June 30, 2009

Leonidas "Leon" Jaworski (1905-1982)

Leon Jaworski, lawyer, was born in Waco, Texas, on September 19, 1905, the son of Polish and Austrian immigrant parents Rev. Joseph and Marie (Mira) Jaworski. The family lived for several years in Geronimo, Guadalupe County, where Reverend Jaworski pastored an evangelical church, before returning to Waco, where Leon finished high school. He graduated from Baylor University law school in 1925, then attended George Washington University and received the LL.M. degree in 1926 before returning to Waco to practice law. Jaworski moved to Houston in 1930 and practiced in the firm of Dyess, Jaworski, and Strong until April 1931, when he joined the firm of Fulbright, Crooker, Freeman, and Bates. He became a partner in 1935 and managing partner in 1948; his name was added to the firm's in 1954. Twenty years later, the firm name was shortened to Fulbright and Jaworski. By the time Jaworski retired in 1981 the firm ranked among the largest in the nation; it maintained offices in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Washington, and London. Jaworski was a leader in the legal profession and had held the presidencies of the American College of Trial Lawyers (1961-62), the State Bar of Texas (1962-63), and the American Bar Association (1971-72).

In addition to private practice, he served in the United States Army judge advocate general's department during World War II and was made chief of the trial section of the war crimes branch in the late stages of the war in Europe. In this office he directed investigations of several hundred cases concerning German crimes against persons living and fighting in the American zone of occupation. He also personally tried two cases - the first having to do with the murder of American aviators shot down over Germany in 1944 and the second involving the doctors and staff of a German sanatorium where Polish and Russian prisoners were put to death. Jaworski had risen to the rank of colonel by the time he returned to civilian life in October 1945. He later wrote about his wartime experiences in After Fifteen Years (1961).

Jaworski successfully represented Lyndon B. Johnson in the case that allowed Johnson to run for both the Senate and the vice presidency in 1960. After Johnson became president in 1963 he appointed Jaworski to important positions on the President's Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, and the Permanent International Court of Arbitration. Jaworski's most widely remembered public service occurred in 1973 and 1974 when he headed the Watergate special prosecution force charged with uncovering the facts surrounding the Republican break-in at the national Democratic party headquarters during the presidential campaign of 1972. In July 1974 he argued the case of United States v. Nixon before the United States Supreme Court and won a unanimous decision ordering President Richard Nixon to turn over to the district court magnetic audio tapes that implicated him and members of his staff in a conspiracy to obstruct justice. Shortly thereafter, President Nixon resigned from office. Jaworski published his account of the Watergate prosecution as The Right and the Power (1976). In 1977 Jaworski was called back to Washington to serve as special counsel to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. In what the press referred to as "Koreagate," he developed cases of misconduct in an influence-buying scandal that resulted in disciplinary action against six members of Congress and two private citizens.

Jaworski became a trustee of the M. D. Anderson Foundation in 1957 and was later on the boards of the Texas Medical Center and the Baylor College of Medicine. He was the president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce in 1960 and a director of the Bank of the Southwest; Anderson, Clayton, and Company; Southwest Bancshares; and Coastal States Gas Producing Corporation. Among his many other activities, Jaworski promoted the building of the Astrodome, belonged to the Philosophical Society of Texas, and received many honorary degrees, including an LL.D. from Baylor in 1960. He coauthored two autobiographical volumes, Confession and Avoidance: A Memoir (1979) and Crossroads (1981). On May 23, 1931, Jaworski married Jeannette Adam of Waco; they had three children. Jaworski was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Houston. He died of a heart attack at his ranch near Wimberley on December 9, 1982, and is buried in Houston. Source

29° 46.941
-095° 36.903

Section 3A
Memorial Oaks Cemetery

June 23, 2009

Seger Pillot Ellis (1904-1995)

