February 22, 2011

Sammie Lee Tucker

   Sammie Tucker was a member of The Tucker Sisters, a singing trio that received national acclaim during the late thirties, forties, and early fifties. They began their professional career in 1936 at the Texas State Fair and became one of many successful sister trios during World War II, headlining at major nightclubs from New York to Hollywood, California, and appearing regularly on live CBS radio broadcasts through the 1940s and 1950s. The group also enjoyed popularity as recording artists and performed with the USO during WWII. The trio disbanded in the early 1950s when Ernestine and Betty Jane married and raised families respectively. Sammie continued as a solo act for some time afterward, often performing with MGM's Cavalcade of Stars troupe. She passed away in Chicago on June 18, 1994 and buried in her hometown of Dallas.

32° 55.494, -096° 44.644

Masonic Section
Restland Memorial Park

February 15, 2011

Louis Richard Rocco

   Louis Richard Rocco, Medal of Honor recipient, was born on November 19, 1938, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the third of nine children of an Italian-American father and a Mexican-American mother. In 1948, the family moved to a housing project in the San Fernando Valley and later to a barrio called Wilmington. He joined a local gang and was frequently in trouble with the law. Rocco dropped out of high school and in 1954, when he was 16 years old, was arrested for armed robbery. He was in court for his sentencing and during a break he walked into a United States Army recruiters office. The recruiting officer, Sergeant Martinez, accompanied Rocco to the court and spoke to the judge. The judge gave him a suspended sentence and told him that he could join the Army when he was 17 if he stayed in school, obeyed a curfew and shunned his gang.

   He joined the Army in 1955 and, after completing his basic training, was sent to Germany. He earned his high school general equivalency diploma during his tour there. A few years later, Rocco was serving as a medic at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, California, when he spotted his recruiter, Sgt. Martinez, lying badly wounded on a litter. Rocco ensured that the sergeant received special attention and constant care. Rocco served two tours of duty in the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. His first tour was from 1965 to 1966. In 1969, Rocco, who was by then a sergeant first class, returned for another tour of duty in Vietnam and was assigned to Advisory Team 162 of the U.S. Military Assistance Command.

   On May 24, 1970, Rocco volunteered to accompany a medical evacuation team on an urgent mission to pick up eight critically wounded South Vietnamese soldiers near the village of Katum. The helicopter in which the team was riding in came under heavy fire as it approached the landing zone. The pilot was shot in the leg and the helicopter crashed into a field. Under intense fire, Rocco was able to carry each of the unconscious crash survivors to the perimeter of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Despite having suffered a fractured wrist and hip and a severely bruised back, he was able to help administer first aid to his wounded comrades before collapsing and losing consciousness. Lieutenant Lee Caubareaux, the helicopter's co-pilot, later lobbied for Rocco to receive the Medal of Honor. On December 12, 1974, President Gerald Ford formally presented Rocco with the medal during a ceremony at the White House.

   Rocco made a career of the Army and earned an associate degree. He retired from the military in 1978 as a Chief Warrant Officer Two. Returning to New Mexico, Rocco was named director of New Mexico's Veterans Service Commission. During his tenure, he established the Vietnam Veterans of New Mexico organization, opened a Veterans' Center which provided peer counseling to Vietnam veterans, started a shelter for the homeless and a nursing home for veterans, and persuaded New Mexico legislators and voters to waive tuition for all veterans at state colleges. He returned to active duty in 1991 during the Gulf War and was stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where he recruited medical personnel. When he returned home, he met his fourth wife, Maria Chavez Schneider, an assistant director of New Mexico AIDS Services. The couple lived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, from 1992 until 1998, when they moved to San Antonio, Texas. On July 11, 2000, Rocco was appointed the new Deputy State Director for Texas in San Antonio. He became instrumental in promoting Veterans Against Drugs, a nationwide school program.

   In 2002, Rocco was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer; he died at his San Antonio home on October 31 of that year. He was buried with full military honors at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio. He was survived by his wife, Maria; two sons, Roy and Brian Rocco; one daughter, Theresa Rocco; his mother, Lita Rocco and five grandchildren. The local government of San Antonio honored Rocco by naming a youth center the Louis Rocco Youth & Family Center. The Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA) offers a scholarship named in his honor.

