Monday, October 1, 2018

Final Blog as State Historian

This past week concluded my 6 - year tenure as State Historian of Texas. On Tuesday afternoon, September 18, I was in Center to present a program on "East Texas During World War I" for the Shelby County Historical Society. The Society recently received a collection of World War I uniforms, along with a few weapons and other artifacts, and they wanted an appropriate program for their regularly scheduled monthly meeting. It was a pleasure for me to help out. I came to Panola College in 1970, and during the spring semesters I required my students to interview someone, preferably a relative, on modern historical events, such as the Great Depression or World War II. When I lectured on these subjects during the spring term the students thus would have a personal connection. I was quite pleased that for a few years I received interviews from various grandparents or great-grandparents who were World War I veterans. I had kept all of the interviews on file, and I was able to find several that were from Shelby County citizens. I also brought World War I weapons from my personal collection, and we had a most satisfactory meeting at the Shelby County Historical Museum.
 Demonstrating a replica of a 1911 .45 automatic pistol and holster 
Two different cameramen recorded my presentation for the Shelby County Historical Society
The following Saturday I drove to New Boston to present a public address at the new "3 Bs" Museum - New Boston, Old Boston, Boston. The meeting was scheduled for eleven o'clock, and I arrived early enough to receive a tour from Curator Jane Hanna and Kathy Peacock, who had issued my invitation. The large, handsome building was erected in downtown New Boston, and it is an impressive two-story structure that doubles as a Visitor Center and Museum. The museum collection of venerable photos and artifacts is excellent, and well worth a stop.

The new 3 Bs Museum is a handsome 2-story structure which now dominates downtown New Boston 
With Jane Hanna, curator of the 3 Bs Museum
Kathy Peacock invited me to the 3 Bs Museum, and she provided my introduction
I was introduced to members of the Bowie County Historical Commission and to numerous other area history enthusiasts. We met upstairs, where I presented a program on Margaret Houston and Sam's other wives and sweethearts. Sam Houston entered Texas in 1832, crossing the Red River not far to the west, riding south from Fort Towson. Therefore there is considerable local interest in Houston, and the audience seemed quite entertained by the story of his various romances. Afterward I was treated to lunch at a fine restaurant across the street, and we were joined by a number of the program attendees. 
Showing the audience an image of Margaret Houston 
Jim and Dora Barling are old friends from New Boston. Jim was of great help with my book on The Johnson County War 
 At lunch with a number of attendees at a downtown restaurant across the street from the museum
On Tuesday evening, September 25, I was in Tyler for a meeting of the local Sons of American Revolution chapter. Tyler has active DRT, SRT, DAR, SAR, and SCV chapters, and it has been my pleasure to provide programs for each of these organizations during the past 6 years. Indeed, several of these history-minded individuals belong to two or three of these chapters, and it has always been rewarding to meet with them

For this occasion I was invited by Dave McLeod, and there was an excellent crowd. I was joined by my brother, Mike O'Neal, who drove over from his business in Denton. Mike was present on August 22, 2012, when I was sworn into office by Gov. Rick Perry, and he said he wanted to be present at my last official event as State Historian. I was pleased and touched. I spoke on what now is the increasingly "Missing Element from Our Founding Fathers, Our Founding Documents, and Our Founding Period," and since I was still serving as State Historian for a little while longer, I slipped in a few points about Texas.

