April 30, 2010

Paul Neal "Red" Adair

Paul Neal "Red" Adair, the Texas oil well firefighter, was born on June 18, 1915, in Houston, Texas, to Charles and Mary Adair. He had four brothers and three sisters. Red grew up in the Houston Heights and went to school at Harvard Elementary, Hogg Junior High, and Reagan High School, where he was an all-city halfback for the football team when he was in the ninth grade. Though Red hoped to go to college, he had to drop out of high school to help support his family in 1930 as the Great Depression caused his father to close down his blacksmith shop. Red held many types of jobs after dropping out of high school, including a short showing as a semi-professional boxer. In 1936 he went to work for the Southern Pacific Railroad.

In 1938 Red obtained his first job working with oil when he joined the Otis Pressure Control Company. He worked in the oil fields of Texas and neighboring states until he was drafted into the US Army in 1945, where he served with the 139th Bomb Disposal Squadron and attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. While in the Army, Red learned about controlling explosions and fires. He was with the 139th disposing bombs in Japan until the spring of 1946.

When Red returned to Houston after serving his time in the Army, he was hired by Myron Kinley of the M.M. Kinley Company, one of the innovators for oil well blowouts and fire control. Red worked for Kinley for fourteen years helping put out oil well fires and capping oil blowouts. In 1959 he resigned from M.M. Kinley and formed his own company, The Red Adair Company, Inc. Through the techniques he learned from Kinley and disposing bombs for the army, Red was able to develop many tools and strategies to control oil well and natural gas well blowouts and fires. The Red Adair Company became a world-renowned name for fighting oil well fires. Red put out fires both inland and offshore all around the world. On average, the company put out forty-two fires every year.

By 1961 Red became famous in oil fields around the world. He had put out the offshore CATCO oil fire in 1959 and many other fires both inland and offshore. In November1961 a Phillip's Petroleum gas well in Algeria had a blowout. The flames from the blowout fire reached heights of over 700 feet and burned 550 million cubic feet of gas per day. The flames were so high, astronaut John Glenn reported seeing the fire from space. The fire came to be known as the Devil's Cigarette Lighter.

Red made it to the fire in late November of 1961. He spent months preparing to put out the flame and cap the well. Red had enormous equipment built on-site to handle the pillar of fire. Since the fire was in the Sahara Desert, water had to be pumped from wells and stored in three reservoirs, each ten feet deep and the size of a football field. Red had several bulldozers customized with special housing units and fitted with hooks to pull away debris. After all preparations had been made, men and equipment were soaked with water constantly as they carefully approached the fire in their famous red coveralls and helmets. Nitroglycerin was then placed near the base of the fire. When the nitroglycerin was ignited, the explosion sucked the oxygen from the air and drowned out the fire. Red had been using this technique for years, and had learned a great deal about it from Myron Kinley. Once the fire was blown out, Red's team removed the wellhead and capped the well on May 28, 1962, six months after it had ignited.

Red Adair was already known in oil and gas fields around the world, but blowing out the Devil's Cigarette Lighter made him an icon. He put out several more notable fires in his career including an offshore rig in Louisiana in 1970 and a 1977 blowout in the North Sea. In 1988 a huge explosion at the Piper Alpha Rig off the coast of Scotland brought Red even more renown. Using the ship he helped design, the Tharos, Red approached what was left of the offshore rig and used the ship's unique equipment to put out fires and cap the wells. At seventy-three, Red was no longer able to jump from a ship to an oil rig, so he had two of his men climb onto what was left of Piper Alpha to clear debris. Once most of the debris was cleared, the men began to put out the fires using nitroglycerin and the ocean water. On some days the wind would blow in just the right direction and help put the water right where it needed to be. On other days the seventy mile-per-hour wind worked against them. Eventually Red and his team were able to put out the fires and cap the wells.

