Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lone Star Historian presumptive

"Lone Star Historian" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College ( in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published almost 40 books, half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine.

On Saturday, August 11, 2012, I attended the "Texas History Education Summit" at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. Although I would not take the oath of office from Governor Perry until August 22, I was invited as presumptive state historian.
The need for a Texas History Education Summit had been discussed for nearly three years. With the help of several key individuals, the Texas State Historical Association took the lead in organizing the summit. There could be no more suitable site than the Bob Bullock Museum, and this state-of-the-art museum cooperated fully in the providing facilities.

More than 50 individuals attended, There were representatives from a number of public schools, colleges, and universities. In addition, an impressive array of agencies and organizations were represented:

Battle of Medina Society                             Tejano Genealogical Society
East Texas State Historical Association        Bob Bullock Museum
Former Texas Ranger Foundation                Texas Navy Association
Humanities Texas                                        San Jacinto Battlefield Conservancy
San Jacinto Descendants                             Sons of the Republic of Texas
Sons of the American Revolution                 State Bar of Texas, Law-Related Education
Texas Archaeological Society                      Texas Council for Economic Education
Texas Council for History Education            Texas Council for the Social Studies
Texas General Land Office                          Texas Historical Foundation
Texas State Historical Association               Texas State Preservation Board
Williamson County Museum                        Witte Museum
Texas Social Studies Supervisors Association

I did not know that some of these organizations existed, and I met many people I need to know. Each of us was allowed a brief statement, and listening to the variety of interests - many expressed with deep passion - was a vivid reminder of the enormous diversity of subject areas of Texas history. Informative handouts were presented to each of us.

Following the opening statements, a panel of accomplished and award-winning teachers described the problems they face - and the successes they enjoy - in teaching fourth- and seventh-graders. There was a working lunch, sponsored by the TSHA and the Texas Council for History Education. Later we divided into two groups to discuss ways of improving existing efforts or establishing new efforts.

It was an enormously informative day for me. Steve Cure, Director of Educational Services for the TSHA, chaired the event and was greatly pleased that a major step had been taken in coordinating efforts to benefit the teaching of Texas history, and future summits will be planned.

I attended another event while I was the presumptive state historian. The annual meeting of the Wild West History Association was  held in Prescott, Arizona. I spent time with Marshall Trimble, who has served as the State Historian of Arizona for 14 years. A history instructor at Scottsdale Community College, Marshall is a popular speaker and author. Marshall shared advice with me regarding the duties of a state historian.
Arizona State Historian, Marshall Trimble, snd Bill

I presented the leadoff program about "Gunfights of the Arizona Rangers." The Ranger company operated from 1901-1909, with the assignment of curtailing criminal activities such as stock rustling, train robberies, and street shootouts, so that the U.S. Congress would grant statehood to violence-riddled Arizona Territory.

Bill with a company of modern AZ Rangers

I've written two books on the Arizona Rangers. Arizona's Rangers were modeled on the Texas Rangers, and Texans gravitated to the action. The Arizona company was limited to 26 men, and from 1901-1909 107 men wore the Ranger badge. Forty-four of these lawmen - or 41% of the total - were from Texas. Several had been Texas Rangers; Sgt. Billy Old of the Texas Rangers, for example, became Lieutenant Old of the Arizona Rangers. The Arizona Rangers of 1901-1909 provided the last sustained gunfighting experience of the West, and Texans were prominent in this dangerous adventure.

Karon and Bill

At the WWHA awards luncheon, I was privileged to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Six-Shooter Award for the best article of the year. A year earlier I was approached by Greg Lalire of Wild West Magazine, who asked if I could make a case that Texas was the gunfighter capital of the old West. I embraced the project, and "Texas: Gunfighter Capital of the West" was published in the October 2011 issue. My first book, Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters (University of Oklahoma Press, 1979) included a study of 255 gunfighters and 589 shootouts. There were more gunfights in Texas than in any other frontier state or territory. More gunfighters were Texans; in a rating of shootists, 10 of the top 15 were Texans. There were more blood feuds in Texas, and western violence between cattlemen and sheepherders began in Texas.

Nothing is more dramatic than life and death conflict, and when that conflict occurs in a frontier setting a special appeal is generated. Texas experienced more frontier violence than any other state. When Texas began to settle down early in the 20th century, it is hardly surprising that with the action shifting westward, the largest number of Arizona Rangers were Texans.                

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