Friday, July 18, 2014

Historical Potpourri

"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.

Libby Elementary School
Two years go the Carthage ISD opened a new school, Libby Elementary. I was toured through this state-of-the-art facility by Dr. Glenn Hambrick, Superintendent of CISD. Dr. Hambrick especially wanted me to see a courtyard which featured a large scale model of the solar system, as well as a clever depiction of Texas (for fourth-grade Texas history classes) on the floor of the courtyard. The large map of Texas included the geographic regions of the Lone Star State.  Just outside the boundaries of the Texas floor map are large, labeled rock samples from the various regions. Carthage is marked on the map. And there are separate, smaller floor maps of Panola County and of Carthage.

Karon standing atop the Edwards Plateau
Prairies and Lakes limestone
The courtyard is a superb teaching tool, for science and geography teachers, and for Texas history teachers. My opening lecture in Texas history was “The Natural Setting.” I wanted to acquaint my students with the incredibly varied geography of Texas, and the resulting historical consequences. I would have loved teaching that lesson in the Libby courtyard.

Gulf Coast sandstone
Earlier this week my wife Karon and I went together to Libby Elementary, camera at the ready. Karon is a math instructor at Panola College, and for several years she was the chair of the Math and Science Department, so she was especially captivated by the solar system depiction. We were toured by Garrett Welch of the CISD maintenance department. Garrett was a classmate of my youngest daughter, Causby, and he was a most gracious and informative tour guide. Garrett is artistically gifted, and he designed the logo for the new school. We also learned that Garrett, using acrylic paints on the large window spaces of the building, creates attractive images for the opening of school, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and school closing.

Solar System

Our tour guide, Garrett Welch, beside the
mascot he created

Karon and I also stopped at the Panola College Library to visit the Fay Cassity Allison Gallery. Librarians Sherri Baker and Cristie Ferguson change exhibits monthly, with able assistance from library staff members. The current exhibit is photographic, “The Grand Ole Opry,” supplemented by cases of various materials from the college library collections. Exhibits during the past school year have been obtained from the Texas Humanities Commission, Mid-America Arts Alliance with Texas Commission on the Art, and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as displays from local talent. These exhibits provide an excellent cultural service for the Panola campus and for the community. Indeed, the Grand Ole Opry exhibit sets the stage for the annual induction weekend in a few weeks of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame Museum in Carthage. 

With Librarian Sherri Baker

Dr. Van Patterson introducing me to his fellow Rotarians
Yesterday (Friday, July 18), Karon and I were at First Baptist Church in Longview for a meeting of the Rotary Club. Rotarian Dr. Van Patterson, Executive Director of the University Center of Longview, is a longtime friend and a former colleague at Panola College. Early this year I was invited by Van to inaugurate a lecture series at his institution. I presented a program on Gunfighting in Texas (“Gunfighterology””), which Van publicized widely. The crowd that night was large, enthusiastic, and responsive, and the evening was a success. For the Rotary Club, Van asked me to provide an abbreviated version of “Gunfighterology.” I saw several Longview friends, including lovely Raina Howerton, the personable Executive Director of the Gregg County Historical Museum in Longview. Among the new friends I made was John Jetter, who in 2002 became only the thirty-second person to travel to all 138 (at that time) Texas state parks. The audience enjoyed the program and asked a number of questions, and afterward Karon and I lingered to visit.

With Rotary President Susan Mazarakes-Gill
With John Jetter

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