Monday, April 3, 2017

Jacksonville College

In 2013 I was a guest on the campus of Jacksonville College, providing two programs through the Nora Belle Manley Lecture Series. Recently I was invited back to the campus to present an address on Sam Houston at the "Awards Evening" of the Texas History Essay Contest. This contest was sponsored by the award-winning Barnwell Anderson Chapter of the Walter P. Webb Society of Jacksonville College.

I was invited to this event by Dr. Patricia Richey, Chair of the Social Sciences Department and Sponsor of the Webb Society chapter. A year ago it was my privilege to present the Educator of the Year Award to Dr. Richey on behalf of the East Texas Historical Association.

With Dr. Patricia Richey

The Awards Evening was held in the Mary S. Lewis Theater. In recent years a former Jacksonville ISD elementary school, located just east of the college campus, was acquired by Jacksonville College. Mary Lewis, a longtime faculty member and co-sponsor of the Webb Society chapter, raised funds to renovate the elementary auditorium. Among other improvements, Mary had the wooden grade-school seats removed and replaced by cushioned chairs. Fittingly the handsome auditorium was named after Mary Lewis, who has an office suite down the hall, as well as ample storage space for props and costumes of the Jacksonville College Drama Department.

With Mary S. Lewis


With Shelley Cleaver and Dr. Deborah Burkett, leading members of the Cherokee County Historical Commission

Awards Evening was scheduled to begin at seven o'clock, but I was asked to report to the Executive Dining Room at five. I was met by Patricia Richey and Mary Lewis, along with the college president, Dr. Mike Smith, and several faculty members and students. I enjoyed a fine catered dinner and the company of those around the long dining table.

My dinner companions in the Executive Dining Hall

Following dinner I hurried to the auditorium so that I could chat with audience members as they arrived:  college students, men and women of the community, and awardees and their families.

I was especially pleased to talk with David and Rena French of Bullard, who had attended my program two nights earlier at the Longview University Center. David grew up in Jacksonville, and I was delighted to see him and his lovely wife for the second time in three nights.

Dr. Richey presented awards to First- and Second-Place winners in three categories:  grades 3-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12. She next provided me a gracious introduction. This diverse crowd proved to be a most receptive audience, and after my presentation I signed a large number of books.

Holding the San Jacinto Battle flag

It was personally gratifying that the next program scheduled for the Mary S. Lewis Theater was my daughter, Dr. Shellie O'Neal of Navarro College. Only five days after my appearance Shellie would present her one-woman play, "This is My Story, This is My Song - An Evening with Fanny Crosby." Shellie has performed this play nearly 100 times, always giving a powerful performance. I was glad that I preceded her on campus - she's a tough act to follow.


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