October 29, 2010

Raymond Larry Knight

Raymond L. Knight, Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Timpson, Texas, on July 15, 1922. His family later moved to Houston, where he graduated from John Reagan High School in 1940. He entered the United States Army Air Corps at Houston in October 1942 and received his pilot's wings and commission at Harding Field, Louisiana, in April 1944. After further training in the P-47 Thunderbolt fighter-bomber, 2d Lt. Knight was assigned to the 350th Fighter Group, Twelfth Air Force, in Northern Italy, where he completed eighty-two combat missions. During his first year of combat he won the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Purple Hearts, and the Air Medal with five oak-leaf clusters.

His most notable exploits, however, came in action against heavily defended German airdromes at Ghedi and Bergamo, Italy, in April 1945. On the morning of April 24 he led two other pilots, each flying a single-engine P-47 Thunderbolt, against the heavily defended airdrome at Ghedi. He ordered the other aircraft to stay aloft while he descended to low altitude through heavy antiaircraft fire and located eight German aircraft under heavy camouflage. After rejoining his flight, Knight led the attack and destroyed five of the enemy aircraft, while his teammates shot down two others. After returning to base he volunteered to lead a reconnaissance mission of three other aircraft to the airbase at Bergamo. He ordered his flight to remain out of range of enemy guns while he flew through the fire at low level. Although his Thunderbolt was badly damaged by intense ground fire he observed a squadron of enemy aircraft, heavily camouflaged, and led his flight to the attack. After this strafing, he made ten more passes over the field, and although hit by enemy fire twice more he destroyed six heavily loaded twin-engine aircraft and enemy fighters. He safely returned his damaged aircraft to base. He returned to Bergamo the next morning, April 25, 1945, with a flight of three and attacked an aircraft on the runway. Three more twin-engine aircraft were destroyed. His plane was heavily damaged and virtually unflyable, but he chose to attempt to return the valuable equipment to base for repair. He crashed in the Appennini Mountains and was killed. His gallant action eliminated enemy aircraft that were set to attack the Allied forces in their attempt to establish the first firm bridgehead across the Po River. He personally destroyed fourteen grounded enemy aircraft and led attacks that wrecked ten others.

The Medal of Honor was presented to his widow, Johnnie Lee Knight, and his 2½-year-old-son on the stage at Reagan High School, where Raymond and Johnnie had graduated five years earlier. His remains were buried in Woodlawn Garden of Memories in 1949 and reburied in the Houston National Cemetery in a special section for Medal of Honor recipients on April 25, 1992.

Citation
He piloted a fighter-bomber aircraft in a series of low-level strafing missions, destroying 14 grounded enemy aircraft and leading attacks which wrecked 10 others during a critical period of the Allied drive in northern Italy. On the morning of 24 April, he volunteered to lead 2 other aircraft against the strongly defended enemy airdrome at Ghedi. Ordering his fellow pilots to remain aloft, he skimmed the ground through a deadly curtain of antiaircraft fire to reconnoiter the field, locating 8 German aircraft hidden beneath heavy camouflage. He rejoined his flight, briefed them by radio, and then led them with consummate skill through the hail of enemy fire in a low-level attack, destroying 5 aircraft, while his flight accounted for 2 others. Returning to his base, he volunteered to lead 3 other aircraft in reconnaissance of Bergamo airfield, an enemy base near Ghedi and 1 known to be equally well defended. Again ordering his flight to remain out of range of antiaircraft fire, 1st Lt. Knight flew through an exceptionally intense barrage, which heavily damaged his Thunderbolt, to observe the field at minimum altitude. He discovered a squadron of enemy aircraft under heavy camouflage and led his flight to the assault. Returning alone after this strafing, he made 10 deliberate passes against the field despite being hit by antiaircraft fire twice more, destroying 6 fully loaded enemy twin-engine aircraft and 2 fighters. His skillfully led attack enabled his flight to destroy 4 other twin-engine aircraft and a fighter plane. He then returned to his base in his seriously damaged plane. Early the next morning, when he again attacked Bergamo, he sighted an enemy plane on the runway. Again he led 3 other American pilots in a blistering low-level sweep through vicious antiaircraft fire that damaged his plane so severely that it was virtually nonflyable. Three of the few remaining enemy twin-engine aircraft at that base were destroyed. Realizing the critical need for aircraft in his unit, he declined to parachute to safety over friendly territory and unhesitatingly attempted to return his shattered plane to his home field. With great skill and strength, he flew homeward until caught by treacherous air conditions in the Appennines Mountains, where he crashed and was killed. The gallant action of 1st Lt. Knight eliminated the German aircraft which were poised to wreak havoc on Allied forces pressing to establish the first firm bridgehead across the Po River; his fearless daring and voluntary self-sacrifice averted possible heavy casualties among ground forces and the resultant slowing on the German drive culminated in the collapse of enemy resistance in Italy.


