Thursday, October 4, 2012

Literary and History Events

"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.

I spent Monday, October 1, in Lufkin as the subject of a "Literary Event" staged by Dickie Dixon. Dickie is the proprietor of 11 antique malls, three located in his native Lufkin. He is an energetic promoter, and one of his favorite promotions is a Literary Event - a book signing in one of his stores, followed by a "Banquet" at which the author delivers a program about his or her book, concluded by another signing. Dickie explained to me that any books that are not sold at the event are divided up among his 11 stores, probably just two or three per store.
Book-signing display at Antique Mall.
In Lufkin on Friday, September 29, Dickie staged a Literary Event featuring Heather Green Wooten and her excellent book, The Polio Years in Texas, published by Texas A&M Press in 2009. The following Monday he brought me to Lufkin with my 2010 book published by the University of North Texas Press, The Johnson-Sims Feud: Romeo and Juliet, West Texas Style. This book describes the last blood feud in Texas, a West Texas struggle between two prominent ranching families. The comparison with Shakespeare's famous tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, and the Johnson and Sims families make this book especially appropriate for a "Literary Event."

Bill with Dickie Dixon.

The first customer who came to buy a book was a former student of mine at Panola College during the early 1990s, Trey Reeves. I had a delightful reunion with Trey, who decided to stay for the banquet at Manhattan Fine Dining. The restaurant was excellent, and I thoroughly enjoyed presenting a program on this last frontier-style blood feud in Texas - a West Texas soap opera!

Region VII Education Service Center in Kilgore

Bill delivering the keynote address

80 Texas history teachers gathered in the assembly room

The next morning I was at the large Region VII Education Service Center in Kilgore to greet more than 80 Texas history teachers from the area, and again I had the pleasure of seeing several former students. The Texas State Historical Association sponsored the day-long workshop, which was organized and conducted by Steven Cure, TSHA Director of Educational Services, and by JoNeita Kelly, Adult Education Program Coordinator of the TSHA. This Texas History Workshop stressed content rather than teaching techniques. Steve and JoNeita assembled a large number of experts who offered an impressive variety of topics during breakout sessions throughout the day. The 4th and 7th grade teachers were able to choose from a veritable buffet of delicious Texas history subjects.

A well-attended breakout session
The Texas Forestry Museum provided an exhibit table,
manned by David Young, TFM Education Coordinator
JoNeita Kelly and Steven Cure, with the TSHA
exhibit table behind them
I was invited to deliver a keynote address to the entire group at the beginning of the day. The topic was the Regulator-Moderator War in East Texas, the first blood feud in Texas and the deadliest in American history. This conflict was a landmark event in the history of extralegal violence in the United States, and participants embodied the endurance and tenacity and sheer physical courage displayed by Texans of the nineteenth century and beyond. Yet this significant and colorful topic is virtually ignored by modern textbooks, so that information about it should be shared with teachers. During the next few years the TSHA will offer similar subject-oriented workshops in other regions of the state.

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