Ellis was born on July 4, 1904, in Houston, the son of a prominent banker who hoped that Seger would join him in that business when he came of age. Instead, Kelley became interested in playing piano from watching Houston pianists Peck Kelley, Charlie Dixon, and Jack Sharpe, but he had no formal training in the instrument. Following high school, in 1921 he began playing solo piano for an hour and a half each week on local radio station - what was later called KPRC. In 1925 he auditioned for Victor Records in Houston and was brought in to perform as a member of the Lloyd Finlay Orchestra on field recordings. Impressed by Ellis’s playing, Victor representatives invited him to their studio in Camden, New Jersey, to record more songs using a new invention, the electric microphone. Two of his compositions, Prairie Blues and Sentimental Blues, became hits. His first royalties from Victor for Prairie Blues totaled $3,500. After the session Ellis returned to Houston and resumed work in vaudeville and radio. He also began singing along to his piano playing, and quickly became one of the most popular keyboard artists during the 1920s. He also had the distinction of helping introduce Victor Talking Machine Company’s innovative Orthophonic Victrola. He toured England in 1928 and headlined at CafĂ© de Paris in London. During the late 1920s he recorded for the Columbia and OKeh labels and was the third ranked recording artist in record sales in the United States. His recordings included legendary jazz accompanists such as Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Pee Wee Russell, and Louis Armstrong.  In 1930 he had a nightly national radio program on WLW, Cincinnati. He discovered the Mills Brothers there and became the group’s manager. During the 1930s he also appeared with the Paul Whiteman orchestra.

In 1936 he sang in the film One Rainy Afternoon. By that same year he had organized his band, the Choir of Brass, which featured four trumpets and four trombones. His first wife, vocalist Irene Taylor, who had performed with the Paul Whiteman outfit, eventually performed as vocalist with the Choir of Brass. He played at large hotels in New York that had airtime. In 1941 the group disbanded, and Ellis moved back to Texas. In 1942 he joined the United States Army Air Corps. During the 1940s and 1950s he continued to find success with his songwriting. Some of his most popular pieces included No Baby, Nobody But You, Shivery Stomp, Gene’s Boogie recorded by Gene Krupa, You Be You (But Let Me Be Me), and the standard You’re All I Want For Christmas recorded by Bing Crosby. He also wrote Oilers - the official song of the Houston Oilers professional football team. Ellis lived out his life in Houston and went into the nightclub business for several years. He died in Houston on September 29, 1995, at the age of ninety-one and was buried in that city in Hollywood Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Pamela and a stepson. Source

29° 47.426
-095° 21.986

Everglade Meadow
Hollywood Cemetery

June 16, 2009

The Lost Burial Place of the Alamo Defenders

About a mile from the site of the Alamo and Pompeo Coppini’s grand cenotaph, is a modest plot in one of the old San Antonio city cemeteries. Only a thick chain and a recently erected historical marker delineates the plot from nearby civilian tombstones. There are several accounts of what happened immediately after the Alamo fell. Since victors usually write the history, Mexican historians have their take (the official but widely-believed-to-be-inflated report sent to Mexico City by Santa Anna). Historians in the United States seem a little more concerned with what happened to the men who were taken prisoner that morning, or indeed, if there were any prisoners. All accounts say that the bodies were burned and the site of Coppini’s cenotaph is a logical place for the pyre to have been. In Lone Star, historian T.R. Fehrenbach stated: “The charred remains of the Alamo dead were dumped in a common grave. Its location went unrecorded and was never found.” The story of this tiny 10 X 10 plot, surely the least-frequented site in the whole Alamo epic, is best told by the text on the historical marker. Source

Lost Burial Place of the Alamo Defenders
San Antonio Express
July 6, 1906
August Beisenbach, city clerk of San Antonio states that when he was an 8 year old boy playing on the Alameda (Commerce St.) he witnessed the exhuming of bodies or remains consisting of bones and fragments of bones, of victims of the siege of The Alamo that had been interred near the place where the bodies had been burned and originally buried, and saw their transfers from that place to the old cemetery, on Powder House Hill (Oddfellows Cemetery) this, he states happened in 1856. The fragments of the bodies had first been buried in 1836 and some in 1837. Mr. Beisenbach states that these bodies are buried midway between the monuments of Capt. R.A. Gillaspie and Capt. Samuel H. Walker.
29° 25.277
-098° 28.182

Odd Fellows Cemetery
San Antonio

June 9, 2009

Mollie Arline Kirkland Bailey (1841-1918)

Mollie Bailey, "Circus Queen of the Southwest," the daughter of William and Mary Arline Kirkland, was born on a plantation near Mobile, Alabama. Sources differ regarding her birth date. Bailey's headstone lists her birth as 1841, the year also given by her daughter-in-law Olga Bailey. Other sources state that she was born in the autumn of 1844, while her obituary stated her age as eighty-two at the time of death, which would put her birth in the mid-1830s. As a young woman she eloped with James A. (Gus) Bailey, who played the cornet in his father's circus band, and was married in March 1858. With Mollie's sister Fanny and Gus's brother Alfred, the young couple formed the Bailey Family Troupe, which traveled through Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas acting, dancing, and singing.