GPS Coordinates
29° 55.831, -095° 27.041

Section Hb
Houston National Cemetery
Houston
 

October 26, 2010

Johnny Keane

John (Johnny) Joseph Keane, major-league baseball manager, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on November 3, 1911. His mother died when he was young, and he was raised by his grandmother. As a youth, he studied six years to become a Catholic priest but cut seminary classes on occasion in order to play semiprofessional baseball and soccer. He also played as the first-string quarterback at a St. Louis high school under an assumed name. At the age of seventeen he was about to sign a professional soccer contract, when the St. Louis Cardinals signed him and sent him to the minor leagues. He moved to Houston in 1935 to play for the Houston Buffs and appeared headed for the major leagues when he was struck in the head by a pitched ball. He was unconscious for six days and was hospitalized for six weeks. Although he played ball again after his recovery, the Cardinals decided to make him a manager in 1938. Keane managed teams in Albany, Georgia, Rochester, Minnesota, Columbus, Ohio, and Omaha, Nebraska. In 1946 he returned to Houston as manager. The next year the Buffs won the Texas League pennant and the Dixie Series. In the seventeen years that Keane managed in the minor leagues, his teams finished third place or higher eleven times and won five pennants.

Keane joined the Cardinals as coach in 1959 and became manager of the team midway through the 1961 season. The Cardinals barely missed winning the pennant in 1963, after a streak of nineteen victories in twenty games. In 1964 they won the National League pennant and defeated the New York Yankees in a seven-game World Series; Keane, hailed as Manager of the Year, startled the baseball world by leaving the Cardinals immediately for the Yankees, where he replaced Yogi Berra as manager. His teams were plagued by injuries, however, and Keane was released in 1966, after the Yankees lost sixteen of their first twenty games. He next worked as a special-assignment scout for the California Angels, the job he held at the time of his death.

Keane was noted for being soft-spoken and mild-mannered but also for being a strict disciplinarian. Sports writers observed that he drank little but smoked about fifteen small cigars a day, which he inhaled. He died of a heart attack in Houston on January 6, 1967. He was survived by his wife, Lela, whom he had married in 1937, and by one daughter. He was buried in Houston at Memorial Oaks Mausoleum.

GPS Coordinates
29° 47.009, -095° 36.871

Chapel of the Oaks Mausoleum
Memorial Oaks Cemetery
Houston

October 22, 2010

Angelina Elizabeth Dickinson

Angelina Dickinson, called the Babe of the Alamo, daughter of Almeron and Susanna (Wilkerson) Dickinson (also spelled Dickerson), was born on December 14, 1834, in Gonzales, Texas. By early 1836 her family had moved to San Antonio. On February 23, as the forces of Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna entered the city, Dickinson reportedly caught up his wife and daughter behind his saddle and galloped to the Alamo, just before the enemy started firing. In the Alamo, legend says William B. Travis tied his cat's-eye ring around Angelina's neck. Angelina and Susanna survived the final Mexican assault on March 6, 1836. Though Santa Anna wanted to adopt Angelina, her mother refused. A few days after the battle, mother and child were released as messengers to Gen. Sam Houston.

