Monday, January 18, 2016

The Start of 2016

"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. 

Longview Public Library
My first two activities in 2016 as State Historian occurred early in January. On Tuesday, January 5, I drove to Longview for a 1:30 meeting with the local DAR chapter. A few months ago I provided a program on Margaret Houston to a Longview garden club (Margaret was an avid gardener). One of the members, Freida Frost, is president of the DAR chapter, and she asked me to present the same program to the DAR ladies. Since Sam Houston’s father was a combat officer during the American Revolution, and since Sam became a key figure in the Texas Revolution, the program seemed appropriate for a DAR group.

With Freida Frost
The DAR convened in the large meeting room of the Longview Public Library. The DAR ladies arranged refreshments, and several gentlemen joined the crowd. I participated in the customary DAR opening ceremonies, then I had the pleasure of addressing a receptive audience.
With Margaret Houston

With Ralph and Cliff Todd. Cliff is presenting
me an Oil Patch Bible.
I enjoyed a similar pleasure a few days ago in Tyler. I was asked to deliver a luncheon address to the Oilfield Christian Fellowship, a band of Christian men and women who are employed in the oil industry. This Fellowship meets monthly at Tyler’s Hollytree Country Club, and the membership includes Ralph and Cliff Todd of Carthage. The Todd twins were history students in my classes at Panola College more than 40 years ago. Since that acquaintance it has been my privilege to enjoy their friendship. We belong to the same church, Central Baptist, where Ralph and Cliff are deacons. Several weeks ago I was asked to deliver a lay sermon during an evening service at Central Baptist. I am neither a theologian nor a preacher, so I prepared an address tracing the religious roots of the founding of America. It is my conviction as an historian that we do not know who we are until we know who we were, and I attempted to describe the deep religious background of Americans.

After hearing my remarks, Cliff Todd told me about the Oilfield Christian Fellowship. It was my honor to address such a group, and there was an excellent attendance, including several former students of mine at Panola College. I was impressed with the men and women I talked to before lunch, and I enjoyed the company of those at my table. The principal activity prior to my program was to announce those in the industry who had been laid off since the last meeting, and to anticipate their needs. It was a poignant moment, particularly since many of those at the meeting might soon face the same disruption in their careers.

I was introduced by John Trosclair, president of the Tyler group. It had been revealed to me that the customary program for Oilfield Christian Fellowship meetings is the Christian testimony of the speaker, which made my program on the Christian roots of early America somewhat out of the ordinary, but quite suitable for this audience. Afterward, in fact, several men requested copies of my speech.

I was presented a copy of the New Living Translation Bible: God’s Word for the Oil Field Patch, Fuel for the Soul. I also picked up a glossy, four-page description of “The Oilfield Christian Fellowship: Past, Present, and Future.” In 1991 two Houston oilmen, John Bird and Jim Teague, hosted a breakfast in order to get to know other workers in the oil industry. Immediately it was decided to stage a monthly luncheon at Houston’s First Baptist Church, where as many as 150 men and women attend. There were over 50 in attendance at Tyler, and other Texas chapters are centered in Dallas, Fort Worth, Midland, The Woodlands, San Antonio, and Corpus Christi. There are chapters in other states, Canada, and three universities: University of Houston, LSU, and University of Tulsa. The mission statement of the Oilfield Christian Fellowship is: “To share the good news about Jesus Christ at each function, giving men and women in the oil industry the occasion to accept Christ as their personal Savior and to encourage everyone in their walk with our Lord.” In 2003 the OCF began to print and place God’s Word for the Oil Patch Bibles around drilling rigs, and more than 250,000 copies have been distributed internationally. The OCF has funded oilfield chapels and has certified “Oil Patch Chaplains.” Building on the camaraderie of oil industry workers, the oilfield ministry is based on Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” The OCF is a remarkable movement, and one of which I was unaware until this week.
Chapter President John Trosclair
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