Tuesday, April 22, 2014

San Jacinto Day

"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 April 21, 1836, an outnumbered, ragtag, undersupplied Texan army routed Mexican forces commanded by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The spectacular Texan victory won independence from Mexico and long has been celebrated as a special date in the Lone Star State. In March 1936, the centennial of the battleground was broken for the San Jacinto Monument. Dedicated on April 21, 1939, the monument towers 567 feet (12 feet taller than the Washington Monument) and is topped by a 220-ton star. An elevator gives access to an observation gallery, and the San Jacinto Museum occupies the base. This splendid edifice is the site for an annual "Official Texas State Ceremony Commemorating the Anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto." A few months ago I was invited by Nancy Burch, co-chair of the 2014 Planning Committee, to deliver the keynote address. Of course, I was absolutely thrilled and honored. I learned that, since the Battle of San Jacinto was won within 18 minutes, it was traditional for the keynote to last no longer. I went to work on a concise account of the dramatic events. 
Reflecting pool from the
observation deck

The ceremony was scheduled to begin at 11 o'clock on Monday, April 21, at the north side of the monument. Karon and I arrived more than an hour early. We shot photos for our blog, went up the elevator for more photos, and while Karon visited the gift shop I went outside to find Nancy Burch. The Deer Park High School Orchestra, conducted by Frank Woodruff, already was providing a patriotic musical prelude. At 11 o'clock the genial Master of Ceremonies, Ron Stone, Jr., called the ceremony to order. The Deer Park High School Army JROTC Color Guard marched to present the U.S. and Texas flags. Following an invocation by Joe R. Davidson, Chaplain of the San Jacinto Chapter of the Sons of the Republic of Texas, we pledged allegiance to the U.S. flag and to the Lone Star Flag. Accompanied by the Deer Park H.S.Orchestra, Leah and Martha Jorgensen led us in singing the National Anthem and "Texas, Our Texas."
Deer Park HS Orchestra

A crowd exceeding 400 had assembled, including the orchestra and a large company of re-enactors, who impressively had aligned above us with period attire and weapons. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas and the Sons of the Republic of Texas introduced DRT and SRT scholarship winners. There was a brief address by Sam Houston, IV, great-grandson of General Houston. He long has supported and appeared at the annual commemoration, but announced that in the future he would relinquish those duties. (When I first met him at San Augustine several years ago, he sported mutton chop sideburns and bore an uncanny resemblance to his great-grandfather.) Following his remarks, Houston and numerous other descendants of San Jacinto battle veterans were recognized  with vigorous applause.

I was introduced by Bob Hixon, Chairman of the San Jacinto Museum. I had rehearsed daily for weeks in order to relate with intensity and feeling the dramatic, heroic story of the "Runaway Scrape" and the explosive battle. I attempted to craft a strong, emotional ending, and apparently it worked. The audience response was an immediate standing ovation. Afterward, including at lunch with Nancy Burch, I received one gracious accolade after another, and I was grateful that the State Historian had done justice to an iconic Texas subject.
With Nancy Burch

Following my address, a benediction was provided by Ann Tanner, Chaplain of the San Jacinto Chapter of the DRT. The Texas Army Fife and Drum Corps (two re-enactors) played "Will You Come to the Bower," the risque tune that was played by Houston's little fife and drum group as his army marched into battle. A lovely memorial wreath was placed in front of the monument. The company of re-enactors next fired a "Salute to Texas Patriots," a volley which was reinforced by cannon blasts.

All of this and more was presented in one powerful hour. There was TV and radio coverage, including interviews with me, and I've since seen and heard some of the programming. The 178th Anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto was an unforgettable experience.
Leah and Martha Jorgensen


Sam Houston, IV
Bob Hixon, Chairman of the San Jacinto Museum
Texas Army Volley
Descendants of San Jacinto Battle veterans
Memorial wreath
Karon with artillery crew

(news account with some audio) 
For more information: http://www.sanjacinto-museum.org/Monument/


video


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.