Saturday, July 9, 2016


After I was sworn in as State Historian of Texas in 2012 by Governor Rick Perry, my wife Karon smiled and announced that she would serve as my Chief of Staff. There were chuckles around the room, but I knew that Karon had every intention of committing her considerable abilities to the office of Texas State Historian.
 


 
When we married in 1993, Karon began to refer to us as "Team O'Neal." Karon and I were faculty members at Panola College in Carthage, her home town. A 1979 graduate of Carthage High School, Karon was an honor student at Panola College and played a busy role in student activities, especially in the music department. She majored in mathematics at Texas A&M University (Class of '83), and soon earned a Master's Degree in math at Stephen F. Austin State University. After six years as lead math teacher at Carthage High School she joined the Panola College math faculty. She became a master teacher, and served for several years as chair of the Math and Science Department.
 
 


Meanwhile, she generously aided my efforts in the field of history. Twice per summer she drove one of the two college vans across the Lone Star State during my Traveling Texas History classes. She served as women's counselor during my Traveling European History courses. Karon accompanied me on research trips, usually in the West, greatly accelerating my efforts.
 
She went with me to history conferences and immediately became popular, because of her sweet nature and because of her colorful and picturesque attire. I write all of my manuscripts - books, articles, book reviews - in pencil, and Karon has converted all of them electronically for publication. She also has helped greatly with photos.



So when Karon stated that she intended to be Chief of Staff of the Texas State Historian, I knew that I was going to enjoy exceptional assistance from a hard-working, competent, and dedicated volunteer. During the past four years my Chief of Staff has attended programs with me throughout Texas. At the San Jacinto Monument on April 21, 2014, she snapped photos as I delivered the keynote address, then she posed - rammer in hand - with a reenactor cannon crew.
 
At fourth-grade Texas history cowboy programs she wore Lone Star boots and buckskin gauntlets and a big hat, and during my presentations she quietly pointed to various items of cowboy attire as I referred to them. The little girls, especially, were mesmerized.


In addition to helping with my manuscripts, Karon learned to create blogs. My predecessor, Dr. Light Cummins, posted blogs during his two-year tenure. When we read them, Karon and I realized it was essential for us to continue the State Historian blog. At first we posted at lonestarhistorian, but after Google purchased Blogspot we posted at lonestarhistorian2. Between these two sites we have posted nearly 200 blogs during the past four years. Each week I write up my recent history adventures - in pencil, of course - and Karon types it and inserts several photos that we have taken of the subject events. It was quite a learning process for Karon - a process I never could have mastered - but she persevered, as always and she has produced one blog after another.


 

Until this one. A few days ago Karon died suddenly and unexpectedly - she was only 55. She had suffered from MS for more than 15 years, but we continued to travel and research and write and visit our family - four daughters, three sons-in-law and seven grandchildren, who loved to play and read with "GrandKaron." We were about to leave on a trip to watch a granddaughter play basketball last week when Karon's heart stopped beating. There has been a tremendous outpouring of sorrow and love in Carthage and at Panola College, where the school flag was flown at half mast. Central Baptist Church was packed with with hundreds of mourners during her funeral services.  






My daughter, Dr. Berri O'Neal-Gormley, volunteered to help me produce this blog. My brother, Mike O'Neal - as tech-savvy as his older brother is not - also offered to keep the blog going. But this one is dedicated to my beloved Chief of Staff.
 


 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

CRT

"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 Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) organized in 1891. The DRT ladies famously labored to preserve the Alamo as a Texas shrine, and for a century and a quarter they have resolutely worked to preserve Texas traditions. Today there are approximately 7,000 members in 106 chapters statewide, and DRT headquarters are in Austin. Male counterparts founded the Sons of the Republic of Texas in 1893. SRT offices are in Bay City, and members are deeply patriotic and highly knowledgeable about Texas history. I am proud to be an SRT member, and during four years as State Historian it has been a rich pleasure to provide programs for numerous DRT and SRT chapters around the Lone Star State.

Historic Landmark Inn
Not until I commenced duties as State Historian, however, did I become aware of the CRT – Children of the Republic of Texas. Daughters of the Republic of Texas in 1929 promoted and assumed sponsorship of CRT chapters, intending to nourish a love of Texas history in the young Texans who are not yet old enough to join the DRT or the SRT. Last year at the Battle of Medina anniversary celebration, I met an entire family whose father is a soldado re-enactor and whose mother supervises their three children in CRT activities and projects.