The Piper Alpha blaze brought Red in the public eye once again. Red continued to put out fires around the world, and in 1991, he helped put out many oil fires in Kuwait. At the closing of the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein's armies retreated from Kuwait igniting many oil wells in order to keep them out of the hands of the Kuwaitis and Americans. Red was hired to put out the flames. More than one hundred wells were ignited, and putting them out was estimated to take three to five years. Red extinguished 117 burning wells in nine months.

On top of working in the field as much as he could, Red also designed and developed many different types of firefighting equipment. At the age of nineteen he had designed a lever that could haul coal from railroad cars. His equipment was so innovative, that he formed a separate company, The Red Adair Service and Marine Company, in 1972 to sell firefighting equipment to others in the industry. Red liked to rig bulldozers with special fittings to keep heat out. He would also fix long beams on the bulldozers and use those beams to put nitroglycerin into a blaze or even use those beams like a fixed crane to bring in heavy materials. One of Red's most famous designs was the semi-submersible firefighting vessel, used to fight offshore oil well fires. Red designed several ships for oil companies around the world, many of which are still in use today.

Red's work brought him many awards. He received the Walton Clark Medal Citation from the Franklin Institute. The city of Houston presented Red with both the Outstanding Houstonian Award and the Houston Distinguished Sales and Citizenship Award. After his popularity skyrocketed when he put out the Devil's Cigarette Lighter, a film was loosely based on Red's life. The movie Hellfighters, starring John Wayne, was released in 1968. Red served as a technical adviser. Although much of his fame came from his reputation as a daredevil, Red was also known to be a stickler when it came to safety. Red always boasted that none of his men had ever been killed or seriously injured while working for him.

In 1993 Red Adair finally retired and sold the Red Adair Company. He then started Adair Enterprises as a consulting company that helped other firefighters. Many of Red's firefighters went on to form their own companies after working for him. Boots Hansen and Coots Matthews broke away from The Red Adair Company in 1978 to form their own firefighting company. They eventually merged with another group of firefighters that had once worked for Red. Although he retired from actual firefighting and fieldwork in 1993, Red stayed active in the firefighting business until he died at the age of eighty-nine on August 7, 2004, in the city of Houston. He was survived by his wife Kemmie and a son and daughter.

GPS Coordinates
29° 43.358, -095° 18.226

Abbey Mausoleum
Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery
Houston

April 27, 2010

Peter Hansbrough Bell

Peter Hansborough Bell, governor of Texas, was born on May 12, 1812, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. He engaged in business in Petersburg until he left Virginia to fight for the independence of Texas. As a private in the cavalry company of Henry W. Karnes, he fought in the battle of San Jacinto, for which service, on June 6, 1838, he was issued a donation certificate for 640 acres of land. For serving in the army from May 1, 1836, to January 23, 1839, he was granted another 1,080 acres. He was also issued a headright certificate, dated June 7, 1838, for one-third league of land for army service before May 1, 1836. Bell was appointed assistant adjutant general on May 10, 1837, and inspector general on January 30, 1839. He joined the Texas Rangers under John C. (Jack) Hays in 1840 and held the rank of major in the Somervell expedition of 1842. In 1845 Bell was captain of a company of rangers but resigned that commission to enter the United States Army at the outbreak of the Mexican War. Under the command of Gen. Zachary Taylor, Bell won distinction at the battle of Buena Vista. As lieutenant colonel he commanded the part of Hays's regiment designated for service in Texas on the Rio Grande. He was experienced in frontier affairs, and the operations of his battalion inspired confidence in the people so that the line of settlement pushed southwestward rapidly.

Bell was elected governor of Texas in 1849 and again in 1851. A few months before the expiration of his second term in 1853 he resigned to fill the vacancy in the United States Congress caused by the death of David S. Kaufman. He remained in Congress from 1853 to 1857. On March 3, 1857, Bell married Mrs. Ella Reeves Eaton Dickens, the daughter of a wealthy North Carolina planter, William Eaton, and the widow of Benjamin Dickens. Bell moved to her home at Littleton, North Carolina. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was offered a commission as colonel of Confederate forces by Jefferson Davis, but he refused to serve and spent the war years on his wife's plantation. In 1891 the Texas legislature voted Bell a donation and a pension in appreciation for his services to the republic and the state. Bell County was named in his honor. Bell died on March 8, 1898, and was buried in the cemetery at Littleton. His and his wife's remains were removed to Texas in 1930 and reinterred in the State Cemetery at Austin. In 1936 the state of Texas erected a memorial to Bell, which stands at the southwest corner of the courthouse grounds in Belton.