Dave McLeod, who issued my invitation to speak to Tyler's SAR chapter, provided a generous introduction for me 
My brother, Mike O'Neal, attended my Investiture in Austin 6 years ago, and he drove from Denton to be present at my final official activity as State Historian
With Mr. and Mrs. John Murphy. John's parents are Foster and Mary Frances Murphy of Tyler, who have generously funded my State Historian travels for the past 6 years. I brought a Texana floral arrangement for Mrs. Murphy, but they were unable to attend, so John volunteered to take it to her.
Chapter President Sam Fechenbach and Dave McLeod presented me a certificate acknowledging my presentation to the SAR

I began posting these blogs in August 2012. I wrote them - in pencil, of course - and my wife Karon provided the blog technology. After a year and about 50 blogs on
lonestarhistorian, Google bought Blogspot and we no longer could add to our site (the original 50 or so blogs may still be read at lonestarhistorian). So we began a new site, lonestarhistorian2, which now contains roughly 250 blogs. Therefore there are about 300 blogs about my State Historian adventures on these two sites. After Karon passed away in 2012, my daughter Dr. Berri O'Neal Gormley very kindly took over the blog tekkie duties, a task which has been assumed in recent weeks by Shay Joines of the Panola College Library. My deepest thanks for blog assistance go to Karon, Berri and Shay - as they well know from my fumbling efforts, without them there would be no blog.

The day after my Tyler appearance, on September 26 in the Senate Chamber, Dr. Monte Monroe was sworn in as the fourth State Historian of Texas. Monte is Archivist at the Southwest Collection on the Texas Tech campus, he frequently teaches history classes on-campus, and he participates actively in historical organizations and activities throughout the Lone Star State. Monte's Investiture was emceed by Kent Hance, former Chancellor of Texas Tech, and he was administered the oath of office by Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos. By Monte's side was his lovely wife, Laura, the new First Lady of Texas History. Monte made appropriate remarks, and he and Laura hosted a reception for more than 80 attendees. Monte has an enthusiastic, outgoing personality and he is a polished speaker. He will be an outstanding State Historian and he will find, as I have, that it is the richest, most enjoyable gig that any Texas history enthusiast could ever embrace.    

Dr. Monte Monroe taking the oath of office as Texas State Historian from Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, while Laura Monroe looks on. 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

From Nine-Eleven to Corsicana's Kinsloe House to the Davidson Memorial Chapel

One Tuesday, September 11, a commemoration of the Nine-Eleven terrorist attack was staged by Art Lorenzo at the Fellowship Hall of the Pentecostal Church in Carthage. Art has long been fascinated by the tragic events of Nine-Eleven, and he has amassed an enormous collection of historical memorabilia. Art has staged an annual commemoration for years in Carthage, and for 2018 he asked the State Historian to provide a keynote address. 
Showing the audience how brief the US Constitution is
Taps was hauntingly played by Dr. Kirby Hill 
Art decorated several exhibit tables with his Nine-Eleven items, as well as with United States flags and banners. At ten o'clock in the morning Art opened the ceremony by leading the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Dr. Kirby Hill played a beautiful, haunting version of "Taps" on his trumpet. Art then introduced me, and I opened my remarks by talking about where I was (lecturing to a U.S. History class at Panola College) when I first learned of the attack. For half an hour I spoke about how our unique freedoms developed in early America, and how crucial it is that we remain on guard to safeguard these freedoms and founding ideals. Afterward a delicious lunch was served, and Art showed a few of us his most highly prized artifacts.
 One of a dozen display tables assembled by Art Lorenzo
Art Lorenzo holding a metal relic from the World Trade Center

The next morning I drove to Corsicana to provide a lunch program at the Kinsloe House, which was built as a meeting place for ladies' clubs. This event was staged by the Navarro County Historical Commission. Margaret Thomas, a member of the Commission, invited me to the event and served as my contact person. Corsicana is my home town, and when I arrived I was delighted to see many old friends and high school classmates. Margaret was kind enough to invite my daughter, Dr. Shellie O'Neal, who is head of the drama department at Navarro College, so I had the pleasure of eating lunch with Shellie.