At the end of the revolution, Angelina and her mother moved to Houston. Between 1837 and 1847 Susanna Dickinson married three times. Angelina and her mother were not, however, left without resources. For their participation in the defense of the Alamo, they received a donation certificate for 640 acres of land in 1839 and a bounty warrant for 1,920 acres of land in Clay County in 1855. In 1849 a resolution by Representative Guy M. Bryan for the relief of "the orphan child of the Alamo" to provide funds for Angelina's support and education failed. At the age of seventeen, with her mother's encouragement, Angelina married John Maynard Griffith, a farmer from Montgomery County. Over the next six years, the Griffiths had three children, but the marriage ended in divorce. Leaving two of her children with her mother and one with an uncle, Angelina drifted to New Orleans. Rumors spread of her promiscuity.

Before the Civil War she became associated in Galveston with Jim Britton, a railroad man from Tennessee who became a Confederate officer, and to whom she gave Travis's ring. She is believed to have married Oscar Holmes in 1864 and had a fourth child in 1865. Whether she ever married Britton is uncertain, but according to Flake's Daily Bulletin, Angelina died as "Em Britton" in 1869 of a uterine hemorrhage in Galveston, where she was a known courtesan.

Note
Angelina Dickinson's grave is unmarked and likely lost. She originally had a small grave marker, purchased with contributions from the general public, inscribed only with the word "Britton", the last name of the man she was living with at the time of her death. She claimed to be married to him but there are no marriage records to confirm it, and considering that she had a history working as a courtesan, it was probably a respectful attempt by the community to give her grave a semblance of dignity due to her legacy as the "Babe of the Alamo". The stone was swept away during the 1900 hurricane and her exact burial location lost, but according to family lore her grave was located in the far back corner of Evergreen Cemetery, in a section known as Cahill Ground. I searched the four corners of Evergreen and the only corner area that wasn't marked with grave stones predating the hurricane is in the photo below. Whether it is her final resting place or not is uncertain, but it seems to me to be the most likely.

GPS Coordinates
N/A

Cahill Ground (Defunct)
Evergreen Cemetery
Galveston

October 19, 2010

William DeArmond

William DeArmond was born in Butler County, Ohio, in 1838. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in the late 1860s or early 1870s as a sergeant in Company 1, 5th Infantry. On the morning of September 9, 1874, a supply train with a small cavalry escort, began the long trek from their encampment to General Nelson Miles expedition force camped at Battle Creek, which force had been in the field and was in desperate need of resupply. The supply train was attacked by a large Indian war party as it emerged from a canyon on the Upper Washita River. Though vastly outnumbered, the cavalry fought fiercely as the train continued onward in what became a daylong fight. DeArmond was killed in action in the heavy fighting and was one of six soldiers cited for "Gallantry in action" on the first day of the three-day running battle. Seven other soldiers were similarly cited for continuing acts of heroism for the full term of the desperate struggle for survival, and the valiant efforts to reach General Miles with the supplies his 650-man force desperately needed. As DeArmond's body was never recovered from the battlefield, a cenotaph was placed in San Antonio National Cemetery in his memory.

Citation
Gallantry in action.

GPS Coordinates
29° 25.278, -098° 28.022

Section MA
San Antonio National Cemetery
San Antonio

October 15, 2010

Clement Clinton Dyer

Clement C. Dyer, one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, was born at Dyersburg, Tennessee, on January 29, 1799. He moved to Texas in 1822 and, on June 5, 1824, married Sarah Stafford, daughter of William Stafford. They had twelve children. On August 10, 1824, Dyer received title to a league of land in what is now Colorado County; on August 24 of that year he received title to 1½ labors of land in what is now Waller County. In 1825 Indians frightened Mrs. Dyer away from their home, and in April 1826 Dyer made affidavits concerning Indian hostilities. In 1833 he became the manager of the Stafford plantation. Soon afterward he was appointed to oversee the records of the Department of the Brazos. Sometime before March 28, 1835, he sold a half league to his father-in-law.

