Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Final (?) Week

My second term as State Historian of Texas was scheduled to end on Saturday, October 22, two years to the day after I was sworn in again. The final four days - Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday - were full and far-ranging.

On Wednesday morning, October 19, I drove to Center to provide the opening program for a day-long leadership conference that is staged by Shelby County every two years. For the past several conferences I have been asked by a longtime friend, Colleen Doggett, to open the conference with a segment on Shelby County's history, with emphasis on the murderous Regulator-Moderator War, which was known in some quarters as the Shelby War. Texas was the site of more blood feuds than any other state or territory, and the Regulator-Moderator War was the first and deadliest of these conflicts. From 1840 through 1844, 31 men were slain, while 200 armed riders operated as Regulators and 100 as Moderators. I wrote a book, War in East Texas: Regulators vs. Moderators, and I'm always eager to share this dramatic and colorful story with groups in Center and elsewhere. On Wednesday morning we met at the historic and handsomely maintained 1885 courthouse, an ideal site for a heritage program about Shelby County.

The historic Shelby County Courthouse was the site of the leadership conference.

The following day I drove through a light rain to Bryan, parking at the campus of Blinn College. I had been invited to the Blinn campus by Chuck Swanlund and Ken Howell, members of the history faculty. There are more than 15,000 students at Blinn College in Bryan. Many plan to transfer to Texas A&M University, nearby in College Station, and a number of students take classes at both Blinn and A&M. Blinn's facilities in Bryan are large and busy - and are growing rapidly.

Chuck Swanlund with his Thursday afternoon Texas History class. Remarkably there are 27 sections of Texas History offered on the Blinn campus.

With Chuck Swanlund in his Texas History classroom

 I was scheduled to lecture on "Texas in World War II" to Chuck's afternoon Texas History class from 2:50 - 4:05 p.m. There were 35 young men and women in the classroom, which is decorated wall to wall with historic Texas flags. It was an ideal atmosphere, and the students were pleasant and attentive. Indeed, I had the pleasure of seeing some of them again a couple of hours later.

The Thursday evening crowd at the Blinn campus exceeded 200.

Chuck and Ken led me to the Student Center Theatre, where I was to deliver a public address on Sam Houston at 6:30 p.m. After checking out the sound system and setting up my program props, I chatted with students, faculty members, and other attendees as they arrived. It was a special privilege to meet with Dr. Mary Hensley, President of Blinn College, who joined the audience. Attendance exceeded 200, and afterward Chuck and Ken took me out to dinner.

With Dr. Mary Hensley, President of Blinn College. Enrollment at Blinn College is almost 20,000,   with nearly 15,000 at the rapidly growing Bryan campus.

Encouraged by Chuck Swanlund and other colleagues, Dr. Ken Howell launched the Central Texas Historical Association in 2015. One year later he scheduled the new organization's third conference for Saturday, October 22, on the campus of the appropriately-named Central Texas College in Killeen. The theme of the conference was Frontier Violence: Depredations, Outlaws, and the Rangers. Almost 60 men and women were in attendance, and the opening program was "The Great Comanche Raid" by Donaly Brice, Senior State Archivist. Museum re-enactor Henry Crawford - in uniform and with an array of artifacts - spoke on "The Buffalo Soldiers." The State Historian presented "Texas Gunslingers," making the point that Texas was the Gunfighter Capital of the Old West. I was followed by Bob Alexander and a colorful, informative account of "The Texas Rangers."

Conference crowd at Central Texas College

We all lunched together, an event catered by the Central Texas College food service. Chuck Parsons then spoke on the kill-crazy gunfighter "John Wesley Hardin," after which Carol Taylor spoke on another Texas desperado, "Ben Bickerstaff."

Ken Howell presented me a certificate noting my last "official" day as State Historian.

Presenters on Frontier Violence: (L to R) Henry Crawford, Bill O'Neal, Carol Taylor, Bob Alexander, Donaly Brice, and Chuck Parsons

Dr. Ken Powell (left), Executive Director of the CTHA, and Larry Watson, President of the Association

At the end of my program, Dr. Ken Howell presented me with a certificate that would mark the final day of my four-year tenure as Texas State Historian. I was greatly touched by this thoughtful gesture. But it seems that my successor has not yet been selected, so for a while longer I will have the rich pleasure of continuing the best gig any historian could possibly want.

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