In the Civil War Gus first enlisted in the Forty-fourth Infantry Regiment at Selma, Alabama, but was later transferred to a company of Hood's Texas Brigade, where he served as bandmaster. Leaving their child Dixie, the first of nine children, with friends in Richmond, Virginia, Mollie traveled with the brigade as a nurse and, according to some sources, as a spy for Gen. John Bell Hood and Gen. Jubal A. Early. Mrs. Bailey disguised herself as an elderly woman, passed through Federal camps,  and pretended to be a cookie seller. She claimed to have taken quinine through enemy lines by hiding packets of it in her hair. She joined her husband and brother-in-law in Hood's Minstrels and on April 5, 1864, performed a "musical and dancing program" with them near Zillicoffer.

During this period Gus wrote the words for The Old Gray Mare, based on a horse that almost died after eating green corn but revived when given medicine. A friend set it to music, and it was played as a regimental marching song. It was later used as the official song of the Democratic National Convention of 1928; the West Texas Chamber of Commerce named its Old Gray Mare Band after the song. When the war was over, the couple traveled throughout the South and then toured by riverboat with the Bailey Concert Company.  Their career in Texas began in 1879 when the troupe traded the showboat for a small circus that enjoyed immediate success as the Bailey Circus, "A Texas Show for Texas People." The show became the Mollie A. Bailey Show after Gus's health forced him to retire to winter quarters in Blum, Texas.

Mollie came to be known as "Aunt Mollie." Her circus was distinguished by the United States, Lone Star, and Confederate flags that flew over the big top and Mollie's practice of giving war veterans, Union or Confederate, free tickets. At its height, the one-ring tent circus had thirty-one wagons and about 200 animals; it added elephant and camel acts in 1902. After her husband's death on November 10, 1900, Mollie Bailey continued in the business and bought lots in many places where the circus performed to eliminate the high "occupation" taxes levied on shows by most towns. When the circus moved on, she allowed these lots to be used for ball games and camp meetings and later let many of them revert to the towns. She is also credited for her generosity to various churches and for allowing poor children to attend the circus free. In 1906, when the circus began traveling by railroad, Bailey entertained such distinguished guests as governors James Stephen Hogg and Oscar Branch Colquitt and senators Joseph Weldon Bailey and Morris Sheppard, along with members of Hood's Brigade, in a finely-appointed parlor car. She was also said to be a friend of Comanche chief Quanah Parker.

On April 16, 1906, she married A. H. (Blackie) Hardesty, a much younger man, who managed the circus gas lights and who was subsequently known as Blackie Bailey. According to some sources, Mollie Bailey showed the first motion pictures in Texas in a separate circus tent, including a one-reel film of the sinking of the USS Maine. After her youngest child, Birda, died in 1917, Mollie ran the circus from home and communicated with the road by telegram and letter. She died on October 2, 1918, at Houston, and was buried there in Hollywood Cemetery. She was survived for nineteen years by her husband, who became a jitney driver between Houston and Goose Creek and resided in Baytown. Source

Note: Except for the Texas historical marker at her feet, Mollie Bailey's grave is unmarked. She lies between James and Brad Bailey.

29° 47.376
-095° 21.761

Fountain Hill Section
Hollywood Cemetery

June 2, 2009

Charles Guy "Charlie" Tolar (1937-2003)

Charlie Tolar, early American Football League (AFL) star, was born on September 5, 1937 in Natchitoches, Louisiana. He attended Northwestern State University of Louisiana, and was twice named Gulf States Conference MVP. One of the most popular figures in the early days of the AFL, the 5-6, 210-pounder had dozens of nicknames, including "The Human Bowling Ball", and was named to AFL All-Star teams in 1961, 1962 and 1963. Tolar helped the Houston Oilers win the first American Football League championship in 1960 and repeat in 1961. The team finished as runners-up in 1962, when he was the team's Offensive MVP with 1,012 yards and a league record 244 carries. After his football career ended, he worked for Red Adair as an oil well fire-fighter. He was named to the Oilers' 30th Anniversary Dream Team chosen by fans in 1989, and was among the top ten all-time rushers in the history of the AFL. Tolar died in Houston on April 28, 2003, following a bout with cancer.

29° 30.845
-095° 07.430

Section 210
Forest Park East Cemetery