Friday, May 16, 2014

From Commerce to Carthage

"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.

With Dr. Berri O'Neal
Late in April I returned to my alma mater, Texas A&M University at Commerce. When I transferred to the campus in 1962, the school was named East Texas State College. After receiving a B.A. from ETSC in 1964, I taught and coached in public schools before coming back for a Master's degree in 1968. I became a Teaching Assistant in the history department at East Texas State University, and after I left with an M.A., the name evolution continued - to TAMUC. In August 2013 TAMUC awarded me an honorary Doctor of Letters degree, and I hoped that I could somehow be of service on campus. Happily, this spring I was invited to address the induction of new members of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor fraternity, by chapter president Bailie Avrit. Exactly 50 years ago I was chapter president, so this occasion was especially meaningful to me. The induction was held in a room in the new Sam Rayburn Memorial Student Center. There were nine inductees, along with family, friends, and faculty members. The crowd nearly filled the room, and a special guest was my daughter, Dr. Berri O'Neal, who earned all three degrees at TAMUC. Berri had business on campus and scheduled her meetings to coincide with this event. It was a delightful occasion for me. 

President Bailie Avrit

Phi Alpha Theta Inductees 
The following night in Carthage I provided a program at the monthly meeting of the Gen. Horace Randal Camp of the Eighth Brigade of the SCV Texas Division. The Camp Commander is Dan Ross, and meetings are held in a banquet room at a local restaurant. Three of my great-grandfathers were teenagers in Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama who, late in the war, were called on to protect their homes from invasion. I am always proud to address SCV camps, and usually I provide an annual program to the Randal Camp. This year's crowd was the largest I remember, and I presented the San Jacinto Day program that I had offered only three days earlier at the monument outside Houston. In the past I've been asked to speak on the Regulator-Moderator War, or some other non-Civil War topic, so I felt that a room full of Texans would enjoy hearing an account of this spectacular landmark battle. 
SCV meeting place

My next appointment was with the Retired Teachers organization in Carthage. The meeting was held at the Sammy Brown Library in its new and larger home in the handsomely renovated Texas National Guard building. I was invited to address the group by a former student, Brenda Watson Giles, who had an innovative and distinguished teaching career in the Carthage ISD. Brenda asked me to talk about "How to Put Together a Book." Because, like most authors, I believe that everyone - certainly people with the skills and educational background of professional educators - has a book inside them. In retirement people have the continuity of time to produce a book-length manuscript. And in the period allotted to me I pointed out simple techniques and methods which make writing projects practicable. Of course, there were many longtime friends at the meeting, and the afternoon was most enjoyable for me. 
Sammy Brown Library

Chapter president Brenda Giles and
library director Debbie Godwin

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