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

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