March 29, 2011

James Walker Fannin

   James Walker Fannin, Jr., Texas revolutionary, was probably born on January 1, 1804, in Georgia, the son of Dr. Isham Fannin. He was adopted by his maternal grandfather, James W. Walker, and brought up on a plantation near Marion. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point on July 1, 1819, under the name James F. Walker, but withdrew in November 1821. He returned to Georgia and several years later married Minerva Fort, with whom he had two daughters. In the autumn of 1834 he and his family moved to Texas and settled at Velasco, where he supposedly was a plantation owner. His letters affirm the fact that he was a slave trader.

   Fannin became an agitator for the Texas Revolution and on August 20, 1835, was appointed by the Committee of Safety and Correspondence of Columbia to use his influence for the calling of the Consultation. On August 27 he wrote to a United States Army officer in Georgia requesting financial aid for the Texas cause and West Point officers to command the Texas army. In September Fannin became active in the volunteer army and subscribed money to an expedition to capture the Veracruzana, a Mexican ship at Copano; but the expedition did not materialize, and Fannin went to Gonzales, where, as captain of the Brazos Guards, he participated in the battle of Gonzales on October 2, 1835. On October 6 he was one of a committee urging Stephen F. Austin to bring all possible aid to Gonzales, and when Austin brought up the whole Texas army and moved toward Bexar, James Bowie and Fannin were sent as scouts to determine conditions between Gonzales and Bexar and to secure supplies. On October 27 Bowie and Fannin selected a campsite near Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña Mission and on October 28 led the Texas forces in the battle of Concepción.

   On November 10 Fannin was ordered to cut a Mexican supply route between Laredo and San Antonio but returned to headquarters when he was not joined by a supporting force. On November 13 Sam Houston, commander in chief of the regular army, offered Fannin the position of inspector general, but Fannin received an honorable discharge from the volunteer army on November 22 and began an urgent campaign for a larger regular army. On December 5 the General Council, acting on Fannin's advice, established an auxiliary volunteer corps. Houston commissioned Fannin as a colonel in the regular army on December 7, and on December 10 the council ordered him to enlist reinforcements for the army and to contract for war supplies in the campaign against Bexar. Bexar had surrendered on December 9, so the accumulated supplies were used in the 1836 campaign.

   Continuing as an agent of the provisional government, Fannin, on January 9, 1836, began recruiting volunteers for the Matamoros expedition. After Houston withdrew from the expedition, Fannin was elected colonel of the Provisional Regiment of Volunteers at Goliad on February 7 and from February 12 to March 12 acted as commander in chief of the army. When he learned that the Mexicans under José de Urrea had occupied Matamoros, Fannin went no further with plans for the expedition and fell back to strengthen defenses at Goliad. Other elements of the expedition, under James Grant and Francis W. Johnson, were destroyed by Urrea, who then proceeded to attack Goliad. On March 12 Fannin dispatched most of his force to aid Texans near Refugio. On March 14 he received Houston's order to retreat to Victoria, which rescinded a previous order to relieve the Alamo. Waiting for the forces under Amon B. King and William Ward to return from Refugio, Fannin delayed retreating until he heard of their capture. On March 19 he began his retreat, but he and his men were surrounded and forced to surrender at the battle of Coleto. The Texans were imprisoned by the Mexicans at Goliad and subsequently murdered by order of Antonio López de Santa Anna on March 27, 1836. Fannin, because he was wounded, was shot separately at the mission on the same day.

   In the months leading up to the Goliad Massacre, Fannin had shown defects as a commander. Accustomed to the discipline of a regular army, he adapted poorly to his situation as head of volunteers. He scorned the idea of electing officers and was disturbed by the lack of a clearly established hierarchy among his forces. His arrogance and ambition earned him the contempt of many of the men under his command. One private, J. G. Ferguson, wrote in a letter to his brother: "I am sorry to say that the majority of the soldiers don't like [Fannin]. For what cause I don't know whether it is because they think he has not the interest of the country at heart or that he wishes to become great without taking the proper steps to attain greatness." In his final weeks, Fannin wrote repeatedly asking to be relieved of his command. Most historians now agree that Fannin made many serious mistakes as a commander. But despite his reluctance to carry on and his sometimes poor military judgment, he held out bravely until the end. Fannin County was named in his honor, as were the town of Fannin in Goliad County and Camp Fannin, a United States Army installation. Source