One wing of the picturesque Alsace Hotel
By that time I learned that Sarah Funderburk of Carthage High School would spend her senior year, 2015-16, as President General of the CRT. Sarah’s mother, Kim Hedges Funderburk, is a former student of mine, and her mother, Liz Hedges, was a longtime faculty colleague of mine at Panola College. Kim and Liz both were active in supporting Sarah’s CRT career, as well as that of Abagail Funderburk, younger sister of Sarah. Last year Liz was voted “CRT Grandmother of the Year,” and this year she serves as CRT Registrar.

Business meeting
Several months ago I happily accepted an invitation to be lunch speaker at the 2016 CRT Convention, scheduled for Castroville on Friday and Saturday, June 24 and 25. Twice per summer for 20 years I brought my Traveling Texas History Classes to Castroville, with its unique architecture, including the historic Landmark Inn. Karon and I looked forward to re-visiting an excellent restaurant and a superb bakery.

President General Sarah Funderburk and
President General-Elect Boone Denton
All Friday CRT events and entertainment - including the Great Medina Duck Race – were held at the picturesque Landmark Inn, and when we reached Castroville we looked in the on the fun. Saturday activities were conducted at the Hotel Alsace, perched on a hill with a superb view. There were business meetings and award sessions, and at mid-day there was a break for a delicious catered meal.

At the head table the State Historian was seated between Dr. Betty Edwards, DRT President General, and Bob Steakley, SRT President General. It had been my pleasure previously to meet both President General Edwards and President General Steakley, and their presence underscored the importance of CRT to both the DRT and the SRT. It also was my honor to meet Boone Denton, an impressive young man from Belton who was elected CRT President General for 2016-17.

Receiving a gift from President
General Funderburk
Aided by advice from Liz Hedges, I chose a program about a popular and fascinating icon, the cowboy. I have a large number of props for this program, and I demonstrated the role of the Spanish and Mexicans in passing the cattle culture to Anglo Texans. It is a fast-moving program, with a lot of anecdotes and humor and interesting artifacts. I enjoyed a nice rapport with the youthful audience, and I hope I showed them that history – especially Texas history – can be fun as well as compelling.
With SRT President General Bob Steakley

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Texas History Day at Region 10

"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. 

Region 10 Education Service Center
Several months ago I provided a leadoff program for a TSHA Texas History program at the Region 10 Education Center in Richardson. While there I met Ben Reed, Social Studies Consultant for Region 10. He told me that early in the summer he planned to stage a “Texas History Day” for teachers, and asked if I might provide a keynote program for the group. I was delighted at the prospect, and we quickly agreed on a program about Sam Houston. Ben contacted me when he solidified a date, Monday, June 20, 2016.

After my conversation with Ben my book on Houston was released, Sam Houston: A Study in Leadership. I developed three programs about Houston, and Ben informed me that he wanted a full hour on this important Texas figure.

Karon and I drove to Richardson after church on Sunday, June 19. The next morning we arrived at Region 10 and saw Ben Reed, checking on a few minor details. Soon we sighted our youngest daughter, Causby Henderson, who teaches at Van Alstyne Elementary School and who had signed up for “Texas History Day” to satisfy a day of professional development credit. Causby had taught for well over a decade, and she competently mounted the large posters of Sam Houston that I had brought. And when the session started, she passed around handouts I had prepared. 
Introduction by Ben Reed

While a crowd of more than 100 participants gathered, I introduced myself to as many fellow Texas history teachers as possible. With a room full of Texas history teachers as an audience, I knew that everyone – mostly fourth- and seventh-grade teachers – possessed basic knowledge of Houston and 19th-century Texas that I could build upon with my program. It was a pleasure to hold forth on Houston with such a knowledgeable audience, and I inserted historical anecdotes that I hoped some of them might share with their students. Throughout the program Causby and Karon took turns shooting photos that might be used in our blog. 

Following the presentation a number of teachers came up to talk further about Houston and to buy my book about him. Both their applause and their spoken compliments were most gratifying. Causby efficiently packed me up while I was conversing, because a break-out session was about to begin in the same room. I said goodbye to Ben Reed and to fellow presenters K.R. Wood and Buck Cole, both old friends. K.R. is a singer/guitarist/songwriter who shared music with a Texas flavor throughout the day, while Buck is the Education Coordinator for the Texas General Land Office. Both K.R. and Buck enrich every conference they attend. 

