August 30, 2011

Hiram George Runnels (1796-1857)

Hiram G. 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

August 26, 2011

Cornelius E. Devore (1820-1885)

Cornelius Devore (De Vore), soldier at the battle of San Jacinto, son of Polly (Black) and Jesse Devore, was born in Louisiana in 1820. The Devore family moved to the Atascosito District of Texas in 1828. In 1836 Cornelius Devore served in Capt. William M. Logan's company of the Second Regiment of Texas Volunteers at the decisive battle of San Jacinto. He was subsequently awarded 320 acres of land for his service from March 6 to June 6, 1836, and 640 acres for participating at San Jacinto. After the Texas Revolution he became a prominent farmer and rancher in Liberty County. By 1862 his total estate, valued at almost $11,000, included 615 acres, three Liberty town lots, seven slaves, fifteen horses, forty cattle, and sixty sheep. Although a slave owner himself, Devore reportedly lent assistance to a group of runaway slaves who organized a Baptist church in 1864 and called him Neil Devore. He later gave two acres for a church and school near Liberty. He was a Mason, and he apparently never married. He died on July 29, 1885. Source 

30° 03.797
-094° 48.169

City Cemetery

August 23, 2011

Cleto Luna Rodriguez (1923-1990)

Cleto L. Rodríguez, Medal of Honor recipient, was born on April 26, 1923, and raised in San Marcos and San Antonio. After his parents died when he was nine, he moved to San Antonio with relatives. He worked at the Gunter Hotel and as a newsboy. He attended Washington, Irving, and Ivanhoe schools. He was one of an estimated 375,000 to 500,000 Mexican-American soldiers in World War II. The percentage of persons of Mexican descent who served in the armed forces was higher than that of Mexican Americans in the general public, and they constituted the most decorated ethnic group. Rodríguez married Flora Muñiz on November 11, 1945, and they had four children. Rodríguez entered the United States Army in early 1944 and served as a technical sergeant. He was an automatic rifleman with Company B, 148th Infantry, when his unit attacked the strongly defended Paco Railroad Station during the battle for Manila in the Philippine Islands. He and his partner, John N. Reese, Jr., of Pryor, Oklahoma, killed eighty-two enemy soldiers and disorganized their defense, thus facilitating the defeat of the Japanese at their strong point. Two days later, Rodríguez single-handedly killed six enemy soldiers and destroyed a twenty-millimeter gun. Thus on two occasions he "materially aided the advance of U.S. troops in Manila." Later, he was promoted to staff sergeant. Rodríguez was the fifth person of Mexican descent to win the Medal of Honor. Fourteen Texans received the award for service in World War II, six of whom were of Mexican descent. Rodríguez was also the first Mexican American GI to win the highest award in the South Pacific. Upon his return to San Antonio, city officials and the public greeted him and gave him a key to the city. Rodríguez joined the League of United Latin American Citizens, Council 2, in 1946. In 1947 he began work as a representative of the Veterans Administration. He served in the United States Air Force from 1952 to 1954 and again in the army from 1955 to 1970. Ivanhoe Elementary School was renamed Cleto Rodríguez School in 1975. Rodríguez died on December 7, 1990, and is buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. Source

He was an automatic rifleman when his unit attacked the strongly defended Paco Railroad Station during the battle for Manila, Philippine Islands. While making a frontal assault across an open field, his platoon was halted 100 yards from the station by intense enemy fire. On his own initiative, he left the platoon, accompanied by a comrade, and continued forward to a house 60 yards from the objective. Although under constant enemy observation, the 2 men remained in this position for an hour, firing at targets of opportunity, killing more than 35 hostile soldiers and wounding many more. Moving closer to the station and discovering a group of Japanese replacements attempting to reach pillboxes, they opened heavy fire, killed more than 40 and stopped all subsequent attempts to man the emplacements. Enemy fire became more intense as they advanced to within 20 yards of the station. Then, covered by his companion, Pvt. Rodriguez boldly moved up to the building and threw 5 grenades through a doorway killing 7 Japanese, destroying a 20-mm. gun and wrecking a heavy machine gun. With their ammunition running low, the 2 men started to return to the American lines, alternately providing covering fire for each other's withdrawal. During this movement, Pvt. Rodriguez' companion was killed. In 2 l/2 hours of fierce fighting the intrepid team killed more than 82 Japanese, completely disorganized their defense, and paved the way for the subsequent overwhelming defeat of the enemy at this strongpoint. Two days later, Pvt. Rodriguez again enabled his comrades to advance when he single-handedly killed 6 Japanese and destroyed a well-placed 20-mm. gun by his outstanding skill with his weapons, gallant determination to destroy the enemy, and heroic courage in the face of tremendous odds, Pvt. Rodriguez, on 2 occasions, materially aided the advance of our troops in Manila.

