Monday, November 16, 2015

Houston Teacher Conference

"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. 

During the course of more than three years as Texas State Historian, it has been my great pleasure to participate in several events in the “Exploring Texas Workshop Series.” This workshop series is organized by the Texas State Historical Association, with the cooperation of the Region (4, in this case) Education Service Center. These conferences are designed to provide course content for fourth- and seventh-grade Texas history teachers. Each conference usually lasts for two days, and participants receive professional development credit. The credit certainly is earned, because an impressive lineup of presenters provide excellent programs which feature course content in their fields of expertise.

Exhibit room
Steve Cure, Chief Operating Officer of the TSHA, was a founding father of this worship series. He is ably assisted in organizing each event by Charles Nugent, a longtime teacher who now is Adult Program Officer of the TSHA, and who is responsible for a myriad of details for each conference. Caitlyn McColl, TSHA Education Program Manager, also has been extremely busy with arrangements. The stellar list of presenters they lined up for this conference in Houston included: Dr. Stephen Hardin, noted author and professor at McMurry University; Denton Florian, Executive Producer of the superb documentary, Sam Houston, American Statesman, Soldier, and Pioneer; Andrew Gustafson, Curator of the Bryan Museum in Galveston; Buck Cole of the Texas General Land Office Archives; Dr. Carolina Castillo Crimm of Sam Houston State University; and a score of other equally impressive experts.
Steve Cure and Charles Nugent

There was a TSHA Texas history teacher conference in Houston last February, focusing on the twentieth century. I was invited to provide the opening program, and I talked about the extraordinary roles of Texas during the Second World War. For this November conference, the focus was on Texas in the nineteenth century. Again I was privileged to deliver the opening address. I was allotted 90 minutes, and I chose the topic: “The Leadership Roles of Sam Houston.”

Teachers assemble just before my presentation.
Houston was the greatest icon of nineteenth-century Texas. “Old Sam Jacinto” was given the highest offices Texans could award: Commanding General during the Texas Revolution; President of the Texas Republic - twice; U.S. Senator for thirteen years; Governor of Texas (thereby becoming the only man in history to serve as governor of two states). Before coming to Texas he was a congressman from Tennessee, major general of the State Militia, and governor of Tennessee, as well as a U.S. Army officer and combat hero of Horseshoe Bend. Houston’s life and career were filled with drama and controversy and great achievements.

I lectured about Sam Houston for more than three decades in my Texas history classes at Panola College. I’ve traveled to the sites of his life. I’ve written a book, Sam Houston: A Study in Leadership, that will be released early next spring. I’ve delivered numerous programs about Houston or, to various ladies’ groups, his wife Margaret. These programs have generally filled 30- to 45-minute time slots, but at the Region 4 Teacher Conference I was allotted 90 minutes, and I had no problem finding enough to say about Sam Houston. At the end of the session many of the teachers offered kind comments, including several to the effect that they had learned things that would be worked into their classrooms. I could receive no higher compliment.

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