-Payne lecture in April 2014. He requested that I discuss the office of State Historian and the Panola College connection, and that I describe my travels. The program would be entitled: "On the Road with the Texas State Historian, Bill O'Neal." My wife and chief of staff, Karon, helped me prepare a PowerPoint presentation highlighting my travels. Early on Thursday evening, April 10, there was a reception honoring Mr. and Mrs. Murphy.
By seven o'clock a large crowd of students, faculty members, administrators, and Carthage citizens had gathered. I was introduced by Dean Freddy Mason, chair of the Murphy Payne Committee. After describing the roles of Dr. Powell and of Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, I presented them with framed certificates of appreciation, as small public tokens of my gratitude. I have experienced adventure and a great deal of fun during my travels as State Historian, and the PowerPoint images seemed to underscore those qualities with the audience. I believe I imparted the splendid time that I've enjoyed as Texas State Historian, and I'm eagerly anticipating the remaining four months.