December 24, 2019

John Salmon "Rip" Ford

Rip Ford was born on May 26, 1815 in Greenville District, South Carolina, and moved to Texas in 1836. He served for a time in the Texas Army, and then settled in San Augustine to practice medicine until 1844. That year, he was elected to the Texas Congress, where he supported annexation to the United States. In 1845, he moved to Austin, and became a newspaper editor.

He served as an adjutant in the Mexican War and was cited for “gallant service.” It was during this time that he would acquire his nickname of “Rip” for sending out official death notices with the citation “Rest in Peace” written at the top. In 1849, Ford would explore and map the country between El Paso and San Antonio. He would also become a captain in the Texas Rangers and participate in various fights with local Native American tribes. Ford was elected to the Texas Senate in 1852, and in 1858 he led state troops against both Native American and Mexican uprisings.

With the growing tension between North and South escalating in 1861, Ford served as a member of the Secession Convention, and after Texas left the Union, he initiated a trade agreement between the Confederacy and Mexico. Ford served as colonel of the 2nd Texas Cavalry based in the Rio Grande district, and was assigned to protect trade routes with Mexico. Between 1862 and 1865, he was also commandant of conscripts.

Ford’s greatest military exploit was the Battle of Palmito Ranch on May 12-13, 1865, when he defeated attacking Union forces under Colonel Theodore H. Barrett. Barrett had attempted to surprise Confederate forces at Fort Brown, outside Brownsville, but was repulsed by Ford’s daring frontal attack. The battle was considered a Confederate victory, with Union troops retreating and suffering 118 casualties. Ford’s men had an estimated six killed, wounded or missing. Unfortunately for Ford, all Confederate forces in Texas surrendered two weeks later.

After the war, Ford continued his interests in politics and newspaper editing, serving as a delegate to the Democratic convention in 1868, and working on the Brownsville Sentinel. He would become the mayor of Brownsville in 1874, and serve again in the Texas Senate from 1876 to 1879. In his later years, Ford would spend his time writing his memoirs and promoting an interest in Texas history through the Texas State Historical Association. Ford died on November 3, 1897 in San Antonio, having the dubious distinction of being the last victorious Confederate commander of the Civil War. Source

29° 25.200
-098° 27.822

Confederate Cemetery
San Antonio

December 17, 2019

Joseph Edgar Smith

Joseph Smith was born in 1818 to James and Selah Smith in Maury County, Tennessee. In late 1835, Joseph went to Texas and enlisted as a member of Capt. Robert Calder's Infantry Company K, 1st Regiment, Texas Volunteers, which he fought alongside at the Battle of Jacinto. As a veteran of the Texas Revolution, Joseph was awarded a donation grant of 640 acres for his service at the Battle of San Jacinto and a bounty grant of 320 acres for his service in the Texas Army in general. Joseph died before he ever saw any of the land he had earned. He passed when he was 19, on July 9, 1837 at the home of a family friend, Capt. James Gibson Swisher, on the Swisher Farm near the Old Gay Hill community in Washington County. Source

Note: His grave is unmarked but believed to be somewhere in the area shown below.


Old Independence Cemetery

December 10, 2019

Walter Howard "Slim" McGrew

McGrew was born August 5, 1899, in Yoakum, a small town in southeastern Texas. He was recruited by the Washington Senators as a Major League Baseball pitcher in 1922, and made his professional debut on April 18. An imposing figure on the mound, the 6 ft. 7½ inch McGrew held the record for tallest baseball player of the era. In 1924, he was sent down to the Memphis Chickasaws, the Senators' farm league team, where he went 15-5 with a 2.84 ERA. After a disappointing season, McGrew was released. He played his last professional game on June 8, 1924 for the Senators, ending a 30 inning, three year career. McGrew passed away in Houston on August 21, 1967 at the age of 68 and buried in Humble.

29° 57.631
-095° 16.095

Section 9
Rosewood Cemetery

December 3, 2019

Rolland Garland "Red" Bastien

Red Bastien was born in Bottineau, North Dakota on January 27, 1931. He was an athlete while in high school and began his professional career as a wrestler in carnivals in the Midwest. He competed in the Chicago area from 1956 and was noted for his aerial moves. He held the NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team titles several times that decade, teaming with Andre Drapp and Roy Heffernan. He partnered with Lou Klein as the Bastien Brothers, to capture the WWWF U.S. Tag Team Championship in 1960. They held the titles several times, battling Eddie and Jerry Graham and the Fabulous Kangaroos. Bastien also teamed frequently with Billy Red Lyons in the 1960s and early 1970s. He was AWA Tag Team champ with Hercules Cortez and the Crusher in the early 70s, before moving on to the World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas, where he held the Texas title and the tag team belts with Tex McKenzie.

He retired from the ring later in the decade, but remained as a trainer and promoter. Bastien was instrumental in advancing the careers of Steve "Sting" Borden and Jim "Ultimate Warrior" Hellwig in the mid-1980s, forming Power Team USA with them and two other body builders he discovered at a Gold's Gym. He was active in the Cauliflower Alley Club for retired wrestlers in his later years, serving as president from 2001-2007. Red Bastien passed away of Alzheimer's disease on August 11, 2012 in Dallas.

32° 52.105
-096° 46.826

Hillcrest Mausoleum
Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park

November 26, 2019

Robert Lee "Big Robert" Smith

Robert Lee Smith, known as "Big Robert" on the blues circuit, was born to Mable Walker and Charles Smith Jr. on Dec. 28, 1939 in Houston, Texas, and raised in the famous Third Ward. Smith started his music career by singing in the choir at Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church. While still a student a Yates High School, he began attending the now-legendary Blue Monday jam sessions led by Joe "Guitar" Hughes at Shady's Playhouse, where he cultivated his early interest in the blues. After first working professionally as a drummer in a group led by Carl Campbell, Smith gradually emerged as a singer in Houston clubs during the early 1960s. A band led by eventual blues superstar Albert Collins was one of the first to feature Smith's vocal prowess on a regular basis, especially at a Sunnyside neighborhood establishment called the Big Apple. In subsequent years, Smith performed onstage with various major blues and R&B artists, including Bobby Bland, Ernie K-Doe, Travis Phillips, Millie Jackson and Joe Hinton.

29° 50.217
-095° 19.422

Block C
Golden Gate Cemetery