Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Texas During WW II

"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. 

Year before last Dr. Van Patterson, a friend and colleague at Panola College, was appointed Director of the Longview University Center. The LUC had never offered a public lecture, and as State Historian I was pleased to inaugurate a Speaker’s Series. I spoke on “Texas: Gunfighter Capital of the Old West.” I use weapons and holster rigs to demonstrate the evolution of revolving pistols, and the subject has proven popular. Van is quite resourceful at generating publicity, and we enjoyed a large turnout, including a number of citizens who had not seen the LUC before. Van was highly pleased, and asked me to return this year. 

With Valerie Kilgore of KETK-TV
We decided upon the topic “Texas During World War II.” Texas made extraordinary contributions to the war effort. Almost 830,000 Texans, including 12,000 women, donned uniforms, and more than 23,000 Texas fighting men died for their country. America’s most decorated soldier, Lt. Audie Murphy, and most decorated sailor, submarine commander Sam Dealey, both were Texans. Texas A&M, an all-male military college, placed 20,000 men in the armed forces, of which 14,000 were officers – more than any other school in the nation, including the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of Allied Forces in Europe, was born in Denison in northeast Texas. Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Texas. Almost 1.5 million soldiers, sailors, and fliers trained at scores of Texas bases. Texas fueled the Allied war effort, while Texas shipyards and defense plants provided a flood of war machines and munitions during the war effort. The details are fascinating, and I bring WWII rifles, pistols, equipment, and other items to enhance the presentation. The public event at the LUC was set for Thursday evening, March 26.

With Jerry Hanszen of KGAS Radio
Van Patterson arranged excellent publicity. I had half-hour interviews over KWRD Radio in Henderson and KGAS Radio in Carthage, and both stations also provided news cuts. Valerie Kilgore, Longview reporter for KETK-TV, drove to Carthage to tape an interview for the evening news. Area newspapers published a story with a color photo. The PR helped to produce a big crowd, which included a few WWII veterans. Indeed, L.V. Sadler, soon to turn 90, handed me a copy of his enthralling account of his service with the 7th Submarine Fleet in the Pacific – including his recollections of Commander Sam Dealey. There were veterans of other wars in the audience, and it was my pleasure to talk with almost everyone before or after the program.

With Dr. Van Patterson
There was a different crowd when I presented a similar program on Thursday morning, February 12, in Houston. Working in conjunction with Houston’s Region 4 Education Center, the Texas State Historical Association staged a two-day conference for Texas history teachers. A large number of fourth- and seventh-grade teachers gathered at the big Region 4 facility to begin a content-oriented program on Texas During the Twentieth Century. I opened the conference with “Texas During World War II,” pointing out that the three shipyards in Houston and Galveston employed 35,000 workers. I emphasized information and anecdotes that can used in the classroom about the remarkable efforts of Texas and Texans during the biggest and most important event of the 20th century.

To hear Bill's specch:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOfNLHQpCtA




Region 4 Education Center in Houston
Steve Cure and JoNeita Kelly of the TSHA









Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Civil War in Texas

"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. 

With Richard Hart
Several months ago I was invited by Richard Hart, Social Studies teacher at Mary Lillard Intermediate School in Mansfield, to provide a program on the Civil War to 500 fifth-grade students. My daughter, Lynn O’Neal Martinez, is a Language Arts teacher at Mary Lillard School, and her daughter Jessie is a fifth-grader.

With Karon, Lynn, and Jessie
During my first year as State Historian, I staged a conference on the Civil War at Panola College. I asked Lynn to assist with the programs on women of the period and on patriotic songs of the Civil War. Lynn’s two daughters, Jessie and Chloe (now a high school junior), also were recruited, along with my wife Karon. Lynn, Jessie, and Karon agreed to help me again at Mary Lillard School, demonstrating antebellum clothing, as well as the Language of the Fan. 

Jessie's introduction
Jessie asked me if she could introduce her grandfather to her schoolmates. I was delighted and flattered by Jessie’s request, and her introduction was the most personally enjoyable I've ever had. The 500 students were supervised throughout the program by watchful teachers, and they were a well-behaved and attentive audience – a credit to Mary Lillard teachers and administrators. 

