Thursday, January 23, 2014

Exploring Texas Workshop 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 ( 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 and Friday, January 23 and 24, the Texas State Historical Association, working in concert with Austin's Region XIII Education Center and the Bob Bullock State History Museum,conducted another in the "Exploring Texas Workshop Series" for fourth- and seventh-grade Texas history teachers. Steven Cure and JoNeita Kelly of the TSHA have organized several of these events around the state, and during my tenure as State Historian it has been my privilege to participate in these conferences. Steve and JoNeita always assemble an impressive lineup of experts to present programs of substance - not of methodology - on a wide variety of Texas history subjects. This workshop was entitled "Discovering  Texas History Conference, 1900 to Present." 

Steve Cure and JoNeita Kelly
The state-of-the-art Bob Bullock Museum is a superb location for a two-day conference on Texas history, and participants would have the opportunity to tour the exhibits, as well as displays at the Texas General Land Office and the Blanton Museum of Art. More than 130 teachers gathered on Thursday morning. Dr. Gregg Cantrell, professor of history at Texas Christian University and author of an acclaimed biography of Stephen F. Austin, opened the meeting with a lecture on Texas farmers during the 20th century. Afterward there were breakout sessions, followed by lunch. 

There was a large and impressive assembly of vendors.

At one o'clock the group reassembled, and I delivered a program on "Texas in World War II." For more than 30 years I lectured on this topic in my Texas history classes at Panola College. Through the years I was provided with hundreds of interviews by my students with World War II veterans of combat or of the home front, and in 2010 Arcadia Publishing released my book on Texas in World War II. To the teachers at the Bob Bullock Museum I recounted the extraordinary contributions of Texas and Texans to the war effort. And, with Black History Month just around the corner, I spoke in some detail about Doris Miller of Waco. I wrote a short biography, Doris Miller, Hero of Pearl Harbor (Eakin Press, 2007). A farm boy and high school football star, Miller enlisted in the U.S. Navy prior to U.S.entry into World War II. At Pearl Harbor he performed with valor as his ship, the U.S.S. West Virginia, sank beneath him. Doris Miller became the first African-American to be awarded the Navy Cross. Later in the war he died in combat. 

On the way to the Bob Bullock Museum, I stopped in Round Rock to visit a treasured friend and mentor, Dr. Joe Parks. As a grade-school pupil in Corsicana, I was a charter student at James Bowie Elementary School, where the young, enthusiastic principal was Joe Parks. Later his career brought him to Austin, where he long served as director of the Region XIII Educational Center. Throughout the years he advised and encouraged me, and it meant a great deal to me that he attended my investiture at the State Capitol in 2012. Dr. Parks arranged a reception for me, and I met a number of his friends. He and I explained our relationship to them, as well as our deep affection for each other. 
Bill with Dr. Joe Parks

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