On November 7, 1835, as a delegate to the Consultation from Harrisburg Municipality he was one of the signers of the declaration that cited the causes for taking up arms against the Centralist forces of Antonio López de Santa Anna. After the Texas Revolution Dyer was justice of the peace in Harrisburg (later Harris) County. He moved to Fort Bend County in 1837 and from 1838 to 1841 was justice of the peace in the lower precinct of that county. He was also actively involved in the Methodist church organized in 1839 in Richmond. In 1843 he was elected county chief justice, a post he held until August 1856. On January 15, 1845, he was appointed to a committee that was to draft resolutions expressing the sentiments of Fort Bend County citizens regarding the annexation of Texas to the United States. The census of 1860 listed him as a wealthy planter with an estate worth $40,000. He died near Richmond in 1864.

GPS Coordinates
29° 34.654, -095° 45.423


Dyer Cemetery
Richmond

October 12, 2010

David McCormick

David McCormick, one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, the son of Andrew and Catherine (Adams) McCormick, was born in 1793. He moved to Texas from Hempstead County, Arkansas, in 1821. His wife and two children died in Arkansas while he was in Texas selecting land. On December 20, 1823, he voted in the election that chose Sylvanus Castleman alcalde for 1824. McCormick was among those who contributed a total of 630 bushels of corn in 1823 to pay the expenses of Erasmo Seguín, who was serving as Texas representative to the Mexican congress. He received title to a league of land in what is now Brazoria County on July 21, 1824, and voted in deputy and alcalde elections in April and December 1824. The census of 1826 classified him as a farmer and stock raiser, aged between forty and fifty, a widower with one slave. In 1831, his nephew Joseph McCormick came to live with him. David McCormick died on May 10, 1836. He was buried near his home, but the body was later moved to West Columbia. In 1838 his heirs received a headright of one labor of land.

GPS Coordinates
29° 08.427, -095° 38.862


Columbia Cemetery
West Columbia

October 8, 2010

Joseph Eugene Pillot

Joseph Eugene Pillot, playwright and song composer, the son of Teolin and Anna C. (Drescher) Pillot, was born on February 25, 1886, in Houston, Texas. He attended the University of Texas and Cornell University with the intention of studying law, but gave up that pursuit to enroll in the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts. He worked for a while as an interior decorator in New York, then entered the workshop course in play-writing at Harvard. He continued there for several years, writing and working with the Boston Community Players. He also took a drama course at Columbia. Pillot became a successful writer of one-act plays, many of which were widely produced on stage, radio, and television. His best-known play, Two Crooks and a Lady (1918), was first produced at Harvard and has been called a model of construction; it has been republished and produced many times. His other plays include My Lady Dreams (1922), Hunger, and The Sundial (probably 1920s). His works have been included in many anthologies and handbooks on the technique of play-writing.

Pillot was also a writer of songs, the most popular of which were As a Snow White Swan and Let Not Your Song End. Most of Pillot's later writing was sacred music. He also wrote poetry. In 1955 he and artist Grace Spaulding John, in cooperation with the River Oaks Garden Club, produced a prose book, Azalea, the story of a real dog and two iron dogs that had guarded the Pillot residence in Houston for more than 100 years. In 1965 the family home was given to the Harris County Heritage and Conservation Society and moved to Sam Houston Park, where it was restored, furnished, given a historical marker, and opened to the public. Pillot was a member of the Poetry Society of Texas and the 1953 president of its Houston chapter. He never married. He died on June 4, 1966, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Houston.

GPS Coordinates
29° 46.012, -095° 23.176

Section C2
Glenwood Cemetery
Houston

October 5, 2010

Clara Driscoll

Clara Driscoll, businesswoman, philanthropist, and historic preservationist, was born on April 2, 1881, to Robert and Julia (Fox) Driscoll in St. Mary's, Texas, near the site of present Bayside. Her ancestors were among the Irish Catholic pioneers who had settled the area between the Nueces and Guadalupe rivers, and her grandfather Daniel had fought in the Battle of San Jacinto. By 1890 her father had amassed a multimillion-dollar empire in ranching, banking, and commercial developments centered in the Corpus Christi area. For her education he sent his only daughter to private schools in Texas, New York City, and France.

