October 25, 2016

J. Frank Wilson

John Frank Wilson, singer, known as J. Frank Wilson, was born in Lufkin, Texas, on December 11, 1941. He was the son of a railroad engineer. Wilson became a one-hit wonder in the early 1960s when he was the lead singer of the hit song "Last Kiss." He and the Cavaliers, his own band, recorded Wayne Cochran's teenage-death melodrama, which rose to the top of the American pop charts in 1964. The lugubrious song was the last exemplar of a genre that flourished in the early 1960s. "Last Kiss" remained on the charts for twelve weeks.

Wilson had listened carefully to Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. After graduating from Lufkin High School in 1960, he joined the United States Air Force and was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base, San Angelo. He joined the Cavaliers (guitarist Sid Holmes, bassist Lewis Elliott, saxophonist Bob Zeller, and drummer Ray Smith), a group that had formed in San Angelo in 1955; moved to Memphis in the early 1960s; and returned to San Angelo in 1962. Wilson enhanced the group's appeal and enlarged its audience. The Cavaliers and J. Frank Wilson became a popular attraction at area clubs.

In 1962, at the Blue Note in Big Spring, record producer Sonley Roush heard Wilson and the Cavaliers perform. At Ron Newdoll's Accurate Sound Recording Company on Tyler Avenue in San Angelo, the group recorded Cochran's song. Newdoll and his production company, Askell Productions, produced the recording and acquired ownership of the masters, with royalties, in exchange for the group's right to use the studio. Major Bill Smith, a recording executive in Fort Worth who had released Bruce Channel's hit "Hey! Baby" and Paul & Paula's "Hey Paula," signed Wilson and the Cavaliers to record the song on the Josie label. The record was released in June 1964, entered the charts on October 10, and reached Number 2 on the Billboard Top 40 charts on November 7. The album sold more than 100,000 copies the first few months. Wilson and the Cavaliers earned a gold record for "Last Kiss."

On October 22 Roush was killed in a car wreck in which Wilson was injured. The press whooped up the connection between the accident and the lyrics of "Last Kiss," which is about a teen-aged girl who dies in the arms of her boyfriend after a car accident. Wilson was touring again within a week of the crash. On American Bandstand - and on crutches - he lip-synced "Last Kiss" and introduced a new single, "Six Boys," produced by Smith with studio musicians. Wilson and Josie Records put together a new group under the name Cavaliers, although the original Cavaliers were continuing to perform with Lewis Elliott as leader and James Thomas as vocalist. Wilson recorded with session musicians. He continued as a single act, traveling with Jerry Lee, the Righteous Brothers, the Animals, and other well-known performers until he bottomed out from alcoholism.

He made records and performed into the 1970s, but without much income or effect. On the tenth anniversary of the "Last Kiss" success, he was working in Lufkin as a nursing-home orderly for $250 a week. The depressed one-hit singer attempted marriage eight times and sank into alcohol addiction. Suffering from seizures and diabetes, he died in a nursing home in Lufkin on October 4, 1991, not long before his fiftieth birthday. In 1999 "Last Kiss" once again became a hit when the rock group Pearl Jam released its version, and in 2000, VH1 fans voted "Last Kiss" Number 3 in the all-time Top 10 cover songs. The song received a BMI 2-Million air-play award. J. Frank Wilson is honored in the West Texas Music Hall of Fame.

GPS Coordinates
31° 15.926, -094° 44.504

Last Supper Section
Garden of Memories

October 18, 2016

William Smith Herndon

William Smith Herndon, legislator and Confederate soldier, was born in Rome, Georgia, on November 27, 1837, and in 1851 moved to Texas with his parents. In 1859 he graduated from McKenzie College, near Clarksville, after which he read law at Tyler and was admitted to the bar in 1860. On November 11 of that year he married Louise McKellar; they had eight children. At the outbreak of the Civil War Herndon was elected first lieutenant in Capt. W.F. Hamilton's company of Col. Joseph Bates's Thirteenth Texas Infantry; he eventually rose to the rank of captain. This regiment served coastal guard duty between Galveston and Matagorda through almost all of the war.

After the war Herndon returned to Tyler, where he resumed his legal practice in partnership with Judge John C. Robertson and began to specialize in railroads. He served as counsel for a number of lines, on the board of the Tyler Tap line, and as vice president of the Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad. He was elected from the First Congressional District to the United States House of Representatives of the Forty-second Congress in 1871 in a closely contested election and served until 1875. He attended a number of Democratic national conventions and is said to have engineered the nomination of Winfield Scott Hancock for president at the Cincinnati, Ohio, convention in 1880. In 1892 Herndon was one of the leaders of the opposition to James S. Hogg. Herndon died in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on October 11, 1903, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Tyler.