With K.R. Wood

Causby helped us load the car, and since the previous day was Father’s Day, she presented me with a gift package. It had been a fine morning for me, and I was impressed with the quality of Ben Reed’s “Texas History Day.” 
With Causby O'Neal Henderson
With Karon










Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Same Program, Different Venues

"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. 


On Thursday evening, June 9, and two days later, on Saturday, June 11, I presented a program on “Gunfighting in Texas” at two different and historically appropriate meetings. There were far more frontier gunfights in Texas than in any other state or territory. More gunfighters were from Texas, and more died in the Lone Star State. The revolving pistol evolved in Texas, largely due to combat use by Texas Rangers. There were more blood feuds in Texas, from the Regulator-Moderator War of the 1840s through the Johnson-Sims Feud of 1916-17-18. The theme of my program is that Texas was the gunfighter capital of the Old West, and I use a number of replica weapons and gun rigs to illustrate the program.
With granddaughter Jessie Martinez and daughter Lynn Martinez

I was invited to present this program several months ago by Debi Carl, Tour Director of the Sid Richardson Museum of Western Art and a member of the North Fort Worth Historical Society. I became acquainted with Debi when I brought students from my Traveling Texas History Classes to the Sid Richardson Museum. On one occasion Debi reciprocated to our visits, bringing an excellent program to the campus of Panola College. Debi asked me to make a presentation on “Texas Gunfighting” to the Stockyards Museum for meeting of the NFWHS. The Stockyards Museum is located in the historic Livestock Exchange Building, which is next door to the Coliseum in the Stockyards District.
With Karon

Karon and I were delighted at the opportunity to enjoy another visit to the Stockyards. We soon enlisted our oldest daughter, Lynn Martinez, and one of her daughters, Jessie, to join our Stockyards outing. I was dressed in Western attire to match the program, while Karon, Lynn, and Jessie donned boots and sharp Western outfits to match the Stockyards. Lynn and her family live in Mansfield and are not strangers to the Stockyards District. They picked a highly atmospheric restaurant for us, and we enjoyed a terrific meal. Afterward we walked to the Livestock Exchange Building. An afternoon circus was staged at the Coliseum, and as the crowd exited we soon encountered another daughter/sister, Berri Gormley, and her three little children. Prior to the circus the children had seen the daily longhorn cattle drive through the Stockyards District, and the children even mounted a longhorn. We had great fun during our unplanned visit with Berri and our youngest grandkids.

Inside the Livestock Exchange chairs were set up in the broad hallway just outside the Stockyards Museum. Museum Director Teresa Burleson took charge of arrangements, which also included a speaker’s stand with microphone and a table for my program props. A large crowd included many Fort Worth friends, and the audience and I had a fine time with the gunfighter program. Frontier Fort Worth was a noted gunfighter town, boasting one of the West’s largest and rowdiest red-light districts, the notorious “Hell’s Half-Acre.” The West’s premier assassin, “Killin’ Jim” Miller, operated out of Fort Worth. Two top-tier shootists, gambler Luke Short and two-gun “Longhair Jim” Courtright, shot it out on Main Street in 1887, with fatal consequences for Courtright. Miller, Short, and Courtright are buried in Fort Worth’s Oakwood Cemetery. It was invigorating to talk about gunfighters in a Western setting at an old-time gunfighter town.

With Teresa Burleson (L) and Debi Carl

The Menard Public Library
By Saturday morning I was in Menard in west central Texas. I had been invited by Caroline Runge to provide a program on Texas Gunfighting at the annual fundraiser of the Menard Public Library. I met Caroline last fall at the 2015 West Texas Book Festival. Charming and gracious, she is a ranch wife and a cultural leader in Menard. I always spent a night in Menard with my Traveling Texas History Classes, prior to an early morning visit to the ruins of the presidio of Mission San Saba. The public library was housed in an old commercial building, and there was almost no public funding for the library. But thanks to herculean efforts by Caroline and her cadre of like-minded citizens, a handsome new library opened in 2005 – an impressive asset for a town of only 1,100.



The 2016 fundraiser was held at Menard’s country club, which is adjacent to the old presidio. I arrived about eleven o’clock, and was greeted by Caroline and her friends. The large round tables were beautifully decorated in Texana – at the table where I was seated the centerpiece was a Winchester rifle. The lunch buffet prepared by the ladies was superb, and the crowd was congenial. It was a pleasure to visit with a room full of kindred spirits, and they responded enthusiastically to my program. It was one of the most enjoyable events of my four years as State Historian.
Introduction by Caroline Runge


For more information:
http://www.stockyardsmuseum.org/north-fort-worth-historical-society.html
http://www.menardlibrary.org/

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Streaming from Austin

"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. 