Language of the Fans
I dressed in a Confederate uniform, and I brought a Union uniform to show. I brought kepis and a felt hat with yellow cavalry acorn cords. I also demonstrated accoutrements and items of equipment. I brought several Confederate flags, along with the bone-handled razor my great-grandfather, Leroy O’Neal, carried during the war. Another great-grandfather, G.W. Owen, served with a Mississippi unit, and he was captured late in the war. At war’s end Private Owen was paroled in New Orleans, and his parole was signed by Gen. E.R.S. Canby. We showed the parole on a document camera, along with Confederate money and selected images.

Lynn, Jessie, and Karon demonstrated different styles of antebellum dresses. Lynn showed some of the voluminous undergarments worn by ladies of the era, as well as mourning dress customs. Lynn also displayed and discussed jewelry and other small items. The large number of girls in the audience were captivated.

 From kepis to baseball caps
To engage fifth-grade boys, a great many of whom play summer league ball, I pointed out the role of the Civil War in the development of America’s first team sport. In the years preceding the war baseball began to be played in the growing cities of the Northeast. During the Civil War armies swelled to vast size, and in camp, while not drilling, off-duty soldiers played the new game. After the war former soldiers brought “base ball” home with them, to every corner of the country. Soon there were town teams, college teams, and professional teams. And team uniforms were topped off with short-billed caps – which had evolved from military kepis.

Following the program, we visited Lynn's classroom. Her students got an up-close look at our costumes, while Karon and I examined the latest additions to her Language Arts classroom. As we departed, Richard Hart told me that he and the other fifth-grade Social Studies teachers were on the eve of beginning the unit on the Civil War. Our program on "Texas During the Civil War" seemed especially timely and useful, and certainly the four of us had a delightful time planning and presenting to such a large group of students.

video

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

TSHA Annual Meeting

"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. 

The 119th Annual Meeting of the Texas State Historical Association was held in Corpus Christi, March 5-7. We headquartered at the Omni Hotel, but a record pre-registration enrollment spilled over into other nearby hotels. Unfortunately, an ice storm struck a large portion of the upper half of Texas, causing a number of TSHA members to cancel their travel plans. But everyone who reached Corpus Christi enjoyed three days of splendid history events.
Exhibitors Room

Program Chair W. Marvin Dulaney, the 12 members of the Program Committee, and TSHA Chief Historian Randolph B. “Mike” Campbell put together 42 sessions which provided a delicious historical buffet. Throughout Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning, attendees could partake of another type of buffet. A vast ballroom was covered with exhibitor tables, ranging from university presses to booksellers to such organizations as the Former Texas Ranger Foundation, The Hispanic Heritage Center and the Texas General Land Office.

USS Lexington
Featured events included the Women in Texas History Luncheon on Thursday; the Book Lovers’ and Texana Collectors’ Breakfast on Friday; the Fellows Luncheon and Presentation of Awards, also on Friday; and on Friday evening, the Presidential Banquet at the Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi.

 A highlight of the meeting was the Thursday evening Presidential Reception aboard the USS Lexington, moored off the North Beach within sight of our hotel. A squadron of buses transported us from the Omni to the Lexington. It was a cold night, but the reception was held in a large enclosed area of the vast hanger deck. The food was excellent, and we were welcomed by TSHA President John L. Nau III and incoming president Lynn Denton. The Lexington experienced heavy combat service during World War II, and the career of the “Blue Ghost” continued as a training vessel until she was decommissioned in 1991. The Lexington is the oldest aircraft carrier in the world, and our tours of the vessel provided incomparable historical experiences.

On Friday morning, March 6 – Alamo Day – I was involved in Session 26, “Present at the Creation: The First Three Texas State Historians.” Larry McNeill of Austin is a former TSHA President and the individual most responsible for creating the office of Texas State Historian. Most sessions customarily have three speakers and a presider. Larry secured the approval of “Present at the Creation,” and he asked the first two State Historians – Dr. Frank de la Teja of Texas State University and Dr. Light Cummins of Austin College – along with the current officeholder, to prepare a presentation for this session. But Light and his wife Vicki, whose home is in Sherman, could not leave their driveway because of the ice, and their flight was cancelled for the same reason. But Larry McNeill, who served as presider, stepped in to make remarks about Light as State Historian and to read selections from Light’s most recent book: Om History’s Trail – Speeches and Essays by the Texas State Historian, 2009-2012. (Texas State Historical Association, 2014).
Dining on the Hanger Deck
On the Flight Deck