28° 38.766, -097° 22.780

Fannin Memorial Monument

March 22, 2011

Hiram George Runnels

   Hiram George Runnels, planter and representative at the Convention of 1845, was born on December 17, 1796, in Hancock County, Georgia. At an early age he moved with his parents to Mississippi. During the Indian wars he served for a short time in the United States Army. From 1822 to 1830 he was state auditor of Mississippi. In 1829 he was elected to represent Hinds County in the Mississippi legislature. He was defeated in the race for the office of governor of Mississippi in 1831, was elected in 1833, and ran unsuccessfully again in 1835. Runnels's service as president of the Union Bank in 1838 led to a dispute wherein he caned Mississippi governor McNutt in the streets of Jackson and dueled with Mississippian editor Volney E. Howard in 1840. In 1841 he again represented Hinds County in the legislature. Runnels moved to Texas in 1842 and became a planter on the Brazos River. He represented Brazoria County in the Convention of 1845. He died in Houston on December 17, 1857, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery. On February 1, 1858, Runnels County was named in his honor. H. G. Runnels was the uncle of Texas governor Hardin R. Runnels. Source

29° 45.974, -095° 23.215 

Section C3
Glenwood Cemetery

March 15, 2011

Thomas Fowle

   Born in Boston, Massachusetts, December 5, 1800, Thomas Fowle arrived in Texas May 1, 1835 and settled in Nacogdoches Municipality, where he worked as a wagon maker and surveyor. Well-educated, he was known to be highly skilled in martial exercises and was a notable scholar in the French, Spanish and Italian languages. In early 1836, he enlisted in a company raised by Captain (later Colonel) James Smith before being transferred and promoted to first sergeant in Captain William H. Smith's Cavalry Company. While leading a charge of cavalry at the Battle of San Jacinto, he fell mortally wounded and expired on the field soon after.

Note: This is a cenotaph. In 1881, a decision was made to place permanent memorials at the graves of those men who had been killed in the Battle of San Jacinto and buried on the battlefield. It was discovered, however, that all of the original wooden grave markers, except for Benjamin Brigham's, had rotted away and no one could remember exactly where the others rested. As a compromise, since the soldiers had been buried closely together, it was decided to place a cenotaph over Brigham's grave as a memorial to all of them.

29° 45.232, -095° 05.363

San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site
La Porte

March 8, 2011

David Herbert McNerney

   David Herbert McNerney, Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient, was born to an Irish-Catholic family in Lowell, Massachusetts, on June 2, 1931. He was the fifth of five children of Edward and Helen McNerney. A combat veteran of World War I, Edward McNerney, having earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts, served as a role model for his children. David McNerney’s brother and sister served in the military during World War II, and another brother flew combat missions as a United States Navy pilot during the Vietnam War. The McNerney family moved to Houston in 1940. David McNerney graduated from Houston’s St. Thomas High School in 1949 and enlisted in the United States Navy. After McNerney completed his service, he returned to Texas in 1953.

   David McNerney was briefly enrolled at the University of Houston but enlisted in the United States Army after seeing a recruitment poster on campus in 1953. McNerney excelled as a combat infantry soldier during his military career. He volunteered for special warfare training in 1962. He served as one of the first American advisers sent to Vietnam in the early 1960s and did a second tour of duty in 1964.

   In late 1965 McNerney was assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington, to train draftees for combat in Vietnam. In 1966 Company A, First Battalion, Eighth Infantry Regiment, Fourth Infantry Division received much of their basic training and advanced infantry training from Drill Sergeant McNerney. McNerney talked tough and demanded respect from draftees as well as officers. “Let me tell you how things are in this company,” McNerney informed his men. “You do what I tell you to do and you do it when I tell you to do it, because you will die in Vietnam if you don’t.” Although an imposing figure, McNerney developed a bond with the soldiers during their training. At the end of the training in September, he announced that he would be going to Vietnam with them, and in early October 1966 McNerney and Company A arrived in South Vietnam.

   On March 21, 1967, David McNerney was serving as a first sergeant of Company A in a remote region near Polei Doc in Kon Tum Province in South Vietnam near the Cambodian border. Radio contact had been lost with a reconnaissance unit operating in the area, and McNerney’s company had been sent in to find them. The company, consisting of 108 soldiers, was surprised by a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) battalion and heavy machine gun fire at 7:30 A.M. on March 22. Moving quickly, McNerney aided the company commander in establishing a defense perimeter and a base of fire. McNerney then saw several NVA moving through the thick jungle and killed them at close range. He suffered a chest injury when an exploding grenade knocked him to the ground. Unhindered by his wound, McNerney then attacked and eliminated an enemy machine gun nest that had pinned down five of his men outside of the perimeter. Within a few minutes about forty Americans were wounded, and twenty-two others had been killed, including the company commander and the forward artillery observer; both were killed as a result of a direct hit from an enemy rocket. The North Vietnamese force also had surrounded the Americans and outnumbered them at least three to one.

