Sunday, November 16, 2014

TSHA and Regions 13 and 17

"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. 

This fall I've had the deep pleasure of addressing two large groups of Texas history teachers at conferences organized by the Texas State Historical Association, in conjunction with regional education centers. TSHSA executives Steve Cure and JoNeita Kelly have formulated one- and two-day conferences for fourth-grade and seventh-grade teachers. These conferences provide the teachers with professional development credit, while stressing content over methodology. Steve and JoNeita line up an array of presenters who are experts in various fields of Texas history and culture.

Steve Cure and JoNeita Kelly
Not long after my appointment as State Historian of Texas in 2012, I began to be invited by JoNeita to participate in these conferences. I usually open the meeting with a 45-minute address related to the general topic of the conference. A 30-minute break follows, in which teachers peruse a large collection of vendors. The TSHA always sets up a booth, distributing materials and selling books published by the Association. Next breakout sessions begin, featuring Texas historians sharing their expertise with smaller groups of teachers.

During the current fall semester, Steve and JoNeita have put together conferences in Lubbock, at the Region 17 Educational Center, and in Austin with Region 13, at the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum. The Lubbock conference was a one-day event, held on Tuesday, October 21. I arrived early to visit with as many teachers as possible (an even 100 had registered). My presentation was based on my book, The Johnson-Sims Feud: Romeo and Juliet, West Texas Style (UNT Press, 2010). This tragic conflict between two prominent ranching families was the last old-fashioned blood feud in Texas, involving murders and street shootouts and the assassination of Judge Cullen Higgins, the widely-respected oldest son of rancher-trail boss-feudist Pink Higgins. This feud occurred in 1916-1917-1918, and it took place in the region south of Lubbock – in the back yard of the teachers who signed up for the conference.

The TSHA office suite is across the hall from the suite of the UNT Press on the campus of the University of North Texas. JoNeita Kelly brought a large number of copies of The Johnson-Sims Feud to Lubbock, and for half an hour following my presentation I autographed and personalized copies purchased from the TSHA by teachers. During this period I had the pleasure of meeting the new Executive Director of the TSHA, Brian Bolinger.

With Brian Bolinger
Steve and JoNeita at the Bob Bullock
Teachers at the Bob Bullock Museum
In Austin the TSHA and Region 13 staged a two-day conference, Thursday and Friday, November 13 and 14. I can think of no better venue to hold a conference for Texas history teachers than at the magnificent Bob Bullock Museum, and 110 participants registered. In between sessions, participants were free to visit the rich, informative displays throughout the Bob Bullock Museum, including the reconstruction of the long-sunken French colonial ship LaBelle.

For my lead-off program, JoNeita requested that I discuss “Texas: Gunfighter Capital of the Western Frontier,” including events in Austin during this period. There is nothing more dramatic than life and death conflict, and when such conflicts take place in an Old West setting, a special appeal is generated. Far more shootouts occurred in Texas than in any other state or territory. More gunfighters were born in Texas, and more died here. There were more blood feuds in Texas, along with violent clashes between cattlemen and sheepherders. The revolving pistol evolved in Texas, which I demonstrate with replica period revolvers and with holsters and gun rigs. The West’s first gunfighter grew up in Austin, where he had his initial fights, found a bride, shot her brother, and – following his sudden demise in San Antonio from 13 bullet wounds – was buried in Austin’s Oakwood Cemetery.
Members of the Aransas County Historical Society

After leaving the Bob Bullock Museum I drove to Rockport, where I presented an evening program to the Aransas County Historical Society. My host was David Murrah – former director of the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University, past president of the West Texas Historical Association, and longtime museum consultant. David arranged excellent publicity, and there was a receptive crowd of fellow history buffs for my program on “Musical Traditions of Texas.” Afterward David and his lovely wife Anne took me for delicious meal at a seafood restaurant. It was a delightful close to a wonderful day of history. 
David Murrah

Dr. Marsha Hendrix, Director of the
Fulton Mansion State Historic site
and president of the Aransas County
Historical Society

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