GPS Coordinates
32° 21.216, -095° 18.520

Oakwood Cemetery

October 11, 2016

George Washington Teel

George Washington Teel (Teal), member of the Old Three Hundred, was born in Maryland on May 4, 1784, and was married in Missouri in 1823 to his second wife, Rebecca Johnson. He entered into Texas with the Stephen F. Austin colony in 1824, and on August 3, 1824, received title to a Spanish sitio of land in what is now Fort Bend County. After making some improvements to the land he transferred his title to Michael Turner. By December 22, 1824, Teel was in San Felipe, where he participated in the alcalde election, and by the fall of 1828 he was in the Ayish Bayou District, where he settled six miles west of what is now San Augustine.

Sometime in the late 1820s he established a cotton gin in the vicinity of San Augustine. Teel fought in the battle of Nacogdoches, August 1-3, 1832, and was enrolled in Capt. William Kimbrough's company in the summer of 1836. Teel became a successful farmer and landowner. He took an active part in the early Methodist movement in the newly formed San Augustine Municipality. The noted Stevensons, preachers of the Louisiana circuit, held a meeting in Teel's home in 1835. He was selected as one of the fifteen trustees to form the board of the University of San Augustine. George Teel died on August 20, 1856, and his wife Rebecca died on August 10, 1866. They were buried in the family cemetery near their homesite. George Teel's will was probated in San Augustine County. In the early 1990s all that remained of the Teel family cemetery was parts of five broken monuments piled under a nearby tree.

GPS Coordinates
31° 32.243, - 094° 12.873

Teel Family Burying Ground
San Augustine

October 4, 2016

Timothy Pilsbury

Timothy Pilsbury, Republic of Texas and United States congressman, was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on April 12, 1780. After moving to Maine, where he engaged in shipping, he served as representative in the Maine legislature in 1825-26 and Executive Council member from 1827 to 1836. After a brief period in Ohio and New Orleans, he moved in 1837 to Brazoria County, Texas, where he engaged in farming.

Pilsbury represented Brazoria County in the House of the republic in 1840 and 1841 and the Senate in 1842. After serving as Brazoria County chief justice and probate judge, he returned to the Senate in 1845 and on March 30, 1846, was elected by the Texas legislature as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives. In Washington he represented a district that included all of Texas west of the Trinity River until March 13, 1849. He ran unsuccessfully for reelection in 1848. Pillsbury, who was a Mason, died in Henderson, Texas, on November 23, 1858, and was buried in the Henderson City Cemetery.

GPS Coordinates
32° 09.249, -094° 48.089

Henderson City Cemetery

September 27, 2016

Richardson A. Scurry

Richardson A. Scurry, lawyer, soldier, and politician, son of Thomas J. and Catherine (Bledsoe) Scurry, was born on November 11, 1811, in Gallatin, Tennessee. He was educated by private tutors and later studied law. About 1830 he was admitted to the bar and began practice in Covington, Tennessee. He moved to Texas early in 1836 and on March 10 joined the Texas army. He participated in the battle of San Jacinto as first sergeant in Isaac N. Moreland's company. When he resigned on October 4, 1836, he was a first lieutenant. He settled at Clarksville and resumed his law practice. Scurry was secretary of the Senate at the first session of the First Congress, which met from October 2 to December 22, 1836. President Sam Houston appointed him district attorney of the First Judicial District on December 19, 1836, and the Congress of the republic elected him judge of the Sixth Judicial District on January 20, 1840; this election automatically made him a member of the Texas Supreme Court. He resigned on February 5, 1841, to become district attorney of the Fifth Judicial District. At that time he was a law partner of his younger brother, William R. Scurry, at San Augustine.

In 1843 R. A. Scurry married Evantha Foster of Waller County; they had nine children. Scurry was a member of the House of Representatives of the Seventh and Eighth congresses, 1842-44, and was speaker of the House of the Eighth, at which he represented San Augustine County. He was elected to the House of Representatives of the Thirty-second United States Congress on August 4, 1851. After March 3, 1853, he resumed his law practice in what was then Austin County, about one-half mile east of Hempstead. In August 1854 while hunting, Scurry accidentally shot himself. The wound never healed. In 1861 he was appointed adjutant general on the staff of Albert Sidney Johnston. Scurry eventually consented to an operation on his foot, and it was found necessary to amputate his leg. He never regained his health and died on April 9, 1862. He was buried at Hempstead.

GPS Coordinates
30° 05.020, -096° 04.073

Hempstead Cemetery