Monday, April 14, 2014

Murphy - Payne Lecture Series

"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. 
Reception for Mr. and Mrs. Foster Murphy
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. 

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. 
Dr. Greg Powell, Bill, Mary Payne Murphy, Foster Murphy
For more information: www.panola.edu
(Lecture may be viewed on this site by clicking the Home icon (top left) and scrolling down to The Pony Express. Please allow appropriate time.)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

WTHA, 2014

"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. 

Thursday dinner
On April 4, 5 and 6 in Odessa, the West Texas Historical Association staged its 91st Annual Meeting. The WTHA event headquartered at Odessa's MCM Grande Hotel, which boasted spacious facilities and excellent food. Robert Hall, longtime chairman of the arrangements committee, skillfully managed field trips, meeting rooms, banquets, and countless minor details. Troy Ainsworth, program chair, and his committee members provided a rich variety of fascinating and entertaining presentations. President J. Tillapaugh, who makes his home in Odessa, and WTHA Executive Director Tai Kreidler coordinated details large and small, and spearheaded an outstanding event. 
J. Tillapaugh presides over board meeting

TCU doctoral student Kendra DeHart presenting on Friday
The 2014 Meeting attracted 160 participants, the second-highest attendance total in 91 years. An "Early Bird" field trip was sponsored by the Permian Historical Society and conducted by the society's president, Peggy Kelton. On Thursday morning 49 WTHA early birds piled onto a bus and drove southwest to the historic Horsehead Crossing of the Pecos River. This expedition proceeded on to the Girvin school house, enjoying a Cowboy Lunch prepared in Dutch Ovens - cowboy stew, biscuits, cornbread, cobbler, coffee and tea. Returning through McCamey and Crane, the bus stopped at the Mendoza Trail Museum and Crane's Museum of the Desert Southwest. On Thursday evening the field trip veterans, along with those who had arrived during the day, feasted on an early-welcome dinner at the hotel. Thursday's activities concluded with a board meeting. 
Vendors
On Friday 16 sessions provided two panels and more than 40 program presentations delivered by excellent researchers who offered the latest findings and fascinating insights. At mid-day the WTHA's first-ever Women's Luncheon brought together 60 women and men (who comprised one-quarter of the crowd). Marisue Potts, immediate past president of the WTHA, chaired the meeting, and asked everyone present to stand, introduce herself (or himself) and tell of our areas of interest in women's history. The Friday evening dinner was held at Midland's Petroleum Museum, a superb facility that we were permitted to tour after hours. There were 116 of us at dinner, and I was privileged to deliver the keynote address. I had been asked to discuss "Grassroots Historians" I had encountered during my tenure as State Historian. My wife Karon helped me prepare a power point presentation illustrating my travels, and the audience was most receptive. 

Texas Ranger panel: Chuck Parsons, Harold Weiss,
and Donaly Brice at podium

Saturday morning brought 15 more programs, again of excellent quality. At Saturday's Awards and Business Lunch, the Rupert Richardson Book Award went to Bruce Glasrud and Robert J. Mallouf for Big Bend's Ancient and Modern Past, published by Texas A&M Press. The Elmer Kelton Best Fiction Award was presented to Patrick Dearen for To Hell on the Pecos - A Novel. The R.C. Crane Heritage Award was granted to the  Fort Lancaster Foundation and to the Armstrong County Historical Commission, which restored the Charles Goodnight home and opened a visitor center. Other presentations included research grants and article and essay awards. Allen Anderson and Jim Matthews were announced as new fellows of the WTHA. Diana Hinton of Midland was voted vice-president, and I was elevated to the presidency. 
Ann Dixon in costume reading a letter from an
officer's wife at Fort Lancaster in 1857

During his presidential address, "The Celebration of Public History," J. Tillapaugh stated his definition and enthusiastic support of Public History. In a surprise announcement, Dr. Tillapaugh revealed the creation of the "Tillapaugh Public History Fund" through the Permian Basin Area Foundation. His generosity elicited a lengthy standing ovation from a most appreciative crowd. I attempted to express the gratitude of the WTHA to the outgoing president, after which I announced next year's meeting in Amarillo, on April 9 , 10 and 11, 2015. As we adjourned, 28 members boarded a bus for a tour of historic sites of Odessa.
Dinner at the Petroleum Museum

Jay Burns (second from right) of Odessa Permian High
School and his UIL Social Studies Team
During his presidential address, "The Celebration of Public History," J. Tillapaugh stated his definition and enthusiastic support of Public History. In a surprise announcement, Dr. Tillapaugh revealed the creation of the "Tillapaugh Public History Fund" through the Permian Basin Area Foundation. His generosity elicited a lengthy standing ovation from a most appreciative crowd. I attempted to express the gratitude of the WTHA to the outgoing president, after which I announced next year's meeting in Amarillo, on April 9 , 10 and 11, 2015. As we adjourned, 28 members boarded a bus for a tour of historic sites of Odessa. 
David Murrah presenting his fascinating
views on West Texas historians
David Murrah presents new WTHA fellows Jim Matthews
(above) and Allen Anderson (below)

Lynn Whitfield presents William Curry Holden
Research Grant to Leland Turner.
Tai Kreidler presents Elmer Kelton Award
 to Patrick Dearen.