Table decorations at the Kinsloe House featured Texana touches
Three longtime Corsicana friends: Pat  Wollenberg  (foreground), John McClung, and Sandra Huffman  
With my daughter and lunch partner, Dr. Shellie O'Neal 
There had been considerable publicity and there was an unusually large crowd. Although predominantly female, the audience also contained a number of men. Margaret and I had planned a program on Margaret Houston, as well as the other wives and sweethearts of Texas icon Sam Houston. The audience responded enthusiastically to this Sam Houston soap opera, and afterward there was time for a pleasant photo-op. I had a grand time returning home for a day.
With the Navarro County Historical Commission (L to R) Kit Harrington, State Historian, Dr. MaryJane McReynolds, Margaret Thomas 
On Saturday morning I drove to Marshall, where I met Federal Judge Rodney Gilstrap. I had been contacted months earlier by Judge Gilstrap, who is a board member of a foundation established by Judge T. Whitfield Davidson. Judge Davidson was born in 1876 on the family farm in northwestern Harrison County. Eventually he read law and was admitted to the bar, and his political career progressed to the Texas State Senate and to the office of Lieutenant Governor. He served capably as Acting Governor during an extended absence by Governor Pat Neff. Later Davidson was elected President of the Texas Bar Association, and in 1936 he was appointed by President Franklin D.Roosevelt as United States District Judge for he Northern District of Texas.

 Portrait of Judge T. Whitfield Davidson 
Judge Whitfield's commission was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt 
Judge Davidson acquired about 3,000 acres of beautiful, hilly woodlands in addition to his home place. In 1955 Judge Davidson had a beautiful stone chapel built in honor of his mother, Josephine Davidson. He passed away in 1974 at the age of 98. A foundation was created to manage the property (board members today are Judge Gilstrap, Bill Cornelius, Jr., Billy J. Davidson, Robert L. Duvall, and William M. Runnells). The Davidson Foundation operates through an on-site caretaker who, among other duties, is expected to oversee the small herd of Texas longhorn cattle that Judge Davidson insisted be maintained on the property. Boy Scouts and other youth groups are encouraged to utilize the property. And twice per year, in May and in September, the Josephine Davidson Memorial Chapel is the site of a Saturday memorial service which includes dinner on the grounds.    

Portrait of Josephine Davidson 

The service on Saturday, September 15, began at eleven o'clock.with a welcome by Judge Gilstrap, and an invocation by Board Member William M. Runnels. Andy Elliott, accompanied on the piano by his lovely and talented wife, Jan, led us in singing "America the Beautiful." The Board of Trustees was introduced, followed by a report on the Foundation by Robert Duvall. Billy Davidson recognized guests, primarily first-time attendees. Andy Elliott sang a solo, "We Are Blessed," which he chose after calling me about my topic. I was provided with a gracious introduction by Judge Gilstrap, and - judging by comments afterward - my address about our Founding Freedoms was well-received. We closed the service with the hymn, "Amazing Grace" and a benediction by Bill Cornelius, Jr. 

 Josephine Davidson Memorial Chapel
Both before and after the service, and during the delicious catered lunch, I had the pleasure of visiting with old friends from Marshall, neighbors from Carthage, and a great many former students. Judge Gilstrap gave me a tour of the chapel, which includes a Heritage Room in the rear, along with another room where Judge Davidson is entombed. I was most impressed with everything, and I had a memorable time at the end of a busy State Historian week.

Davidson Foundation Board of Trustees, with Board Chairman Rodney Gilstrap standing at left
With Jan and Andy Elliott 
Dinner on the grounds  