As State Historian I'm a member of the
TSHAEducation Committee.
A large crowd gathered to hear more about the Texas State Historians. Frank pointed out the difficulties of originating the unfunded position while teaching and while serving simultaneously as President of the TSHA. Larry McNeill stepped in ably for the absent Light Cummins. I pointed out that, unlike my two predecessors, I had retired from the classroom shortly before being appointed State Historian in 2012, so I did not have any teaching duties while serving as State Historian. Furthermore, I am provided with travel funding and other support through the generosity of Panola College and President Gregory Powell – and Mr. and Mrs. Foster Murphy and their Murphy-Payne Foundation. I have been free to function as an Ambassador for Texas History. I related numerous anecdotes from my adventures in crisscrossing the Lone State State. I also pointed out that the idea for this blog came from the State Historian blog of Light Cummins, while my wife Karon – in her role as my “Chief of Staff” – is the primary reason the blog is published every week. At the end of the session, most of the crowd lingered to discuss and ask questions of Frank, Larry, and me.
Awards Banquet

From the podium TSHA Chief Historian Mike Campbell
shares a word with TSHA Director Brian Bolinger.
Larry McNeill introduces the session
"Present at the Creation."
It was a fine meeting, and I’m sure that TSHA members already are looking forward to March 3-5, 2016, when we will met at the Omni Mandalay Hotel in Irving.
Dr. Frank de la Teja, first State Historian
Current State Historian

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Alamo Day

"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. 

On March 6 – Alamo Day – I was in Corpus Christi participating in the 119th Annual Meeting of the Texas State Historical Association (an event that will be the subject of next week’s blog). My wife Karon, a math instructor at Panola College, remained at our home in Carthage. But, as Chief of Staff of the State Historian, Karon flew a Texas Flag at our house and wore Texas attire to the college. She also posted on my Facebook page an image of the Alamo with the sentiment, “Remember the Alamo!” Karon was gratified, throughout the day and evening, to receive a great many “Likes” from fellow Texans.

Bailey with her Texas history teacher,
Mrs. Carnley
When I returned I applauded the Lone Star Flag as well as the Facebook posting and responses. Then I was shown an assignment turned in on Alamo Day by a granddaughter, Bailey Nicole Henderson. Bailey is the daughter of Dusty and Causby O’Neal Henderson. Causby is a kindergarten teacher at Van Alstyne Elementary School, where Bailey is a fourth-grader. Bailey’s Texas history instructor is a master teacher, Rajonia Carnley. Mrs. Carnley leads all of the school’s fourth-grade students in a field trip to Austin, on a walking tour of the historic sites of Van Alstyne, and to the famous Mesquite Rodeo while studying Texas cowboys and ranching. Last year Mrs. Carnley was the recipient of the Ottis Lock Educator of the Year Award from the East Texas Historical Association. Certainly she has brought out the best in Bailey Henderson.

For Alamo Day Bailey used Project Bricks to build a model of the Alamo chapel, while model Civil War soldiers were painted to represent Texas and Mexican soldiers. Bailey responded strongly to another Alamo Day assignment. Pupils were told to write a letter to a relative (in this case to the State Historian, AKA “G-Daddy”) from the besieged Alamo. In the letter they were to mention whom they were with, what activities they were involved in, and what was going on around them. At least three historical facts were to be included in each letter, and students were to express their feelings about the situation inside the Alamo – “the more drama the better,” urged their teacher.

On Alamo Day Mrs. Carnley played for each class “The Ballad of the Alamo” sung by Marty Robbins, and she read the famous letter of William B. Travis. In Bailey’s class she was asked to read her letter aloud:

 March 5, 1836

Dear G-Daddy                                                                                                                                              
        Hi; how are you doing?  How is the house? I hope you are doing well. I am here in San Antonio in the Alamo. I am here with my Mom, Dad, and Kendall. We are here fighting for our freedom from Mexico. I am really scared!  I’m scared we will get hurt! Dad has been helping Colonel Travis with the cannons. I am here with Mom, and my sister in the kitchen. I have tried to sleep, but I can’t because it has been loud. Jim Bowie caught pneumonia and got sick. On the day he arrived, Santa Anna raised a blood-red flag, and it meant surrender or die. Davy Crockett plays the fiddle to entertain us. The women and children are in the chapel with Mom, Kendall, and me. It is late but before I go to bed I have one more thing to tell you. I saw William Travis draw a line in the sand. He said, “Those who want to stay with me cross the line, and those who want to leave, I understand.” Everyone crossed the line except one person. Dad even crossed the line. I am so frightened. If I die or get hurt I want you to know it was fun being your granddaughter and I will miss you.
                               