GPS Coordinates
30° 15.926, -097° 43.628

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery
Austin

April 23, 2010

Carlos Bee

Carlos Bee, lawyer, politician, and legislator, the son of Mildred (Tarver) and Hamilton P. Bee, was born on July 8, 1867, at either Saltillo, Coahuila, or Monterrey, Nuevo León. His parents were temporarily residing in Mexico after the collapse of the Confederacy, but they returned to San Antonio, Texas, in 1874. Bee attended San Antonio schools and the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University). He studied law while working as a railway mail clerk in the judge advocate's office at Fort Sam Houston, was admitted to the bar in 1893, and began to practice law in San Antonio.

For two years he served as United States commissioner for the Western District of Texas, and he was district attorney of the Thirty-seventh District for six years, 1898–1905. He was a member of the Bexar County school board for two years, 1906–08. In 1904 Bee was chairman of the state Democratic convention and a delegate to the national Democratic convention at St. Louis. As a member of the Texas Senate for two terms, 1915–19, he introduced a compulsory school bill and a fifty-four-hour work week for women. He was elected to the Sixty-sixth Congress (1919-21) and subsequently resumed his law practice in San Antonio. Bee married Mary Kyle Burleson of Austin. He died in San Antonio on April 20, 1932, and was buried in the City Cemetery. He was survived by his second wife, Mary Elizabeth.

GPS Coordinates
29° 25.193, -098° 27.806

Section 4
Confederate Cemetery
San Antonio

April 20, 2010

Therman B. "Sonny" Fisher

Sonny Fisher was born on a farm in the small town of Chandler. Shortly after he was born, the family relocated to Tacoma, Washington, where Fisher grew up listening to his father sing and play the guitar. Ultimately settling in Houston, Fisher formed the Rocking Boys in the early 1950s after seeing Elvis Presley perform in 1954 at the Paladium. Teaming up with bassist Leonard Curry, drummer Darrell Newsome, and guitarist Joey Long, the group appeared alongside artists such as Elvis, George Jones, and Tommy Sands at shows in Houston and Beaumont. Fisher paid for his own recording session with engineer Bill Quinn at his Gold Star Studios in Houston, and his “Elvis-like” performance caught the attention of Quinn who alerted Jack Starnes of Starday Records. In early 1955 Fisher signed a one-year contract with H.W. “Pappy” Daily of Starday. Daily later recorded J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson, George Jones, and others. Starnes served as Fisher’s manager.

Fisher’s next recording session took place in January 1955 at Quinn’s studio. His records released under the Starday label included Rockin’ Daddy/Hold Me Baby, Hey Mama/Sneaky Pete, and I Can’t Lose/Rockin’ and Rollin’; Rockin’ Daddy became a regional hit. After receiving a royalty check from Starday for only $126, however, Fisher refused to sign with the label again. Fisher attempted to start his own record label, Columbus Records. With little success, he left the music scene in 1965 to dedicate his time to his floor-laying business. The singer’s entire 1950s output was composed of a mere eight songs, all recorded in the years 1955 and 1956.


In 1980 Ted Carroll and Roger Armstrong of Ace Records in London gathered the eight songs Fisher had recorded between 1955 and 1956 and combined them on a 10” LP, entitling it Texas Rockabilly. The album launched the record label and caused a popular rockabilly revival throughout Europe. Following the release of Texas Rockabilly, Fisher recorded an EP of new material for the label in May 1980. From 1981 to 1983, he played shows throughout Europe with artists such as Eddie Fontaine, Gene Summers, Billy Hancock, and Jack Scott. After moving back to Texas, Fisher visited Spain in 1993 to record with veteran rockabilly artist Sleepy LaBeef and the Spanish band Los Solitarios. Fisher disappeared from the public eye shortly thereafter. Despite his disappearance, the singer left a lasting impression on Europe, embodying the essence of early Texas rockabilly to his fans. Fisher died on October 8, 2005 in Houston.


