Wednesday, September 9, 2015

DRT Tyler

"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. 

Two of several Lone Star flags - as well as a vintage auto -
may be seen at Dorothy Newberry's house.
On Thursday morning, September 3, I had the pleasure of meeting with the Tyler chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. I was invited by chapter member Mary Frances Payne Murphy, who has deep family roots in the settlement of early Texas. Mary Frances grew up in Carthage, where her father was president of the First State Bank and Trust Company and a community leader. Her husband is Foster Murphy, a World War II veteran and an accomplished businessman. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy are the parents of three sons and long have maintained a keen interest in the community affairs of Carthage and Panola College.

We pledged allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags.
Indeed, years ago Mr. and Mrs. Murphy created the Murphy-Payne Foundation to provide a history lecture series for Panola College. The Foundation was generously funded, and when I would encounter Foster Murphy from time to time, he urged me to let him know if there were any history projects that needed additional support. In 2012, when I informed Dr. Gregory Powell, President of Panola College, of  my pending appointment as State Historian of Texas, he immediately offered to establish my office on campus. And when I told Dr. Powell that the position of State Historian carried no state funding, he promptly contacted Mr. and Mrs. Murphy.  Without hesitation they graciously agreed to provide travel support from the Murphy-Payne Lecture Foundation. The college assigned an account to me, and for three years my travels and appearances as Texas State Historian have been funded by the Foundation. I am indebted to this generous, history-minded couple who have made possible the far-ranging schedule I have maintained as State Historian.

The September meeting of the Charles G. Davenport Chapter of the DRT was held at the Tyler residence of a member, Mrs. Dorothy Newberry. I drove onto the designated street and started to look for house numbers – and when I spotted a yard full of Lone Star flags, I knew that I had found the meeting place. Just as I parked, Mary Frances Murphy drove up, and we walked to the front door together. The meeting was scheduled for ten o’clock, but we had arrived early – and so had everyone else! 

With Chapter President Mollie Jacobs (left) and
First Vice-President Johnnie McWilliams
The DRT ladies were enjoying refreshments, and they were most cordial as I met and conversed with everyone. Following an invocation and pledges to the United States and Lone Star flags, I was introduced as Texas State Historian. As is my custom with DRT chapters and other history organizations of Texas, I took a moment to describe the office of State Historian and how it came into existence. I pointed out that the office is unfunded by the state, but that Mary Frances and Foster Murphy have provided me with support through their foundation. I knew that Mary Frances was too modest to have mentioned the Murphy-Payne Foundation, much less the travel assistance that she and her husband have provided. I wanted the DRT ladies to know that travel funding for the State Historian is provided by one of their chapter members, and they responded with spontaneous applause. 

My program was about Margaret Houston, the Southern belle from Alabama who became the third wife of Texas icon Sam Houston. Margaret was First Lady of the Lone Star Republic, First Lady of the State of Texas, and mother of eight children. After the program I answered questions about Margaret and about Sam’s first two wives. Afterward the business meeting was opened, but Mary Frances and I slipped out to drive to the Murphy home, which is just across the road from Hollytree Country Club.

My delightful lunch companions: Mary Frances,
Ryan, and Foster Murphy
The Murphys graciously hosted me for lunch in the Hollytree dining room, and we were joined by their granddaughter Ryan, who lives and works in Tyler. Foster asked if I had any new books in progress, and I told him that Sam Houston, A Study in Leadership is scheduled for release this spring. Mary Frances related that her great-grandparents had a farm about 10 miles west of Huntsville, and that Sam Houston occasionally visited. When he spent the night, he slept with Mary’s grandfather, who was only nine or ten. I announced that my book will be dedicated to the Murphys, with gratitude for their generous support of my efforts as State Historian.

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