Wednesday, January 27, 2016

From the PCDF to the SCV

"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. 

With Tommie Ritter Smith
During the third week in January I delivered programs to two East Texas groups in three days. At noon on Tuesday, January 19, I attended the annual luncheon meeting of the Panola Development Foundation at the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in Carthage. I had been invited to provide an address about Carthage by Tommie Ritter Smith, President of the Panola County Chamber of Commerce. Other guests included spouses of Foundation members. We enjoyed a catered steak meal, and PCDF President Jerry Hanszen conducted a brief business session before giving me a most gracious introduction.

In my remarks I emphasized notable men and women who were natives of Carthage and Panola County, while stressing that our community always has been in the mainstream of Texas economic activities. The Texas “Economic Trinity,” in chronological order, has focused upon cotton, cattle, and oil. From its founding in the 1840s, Carthage was a cotton town, and for several decades the economy of Panola County was based on cotton farming. As the Panola County cotton lands wore out in the 20th century, West Texans had begun to engage heavily in irrigated cotton farming. Simultaneously, East Texas farmers began to shift from cotton to cattle raising and Panola County farmers participated in this trend. During this time Panola County became one of about 210 Texas counties to produce oil, although Panola County petroleum production was modest. But during the 1940s the largest natural gas field in the United States was developed in Panola County. Large gas refineries were constructed on the outskirts of Carthage or only a few miles outside town. Carthage enjoyed population growth and remarkable community development, trends which occurred again during the 1970s when TUGCO (Texas Utilities Generating Company) began a large coal mining operation, bringing 100s of good-paying jobs to the county.

Intro by Jerry Hanzsen

Carthage also is the home of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. Panola County is the only county in the nation with two native sons – Tex Ritter and Jim Reeves - who are members of Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame. During the 1990s Tommie Ritter Smith pulled family strings, obtaining a treasure trove of Tex Ritter memorabilia and artifacts, and developing the Tex Ritter Museum. By 1998 The Texas Country Music Hall of Fame opened in Carthage, the most appropriate community in the state, and our annual Hall of Fame induction is a major event in the world of Country and Western Music. 
Statue of Tex Ritter and White Flash outside the Hall of Fame

Johnnie and Norma Holley
Top Chapter Award
Two days later I drove to Tyler to provide a program for the Captain James P. Douglas Camp of the Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I have been privileged to meet with the Tyler SCV Camp annually for years, and it was a pleasure to greet a number of friends. I was invited by Johnnie Lee Holley, who recently completed his tenure as Commander of the Texas Division, which boasts 80 camps, or chapters. Johnnie’s vivacious wife Norma also was present, and she recently was the statewide Director of the Texas Society of the Order of Confederate Rose. A number of other women helped comprise a large crowd at Sweet Sue’s Family Restaurant in Tyler. I was introduced by Camp Commander Dennis Brand, and my topic was the 1864 Battle of Adobe Walls, when a force of 400 Union soldiers and Native American scouts from New Mexico battled 2,000 Comanche and Kiowa warriors. Col. Kit Carson, utilizing his vast combat experience – and two mountain howitzers – successfully fought a far superior force. It was the largest military combat against Native Americans during the Civil War, and the engagement took place in Texas.

The Tyler camp always has been exceptionally active, and during the meeting it was announced that the Captain James P. Douglas Camp had been selected as the best SCV camp in the nation. Congratulations to the enthusiastic and dedicated members of the nation’s top SCV organization.
With Camp Commander Dennis Brand

1 comment:

  1. I was at this place last week. This is such a joy as a place for food! I had a beautiful time here. It reminded me of other venues in Chicago. A beautiful, wonderful place that had excellent atmosphere.