Monday, March 14, 2016

Premier Week #2

"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.
At Navarro College
Several months ago I addressed the Cross Timbers Library Association during its annual conference on the campus of Texas A&M University at Commerce. Immediately afterward I met Dr. Tim Kevil, Dean of Libraries at Navarro College. I graduated from Navarro in 1962, and for a number of years my daughter, Dr. Shellie O’Neal, has directed Navarro’s drama department. Indeed, Shellie’s closest friend on the faculty is Beverly Kevil, Tim’s wife. During my conversation with Tim he spoke of current budget restrictions, especially regarding the Navarro library. I offered to provide his library an address as State Historian, as an alum, and as a native of Corsicana. There would be no charge, not even travel expenses.
With Dr. Tim Kevil
After gaining approval from his administration, Tim called with an invitation for me to provide a program about Sam Houston at a signing event hosted by the library. Tim informed me that there had never been an event of this kind at Navarro, and for a date we agreed upon Tuesday evening, March 8, 2016.
With Dr. Shellie O'Neal
On that date I arrived at Navarro at mid-afternoon, setting up my book table and arranging my program props. I had time to take Shellie to an early dinner before changing to a suit and returning to campus. The audience was impressive: deans and other administrators, key faculty members, board members, and a large number of interested citizens, including Navarro County Judge H.M.  Davenport (whose wife, Carole, a college staff member, assisted me in setting up during the afternoon). The audience was quite receptive to my program about Sam Houston, and while refreshments were being served, I had the pleasure of inscribing a large number of books on the campus where I had enrolled as freshman 46 years earlier. Tim Kevil was highly satisfied with the event – I was ecstatic!

With the History Club of East Texas
Two evenings later, on Thursday, March 10, Karon drove with me to Longview for the monthly meeting of the History Club of East Texas. A few members are active or retired professional historians, but the great majority of the club membership is compiled of men and women with a strong interest in history. Meetings are held in a dining room at Jason’s Deli. I’m a member and I provide at least one program per year, and it’s always enjoyable to eat and socialize with fellow history buffs. Over 50 club members crowded into the dining room, and as always they provided an ideal audience for a history speaker.
With author and syndicated columnist Van Craddock

With Marine veteran and Kilgore College history teacher
David Stroud, a founder of the History Club

At the Newcomers Club meeting
The next morning, following two programs in three days on Sam Houston, I drove to Tyler to offer a feminine variation. I had been invited by Betty McFarland to present a lunch program to the Newcomers Club of Tyler. Since 1950 this organization has offered friendship and fellowship to new female residents of the Tyler area, although many ladies maintain their membership for years. Currently there are 222 members, and attendance on March 11 exceeded 100. The meeting was held in the spacious fellowship facilities of Tyler’s First Christian Church. The ladies spend the first couple of hours of each meeting playing table games and enjoying refreshments. At the end of the morning a catered lunch is served, followed by a business session which features prizes for winners of the various table games.

At FBC Mount Enterprise Fellowship Hall
A program concludes the meeting. My presentation on Margaret Houston has been popular with many women’s groups, but these groups – mostly DRT chapters – by definition have an interest in history. The Tyler Newcomers Club is a large and successful social organization, and many members are newcomers not just to Tyler but to Texas. Nevertheless, the women in the audience appeared to find immediate interest in the compelling and dramatic story of the lovely Southern belle who charmed and, to a considerable degree, tamed Sam Houston. The love story of Sam and Margaret has broad appeal.

Introduced by Rev. Joe Orr
I was in another church the next night at an all-male meeting. On Saturday evening, March 12, the First Baptist Church of Mount Enterprise conducted its annual banquet for men and boys. The event originated as a hunter’s feast, featuring meat killed and cooked by FBC hunters, along with traditional side dishes and desserts. Rev. Joe Orr asked me to provide a suitable program, and I turned to a presentation I put together a couple of years earlier for a Cowboy Church service. There were strong elements of cattle ranching and cowboys – certainly Texas icons – along with religion and church music on the cattle frontier, as well as in other rural settings of early Texas. I utilized a number of cow country props, and I concluded with the story of L.R. Millican, a young cowboy who found religion at a camp meeting and who became known as the “Cowboy Preacher,” spreading the gospel and founding churches throughout West Texas.

At FBC Mount Enterprise I enjoyed fellowship and delicious food, and I hope the audience enjoyed my story. I had been recommended to Joe Orr by former students and friends, and it was a great pleasure to renew my acquaintance with them.

1 comment:

  1. If you're looking for a venue for a small event in this area, you may want to stop by and check it out. Their staff is very friendly and the food is great. We preferred these New York venues because they are all-inclusive, so you don't have to worry about chairs and catering because it's all part of the package.