After almost a decade of study and travel abroad, Clara Driscoll returned to Texas at the age of eighteen, imbued with an appreciation of the importance of preserving historic sites in Texas for the benefit of future generations. She was shocked to discover the disrepair of the three-acre plaza and barracks area adjoining San Antonio de Valero Mission, familiarly called the Alamo, and to learn that the property might soon be converted into a hotel. From 1903 to 1905 she worked with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to acquire and preserve the Alamo by personally paying most of the purchase price. The attractive young philanthropist received extensive national publicity as the "Savior of the Alamo."

She then pursued a writing career. She wrote a novel, The Girl of La Gloria (1905), a collection of short stories, In the Shadow of the Alamo (1906), and a comic opera, Mexicana, the production of which she financed on Broadway in 1906. That same year she married Henry Hulme (Hal) Sevier at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. The Seviers, who had met several years earlier in Austin, when Sevier was serving in the Texas legislature, remained in New York. Hal served as financial editor of the New York Sun, and Clara served as the president of the Texas Club and entertained extensively at their opulent villa on Long Island.

After Clara Sevier's father died in 1914, the Seviers returned to Austin to be near her family's financial interests. Sevier established a daily newspaper, the Austin American, and his wife became active in the Austin Garden Club and Pan American Round Table and served as president of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. She also directed construction of Laguna Gloria, a fine Italianate mansion located on the Colorado River near the city.

At the death of her brother, Robert Driscoll, Jr., in 1929, Mrs. Sevier closed Laguna Gloria and moved with her husband to her family's Palo Alto ranch headquarters to manage extensive land and petroleum properties and to serve as president of the Corpus Christi Bank and Trust Company. Under her astute leadership the financial dominion almost doubled in value. After a two-year residence in Santiago, Chile, while her husband served as the United States ambassador there, the Seviers returned to Texas in 1935 and shortly thereafter legally separated. When the childless, thirty-one-year marriage was dissolved, Clara legally resumed her maiden name and was thereafter officially known as Mrs. Clara Driscoll.

During the next decade much of her time, energy, and money were devoted to historic preservation, civic betterment, and club activity. She assisted the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs in liquidating the mortgage on its Austin clubhouse, served as vice chairman of the Texas Centennial Exposition executive board, and presented Laguna Gloria to the Texas Fine Arts Association to be used as a museum. To memorialize her brother and to improve the economic life of Corpus Christi, she constructed the lavish twenty-story Hotel Robert Driscoll, where she occupied the large penthouse apartment. Colorful, outspoken, and independent-minded, Driscoll relished participation in the political arena. She was elected the Democratic party's national committeewoman from Texas in 1922 and served in that position for an unprecedented sixteen years. In 1939 she promoted the candidacy of her friend John Nance Garner for president. After Franklin D. Roosevelt was reelected for a third term, however, she remained loyal to what she considered the best interests of her party and supported Roosevelt's fourth-term efforts during a bitter battle at the 1944 state convention. Her political acumen and activity were acknowledged to be of national importance, and it was said that "political potentates and Texas voters knew her equally well."

Clara Driscoll was a Catholic. She died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage on July 17, 1945, in Corpus Christi. After her body had lain in state at the Alamo chapel, she was interred at the Masonic Cemetery in San Antonio. She bequeathed the bulk of her family fortune to establish the Driscoll Foundation Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi.

GPS Coordinates
29° 25.191, -098° 28.155

Driscoll Family Mausoleum
Alamo Masonic Cemetery
San Antonio

October 1, 2010

Leander Harvey McNelly

Leander H. McNelly, Confederate Army officer and Texas Ranger captain, was born in Virginia in 1844, the son of P. J. and Mary (Downey) McNelly. His family seems to have sojourned briefly in Missouri about 1855 before moving from Virginia to Texas in the fall of 1860. P. J. drove a herd of sheep overland to western Washington County while the rest of his family sailed to Texas. For the next five years Leander herded sheep for a neighbor, T. J. Burton. During Gen. Henry H. Sibley's New Mexico campaign, McNelly served as a private in Capt. George Washington Campbell's Company F of Col. Thomas Green's Fifth Texas Cavalry until he was detached to Sibley's escort company. In 1863, after taking part in the battle of Galveston, he served as a volunteer aide-de-camp on the staff of General Green, who was then commanding the Texas cavalry brigade of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department.

