On Thursday, January 12, I drove to Tyler for my first appearance of 2017 as State Historian. During the fall of 2016 I was contacted by a former student, Neashia Simpson, with a request to appear at King’s Academy Christian School, where she has taught for 9 years. King’s Academy is a K-12 school which has operated for 12 years, renting classroom and recreational space from Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Tyler.
I was delighted to hear from Neashia. It had been more than 20 years since we had last seen each other, when she was a student in one of my Traveling European History courses conducted through Panola College. It was a pleasure to catch up with her, and of course I was delighted to arrange a program at King’s Academy. I was asked to address grades 7-12 during the weekly chapel assembly, 8:55 - 9:40 on Thursday mornings. We decided that a program on the iconic Texas cowboy would appeal to such a broad range of students. Among Neashia’s teaching assignments is journalism, and I gladly agreed to stay after chapel for a student interview.
With Neashia Simpson
Thursday, January 12 was the first chapel assembly of the New Year. There was an opening prayer, announcements were made, and I was introduced by Neashia. The assembled students were highly attentive as I portrayed the color and deep appeal of the cowboy culture which developed in early Texas and spread throughout the West.
It seemed appropriate to close with the story of “The Cowboy Preacher.” L.R. Millican was a gun-toting teenaged cowboy in Lampasas County during the 1870s. But he experienced a religious conversion at a camp meeting, and he began preaching the gospel. Reverend Millican’s work took him across West Texas, where he pastored – and often founded – Baptist churches in San Angelo, Pecos, Midland, Big Spring, El Paso, Fort Davis, Toyah, Van Horn, Odessa, Sierra Blanca, Clint, Fort Hancock, Presidio and other communities. Reverend Millican ranged to the far corners of West Texas to distribute Bibles and Baptist literature. “In the early part of my ministry I went always on horseback, sometimes breaking in a bronc for its use in my work, making many long trips over the plains and through the mountains, sometimes with nothing but my saddle blanket for a bed, saddle for a pillow and the heavens for a covering. Have worn out several pairs of saddle bags during my early ministry carrying good books and tracts to give away or loan.” Millican was instrumental in organizing the famous Paisano Baptist Encampment near Alpine, conducted among cowboys and ranchers for decades by the legendary George W. Truett, who pastored First Baptist Church of Dallas for 47 years.
Interviewed by Gyna Troscrier