GPS Coordinates
29° 54.940, -095° 18.860

Section 47
Brookside Memorial Park
Houston

April 16, 2010

Michael Chavenoe

As is often the case with early Texas settlers, little is known of Chavenoe's history; nearly every record of him is from military rolls. He came to Texas in 1829 and settled in what is now Liberty County. On November 14, 1835, he enlisted for a single month in Captain John C. Reed's Company. He re-enlisted on March 6, 1836 as a private in Captain William M. Logan's Company of Liberty Volunteers and fought at San Jacinto with that unit the following month. He was discharged on June 6, 1836 and returned home to Liberty County. He moved from Liberty at some point and was living in Fort Bend County in 1853. Sometime between 1853 and 1860, while visiting the Tilton family in Old River-Winfree, Chavenoe died and was buried in the Tilton family cemetery.

GPS Coordinates
29° 50.990, -094° 48.620


Tilton Cemetery
Old River-Winfree

April 13, 2010

William Preston "Wild Bill" Longley

William Preston (Bill) Longley, outlaw, son of Campbell and Sarah Longley, was born in Austin County, Texas, on October 6, 1851. By April 1853 his family had moved to Evergreen, in what was then Washington County, where Longley went to school and worked on the family farm. Tales of Longley's criminal career are a mixture of actual facts and his boasts, but it is known that at the end of the Civil War a rebellious Longley took up with other young men and terrorized newly freed slaves. On December 20, 1868, Longley, Johnson McKeown, and James Gilmore intercepted three ex-slaves from Bell County; this incident resulted in the death of Green Evans. Longley would later claim that after this he worked as a cowboy in Karnes County, and then killed a soldier as he rode through Yorktown, but there is no corroboration for these stories. He also claimed that he rode with bandit Cullen M. Baker in northeast Texas, but this is unlikely.

In 1869-70, he and his brother-in-law, John W. Wilson, were terrorizing residents of south central Texas, and it was alleged that in February 1870, in Bastrop County, they killed a black man named Brice. In March the military authorities offered a $1,000 reward for them. They were also accused of killing a black woman. After Wilson's death in Brazos County, Longley traveled north, later claiming that he killed a traildriver named Rector, fought Indians, killed a horse thief named McClelland, and killed a soldier at Leavenworth, Kansas, for insulting the virtue of Texas women. None of these claims have been corroborated. At Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory, Longley joined a gold-mining expedition into the Wind River Mountains, but was stranded when the United States Army stopped the group. In June 1870 he enlisted in the United States cavalry and promptly deserted. He was captured, court-martialed, and sentenced to two years' confinement at Camp Stambaugh, Wyoming Territory. After about six months he was released back to his unit, where he remained until he again deserted on June 8, 1872. Longley claimed that he lived and rode with Chief Washakie and his Shoshone Indians, which is questionable, and then returned to Texas via Parkerville, Kansas, where he claimed he killed a Charlie Stuart, of whom there is no record. He returned to Texas and Bell County, where his parents had moved, and claimed that he worked as a cowboy in Comanche County and what was then Brown County, allegedly killing a black man and engaging in a gunfight at the Santa Anna Mountains in Coleman County.

In July 1873 Longley was arrested by Mason county sheriff J.J. Finney in Kerr County and taken to Austin so that Finney could be paid a reward. When the reward was not paid, Finney was supposedly paid off by a Longley relative and Longley was released. In late 1874 Longley and his brother James Stockton Longley rode from Bell County to the Lee County home of their uncle, Caleb Longley, who implored Longley to kill a Wilson Anderson for allegedly killing his son. On March 31, 1875, Longley shotgunned Anderson to death while Anderson was plowing a field, and the two brothers fled north to the Indian Territory. They returned to Bell County in July, where James turned himself in; James was later acquitted of any part in Anderson's murder. In November 1875 Longley killed George Thomas in McLennan County, then rode south to Uvalde County, where, in January 1876, he killed William (Lou) Shroyer in a running gunfight. By February 1876 Longley was in Delta County, Texas, sharecropping for the Reverend William R. Lay. A dispute with a local man over a girl led to Longley's arrest. He burned himself out of the Delta County jail and, on June 13, 1876, killed the Reverend Lay while Lay was milking a cow.