Twice in a three-week period the Texas State Historical Association has provided me with a new experience in electronic communication. I worked for 35 years in radio, broadcasting Panola College baseball games over KGAS Radio in Carthage. I was the “Voice of Pony Baseball,” and sometimes I provided play-by-play for Pony and Fillie basketball games. For two decades I also broadcast high school football games. Because I write books of Western history, I have been a “talking head” on TV documentaries over TBS, The History Channel, The Learning Channel, A&E, CMT, and, most recently, The American Heroes Channel. During my four years as State Historian of Texas I’ve done a number of interviews for local radio and TV newscasts across the state.
With Director Caitlin McColl

But I’ve never “streamed.” Since last September, the Texas State Historical Association has livestreamed to TSHA members seven one-hour Texas history programs, "Webinars" featuring such notable authorities as Dr. Frank de la Teja, the first State Historian who delivered the initial program, and, most recently, Dr. Gregg Cantrell who spoke on Stephen F. Austin. The historian speaks on a subject for 45 minutes, followed by a 15-minute Question and Answer session, based on responses delivered on-line during the presentation period. In charge of this program is Caitlin McColl, TSHA Digital Education Programs Manager. During the rehearsal and streaming sessions, Caitlin functions as Director. The Assistant Director is Brianna McCabe Alldridge; Maddie Dimayuga is the Camera Operator; John Jackson is the Livestream Operator; and Esther Rivera is the Chatroom Manager.
For my first Webinar event Caitlin asked me to present my program on “Gunfighting in Texas,” which has proved to be quite popular. Indeed, more than 1,000 TSHA members signed up to receive this session, scheduled for Monday evening, May 16. Karon and I arrived at TSHA headquarters at four o’clock, and I brought my bag of weapons and gun rigs inside. Caitlin showed us around and introduced us to the crew. The crew members were young and bright, enthusiastic and tech-savvy. We went through a rehearsal of my 45-minute presentation, which allowed crew members to become familiar with my props. In turn, I became accustomed to their methods of production, and to the best ways of demonstrating my props.
Learning to "chat" for the Q&A

Afterward we had a light supper in the TSHA break room, and Karon – who has heard the program a number of times – discussed with me several ways to improve my presentation. A little before seven o’clock we all took our places and I was miked by John Jackson. I was able to inject a high energy level into the program presentation and, with a few alterations that Karon and I agreed upon, I finished at 7:45. We broke for only a moment or two, and I was brought a list of some of the questions that were pouring in (by the time that Karon and I returned home on Tuesday, Caitlin had forwarded over 300 questions or responses to my email).
With Steve Cure (left) and Brian Bolinger

Three weeks later, on Monday, June 6, we returned to Austin, arriving at TSHA headquarters at three o’clock in the afternoon. The program was scheduled for six, so rehearsal and supper times were moved up one hour. For this session Caitlin asked me to talk about the Alamo and San Jacinto, two spectacular battles which were fought 41 days apart in the spring of 1836 – 180 years ago.

Texas Historical Foundation donation
Following our rehearsal period, Karon and I were escorted to the TSHA conference room. TSHA Executive Director Brian Bolinger was present, and so was Stephen Cure, Chief Operating Officer. Special guests were board members of the Texas Historical Foundation, who presented a check for $5,000 to the "Texas Talks Webinar Series." The THF has raised and donated $1.3 million to 240 Texas History projects, including the preservation of historic buildings, the sponsorship of archaeological research, the preservation of archives and photographs, and sponsorship of history education efforts. No tax money is involved, and THF activities include publication of the Texas Heritage Magazine. The Texas State Historical Association has funded the first eight Texas Talks Webinars, and with the $5,000 THF donation the TSHA will be able to fund Webinars through the end of this year.
Again under the direction of Caitlin
Afterward we all enjoyed a light supper. The Alamo and San Jaciinto Webinar began at six o'clock, and I had a great time recounting these two celebrated battles. For the last ten minutes or so I responded to questions that were emailed to the TSHA offices. I signed off by complimenting the excellent crew, and mentioned the next Texas Talks, which will be livestreamed in August from picturesque Fort McKavett. I can't wait to watch.
Lining up my diagram of the Alamo with the camera