Thursday, April 30, 2015

TOHA 2015

"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. 

Entrance to Rayburn Student Center
The Texas Oral History Association held its Fourth Annual Conference on Saturday, April 25, on the campus of Texas A&M University at Commerce. Hosts and sponsors for the 2015 Conference were the TAMUC Department of History, Honors College, and the East Texas War and Memory Project. The President of TOHA was Dr. Eric Gruver of the TAMUC Honors College, while his associate, the energetic and lovely Hayley Hasik, served as program chair. Headquarters for the conference was the Sam Rayburn Student Center.
Program Chair Haley Hasik registering an attendee
I was invited to present a program and to provide a short luncheon talk. I was delighted at the opportunity to participate in a TOHA event, and it is always a pleasure to return to my alma mater. During four decades as a faculty member at Panola College, I required my students to interview someone – often a relative (parent, grandparent, great-grandparent) – on some aspect of recent history. During the 1970s I received a number of great-grandfather interviews on the First World War, and there were several hundred personal accounts on the Great Depression and on World War II. Later there were interviews on the Korean War, Vietnam, Civil Rights, and a miscellany of other topics, such as one-room schools and moonshining. East Texas once was a hotbed of moonshining activity, and I collected more than 40 interviews from old-time moonshiners and bootleggers, as well as from a few law-enforcement officers who battled this activity. The program I was scheduled to present on Saturday morning was, “Moonshiners and Bootleggers of Old East Texas.”
TOHA President Eric Gruver and Editor Dan Utley

Nearly 30 programs were presented on Saturday. Presentations were made by college and university faculty members and students, as well as a student delegation from W.A. Meacham Middle School, who provided, “Immigrant Voices from Diamond Hill, Fort Worth: An After-School Oral History Program at W.A. Meacham Middle School.” Refreshment breaks during the morning and afternoon permitted considerable interaction, and so did our lunch hour at the nearby Alumni Center. The meal was catered by an Italian restaurant, and it was my pleasure to share a few remarks with TOHA members about the office of State Historian, about my experiences in conducting and collecting interviews, and about grassroot historians. Highlight of the lunch hour was presentation of the Ken Hendrickson Best Article Award by Dan Utley, editor of the TOHA publication Sound Historian. The award was given to Milton Jordan for his 2014 article, “Civil Rights and College Journalism: Mark Lett and the 1961 Southwestern University Megaphone.”

I was preceded by TAMUC Honors
Student Jaylen Wallace
TOHA had its origins in October 1982, when the Oral History Association held its national meeting in San Antonio’s Menger Hotel. About 40 Texans – college members and students, secondary teachers, librarians, folklorists, local historians – discussed the possibilities of forming a state organization for oral historians. The following year TOHA received a charter from the State of Texas as a nonprofit organization hosted by the Baylor Institute for Oral History. TOHA has led numerous workshops across Texas, and has provided sessions at annual meetings of the Texas State Historical Association, the East Texas Historical Association, and the West Texas Historical Association. In 1993 TOHA inaugurated its journal, Sound Historian. The current annual conference series began in 2012 at Baylor University. In 2013 the conference was held at Texas State University, followed by the 2014 conference at Stephen F. Austin State University. The 2015 meeting at TAMUC was a lively success, and next year’s conference will return to Baylor on Saturday, April 23, 2016. 
Demonstrating diagram of a moonshine still
Lunch crowd
Showing my State Historian cap and socks
Dan Utley presenting the Best Article Award to Milton Jordan

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