On June 6, 1877, Longley was captured in DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, by Nacogdoches county sheriff Milton Mast; Longley was returned to Lee County to stand trial for the murder of Wilson Anderson. Longley promptly began writing letters to a local newspaper about his "adventures," claiming that he had killed thirty-two men. On September 5, 1877, he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to hang. He was held in the Galveston County jail until the Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction in March 1878. Longley was baptized into the Catholic Church. On October 11, 1878, before a crowd of thousands in Giddings, Texas, Longley was executed by Lee county sheriff James Madison Brown. Just before his execution, Longley claimed that he had only killed eight men. Rumors persisted that Longley's hanging had been a hoax and that he had gone to South America, and a claim was made in 1988 that he had later reappeared and died in Louisiana. Between 1992 and 1994 an effort was made to find his body in the Giddings Cemetery, but to no avail. There is also some evidence that his body may have been returned to Bell County after his execution.

GPS Coordinates
30° 10.988, -096° 56.867


Giddings City Cemetery
Giddings

April 9, 2010

Lincoln Borglum

James Lincoln de la Mothe Borglum, named after his father's favorite president and called by his middle name, was the first child of Gutzon Borglum and his second wife, Mary Montgomery Williams. During his youth, Lincoln accompanied his father to the Black Hills of South Dakota and was present when the site for the Mt. Rushmore monument was selected. Although he had originally planned to study engineering at the University of Virginia, Lincoln began work on the monument in 1933 at the age of 21 as an unpaid pointer. He quickly moved into a series of more important jobs: he was put on the payroll in 1934, promoted to assistant sculptor in 1937, and promoted to superintendent in 1938 with an annual salary of $4,800.

Gutzon Borglum had nearly completed the 60-foot heads of the four presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and T. Roosevelt) when he died on March 6, 1941. Lincoln had to abandon his father's ambitious plans to carry the work down to include the torsos of the presidents and an entablature due to a lack of funding; he left the monument largely in the state of completion it had reached under his father's direction. He was appointed Mount Rushmore National Memorial's first superintendent and served from October 1, 1941 until May 15, 1944.

Borglum continued to work as a sculptor after leaving Mt. Rushmore. He created several religious works for churches in Texas including the well-known shrine Our Lady of Loreto in Goliad. He also wrote three books, My Father's Mountain (1965), Borglum's Unfinished Dream (1976) and Mount Rushmore: The Story Behind the Scenery (1977), all about the sculpting of Mount Rushmore.

Like many of the men who worked on the Rushmore project, Borglum's lungs were permanently scarred from breathing in granite dust associated with the blasting. He died in Corpus Christi, Texas on January 27, 1986 at the age of 73.

GPS Coordinates
29° 25.206, -098° 28.406


City Cemetery #1
San Antonio

April 6, 2010

Juan Nepomuceno Seguin

Juan Seguín, political and military figure of the Texas Revolution and Republic of Texas, was born in San Antonio on October 27, 1806, the elder of two sons of Juan José María Erasmo Seguín and María Josefa Becerra. Although he had little formal schooling, Juan was encouraged by his father to read and write, and he appears to have taken some interest in music. At age nineteen he married María Gertrudis Flores de Abrego, a member of one of San Antonio's most important ranching families. They had ten children, among whom Santiago was a mayor of Nuevo Laredo and Juan, Jr., was an officer in the Mexican military in the 1860s and 1870s. Seguín began his long career of public service at an early age. He helped his mother run his father's post office while the latter served in Congress in 1823-24. Seguín's election as alderman in December 1828 demonstrated his great potential. He subsequently served on various electoral boards before being elected alcalde in December 1833. He acted for most of 1834 as political chief of the Department of Bexar, after the previous chief became ill and retired.

