Thursday, April 23, 2015

San Jacinto Day Dinner

"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. 

Last year I was privileged to deliver the keynote address at the San Jacinto Monument on San Jacinto Day. It was a memorable occasion, and there was an enthusiastic response to my remarks. I was introduced to the audience by Bob Hixon, Chairman of the San Jacinto Museum of History Board of Trustees. Following the ceremony, Bob invited me to speak at the next San Jacinto Day Dinner held annually by the San Jacinto Foundation. The event was scheduled for Tuesday evening, April 21, 2015, at the Houston Country Club.

Bob Hixon and his assistants, LeAnn Trout and Mequet Werlin, stayed in touch with me and, as April 21 approached, made detailed arrangements on my behalf. A room was provided for me and my wife Karon at the Houston Hilton Post Oak Hotel. A car and driver were scheduled to take us to and from the Houston Country Club. Various details were explained to us.  And shortly after we checked into the hotel, Mequet arrived to pick up three large props from me. Mequet returned to the Country Club, where she placed two posters of Sam Houston (at different stages of his life) on easels, and attached a replica of the San Jacinto Battle Flag to a flag pole. These items were placed close to the speaker’s podium so that I could utilize them during my remarks.

Our driver, Walter, picked us up at the hotel at 5:45 and expertly maneuvered through heavy traffic to deliver us to the main building of the Houston Country Club. Our early arrival allowed me to check out the speaking setup and to find our assigned table, after which we were able to relax amid the splendid setting of a large reception room.

As the crowd began to arrive, Karon and I visited with people we met last year at the San Jacinto Monument, and we were introduced to many other supporters of the San Jacinto History Museum. Nearly 300 men and women attended the San Jacinto Day Dinner, which is a major fundraiser for the San Jacinto Museum, generating over $200,000 each year. I was seated beside Larry Spasic, President of the San Jacinto Museum who delivered the address at the Monument earlier in the day. Also seated at our table were several members of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, including Executive Director Carter Smith. Representing the TPWD, Carter Smith accepted an award from the San Jacinto History Museum Board of Trustees. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department works with the San Jacinto Historical Advisory Board to preserve and protect the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, Monument, and Museum. Indeed, recently the TPWD has acquired 12 additional acres for this site, located adjacent to the south end.
With Carter Smith

With Chad Muir
The genial Chad Muir, who has succeeded Bob Hixon as Chairman of the San Jacinto Museum of History Board of Trustees, introduced me and my subject: “Sam Houston, A Study in Leadership.” Houston led an adventurous and dramatic life, and in one high position after another he distinguished himself as a leader with exceptional gifts. The audience responded to my presentation with frequent laughter and, at the end, a standing ovation. During and after our superb dinner (Rockwell Salad, Duo EntrĂ©e of Filet Mignon and Texas Breast of Quail, and Pecan Ball topped with a San Jacinto Star), people approached me with compliments and questions about Sam Houston. It was enormously gratifying as State Historian to participate in an event on an historic date featuring a large number of patriotic Texans who generate major support for an iconic site of the Lone Star State.

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