|Statue of Audie Murphy outside the|
museum that bears his name.
I have visited the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum on several occasions through the years. Once, while researching Murphy for a book – East Texas in World War II (Arcadia Publications, 2010) – I was granted permission to use several photos by Museum Director Susan Lanning. A few months ago Susan invited me to describe Murphy’s military career on the annual Audie Murphy Day, to be celebrated on Saturday, May 14, 2016.
|With Museum Director Susan Lanning.|
I was delighted. I’ve long admired Murphy, and I lectured about him for nearly four decades during my World War II lessons. Of course, it was a privilege as State Historian to present a program on this iconic Texas war hero. The event was organized by Susan Lanning and the Audie Murphy Day Committee, and there were numerous local sponsors. The morning program, at which I was assigned to speak, took place in the Fletcher Warren Civic Center. Afternoon activities were held at the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum.
Karon and I arrived early at the Civic Center, where we saw Susan Lanning and Linda Owens, who graciously had sent a gift basket to our hotel the night before. I introduced myself to as many people as possible before the room filled. Ron Wensel, a member of the Museum Board of Trustees, was Master of Ceremonies for the morning. The uniformed Hunt County Honor Guard impressively posted the colors. There was an invocation, we pledged allegiance to the flag, and the National Anthem was sung a cappella by lovely Adrien Witkofsky. Steve Ramsey, Board President, gave me a kind introduction.
|Emcee Steve Ramsey introducing me.|
|Holding a T-patch of the 36th Division|
and my copy of To Hell and Back
Following my program, Linda Owens presented a brief PowerPoint of images of Murphy, backed by martial music. Tommy Cook, who acted in two movies with Murphy, related fond memories of Audie as an actor. The final speaker was Michael West, a grassroots historian (he called himself a “hunter and a gatherer”) who had collected information and interviews from a great many friends and relatives of Audie Murphy.
|Actor Tommy Cook|
As we adjourned for lunch, I was privileged to meet Nadine Murphy Lockey. The youngest of 12 Murphy children, Nadine is Audie’s only surviving sibling. Indeed, in 2013 she accepted from Gov. Rick Perry the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, presented posthumously through Murphy’s sister. Nadine was sweet and gracious, and I was honored to meet her and her daughters and other Murphy relatives.
|Historian Michael West|
Karon and I were invited to lunch by longtime friends Carol and Mickey Pierson. Their lovely rural home is in the northwest quarter of Hunt County, where Audie grew up and attended five grades of school and hunted the woods - becoming a crack shot and gaining a feel for terrain, skills that he would bring to the forests of Europe.
|With Nadine Murphy Lockey|