All my Love,
Bailey Nicole

At the end of reading the letter I had to swallow a lump in my throat. When I called Bailey she told me that Mrs. Carnley intends to keep her letter as a model for future students.
Reagan and Nolan Gormley celebrating their
5th birthday on Alamo Day

My family has one other connection to Alamo Day. The youngest of our seven grandchildren – twins Reagan and Nolan Gormley – were born on March 6, 2010. (Their parents are Drew and Berri O’Neal Gormley.) It is easy for us to remember the Alamo each year, but it was especially so in 2015.



Thursday, March 5, 2015

Happy Birthday, Texas!

"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. 

With KCYL broadcaster Jeff Golemba
More than a year ago I was invited by the Oran Milo Roberts Chapter of the DRT to participate in their 2015 celebration of Texas Independence Day. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas is the Lone Star State’s oldest patriotic women’s organization. After efforts at formation in Houston in 1891, in April 1892 the DRT organized and adopted their name in a meeting at Lampasas, which was famous as a resort town known as the “Saratoga of the South.” Mrs. Anson B. Jones, widow or the last president of the Republic of Texas, was elected first president of the DRT.

Reporter David Lowe seated at front
The ladies of Lampasas were active as hostesses, and soon organized the fourth chapter of DRT, naming it the Sam Houston Chapter. Later this chapter became inactive, and the Belton DRT chapter adopted the Sam Houston name. About two decades ago Lampasas reorganized a DRT chapter, and among their activities has been a birthday party – open to the public – on Texas Independence Day. A few years ago, before I was appointed State Historian, I was invited to provide a March 2 program on the Alamo. The crowd was large and enthusiastic, and I had a delightful time.

Presented a State Historian brick by Carol Wright
For 2015 I was asked to present a program on Sam Houston – a perfect subject for March 2, because Houston signed the Texas Declaration of Independence on his 43rd birthday. During the ensuing six weeks, Major General Houston led a controversial strategic retreat which climaxed in spectacular victory at San Jacinto. Houston became a Texas icon, twice being elected President of the Republic of Texas, serving 13 years as U.S. Senator from the State of Texas, and winning election as Texas Governor (as former Governor of Tennessee, he became the only man ever to serve as governor of two states). Houston’s early life was adventurous (and so was his romantic life), and he was a complex, fascinating individual.
Being introduced by my sister
Early on Monday morning, March 2, I joined DRT President Carol Northington Wright at Lampasas Radio KCYL. Broadcaster Jeff Golemba conducted a lively interview with us, generating good publicity for our upcoming program. The Lampasas Dispatch Record had published some welcome PR pieces for us, and that night the program was covered by reporter David Lowe. It was a special pleasure for me to meet David, because during the 1960s, as a young teacher-coach in Lampasas, I was privileged to work with his father and uncle, Jim and Fred Lowe.

During the afternoon my sister, DRT member Judy O’Neal Smith, helped me to set up for the program and book-signing during the afternoon. At 6:30 Judy provided a fine introduction for me, but before I began speaking Carol Wright came forward to present me with a red brick inscribed: “Bill O’Neal/ Texas State Historian / 2012-2016.” This brick will be part of the walkway to the Hostess House, an historic building which the DRT chapter maintains at great cost. I am enormously proud that a State Historian brick with my name will be in place at the Hostess House.

There was a crowd numbering more than 80, and they were a most receptive audience. Afterward the DRT ladies served punch and Texas-shaped cookies, while I signed books. Then everyone was handed a candle. When the candles were lit we all sang “Happy Birthday to Texas,” followed by “Texas, Our Texas.” The Lampasas DRT staged a memorable and enjoyable Texas Independence Day celebration for Lampasas, and it was a treat for me to participate.
Brandishing lighted candles we sang "Happy Birthday to Texas!"