Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Manley 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.

Following a lengthy tenure on the faculty of Jacksonville College, Nora Belle Manley retired in May 1975. As a tribute to her faithful and talented service, her colleagues established the Nora Belle Manley Lecture Series. The first lecturer was noted Texas folklorist Francis “Ab” Abernethy. The next year one of the state’s leading historians, Dr. Archie McDonald of Stephen F. Austin State University, came to Jacksonville. In later years humorist Bob Bowman, award-winning novelist Elmer Kelton, and other notables appeared on campus. With such a record, it was fitting that in 2006 the annual event was rechristened the Manley Distinguished Lecture Series. 

Newburn-Rawlinson House
A few months ago I was contacted by Marolyn Welch of the Jacksonville College English Department. For the past several years Marolyn has served as chair of the Manley Lecture Series. It was her hope to secure the services of the State Historian, and I assured her that it would be a privilege to participate. The event was scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, October 1 and 2. The Tuesday evening lecture would be open to the public as well as to the student body. There would be another program on Wednesday morning during the regular chapel hour. Both programs were held at Buckner Chapel, a handsome auditorium building with a balcony. 

My wife Karon and I drove to Jacksonville on Tuesday afternoon, October 1. After setting up a book table in the foyer of the chapel, Karon and I were escorted to the Newburn-Rawlinson House, an imposing Victorian structure which overlooks the campus from the north. Jacksonville College opened in 1899, and within a few years Rev. J.M. Newburn moved to Jacksonville to assume the pastorate of the First Baptist Church. In 1903 he built an impressive home on a hill across the street from the campus. Through the years the big house twice served Jacksonville College as the president’s home, as well as once as a dormitory. Owned by the college, today it is the oldest building on campus, and often is used for special events. Large tables were set up in the dining room and adjoining parlor. Dr. Mike Smith, president of the college, headed a gathering of members of the administration and faculty. Following introductions and a prayer, we were served a delicious meal by student members of the Walter Prescott Webb Society. 
After an hour of dining and conversation, we walked back to the chapel, where I began signing books and greeting audience members. An excellent youth choir, Voices of Faith, presented a most enjoyable 30-minute prelude to my program on “Musical Traditions of Texas.” Music instructor Tom Vandegriff, a former student of mine, introduced me, and the crowd was most receptive. 

On Wednesday Karon had math classes at Panola College throughout the morning, so I had an early drive to Jacksonville. The program was “Cowboys: Texas Icons,” and I transported a load of saddles, spurs, branding irons, sombreros, posters, and other items. When I arrived at Buckner Chapel I was met by a squad of student, faculty, and maintenance men, who whisked my cowboy cargo to the stage within moments. I’ve honed this program on Texas cowboys for decades in Panola College classrooms, and the response by the Jacksonville College student body and staff was enthusiastic. Members of the Cherokee County Historical Commission also were present, along with audience members from Tuesday evening. 
Marolyn Welch, Chair of the Manley Lecture Series

Voices of Faith Choir. Note the Texas ties on the young men.
On Tuesday afternoon Marlena Hamilton from KETK-TV in Tyler filmed an on-camera interview for the evening news. The next day another KETK-TV reporter, Alan Snow, taped another interview. There already had been excellent newspaper coverage. Jacksonville College resourcefully garnered widespread publicity for the 2013 Manley Lecture Series, and I was extended every courtesy while on campus. I am proud indeed to have participated in this Jacksonville College event. 

For more information: http://www.jacksonville-college.edu/
Tom Vandegriff of the Music faculty
Demonstrating a 78 rpm record - "the ballad of
Davy Crockett" by Fess Parker
Ready for the Wednesday cowboy program

Interview with Marlena Hamilton of KETK-TV

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