29° 28.587
-098° 25.981

Section AI
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery
San Antonio

August 19, 2011

Benjamin Rice Brigham (?-1836)

The son of Asa and Elizabeth Brigham, Benjamin arrived in Texas from Louisiana in April 1830, with his parents and brother Samuel. They made their home in Brazoria Municipality as a part of Austin's Third Colony on November 30, 1830. In early 1836, he enlisted as an orderly sergeant in Captain Robert J. Calder's Company of Brazoria Volunteers. Benjamin Brigham was mortally wounded at the Battle of San Jacinto, dying on the night of April 22nd.

Note: 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

August 16, 2011

William Harris Wharton (1802-1839)

William Harris Wharton, orator and leader in the Texas Revolution, son of William and Judith (Harris) Wharton, was born in 1802 in Virginia. His parents died when he was a child, and he and his brother, John A. Wharton, were reared by an uncle, Jesse Wharton, in Nashville, Tennessee. William H. Wharton was graduated with the first class from the University of Nashville and was admitted to the bar in 1826. He was in Texas by December 5, 1827, when he married Sarah Ann Groce, daughter of Jared Ellison Groce. They had one child, John Austin Wharton. William Wharton returned to Nashville until April 1829, when he returned to Texas and established Eagle Island Plantation on land given to the couple by Jared Groce as an inducement to stay in Texas. Wharton early identified himself with the party of the colonists agitating for a more energetic policy toward Mexico. Sources conflict, but many believe Wharton served at the battle of Velasco and was one of those who signed the document of final surrender. He was a delegate from Victoria to the Convention of 1832, which asked for separate statehood for Texas and drew up a provisional constitution for a state government. Wharton wrote the petition to Mexico asking for statehood, a document which has become a political classic in Texas.

At the Convention of 1833, he held the office of president. By 1835 Wharton and others were openly agitating for complete independence from Mexico, in opposition to the conservative policy of Stephen F. Austin. Wharton was elected a delegate to the Consultation, where the majority of the members were still in favor of a moderate policy; so the group merely stated loyalty to the Republican Constitution of 1824 as the reason for the war. Austin was elected to command the army, and Wharton was chosen judge advocate. He went with the army in the siege of Bexar, then resigned his commission a few days before he was notified of his appointment as a commissioner to the United States with Austin and Branch T. Archer to secure aid for the Texans. United by common bonds of patriotism and common responsibilities, Wharton and Austin forgot their enmity of the preceding years and cooperated in the cause to which they were both devoted. Upon completing their mission, Wharton and Archer urged Austin to be a candidate for president of Texas, and they supported him in the campaign in which he was defeated by Sam Houston.

In November of 1836 President Houston appointed Austin Secretary of State and Wharton first minister to the United States, hoping to secure recognition by and possibly annexation to the United States. The appointment necessitated Wharton's resignation from his seat as senator in the First Congress from the Brazoria District. Recognition was won on March 3, 1837, but annexation at that time was hopeless in spite of Wharton's persuasive pleas. After he resigned as minister in early 1837, Wharton was captured at sea by a Mexican ship and carried to Matamoros, where he was imprisoned. He succeeded in escaping and making his way back to Texas in time to be elected to the Texas Senate in 1838. Though he resigned before the beginning of the Adjourned Session in May 1838, he was reelected the same year. In December 1838 he introduced a bill to modify the flag and the seal of the republic. Wharton was killed on March 14, 1839, when he accidentally discharged a pistol as he was dismounting at the home of his brother-in-law, Leonard W. Groce, near Hempstead. He was buried in the family cemetery at Eagle Island Plantation near Brazoria. The addresses and political documents that Wharton wrote reveal that he had rare ability as a diplomat and statesman. Wharton County was named in his honor. Source

29° 01.306
-095° 25.071

Wharton Lawn Crypt Garden
Restwood Memorial Park

August 12, 2011

John Melville "Tampico" Allen (?-1847)

