"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.
To introduce this superb exhibit to the college, to Carthage, and to the surrounding area, two events were held. On Saturday evening, January 31, a “Gatsby Gala” was organized by Jessica Pace, Director of Institutional Advancement at the college. In addition to lively entertainment, guests were free to reexamine the exhibit at their leisure.
The other event was a Lunchbox Lecture – a periodic library activity – scheduled for the noon hour on Tuesday, February 2. I was asked to provide a program that would relate our rural East Texas region to Prohibition in America.
During Prohibition and for years afterward, East Texas was a hotbed of moonshine activity. In 1980 I offered special credit to any of my Panola College students who could secure interviews with old-time East Texas moonshiners and/or bootleggers. There were 44 interviews, including three from law officers of the era. Eight of the interviewees insisted upon being listed as “Anonymous.” One young man’s grandparents permitted only the labels “John Doe” and “Jane Doe.” A few others used their old aliases, including one who gave his “pen name.”
|Introduced by Librarian Cristie Ferguson|
From three first-person interviews, I assembled a treasure trove of recipes for moonshine and home brew, of tips for improving third and fourth and fifth “runs” of sour mash, of prices for `shine and brew, of ways to hide a still. There are delightful anecdotes of the misadventures of moonshiners and bootleggers. All of this ferments (or “rots,” to use a moonshiner’s term) into an entertaining program. There was excellent publicity, and more than 120 people crowded into the library’s community room. Afterward the crowd went across the hall to examine the exhibit. It was an enjoyable college/community event, and this excellent display is open to the public until mid-March.
On Thursday afternoon at three o’clock I was one of 15 members of the Texas State Historical Association to participate in a conference call with Brian Bolinger, Executive Director of the TSHA since October 2014. This conference call was a first-ever event for the TSHA, and it was most interesting. For more than half an hour, Brian reported on 2014, and he offered a look at what’s ahead for 2015. At the start of 2014 TSHA membership stood at about 2,000, but by the end of the year that total doubled to 4,000. And in the first month of 2015 an additional 500 members have been enlisted, for an all-time membership record of 4,500. During 2014 the Handbook of Texas on-line enjoyed a record 13 million views. There were views of the Handbook and of the Texas Almanac from all 50 states and 200 nations. Almost 500 members have already registered for the annual meeting in Corpus Christi. Other exciting results were announced, as well as plans for the future. Brian fielded questions, and the 50-minute conference call offered proof that TSHA leadership is in most capable hands.
|With TSHA Executive Director|
|UCD has expanded into floors 2,3, |
and 4 of the brown building at center.
The bridge leads to the Titche's bldg.
The next day Karon and I drove to Dallas for the ribbon-cutting of a major expansion of the Universities Center of Dallas. UCD is the oldest universities center in Texas, and the director is our daughter, Dr. Berri O’Neal. The longtime home of UCD has been the historic Titche's building, which originally housed a famous downtown department store. But the University of North Texas will utilize most of the building for its new law school, and the UCD has expanded into a 20-story building across Elm Street to the north and adjacent to the Majestic Theater. The three floors leased by the center - totaling over 42,000 square feet - have been handsomely renovated.
|Karon and I with Dr. Berri O'Neal|
|Dr. Dan Jones, TAMUC President|
|John Crawford, President of Downtown Dallas, Inc.|
|Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings|