Monday, October 17, 2016

Lufkin and Nacogdoches

On Tuesday evening, October 11, I met with the Lone Star Defenders Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Lufkin. This SCV group meets at Lufkin Barb-B-Q, a local favorite where we enjoyed a terrific meal. A couple of years ago membership in the camp had declined badly, and monthly attendance was no more than six. But new Camp Commander Thomas Anderson has worked hard to recruit new members and to provide appealing programs, and attendance has blossomed. Meanwhile, Larry Cawley has taken charge of program arrangements. Larry lined up my appearance, and nearly 30 members attended.

Thomas Anderson and Larry Cawley, brandishing Civil War replica pistols
which I brought for the program
I spoke on “Texas During the Civil War,” pointing out the enormous contributions made to the war effort by the Lone Star State. In addition to cotton production and manpower (Texas men fought on every front of the Confederacy), Texas was the sole Confederate state to fight a two-front war – Comanche and Kiowa war parties hammered the frontier of the Lone Star State throughout the Civil War. Otherwise, Texas successfully defended its borders from Union troops, most spectacularly at Sabine Pass, where 42 Texans led by Capt. Dick Dowling turned back an invasion force of 17 ships and 4,000 men with a barrage of artillery fire. Also, a month after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Texas troops commanded by Col. John S. “Rip” Ford defeated a force of Union occupation troops in a running fight near Brownsville. Thus Texans enjoyed the satisfaction of a victory in the final battle of the Civil War.
Holding the Stars and Bars. Texas was the seventh – and final – state admitted to the Confederacy before the war, and was represented within the field of stars.Four more states joined the CSA after war erupted.
On my drive to and from Lufkin I passed through Nacogdoches, and a little later in the week I returned for the fall meeting of the East Texas Historical Association. The ETHA customarily meets each fall on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University, although tradition will be broken next fall when we meet in Galveston, which has been a popular destination for several of our spring meetings.
Scott Sosebee and Kenneth Howell, executive directors of the East Texas Historical Association (Sosebee) and of the recently organized Central Texas Historical Association
Ron Chrisman, director of the University of North Texas Press in the Exhibitors’ Room
Program sessions began on Thursday afternoon and continued until Saturday noon, covering a vast array of topics from “Black Cowboys During Slavery” to “Soldado: A Chicano Veteran Tells His Story.” A session of programs was presented by the West Texas Historical Association, and by the Texas Folklore Society, the Central Texas Historical Association and Houston Community College. There was a Black History Breakfast on Friday and a Women’s History Breakfast the next morning. On Thursday evening the annual Max and Georgiana Lale Lecture Series featured the Texas Secretary of State, Carlos H. Cascos.
Light Townsend Cummins, presider of  “The Stafford/Townsend Feud Session,” with presenter James Kearney, who is the author of an excellent new book about the feud
Chuck Parsons (left) and Donaly Brice, presenters in “The Stafford/Townsend Feud Session”
I participated in a session on Sam Houston: From Virginia to San Jacinto. My nephew, Dr. Chris Smith, presented “Young Sam Houston.” Chris is a member of the History Faculty at Liberty University in Virginia, Houston’s native state. I followed with “Old Sam Jacinto.” A special session marked the publication of Archie P. McDonald: A Life in Texas History, based upon oral interviews conducted and edited by Dan Utley and recently released by Texas A&M University Press. Archie served as Executive Director of the ETHA for 37 years, and a packed house listened to this program about the beloved leader of the Association.

Fellows at the ETHA Fellows Reception: (L to R) Donaly Brice, Dan Utley, State Historian, JoAnn Stiles, Cary Wintz, Bruce Glasrud, Gwen Lawe

On Friday evening the Fellows of the Association Reception honored current Fellows of the ETHA and introduced three new Fellows: Mary L. Scheer, Mary Jo O’Rear, and Kyle Wilkison. This event was followed by the Presidential Address Banquet, featuring a program by ETHA President Wilkison.

Dan Utley presents Mary Jo O’Rear as a newly appointed Fellow
Utley with new Fellow Mary Scheer
The fall conference closed with the ETHA Awards and Business Meeting Luncheon. I was privileged to present the Ottis Lock Awards. The Book of the Year was a unanimous selection of the Lock Awards Committee: Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands, 1800-1850, by Andrew Torget. The Joe Atkins Public School Educator of the Year was Stephen Wright of McMichael Middle School in Nacogdoches. Patricia Richey of Jacksonville College was named Higher Education Educator of the Year, and she also was awarded a $750 Lock Research Grant.
Utley with new Fellow Kyle Wilkison
With Chris Smith and Judy O’Neal Smith. A long-time DRT officer, Judy served as presider of our session on Sam Houston

Scott Sosebee with Chris Gill, who is Secretary/Treasurer of the ETHA and who provides exceptional efforts each year for our Fall and Spring Meetings
The new slate of officers was headed by George M. Cooper of Lone Star College. George put together an outstanding fall program, and his first act as ETHA President was to announce that the spring meeting will be held in Marshall, an East Texas city with a rich history that has hosted several successful spring meetings in the past. 

