Friday, October 24, 2014

Launching My Second Term

"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. 

It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as State Historian of Texas. During the last two years I’ve had a grand time traveling throughout the Lone Star State as an ambassador for Texas history. I’ve had the delightful assignment of visiting – or revisiting – one historical site after another, and of interacting with old and new friends who agree with me that Texas has the richest and most colorful history of any state in the Union.

Dr. Powell opens the ceremony.
My two-year term as State Historian was scheduled to end on August 22, 2014, and I was not eager to lose the position that has brought me so much sheer joy. But in July I was contacted by Larry McNeill, chairman of the Selection Committee, to see if I might consider a second term. I was thrilled and flattered, and after August 22 I continued my State Historian activities while ceremonies were planned for my second investiture.

With Chris Paddie and Karon
My first investiture in 2012 was held in the State Capitol, where I was sworn in by Governor Rick Perry in the presence of my family and friends. Those in attendance included Dr. Greg Powell, President of Panola College, where I joined the faculty in 1970. Although I had retired as a teacher a year before my appointment, Dr. Powell provided an office on campus, so that the State Historian would be headquartered at Panola College. Furthermore, since the office of State Historian is unfunded, Dr. Powell arranged to cover my travel expenses through Panola’s Murphy-Payne Foundation. Years ago Mr. and Mrs. Foster Murphy, who are history enthusiasts, generously established a foundation that would enable Panola College to host a history lecture series each year. Mr. Murphy often mentioned to me that if our history department ever needed additional funding for more activities to let him know. Two years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Murphy readily agreed to provide travel funding for the State Historian through their foundation.

It is fitting, therefore, that the ceremony launching my second term as State Historian be held in the Murphy-Payne Community Room on the Panola College campus.  Our state representative, Chris Paddie, agreed to administer the oath of office. KGAS Radio in Carthage broadcast the event and interviewed participants. The ceremony was open to the public, and close to 200 friends and colleagues and family members were in attendance. My brother Mike drove to Carthage from Denton. My daughter Berri came from Irving. My daughter Causby and her family – husband Dusty and daughters Bailey and Kendall – came from Van Alstyne. My wife Karon teaches math at Panola and already was on campus. Many of those in attendance were former students of mine. Mr. and Mrs. Foster Murphy were honored guests.
With Mr. and Mrs. Murphy and granddaughter Ryan Murphy

At three o’clock on the afternoon of October 22 – exactly two years and two months since I was sworn in at the State Capitol – Dr. Powell began the second investiture with a gracious introduction of State Representative Paddie and State Historian O’Neal. Karon stepped forward with a Bible which my mother gave me more than half a century ago. With my hand on the Bible, Representative Paddie administered the oath of office. I made a few remarks, expressing my gratitude to Representative Paddie, Dr. Powell, and most especially to Mr. and Mrs. Murphy. Afterward a reception was held, featuring a table piece of Yellow Roses of Texas – and appropriate refreshments of pecan pie and peach cobbler – with Blue Bell ice cream.

Receiving a plaque from the History Department
 That evening I drove to Austin in order to conclude the investiture on Thursday morning. The Texas State Historical Commission was in session on October 22 and 23, and half an hour before nine o’clock on the 23rd I was greeted in the Capitol by Vaughn Aldredge, Government Relations Specialist of the THC. Vaughn coordinated my appearance at the THC meeting. August Harris III presided over Thursday’s session, and he provided a generous description of my background, before delivering a public proclamation of my appointment for a second term. Commissioner John Crain, president and CEO of the Summerlee Foundation, is also a member of the State Historian Selection Committee, and he took the opportunity to add extremely kind remarks about my performance in office. I was allowed to offer a brief response, and a photo-op followed. THC members were most cordial to me, and I left Austin almost overwhelmed by events of the past two days. Certainly I’ve been inspired to fully embrace the duties and activities of the historian of the Lone Star State!
Dr. Powell, Mike O'Neal, Causby Henderson, Kendall,
Karon, Bailey, Dusty Henderson, Berri Gormley
John Crain, August Harris, Mark Wolfe
With Mark Wolfe and August Harris

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