Seguín's military career began in 1835. In the spring he responded to the Federalist state governor's call for support against the Centralist opposition by leading a militia company to Monclova. After the battle of Gonzales in October 1835, Stephen F. Austin granted a captain's commission to Seguín, who raised a company of thirty-seven. His company was involved in the fall of 1835 in scouting and supply operations for the revolutionary army, and on December 5 it participated in the assault on Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos's army at San Antonio. Seguín entered the Alamo with the other Texan military when Antonio López de Santa Anna's army arrived, but was sent out as a courier. Upon reaching Gonzales he organized a company that functioned as the rear guard of Sam Houston's army, was the only Tejano unit to fight at the battle of San Jacinto, and afterward observed the Mexican army's retreat. Seguín accepted the Mexican surrender of San Antonio on June 4, 1836, and served as the city's military commander through the fall of 1837; during this time he directed burial services for the remains of the Alamo dead. He resigned his commission upon election to the Texas Senate at the end of the year.

Seguín, the only Mexican Texan in the Senate of the republic, served in the Second, Third, and Fourth Congress. He served on the Committee of Claims and Accounts and, despite his lack of English, was chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs. Among his legislative initiatives were efforts to have the laws of the new republic printed in Spanish. In the spring of 1840 he resigned his Senate seat to assist Gen. Antonio Canales, a Federalist, in an abortive campaign against the Centralists, but upon his return to San Antonio at the end of the year he found himself selected mayor. In this office Seguín became embroiled in growing hostilities between Anglos and Mexican Texans. He faced personal problems as well. He had gained the enmity of some residents by speculating in land. He financed his expedition in support of Canales by mortgaging property and undertook a smuggling venture in order to pay off the debt. Although upon his return from Mexico he came under suspicion of having betrayed the failed Texan Santa Fe expedition, he still managed to be reelected mayor at the end of 1841. His continuing conflicts with Anglo squatters on city property, combined with his business correspondence with Mexico, incriminated him in Gen. Rafael Vásquez's invasion of San Antonio in March 1842. In fear for his safety, Seguín resigned as mayor on April 18, 1842, and shortly thereafter fled to Mexico with his family.

He spent six years in Mexico and then attempted to reestablish himself in Texas. While living in Mexico he participated, according to him under duress, in Gen. Adrián Woll's invasion of Texas in September 1842. Afterward his company served as a frontier defense unit, protecting the Rio Grande crossings and fighting Indians. During the Mexican War his company saw action against United States forces. At the end of the war he decided to return to Texas despite the consequences. He settled on land adjacent to his father's ranch in what is now Wilson County. During the 1850s he became involved in local politics and served as a Bexar County constable and an election-precinct chairman. His business dealings took him back to Mexico on occasion, and at the end of the 1860s, after a brief tenure as Wilson county judge, Seguín retired to Nuevo Laredo, where his son Santiago had established himself. He died there on August 27, 1890. His remains were returned to Texas in 1974 and buried at Seguin, the town named in his honor, during ceremonies on July 4, 1976.


GPS Coordinates
29° 33.704, -097° 58.251


Juan N. Seguin Memorial Plaza
Seguin

April 2, 2010

Henry Noble Potter

Henry N. Potter, Galveston County legislator, was born in 1822 in Connecticut and was educated in New York. In 1838 he moved to Texas, where he received a conditional certificate for land in 1839 and an unconditional certificate in 1845. He was elected Galveston city attorney in 1839 and held the position for only a month before the council abrogated the office on August 28 and ordered his accounts audited. Potter represented Galveston County in the Seventh Congress of the Republic of Texas in 1842 and 1843, and in 1851 he ran unsuccessfully for the United States Congress. He died soon after the Civil War.

GPS Coordinates
29° 17.604, -094° 48.681


Trinity Episcopal Cemetery
Galveston