ETHA President Kyle Wilkison presents the gavel of office to incoming President George Cooper

Presenting the Lock Award for Educator of the Year to
Dr. Patricia Richey of Jacksonville College

Monday, October 10, 2016

MOAA at Fort Sam Houston

Last February I provided a program in New Braunfels for the local DRT chapter’s annual scholarship fundraiser. There was a large crowd, and one of the men I met (a number of husbands attended the event) was Mac McDonald, a retired Air Force officer. Mac is a member of the Alamo Chapter MOAA, the Military Officers Association of America. Mac soon offered an invitation for me to present a program to the Alamo Chapter at one of their monthly luncheons, and we agreed upon Thursday, September 22. 

The John J. McCarthy Golf Clubhouse
Dining Hall
 MOAA originally was called the Retired Officers Association. Founded in 1929 to provide advice and assistance to military officers throughout the United States, the association headquartered in Los Angeles. In 1944 the association moved to the Washington, D.C. area. At that time association membership was 2,600. The name was changed to the Military Officers Association of America on January 1, 2003. Membership today is open to active duty, retired, and former commissioned officers and warrant officers, and currently there are more than 380,000 members. Members enjoy numerous benefits and discounts, education and career events, MOAA publications, and an annual meeting.

With Lt. Col. Rhonda Richter, a native Texan who has served for 20 years.  We are standing beside the Alamo Chapter of MOAA flag.
Presiding Officer, Maj. James B. Cunningham

On Wednesday, September 21, I delivered a luncheon program to a DAR chapter in Corsicana. Afterward I drove to New Braunfels, where I spent the night only half an hour from my Thursday destination. As the name indicates, the Alamo Chapter of MOAA is based in San Antonio. The monthly meetings are held at the Fort Sam Houston Golf Clubhouse. 

Introduced by Mac McDonald

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Demonstrating a replica battle flag of San Jacinto
I felt that a program about Sam Houston’s military campaign in the spring of 1836, including the spectacular Texan victory at San Jacinto, would be of interest to an audience of officers. I also enjoyed speaking about Sam Houston at the base which bears his name. The program was well received, and afterward I was asked a number of insightful questions. It was a deep privilege to meet with men and women who dedicated their careers to military service.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Constitution Week

On Saturday, September 17 – the 229th Anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution – I had the privilege of addressing a DAR Constitution Luncheon at River Crest Country Club in Fort Worth. Members of several chapters of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution were in attendance, along with a number of husbands, including several who are members of the Sons of the American Revolution. There were 106 reservations.
River Crest Country Club

As I entered the club building, I was greeted by patriotic music from the South Hills High School Orchestra. Decorations in the dining hall followed the patriotic theme, and I chatted with several ladies I had met last April, when I addressed the Fort Worth DAR at Shady Oaks Country Club. I had come at the invitation of Mary Holland Yamagata, a native of Carthage. Mary’s father, a physician and history buff, was the long-time president of the Panola College Board of Trustees. Mary’s mother was a local historian and strong supporter of all of our college programs. My wife Karon and I had a delightful time at the April meeting, and I was most pleased to be asked back for the Constitution Luncheon.
South Hills High School Orchestra
With Mary Holland Yamagata
Opening ceremonies included an invocation, Pledge of Allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, a group reading of the American’s Creed and of the Preamble to the Constitution, and the Pledge to the Texas Flag. The National Anthem was played by the Southwest Christian High School Band, which continued a patriotic serenade that continued throughout our lunch.

Mary Yamagata, a Regent of the Fort Worth DAR Chapter provided a gracious introduction for me. My program was, “The U.S. Constitution – Rule Book for American Freedoms.” I traced the almost accidental accumulation of our freedoms throughout the colonial period, and I explained how the Constitution was an outgrowth of our personal liberties and of our free enterprise economy.

Southwest Christian High School Band
The presiding officer was Vicki Andrews, Regent of the Fort Worth DAR Chapter
In my U.S. History lectures I always emphasized that the American story is exceptional in the history of the world, and there is no better example of American Exceptionalism than the remarkable document by which we have governed ourselves for more than 227 years.

