Monday, March 7, 2016

Premiere Week

"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. 

It was an honor to introduce my new book – Sam Houston, a Study in Leadership (Fort Worth: Eakin Press) – at a trio of events, each on dates important to Texas independence. On Tuesday, March 1, I discussed Sam Houston 180 years to the day that 59 Texas patriots met at Washington-on-the-Brazos to open an independence convention. Houston was one of the 59 delegates, and that night a committee wrote a declaration of independence from Mexico. At noon on March 1, I greeted a large crowd that gathered at the Panola College Library. Librarians Cristie Ferguson and Sherri Baker planned and publicized the event, and Sherri created a superb Houston art gallery from more than 70 images I collected for the book. Panola College provided lunch for those who attended the “Lunch Box Lecture” about Sam Houston. I was introduced by Cristie Ferguson, and after my program there was a lively book signing.

Set-up for the Panola College Library program.
During my program I explained how the book was conceived. Shortly after my appointment as State Historian in 2012, I was invited by Joan Marshall, Director of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, to deliver a public lecture on “Leadership Qualities of Sam Houston.” The program was so well received that I began to present versions of it to various other groups. Response was enthusiastic and I began to develop a book with focus on the leadership gifts and accomplishments of this Texas icon. Billy Huckaby of Fort Worth, head of Eakin Press and the Wild Horse Media Group, agreed to publish Sam Houston, A Study in Leadership. Through great effort and admirable expertise, the publisher released the book in time for the introductory events of March 1,2, and 6.
Introduction by Head Librarian Cristie Ferguson

Introduction in Dallas by Dr. Berri O'Neal.
A couple of hours after the Panola College lecture and signing, my wife Karon and I were driving toward Dallas, site of the next day’s event. Our daughter, Dr. Berri O’Neal-Gormley, is Executive Director of Extended Education for Teas A&M University at Commerce. As Executive Director, Berri is headquartered at the downtown Dallas campus of TAMUC, a site that she directed for several years. She has decided to initiate a “Mini-Lecture Series” on the several Extended Education sites of TAMUC. Berri asked me, as State Historian of Texas, to initiate the Mini-Lecture Series at the Dallas campus. We decided to coordinate the event with the introduction of my book on Sam Houston, offering a public lecture and signing on March 2, Texas Independence Day, which also is Houston’s birthday. TAMUC provided excellent publicity, which included an interview over KETR, the university radio station.

Berri and her staff outdid themselves with Texas decorations, including flags and posters from my  collection. A Texas barbecue lunch was catered by Dickey’s. People began to arrive by 11:30, and many of them took tours of this sparkling new TAMUC facility. My brother took a day off from his business in Carrollton, and many other former students and friends of mine added to the crowd. Because it was a lunch hour event I shortened and changed the presentation, especially since the occasion took place on Texas Independence Day. And I was privileged to sign numerous books before and after the program.
With my "little brother" Mike.

Karon was with me at all three events during the week.

Introduction by Dr. George Larson.
Part of the crowd at the Bosque Museum.
Four books were purchased by R.G. Joy, a banker and an avid Texas patriot. Mr. Joy traveled from Waco for the Dallas event, even after he had arranged for me to provide a public lecture and book signing at the Bosque Museum in Clifton just four days later, on Sunday, March 6. At the Bosque Museum Karon and I were met by museum director George Larson. It was my fourth appearance through the years at the Bosque Museum or, just eight miles away, at the superb Victorian Bosque County Courthouse in Meridian. I had met many friends with a fervent interest in Texas history, and the museum auditorium was filled by two o’clock. After a gracious introduction by George Larson, I reminded everyone that not only were we gathered on March 6, Alamo Day, but that the Alamo fell on a Sunday morning 180 years ago.

I presented the 45-minute program on Sam Houston that I delivered six days earlier, at Panola College. There was a strong interest, followed by a 15-minute Q and A session. The questions continued during the book signings, and there were extended farewells to Mr. and Mrs. R.G. Joy and many others – including three Corsicana High School mates of mine. David Megarity and Mike Erwin have attended each of my Bosque County appearances, along with David’s wife Sue. Sue and I started first grade in the same classroom at Robert E. Lee Elementary in Corsicana, and we both attended First Baptist Church. We’ve been friends since 1948, while David and Mike and I were CHS Tiger teammates. Their presence meant a great deal to me.
Bosque book signing.

Karon and I began our 210-mile drive home about four o’clock (Karon had Monday morning math classes at Panola College). We had been together during the three events that introduced the Sam Houston book, and we began talking about the upcoming week, which holds four State Historian events in five days. But my second term as State Historian expires on October 22, just over seven months away, and I am enjoying and savoring every event, every appearance shared with fellow Texas history enthusiasts.

1 comment:

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