   First Sergeant McNerney took control of the company and began to issue orders just as panic set in among some of the men. In a daring move, he called for artillery fire to within twenty meters from his position to curtail enemy assaults. On his own, McNerney “moved into a nearby clearing to designate the location to friendly aircraft.” Although exposed to enemy fire, he “remained exposed until he was certain the position was spotted and then climbed into a tree and tied the identification panel to its highest branches.” McNerney proceeded to move among his men and offered encouragement, readjusted their location, and looked after the wounded. As the enemy attacks declined, he sought a location where a helicopter could land and remove wounded. He then ventured away from the perimeter to secure explosive materials in abandoned rucksacks. Constantly on the move from hostile fire, McNerney used the devices to clear a landing zone for the medevac helicopters. Although wounded and declining medical aid, McNerney supervised the evacuation of the wounded and remained in the battle zone until relieved the following day. Many veterans of Company A attributed their survival to the heroics of David McNerney.

   President Lyndon Johnson presented the Medal of Honor to McNerney for his “outstanding heroism and leadership” that was ‘inspirational to his comrades” in a ceremony on the White House lawn on September 19, 1968. President Johnson, in a meeting in the Oval Office before the ceremony, told McNerney, “You’re a good Texan.” McNerney volunteered and was granted a fourth tour of duty in Vietnam. He retired from the military in 1969. During his distinguished military career, he also received five Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts.

   McNerney settled near Houston in Crosby, Texas, after retiring from the army. From 1970 until 1995, he served as a U.S. Customs inspector in Houston. In Crosby, he remained active in the local American Legion and the Crosby High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC). McNerney married Parmelia “Charlotte” Moeckel in 1961; they had no children. She died in 2002. In his final years, McNerney battled lung cancer. On October 10, 2010, McNerney died at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston. First Sgt. David H. McNerney was buried with full military honors at Houston National Cemetery.

   McNerney’s heroics that won him the Medal of Honor were detailed in a documentary Honor in the Valley of Tears that was released in May 2010. In Crosby, the American Legion Post was renamed the David H. McNerney Post 658. On March 22, 2013, the post office in Crosby, Texas, was renamed the Army First Sergeant David McNerney Post Office Building in a public ceremony. Source

1st Sgt. McNerney distinguished himself when his unit was attacked by a North Vietnamese battalion near Polei Doc. Running through the hail of enemy fire to the area of heaviest contact, he was assisting in the development of a defensive perimeter when he encountered several enemy at close range. He killed the enemy but was painfully injured when blown from his feet by a grenade. In spite of this injury, he assaulted and destroyed an enemy machine gun position that had pinned down 5 of his comrades beyond the defensive line. Upon learning his commander and artillery forward observer had been killed, he assumed command of the company. He adjusted artillery fire to within 20 meters of the position in a daring measure to repulse ??enemy assaults. When the smoke grenades used to mark the position were gone, he moved into a nearby clearing to designate the location to friendly aircraft. In spite of enemy fire he remained exposed until he was certain the position was spotted and then climbed into a tree and tied the identification panel to its highest branches. Then he moved among his men readjusting their position, encouraging the defenders and checking the wounded. As the hostile assaults slackened, he began clearing a helicopter landing site to evacuate the wounded. When explosives were needed to remove large trees, he crawled outside the relative safety of his perimeter to collect demolition material from abandoned rucksacks. Moving through a fusillade of fire he returned with the explosives that were vital to the clearing of the landing zone. Disregarding the pain of his injury and refusing medical evacuation 1st Sgt. McNerney remained with his unit until the next day when the new commander arrived. First Sgt. McNerney's outstanding heroism and leadership were inspirational to his comrades. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.

29° 55.860, -095° 27.064

Section Ha
Houston National Cemetery

March 1, 2011

Margo Jones

   Margaret Virginia (Margo) Jones, theater director-producer and pioneer of the American resident theater movement, was born on December 12, 1911, in Livingston, Texas, the second child of Richard Harper and Martha Pearl (Collins) Jones. After graduating from Livingston High School at the age of fifteen, she entered the Girls' Industrial College of Texas in Denton (now Texas Woman's University), where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in speech in 1932 and a master of arts in psychology and education in 1933. Her thesis was about Henrik Ibsen. In 1933 and 1934 she worked and studied at the Southwestern School of the Theatre in Dallas with John William Rogers, Frank Harting, and Louis Veda Quince. In the summer of 1934 she enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse Summer School to study with the director and founder, Gilmor Brown.