For what Theophilous Noel characterized as "his daring gallantry," Green promoted McNelly to captain of scouts and on November 25, 1863, recommended him for a captain's commission. In Green's southern Louisiana campaign of 1864 McNelly played major roles in the battles of Brashear City and Lafourche Crossing. He was seriously wounded at the battle of Mansfield in April 1864, and command of his company devolved upon his lieutenants, William D. Stone and Thomas T. Pitts, who led the unit with distinction at Pleasant Hill, Blair's Landing, and Grande Écore. After recovering from his wound, McNelly returned to his command in May in time to participate in the battle of Yellow Bayou. He was then ordered into the Bayou Lafourche country of southern Louisiana to scout and harass the enemy.

On July 1, 1864, after Green's death at the battle of Blair's Landing, Louisiana, McNelly was transferred to Gen. John A. Wharton's cavalry corps and on July 6 was ordered with his company east of the Atchafalaya River "to procure and transmit to these Headquarters the latest and definite information of the enemy's movements in that section." In 1864 McNelly commanded a scout company on Bayou Grosse Tete west of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In Noel's words, his company "betook themselves to the swamps and canebrakes where they confined their operations until the enemy commenced their retreat." Typical of McNelly's exploits was the capture of 380 men in the Union garrison at Brashear City, Louisiana, by his party of fifteen or twenty scouts. After a period of "hunting up Jayhawkers on the Calcasieu," McNelly was transferred to Gen. George G. Walker's cavalry corps and ordered to Washington County, Texas, to arrest deserters.

After the war he turned to farming near Brenham and there married Carey Cheek. They had two children. He later worked for a time in the General Land Office. During the Edmund J. Davis administration, McNelly served as one of the four captains of the State Police from July 1, 1870, until the force was disbanded on April 22, 1873. In February 1871, after arresting four white men for the murder of a freedman in Walker County, McNelly was wounded by friends of the accused. In July 1874 a thirty-man company of volunteer militia from Washington County was mustered into the Texas Rangers as the seventh company of the Frontier Battalion. McNelly was appointed its captain and assigned to duty in DeWitt County, where the Sutton-Taylor feud was then raging. After four months of attempting to suppress civil violence there, McNelly reported that the presence of his men had been beneficial but that he was sure fighting would flare again as soon as the troops were withdrawn.

In the spring of 1875 he was commissioned to raise a new company for service in the area between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande known as the Nueces Strip. This area, wrote historian Walter Prescott Webb, "stood out as something special in the way of brigandage, murder, and theft. It had more than its share" of such outlaws as John King Fisher and Juan N. Cortina. Thomas C. Robinson served as McNelly's first lieutenant, J. W. Guyon as his second lieutenant, and John B. Armstrong as his sergeant. The forty-man company saw two years of active duty, 1875–76. Nineteenth-century ranger historian Wilburn Hill King wrote that the company was "active, vigilant, daring, and successful in dealing with lawless characters" in the border region. But McNelly's methods were questionable. His men were known to have made a number of extralegal border crossings in violation of Mexican territorial sovereignty, for which he was removed from command of the company and replaced by Jesse Lee Hall.

After his removal, at the request of DeWitt county judge H. Clay Pleasants, McNelly served as an unofficial ranger during the trials of several leading defendants of the Sutton-Taylor feud in October 1876. Thereafter he retired to his farm at Burton, where he died of tuberculosis on September 4, 1877. He was buried at Burton. Remembered as "a tallish thin man of quiet manner, and with the soft voice of a timid Methodist minister," McNelly nevertheless was party to many illegal executions and to confessions forced from prisoners by extreme means. To the present day his tactics remain a subject of controversy on the border, where many remember him best for his torture and hanging of prisoners. Nevertheless, citizens of South Texas erected a monument, paid for by public subscription, to his memory.

GPS Coordinates
30° 12.843, -096° 34.585


Mount Zion Cemetery
Burton