Tampico Allen, soldier and first mayor of Galveston, was a native of Kentucky. He joined the United States Navy in the aid of the Greek revolution against Turkey and was with Lord Byron at Missolonghi when Byron died (1824). Allen came to Texas in 1830 and joined the Tampico expedition in 1835 but escaped imprisonment. He returned to Texas in December, enlisted in the revolutionary army, was appointed captain of infantry, and served as acting major at the battle of San Jacinto. He commanded the Terrible in the summer of 1836 but did not see action; he was sent to the United States on recruiting service and enrolled about 230 men for the army. He was discharged on December 2, 1836, and received a headright for a league and labor of land on June 7, 1838. Later he moved to Galveston, where he was elected mayor in March 1839. In 1840 Samuel May Williams, seeking to rid the threat Allen posed to the Galveston City Company, called for a new election with a change in the franchise. Allen, refusing to give up his office since his term was not over, removed the city archives to his home and the protection of two cannons. Thomas F. McKinney and a posse removed the archives after the district court ruled on the matter, and so ended the "charter war." Allen was re-elected annually until 1846. After annexation he was appointed United States marshal for the Eastern District of Texas, an office he held until his death on February 12, 1847. Allen was a Mason. Source

29° 17.619
-094° 48.701

Section 8
Trinity Episcopal Cemetery

August 9, 2011

Walter Gresham (1841-1920)

Walter Gresham, lawyer, legislator, and railroad executive, the son of Edward and Isabella (Mann) Gresham, was born near Newton, Virginia, on July 22, 1841. He was educated at the Stevensville and Edge Hill academies in Virginia. He enlisted in W. H. F. Lee's rangers, the Twenty-fourth Virginia Cavalry, at the beginning of the Civil War and afterwards served in other regiments. He took part in most of the battles fought in northern Virginia and surrendered at Appomattox. In 1863 he graduated from the law department of the University of Virginia. On December 31, 1866, he moved to Galveston, Texas, where he began the practice of law.

In 1872 Gresham was elected district attorney for Galveston and Brazoria counties. He was a stockholder, director, and attorney for the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway and served for a time as its second vice president. In the infancy of the railroad he was much in the field, selecting routes, securing rights-of-way, locating towns, and superintending other business. In 1887 and 1888 he represented Galveston at conventions in Fort Worth, Texas; Denver, Colorado; and Topeka, Kansas. At Topeka he was made chairman of a special committee to petition the United States government to finance a deepwater harbor at the best point on the Texas coast. He was instrumental in having the Fifty-first Congress amend the River and Harbor Bill to provide for contracts for work to give Galveston one of the finest harbors on the American coast.

Gresham's home, known now as the Bishop's Palace for the Catholic bishops who later resided there, was designed by architect Nicholas J. Clayton. Gresham represented the Sixty-fourth District in the Texas House of Representatives from 1887 to 1891. He was elected on the Democratic ticket from the Tenth District to the Fifty-third Congress in 1892 but was unsuccessful in the race for reelection. In 1901 he served as president of the Trans-Mississippi Commercial Congress. On October 28, 1868, Gresham married Josephine C. Mann, with whom he had nine children. He died in Washington, D.C., on November 6, 1920, and was buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Galveston. Source

29° 16.353
-094° 49.502

Section E
Lakeview Cemetery

August 5, 2011

Stephen Franklin Sparks (1819-1908)

Stephen F. Sparks was born in Lawrence County, Mississippi, April 7, 1819, a son of Richard and Elizabeth (Cooper) Sparks. His father served in the War of 1812 and moved the family to San Augustine, Texas in 1834, later settling in Nacogdoches. On March 6, 1836, a volunteer company was organized at Nacogdoches and young Stephen left school and volunteered for service in the Texas Revolution on March 8. He was ordered to report to the Commander-in-Chief of the Texas Army, and was assigned to Hayden Arnold's Nacogdoches Company, with whom he fought at the Battle of San Jacinto. In 1854, Sparks moved his family to McClennan County, where his first wife Elizabeth died in childbirth. On September 1, 1856 he was awarded 640 acres of land for his service in the army . In 1890, he moved his family to Aransas County, where he would remain the rest of his life. Sparks was the last president of the Texas Veterans Association, as it was decided to dissolve the group due to the lack of living participants. He died in 1908 in Rockport and laid to rest at the cemetery there.

28° 02.721
-097° 02.253

Section 1
Rockport Cemetery

August 2, 2011

David Herbert McNerney (1931-2010)

Medal of Honor recipient David H. McNerney 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