WO Rocco distinguished himself when he volunteered to accompany a medical evacuation team on an urgent mission to evacuate 8 critically wounded Army of the Republic of Vietnam personnel. As the helicopter approached the landing zone, it became the target for intense enemy automatic weapons fire. Disregarding his own safety, WO Rocco identified and placed accurate suppressive fire on the enemy positions as the aircraft descended toward the landing zone. Sustaining major damage from the enemy fire, the aircraft was forced to crash land, causing WO Rocco to sustain a fractured wrist and hip and a severely bruised back. Ignoring his injuries, he extracted the survivors from the burning wreckage, sustaining burns to his own body. Despite intense enemy fire, WO Rocco carried each unconscious man across approximately 20 meters of exposed terrain to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam perimeter. On each trip, his severely burned hands and broken wrist caused excruciating pain, but the lives of the unconscious crash survivors were more important than his personal discomfort, and he continued his rescue efforts. Once inside the friendly position, WO Rocco helped administer first aid to his wounded comrades until his wounds and burns caused him to collapse and lose consciousness. His bravery under fire and intense devotion to duty were directly responsible for saving 3 of his fellow soldiers from certain death. His unparalleled bravery in the face of enemy fire, his complete disregard for his own pain and injuries, and his performance were far above and beyond the call of duty and were in keeping with the highest traditions of self-sacrifice and courage of the military service.

29° 28.583, -098° 25.976

Section AI
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery
San Antonio

February 8, 2011

Humphrey Jackson

   Humphrey Jackson, Harris County pioneer, member of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, and early San Jacinto District official, was born on November 24, 1784, in Belfast, Ireland, where his father owned flour and linen mills and was a member of the Irish Parliament that was dissolved in 1801. Jackson was educated in the law and immigrated to the United States in 1808. He settled at Berwick's Bayou, Louisiana, where he operated a sugar plantation near Vermillionville and served as a private with Baker's Louisiana Militia regiment at the battle of New Orleans in 1815. Jackson had married a Miss White, who died shortly without children. On October 13, 1814, he married Sarah Merriman, his first wife's cousin, with whom he had four children. Unable to run his plantation because he chose not to own slaves, Jackson traveled to Texas in September 1823 and built a log cabin outside Austin's colony on the San Jacinto River, a half mile west of the site of present Crosby. When it was discovered that he had settled outside the colony, Jackson petitioned the Baron de Bastrop, who on August 16, 1824, granted him title to a league and a labor of land, including the place where he had settled, in what is now Harris County.

   To become a legal colonist, Jackson next petitioned the Mexican government to form the San Jacinto District under control of the Austin colony; he was elected alcalde of the new district in 1824, 1825, and 1827, and served as ex officio militia captain of the San Jacinto area. In May 1825 he was appointed deputy constable in a case involving the schooner Mary. The census of March 1826 classified him as a farmer and stock raiser, a widower with a household including one servant, three sons, and a daughter. He offered Austin his services to help put down the Fredonian Rebellion in 1827 and in 1828 was regidor of Liberty Municipality. He was also a candidate for alcalde in 1830, when Francis W. Johnson was elected. Jackson was killed by a falling tree on January 18, 1833, and buried at Crosby. Jackson's Bayou in eastern Harris County is probably named for him. Source

29° 54.474, -095° 04.069

Jackson Memorial Park

February 1, 2011

Alexander Hodge

   Alexander Hodge, a member of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred, the son of William Hodge, was born in Newton Township, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, in 1760. A preponderance of evidence indicates that his mother was Mary Elliott, daughter of James Elliott, also of Cumberland County. Before his eighteenth birthday Alexander and his brother, William, Jr., moved to Edgefield District, South Carolina, where they served with the "Swamp Fox" Francis Marion and his brigade during the American Revolution. After the war Hodge moved to Oglethorpe County, Georgia, where he read for the law and where his seven children were born. After 1806 he moved west through Kentucky, and in 1815 he was in Arkansas. He served as a magistrate in Spring River Township, Lawrence County. He met Stephen F. Austin, and in 1824 he and his family began the trip to Texas. On April 12, 1828, Austin granted the old judge one of the leagues of land he had reserved for himself on the Brazos River and Oyster Creek near Fort Bend. Hodge served his district as comisario and alcalde. His plantation, Hodge's Bend, was a favorite stopping place for William B. Travis, James B. Bonham, Erastus (Deaf) Smith, and other persons of prominence in Texas history, as well as unknown travelers. His wife, Ruth, died in 1831.

   Hodge's sons and sons-in-law were active in the Texas Revolution. Hodge shepherded the women, children, and family slaves in their flight to safety. In her memoirs his granddaughter, Clarinda Pevehouse Kegans, described him as a tall, white-haired man who raised fine horses and was usually too preoccupied for his grandchildren. However, that changed during their escape. They traveled by night, and as they walked Hodge held some child's hand in his, and all through the dark night they could hear his voice - sometimes laughing, sometimes cajoling - even above the rain and thunder. They huddled in a thicket on April 21 and listened to the guns of San Jacinto. Hodge brought his family back to Oyster Creek, but he was ill and exhausted. He died on August 17, 1836, and is buried at Hodge's Bend Cemetery. Source

Note: Alexander Hodge's tombstone has two different dates for his birth year. It is inscribed as 1757 on the military marker, whereas the DAR medallion states that he was born in 1760. Recent genealogical research shows that he was born sometime between 1760 and 1762, with 1760 being the most likely.

29° 38.424, -095° 39.752

Hodge's Bend Cemetery
Sugar Land