Debbie Lilies, doctoral student at UNT, receives
Ernest Wallace Research Grant.
Dr. Tillapaugh presents Presidential Address.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sports and Music in Texas

"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. 

I spent last weekend in Luling, participating in events on Friday and Saturday, March 21 and 22. I was invited by Chuck and Pat Parsons, longtime friends and fellow authors. Chuck is a noted authority on Texas Rangers, and a couple of years ago he wrote an Arcadia publication about the history of  Luling. Pat is president of the South Texas Historical Association and a superb genealogical researcher. Nine years ago she and Chuck were instrumental in launching a "Meet the Authors" event in Luling. I agreed to be one of the 12 authors involved in Luling's 2014 event, and since I would be in town on Saturday, I was asked - as State Historian - to present a program on Friday evening. 

With Coach Mike Barnett
Central Texas Oil Patch Museum
The Southside Clubhouse, a handsome lodge building located adjacent to a riverside park, was the site of the Friday evening meeting. Chuck and Pat had arranged excellent publicity, and a lively crowd assembled to hear the State Historian talk about "Sports in Texas." I've enjoyed a lifelong connection with athletics, as a participant, coach, and sportscaster. In my Texas history classes I developed a strong lecture on the subject, I wrote a centennial history of the Texas Baseball League, and recently I was proud to contribute a chapter, "The Games Texans Play," to Twentieth-Century Texas, edited by John W. Storey and Mary L. Scheer and published by the University of North Texas Press. Texans boasts an incredible heritage as a hotbed of sports in America, and in Luling I enjoyed describing athletic superstars and team accomplishments, along with "firsts" and record-setting performances. To enhance the presentation I brought vintage football and baseball jerseys, leather helmets and reproduction caps, and a program from the first game ever played at the world's first domed stadium (Astrodome, Astros vs. Yankees, April 9, 1965 - my parents' 25th anniversary, celebrated with a sporting event). I was introduced to the audience by Coach Mike Barnett of Luling High School - an immediate kindred spirit! 
With Museum Director  Carol Voigt


 Saturday's "Meet the Authors" event was held at the Central Texas Oil Patch Museum, which is housed in an 1887 commercial building that was the largest structure in downtown Luling during the 19th century. The museum is excellent, and director Carol Voigt enjoys staging Meet the Authors days and art exhibits and other events that bring the public into the facility. Indeed, a large crowd circulated among the tables and purchased autographed books during the four-hour event. I already knew three of the authors, and I enjoyed meeting the others. An additional pleasure was prowling through the antique office suites on the second floor of the museum building.
Meet the Authors



























A few days later I was at the First Baptist Church of Longview for a mid-day meeting of the Fifty-five Plus Group. I encountered a number of acquaintances. Two dear friends were there, Harlan and Mary Hall. Harlan spent many years as Music Minister at FBC Longview, while his gifted wife was organist. During "retirement" Harlan and Mary devoted 11 years in the same roles at Central Baptist Church, Carthage, where I have been a member for more than four decades. Following an excellent lunch, I spoke to the large crowd on the subject of "Music in Texas." I emphasized the role of church music, of gospel hymns to early Texas settlers. I demonstrated the four "shape notes" and a vintage paperback hymnal, World Revival Hymns, Shaped Note Edition. For most of the audience it was a trip down memory lane, with historical context. 


As State Historian I often emphasize that Texas has the richest and most colorful history and culture of any other state in the Union. In the two programs I presented this past week, I offered a history of two forms of culture - sports and music - that have been of great importance to generations of Texans, and to which Texans have made enormous contributions. 
Friends and lunchmates Harlan and Mary Hall and Walta Cook

Friday, March 21, 2014

Gunfighterology

"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. 

Karon at the book table
My program on "Gunfighterology" has been in considerable demand during my tenure as State Historian. I've presented "Gunfighterology" all over Texas in a variety of settings, including the First Baptist Church of Graham, to a men's group. I always point out that nothing is more dramatic than life and death conflict, and when that conflict is in a frontier setting, I've learned through the years, that strong  appeal is generated among Westerners in general and Texans in particular. Indeed, there were more blood feuds in Texas than in any other frontier state or territory. The revolving pistol evolved in Texas by Rangers as a weapon to battle horseback warriors, Comanches and Kiowas. Soon Texans were using Colt revolvers against each other. More gunfighters were from Texas than any other state, and there were far more shootouts during the long frontier period of the Lone Star State than anywhere else. Gunfighting therefore is a legitimate as well as a compelling subject of Texas history. I've written a number of books and articles on this topic, beginning with my first book, Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters (University of Oklahoma Press, 1979). The Encyclopedia remains in print after 35 years, and it has been released in German and British editions, which suggests the popular appeal of the topic. 
With Ruth Crawford
Introduction by Dr. George Larson