A few days later I brought “The U.S. Constitution – Rule Book for American Freedoms” to Corsicana, my hometown. On Wednesday, September 21, I drove to the Kinsloe House, the home of women’s clubs in Corsicana since 1938. The James Blair Chapter of the DAR held its monthly meeting at the Kinsloe House on Wednesday of Constitution Week. It has been a rich pleasure for me to deliver programs to various groups at Kinsloe House through the years. I always see old friends and, on occasion, relatives. Indeed, one of my daughters, Dr. Shellie O’Neal, is head of the Drama Department of Navarro College in Corsicana. Shellie has performed on a number of occasions at the Kinsloe house, and she joined us for lunch.
Kinsloe House

With Mary Lou McKie

With Dr. Shellie O'Neal
Mary Lou McKie who had arranged my appearance at the Kinsloe house, prevailed upon Shellie to introduce me.  Shellie’s introduction followed opening ceremonies that included an invocation, the National Anthem with piano accompaniment and the Pledge of Allegiance. The crowd numbered more than 80, and I had a grand time sharing a program with so many long-time friends. For me, Constitution Week was especially rewarding in 2016. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

National Cowboy Symposium

The 28th Annual National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration was held in Lubbock on September 9-10-11, 2016. Alvin Davis, founding father of the Symposium, began inviting me to present programs during the 1990s. I greatly enjoyed the Symposium in the various years in which I was invited, and this weekend I had the pleasure of visiting with Alvin.
With Monica Hightower, Boss Wrangler of the Symposium

Exhibitors and Vendors in the Lubbock Civic Center

For the last several years, the Boss Wrangler of the Symposium has been the efficient and lovely Monica Hightower. When I became State Historian of Texas in 2012, Monica suggested that I present a series of programs on Cow Country Violence. I was delighted at the possibilities, and during the past few years, I’ve delivered programs on range wars of West Texas and on gunfighter cowtowns of the Lone Star frontier. There has been enthusiastic response – large crowds, lots of questions, impressive book sales – to this series of programs.

When Monica contacted me about appearing me at the 2016 Symposium, I suggested the West’s most famous – or infamous – range feud: the Johnson County War. Of course the Johnson County War took place in Wyoming, not Texas, but this is the NATIONAL Cowboy Symposium. Besides, the great hero of the Johnson County War was a courageous Texas cowboy, Nate Champion, and the great villain was a cold-blooded assassin from Texas, Joe Horner (alias Frank Canton). And at the climax of the range war, 22 well-paid gunmen from Texas were brought in to spearhead the action. The cultural impact of the Johnson County War was immense, inspiring the wildly popular novel The Virginian, which spawned motion pictures, made-for-TV movies, and the first 90-minute TV series. Shane, another classic novel and motion picture, also was derived from the Johnson County War. One of the non-fiction works about the famous conflict was my effort, The Johnson County War, which was named Book of the Year by the National Association for Outlaw and Lawman History in 2005.

Cathy Whitten, one of many talented performers at the Cowboy Symposium

As I drove into Lubbock on Friday morning, September 9, the commercial for the 2016 Symposium came over my car radio, and I was thrilled to hear my presentation and my official position featured. After I arrived, I thanked Monica for the State Historian publicity, and she told me that the Facebook ad had enjoyed more than 100,000 hits.  The handsome magazine-style program described in detail: “The Most Infamous Range War in the U.S. – The Johnson County War, by Texas State Historian Bill O’Neal.” Friday afternoon I presented the program to a large crowd. Saturday morning I repeated the program to an audience which, while not quite as large was most receptive.
As State Historian I was interviewed for a news cut by Elizabeth Pace of KLBK-TV Lubbock, a CBS Affiliate.
Part of the large crowd for my Friday program on the Johnson County War

In addition to the range war program, I also was part of a Friday authors’ panel. The panel was chaired by Dusty Richards, former president of the Western Writers of America. Panelists included Karen Fitzjarnell, Nathan Dahlstrom, and the Texas State Historian. The panel was well-attended, and panelists fielded numerous questions from aspiring authors.

Immediately following my Friday program, in the same banquet room we conducted an author panel. L to R: Nathan Dahlstrom, Dusty Richards, Karen Fitzjarnell, Bill

In the Exhibitors' Hall, I visited with Nathan Dahlstrom and his son, and I bought personalized books for three of my grandchildren.

Throughout Friday and Saturday, on two stages – indoor and outdoor – there was constant entertainment from an impressive array of musical artists and cowboy poets. There were horse-training demonstrations, farrier demonstrations, the annual Parade of the Horse, and dazzling shopping opportunities from vendors. Saturday featured the National Championship Chuck Wagon Cook-Off, and on Sunday morning there was a delicious Chuck Wagon Breakfast prior to the annual Cowboy Devotional Service.

Presenting the Johnson County War Program on Saturday

A pleasurable bonus for me was encountering and visiting with old friends. Every year in Lubbock, I count on seeing “regulars” at the Cowboy Symposium, and this year, as usual, I saw friends that I did not expect to meet here. The greatest surprise of all was James Prater from Dawson. Jamie and I met while attending Navarro College in Corsicana. We participated in athletics together, and we both entered the field of coaching. Jamie spent a long career in Lubbock, where he and his wife are enjoying an active retirement. He saw one of the advertisements that mentioned my name, and graciously he paid a surprise visit to my Saturday program. We had not seen each other in more than half a century, and we had a grand time catching up. Such encounters have been one of the deep pleasures of my four years as State Historian.

With Jamie Prater, an old friend from college days

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