   After a directing stint at the Ojai Community Theatre, in 1935 Margo Jones traveled around the world seeing theater in Japan, China, India, Africa, England, France, and New York. She returned to Texas and became assistant director of the Houston Federal Theatre Project. In 1936 she attended the Moscow Art Theatre Festival, and on the boat home she met Brooks Atkinson, an influential New York Times theater critic, who championed her work throughout her career. Margo Jones founded the Houston Community Players in 1936 and directed the theater until 1942; during this time she discovered such talent as actors Ray Walston and Larry Blyden and writers Charles William Goyen and Cy Howard. She earned national attention as a member of the National Theatre Conference and in 1939 was named by Stage magazine as one of twelve outstanding theater directors outside of New York, the only woman selected.

   From 1942 until 1944 Jones taught theater and directed plays at the University of Texas. In early 1942 she met playwright Tennessee Williams, and they began their personal and professional association. She directed his play You Touched Me (cowritten with Donald Windham) at the Pasadena Playhouse and at the Cleveland Playhouse in 1943, thus bringing Williams to the attention of national theater critics. In 1944 she directed Williams's The Purification at the Pasadena Playhouse. During this time she had been formulating an idea that would change the shape of theater in America. She wanted to establish a network of nonprofit professional resident theaters outside of New York-theaters presenting new plays and the classics. In early 1944 she met with John Rosenfield, Jr., Dallas theater critic and arts maven, who encouraged her to apply for a Rockefeller fellowship and establish her prototype theater in Dallas. She began her fellowship in 1944 studying theater around the country, but interrupted it to codirect Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie. With the commercial success of this play Jones and Rosenfield had the impetus they needed to found the first nonprofit resident theater supported by the Dallas community and such wealthy and prominent Dallasites as board members Eugene B. McDermott (who later founded Texas Instruments) and oil geologist Everett L. DeGolyer (later the publisher of Saturday Review), as well as board members Tennessee Williams and noted theatrical designer Jo Mielziner.

   The theater, incorporated in 1945 as Dallas Civic Theatre, did not open until the summer of 1947. In the interim Margo Jones raised money, looked for a suitable theater space, and directed Maxine Wood's On Whitman Avenue and Maxwell Anderson's Joan of Lorraine, staring Ingrid Bergman, on Broadway. In June 1947 the theater opened under the name Theatre '47 (the name to change with the year), and was housed in the Gulf Oil Building, a sleek stucco-and-glass-block building designed in the International style by Swiss-born architect William Lescaze, on the grounds of Fair Park in Dallas. The theater was the first professional arena theater (theater-in-the-round) in the country and was the first modern nonprofit professional resident theater. From the beginning the resident company performed new plays and classics of world theater. The inaugural season introduced the first play of William Inge, Farther Off from Heaven, later revised as The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, and Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams. Later seasons included classics by Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Chekhov and new works by Dorothy Parker, Sean O'Casey, George Sessions Perry, and Joseph Hayes.

   With her personal and professional partner, Manning Gurian, Margo took new plays from her Dallas season, including Williams's Summer and Smoke, and produced them with varying degrees of success on Broadway and on tour. While running the Dallas theater, she continued to work "to create the theatre of tomorrow today" and establish resident theaters like hers around the country. She lectured widely and in 1951 published Theatre-in-the Round, which inspired other theater leaders like Zelda Fichandler and Nina Vance to follow in her path.

   In 1955, after it had been turned down by Broadway producers as too controversial, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's play Inherit the Wind was produced by Theatre '55 in Dallas, then moved to Broadway. During Margo Jones's management of the theater, from 1947 to 1955, 70 percent of the plays she produced were world premieres. Many actors, among them Jack Warden, Larry Hagman, Brenda Vaccaro, and Louise Latham, got their start at the Dallas theater. The theater closed in 1959.

   Margo Jones died in Dallas on July 24, 1955, accidentally poisoned by carbon tetrachloride that had been used to clean the carpet in her apartment. She is buried in Forest Hills Cemetery in Livingston, Texas. The Texas Historical Commission has declared her birthplace a state landmark. After her death Eugene and Margaret McDermott donated $200,000 for the founding of the Margo Jones Theatre at Southern Methodist University. In 1961 playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee established the Margo Jones Award, given annually to a producing manager whose policy of presenting new work continues in the tradition of Margo Jones. After twenty-five years the award was changed and now goes to a "theatre statesperson." Today, the commercial theater of Broadway depends on and showcases the work of more than 300 nonprofit resident theaters across the country, which constitute the national theater for America that Margo Jones envisioned and pioneered. Source

30° 41.686, -094° 55.930

Division 7
Forest Hill Cemetery