Several months ago I received two invitations to present "Gunfighterology" on dates that were just a week and a half apart. On Sunday afternoon, March 9, my wife Karon and I arrived at the Bosque Museum in Clifton. The seat of Bosque County is Meridian, 12 miles away, but Clifton is the larger town. The superb 1886 court house in Meridian has been beautifully restored by the Texas Historical Commission. Year before last I was privileged to speak in the handsome court room on Texas Independence Day, an event spearheaded by R.G. Joy, a civic leader and Texas patriot. Afterward there was a reception and book signing across the street at the Bosque Collection, a museum and county archival repository located in a two-story stone building erected in the 19th century. Ruth Crawford is the director of the Bosque Collection. Ruth was a veteran clerk in the court house when the Bosque Collection was established. She was selected to preside over the museum/archive, a position unique in Texas for a county employee. 
With Sue and David Megarity

Dr. Larson with bust of Horn Shelter Man, 11,200 years old

Ruth was present for the Clifton event, and so were Mr. and Mrs. R.G. Joy, along with Sue and David Megarity, who were school mates of mine in Corsicana. Among the large crowd were a number of people who had attended my program in Meridian. It was good to see them again, and to meet new history-minded friends. After the program Dr. George Larson, the museum's genial director, gave me a tour. The Bosque Museum is a remarkable facility, and soon will be expanded. Any history buff will be richly rewarded by a visit.










Matinee crowd in the 1916 ClifTex Theater

On our way out of town, I stopped by the ClifTex Theater. Opened in 1916, the ClifTex is the oldest continuously-operating movie theater in Texas. A matinee was in progress, but management graciously showed me around and permitted me to take the photographs. 




On Thursday evening, March 20, I presented the "Gunfighterology" program at the Longview University Center, where courses are offered by the University of Texas at Tyler. The LUC director is Dr. Van Patterson, who was a longtime colleague of mine at Panola College. Dr. Patterson was selected last year to head the Longview University Center, which has been in operation for more than a decade. He learned that there had never been a public lecture offered at LUC, and I happily agreed to inaugurate the center's University Lecture Series. We decided that "Gunfighterology" would be both informative and entertaining. Dr. Patterson launched a publicity campaign which involved the Longview Daily News, 30-minute interviews with three area radio stations, and an interview over KETK-TV. Responding to the publicity, more than 130 attendees came to the LUC, including a number of old friends and prominent citizens. The State Historian was privileged to be part of a strong start to the new lecture series. 
Dr. Patterson, Karon, and Bill








Sunday, March 16, 2014

Rendezvous

"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. 
With Patsy Harper

On Saturday afternoon, March 8, I attended the first day of the 30th Annual Southwestern Regional Rendezvous of mountain men re-enactors. The eight-day event was held a few miles east of Lampasas, on the Rocking S Ranch. I was invited by Patsy Harper, a student of mine during my first two years of teaching, at Lampasas Junior High School. I taught language arts and speech and Patsy was a brilliant student with a gift for writing. Several years ago she became captivated by the lifestyle of pioneers of the far frontier. Like her fellow re-enactors, Patsy collected pioneer attire and camp equipment suitable to the period. Her close friend, Phil Tromble, is a member of the American Mountain Men Society, whose participants adhere strictly to the lifestyle of mountain men while camping. 

Patsy with Phil Tromble
Driving east of Lampasas I turned on a paved county road. After a couple of miles I proceeded down a winding caliche road. I parked beside a collection of pickups, many with trailers, and hiked up to the camp. I had thought that this Rendezvous might not have much to do with Texas history. But the first camp I came to was a military encampment flying the flag of the Republic of Texas. The re-enactors wore 1840s uniforms and were armed with period weapons. I continued to encounter other re-enactors - men, women and children - who would spend the week portraying Texas pioneers. Indeed, some of these re-enactors impersonated specific pioneers.

The Rendezvous camp was quite large and was situated in rocky, hilly, rugged wilderness. There were about 120 individual camps, many with a total of nearly 300 re-enactors. The largest tent housed a tavern, where singing and other forms of merrymaking broke out each night. Daytime activities included rifle and smoothbore pistol shooting, archery, knife and tomahawk throwing, fire starting contests, cooking, highland games, round robin trading, various demonstrations, and numerous activities for kids. During the afternoon I visited with many dedicated re-enactors, who bring to life a long ago period, and I had a delightful reunion with Patsy Harper. These historians know far more about their era than the State Historian of Texas! 




Entrance to the Blushing Turtle Tavern