Thursday, September 13, 2018

30th Annual National Cowboy Symposium

This past weekend I was a participant in the 30th Annual National Cowboy Symposium, held in the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, September 7-9. Beginning in the 1990s I provided programs sporadically, usually if a topical book - such as Historic Ranches of the Old West - had been released that year. Alvin Davis, the founding father of the Symposium, was kind enough to welcome me (and I was delighted that Alvin attended one of my presentations during this 30th anniversary year). After I became Texas State Historian six years ago, Monica Hightower, who succeeded Alvin following his retirement, has invited me each year, and she has provided excellent PR for the State Historian, resulting in large crowds during my presentations. It has been a privilege to represent the Lone Star State at the annual celebration of the cowboy culture which developed in Texas and in time made the cowboy the world's number one folk hero.
Demonstrating the jinglebob trinket on a spur to the audience at the first of my two programs on the "Jinglebob King," John Chisum.
With Monica Hightower, boss wrangler of the National Cowboy Symposium
I was asked to present programs during one-hour time slots on Friday and Saturday afternoons on my recent book John Chisum, Frontier Cattle King. The Texan who built the West's greatest open range range proved to be a popular subject for the Symposium attendees. And at my Friday program, when I introduced Alvin Davis to the audience, they appreciatively gave him a rousing ovation. Also on Friday afternoon I served as emcee for an excellent Writer's Panel. During the past few years I have participated in this panel alongside veteran authors Karen Fitzjerrell of San Antonio and Lubbock's Nathan Dahllstrom, who created a series of youth novels on the adventures of Wilder Good. (Indeed, I stopped by his vendor table to purchase a signed copy of his latest release for a grandchild.) This year we added two fine writers to our panel. Jim Jones is an accomplished composer who also performed musical numbers at the Symposium. And our ranks were joined by John R. Erickson, who has written 75 books and more than 300 articles. John is acclaimed for his "Hank the Cowdog" series of books, audio books, and stage plays. I have read and re-read his autobiographical Panhandle Cowboy, but I visited his vendor's table to stock up on Hank the Cowdog books for my grandchildren.
 Authors addressing the crowd at the Writer's Conference which I moderated: (L to R) Nathan Dahlstrom, Karen Fitzjerrell, Jim Jones, and John Erickson with the  microphone.
Members of the Writer's Conference: Nathan Dahlstrom, Moderator, Karen Fitzjerrell, Jim Jones, John Erickson
With Nathan Dahlstrom at his book table
More than 50 performers provided cowboy entertainment throughout Friday and Saturday. There were horse handling demonstrations in the indoor arena, and there was an outdoors horse parade. Also outdoors was an assemblage of chuck wagons, and on Saturday the National Championship Chuck Wagon Cook-Off was held. On Saturday afternoon Monica Hightower emceed an entertaining session on Chuck Wagon Cook stories and tips. And in the big arena area there was aisle after aisle of vendor's tables, featuring Western art, clothing, jewelry, books, Native American items, and historical displays. On Sunday morning the Symposium concluded with a Chuck Wagon Breakfast, followed by a Cowboy Church Service featuring music, poetry, prayer, and a devotional message.

Outdoor audience enjoying a gunslinger skit 
Fort Concho living history exhibit
One of the chuck wagons where Saturday lunch is being prepared

Comanche tipi
The indoor horse arena
One of several exhibition aisles in the Civic Center
While I was in the Panhandle for a few days, I made a flying trip to Amarillo to interview Mrs. Olive Virginia  Maynard, who is a granddaughter of the famous buffalo hunter and army scout, Billy Dixon, and his remarkable wife, Olive King Dixon. Although Billy died years before Virginia was born, her grandmother and namesake did not pass away until she was a teenager. I am preparing a book, Billy and Olive Dixon, The Plainsman and His Lady. Prior to the Cowboy Symposium I exchanged letters with Virginia, and we talked by telephone. She graciously invited me to her home, where we talked at length about her grandparents, as well as her mother and aunts and uncles. Virginia allowed me to examine scrapbooks and photos and other artifacts. My visit with Virginia was a highlight of my weekend in the Panhandle.

