"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.
|Office of the State Historian at Panola College|
On Monday morning, September 8, I entered the Panola College classroom of a former student of mine, Brenda Watson Giles. Brenda came to Panola from Tenaha,where her father was superintendent of schools. Her mother was an excellent teacher, and Brenda proved to be an outstanding student, smart and enthusiastic and hard-working. Soon she brought these same qualities to her own classroom. Brenda later joined the Carthage ISD as a teacher of Gifted and Talented students on the elementary level. She specialized in social studies, and she made the past come alive with imaginative and innovative techniques.
|With Brenda Watson Giles|
Brenda now is president of the local Retired Teachers chapter, while continuing to teach as an adjunct instructor at Panola College. A few days ago she asked me to visit with freshmen students in her “Panola College Success 101” class. Of course, I told them what a superb student their teacher had been when she was a Panola College freshman from a small high school. I described a complex, difficult – and highly enjoyable – U.S. History project she had put together, one that was so exceptional I had all of my classes see it. I talked to her students about how I came to be State Historian of Texas, and I eagerly met students who were residents of “my” dormitory, Bill O’Neal Hall. And I was most pleased to see that these young college students may benefit from such a capable and experienced teacher.
|My daughter and son-in-law, Drew and Berri |
Gormley, generously provided this handsome
bench for the Panola campus. Berri knows that
my favorite president is Theodore Roosevelt.
Three days later I drove to Longview to address the first meeting of 2014-2015 of the History Club of East Texas. The club is more than a quarter century old, and while a few members are professional historians, most are men and women who share a love of history. But age and illness have taken a toll on the membership. Attendance lagged last year and there was talk of disbanding. Indeed, longtime president Richard Ash passed away just last month.
|Demonstrating a German Mauser rifle|
|Reporter Alex Byrd|
But a number of members were determined to continue this organization that so many of us enjoy. Ed Russ assumed the presidency, and energetically worked to encourage attendance for the first meeting of the new year. It was my privilege to provide the program, and I arrived at Jason’s Deli early last night to greet old friends and visit with new ones. More than 50 club members attended the meeting, a crowd that gratified and excited us. Alex Byrd, a reporter from the Longview News-Record was on hand to cover our meeting, and she interviewed a number of us. There were door prizes, and my program addressed the 70th anniversary of D-Day, with due attention to the Texas connections. This group of history buffs clearly enjoyed the presentation, and we all enjoyed the company of kindred spirits. The History Club of East Texas is off to a thriving start for 2014-15!