Olive Virginia Maynard, the gracious and lovely granddaughter of Billy and Olive Dixon  

Wednesday, September 5, 2018


For the past six years as State Historian of Texas I have enthusiastically introduced my programs by pointing out that Texas has the richest and most colorful history and culture of any state in the Union. During the past weekend I experienced a happy cultural event with significant historical meaning. My oldest daughter, Lynn O'Neal Martinez, and her husband, Rudy Martinez, have two daughters, Chloe and Jessie. Lynn and Rudy met while in college, and after their marriage they settled in the Dallas area. Lynn has enjoyed an outstanding teaching career, and she often has taught Spanish. Like his father Juan, Rudy is an army veteran, but later he earned a CPA and now is vice president of a federal bank. Rudy's father now is deceased, and he is the oldest of four siblings, and he, along with Lynn, Chloe, and Jessie, go to Corpus Christi regularly, where they interact with his extended family.
Jessie with her portrait 

 The three Martinez ladies:  Chloe, Jessie, Lynn
 Rudy, Chloe, Jessie, and Lynn

When Chloe was 15, her grandmother, Aurora Martinez, hosted a Quincinera in her honor. Jessie was 10 at the time, and she could hardly await her turn for a Quincinera. Indeed, Jessie and Aurora have been planning the event for the past five years. Jessie's Quincinera would be held in Brownsville, because that was Aurora's home town and she had a great deal of family support there. The date set for the Quincinera was Saturday, September 1, and we all flew down the previous day, Friday. I arrived late in the day, and Lynn, Rudy, Chloe, Jessie and I had dinner together at an excellent Mexican food restaurant. The evening was made complete by the appearance of a Mariachi band.
Personalized gift bag
 Personalized water bottle
Jessie at her table
Saturday was busy throughout the day, with several trips to the house of Aurora's sister, Lupe, where the two sisters worked on numerous details. I had the pleasure of taking Lynn, Chloe, and Jessie to lunch, before they drove to Lupe's house for a hair-dressing session. Late in the afternoon we drove to the hall which had been hired for the evening. The ladies had produced beautiful decorations, including a separate table for Jessie, who wore a splendid blue dress and whose hairstyle was topped with a tiara. The first hour was spent welcoming guests. More than 100 family members were in attendance, and I had had the pleasure of meeting almost all of the adults at the wedding of Lynn and Rudy.

 Jessie with her grandparents, Aurora Martinez and Bill O'Neal
The meal was catered, and afterward a Mariachi band entered the hall, serenading Jessie at her table, including "Happy Birthday." 

The Mariachi band sang and played "Happy Birthday" to Jessie
When the band departed a disc jockey asked everyone to stand. Jessie and Rudy walked to the center of the dance floor, while Lynn brought a pair of high-heeled dance shoes to replace the tennis shoes which Jessie wore. Everyone applauded the symbolic change from tennis shoes to adult footwear, and they continued their applause as Rudy and Jessie glided through the opening dance. Next I was introduced. I presented two gifts to Jessie: a splendid Quicinera doll and a bracelet, and then I danced with my granddaughter.
Rudy and Jessie and the first dance

 Jessie's pre-dancing tennis shoes

 Lynn and Rudy help Jessie change from tennis shoes to dancing shoes
The rest of the evening featured much livelier dance music, as the hall throbbed with the rhythmic sounds of Tejano favorites. Three young men, dressed in black suits, shirts and ties, formed a line in front of the DJ and inspired everyone to participate. These young men took turns dancing with Jessie, who had a marvelous time. The party ended at eleven o'clock, as scheduled on the beautiful invitations we all had received. About half of the crowd, however, drove the short distance to Lupe's house, where an after party took place.  
Jessie dancing with her grandfather
Jessie with her Quincinera Doll 
Jessie's Quincinera was an inspiring example of the way in which Rudy and Lynn and their two daughters go back and forth between two cultures - frequently and seamlessly.  There will be more and more of that in the Lone Star State. In addition to the incredibly rich Hispanic contributions to Texas history and culture, Tejanos soon will make up the largest percentage of the Texas population. Catholicism, certainly a Spanish legacy, is the largest religious denomination in Texas. Spanish is the second language of Texas - and for many Texans, it is the first language. While the Spanish flag has not flown over Texas for nearly two centuries, during their long, earlier period of dominance, Spain made what has proved to be an indelible, conspicuous, prominent, unforgettable, and ongoing imprint on the history and culture - and future - of Texas.