October 25, 2011

George Thomas "Mickey" Leland

George Thomas (Mickey) Leland, legislator, was born in Lubbock, Texas, on November 27, 1944. Soon after his birth, his father abandoned the family, and his mother moved to Houston where she worked in a drugstore and later became a teacher. After enjoying a successful career as a high school sports star in Houston, Leland entered Texas Southern University in 1965. He received a pharmacy degree and practiced the profession for several years. Leland soon entered the public realm by utilizing the tense political environment of the 1960s to help Houston's poor. He pressured Houston health officials to set up community clinics. During this time, as an active member of the black Community Action team, he worked towards other reform measures. In north Houston, he worked with an archetype health system for Casa del Amigos. In the Fifth Ward, Houston, Leland helped initiate a free community health clinic called the Jensen Medical Referral Service.

In 1972, supported by philanthropist John de Menil, Leland was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. He was reelected twice for two-year terms in the House. During this time he worked as the director of special development projects for Herman Hospital and functioned as the vice president of King State Bank. Leland is especially remembered in the Texas House for promoting legislation that allowed for the prescription of generic drugs and fostered state employment opportunities for minorities. In 1978 Leland constructed the National Black-Hispanic Democratic Coalition that drew attention at the Democratic midterm convention in Memphis. Leland took the congressional seat vacated by Barbara Jordan of Houston later that same year. Leland served actively for over ten years in the United States House of Representatives. Many members considered his style flamboyant with his dashiki, Afro haircut, and eccentric hats. Eventually Leland abandoned these more unconventional characteristics and made attempts to establish bipartisan relationships. However, his commitment to hunger and hopelessness did not waver. During his dedicated years in Congress, Leland chaired the Congressional Black Caucus; he served as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee; and in 1984 he helped in establishing the Select Committee on Hunger, which pushed Congress to approve $8 million annually for an incremental Vitamin A program in the Third World that is believed to have reduced child mortality. The committee has also fought for measures to improve hunger conditions for impoverished neighborhoods in the United States.

However, Leland's trip to the Sudan in the spring of 1989 influenced him unlike any other previous experiences. That trip marked the beginning of tenacious efforts aimed primarily at aiding the Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia. On Leland's sixth visit to Africa on August 7, 1989, his plane crashed into a mountainside on the way to visit the Fugnido refugee camp. The camp held more than 300,000 Sundanese escaping famine and war in their adjacent country. The plane, carrying sixteen people, was found after a six day search in southwestern Ethiopia. Leland's dedication and service were honored at services throughout the state of Texas and in Washington, D.C., and he was buried in Houston's Golden Gate Cemetery. Leland's wife, Alison, survived him and was six weeks pregnant at his death. In January 1990 she gave birth to twin sons.

GPS Coordinates
29° 50.269, -095° 19.527

Block 1
Golden Gate Cemetery
Houston

October 18, 2011

Paul Buskirk

Paul Francis Buskirk, mandolin player and multi-instrumentalist, was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia, on April 8, 1923, the son of Lottie Mamel and John Everett Buskirk. He lived much of his life in the Houston area. Paul Buskirk was a popular multi-instrumentalist who appeared on the Grand Ole Opry and at many other venues throughout the United States and around the world. Buskirk performed with a number of prominent musicians, including Chet Atkins, Tex Ritter, Roy Acuff, Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price, Eddy Arnold, and Rex Allen. However, he is perhaps best-known for his close personal and professional relationship with singer-songwriter Willie Nelson.

Buskirk began playing music at the age of eleven and performed with his parent’s family band. He learned violin and applied those lessons to learning the mandolin. He became an accomplished guitarist and later worked for Gene Austin. He also mastered the banjo and dobro. However, it was his skill on the mandolin that garnered Buskirk the greatest fame. He has been described by country music historian Bill Malone as a “superb mandolin player…who was one of the first ‘modern’ exponents of that instrument (that is, jazz-influenced) in country music…” Fellow mandolinist Red Rictor recalled “that during an era when bluegrass king Bill Monroe totally dominated the instrument, Buskirk had a reputation for actually having figured out a different way of playing on mandolin.”


He was a member of the Blue Ridge Mountain Folk (in Texas), which included the Callahan Brothers (Joe and Bill), and toured the Southwest. The group recorded for Decca in 1941. During World War II Buskirk served in the United States Army. Back in Texas, reportedly while operating a music store in Pasadena, Buskirk gave a young Willie Nelson guitar lessons and later gave him a job teaching music lessons. Thus began a longtime musical association between Nelson and Buskirk, who is credited as having helped give Nelson his start in the music business. Buskirk purchased the rights to Nelson’s gospel song Family Bible for fifty dollars. They co-wrote the song Night Life. Originally recorded in Houston with Nelson and the band Paul Buskirk and His Little Men, the song went on to be a country hit for Faron Young and was covered by numerous other artists. Buskirk helped produce and he performed on Nelson’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow album in 1981. In 1992 Nelson helped produce Buskirk’s record Nacogdoches Waltz. Later in life and after retirement, Buskirk lived in Nacogdoches. He was a Mason as well as a Shriner. Paul Buskirk died of cancer in Nacogdoches on March 16, 2002, at the age of seventy-eight. He was preceded in death by his wife Mary Francis Buskirk and his youngest daughter Gail. He is survived by his daughters Dorothy and Paula and his brothers Wilbert and Harold. Paul Buskirk is memorialized with a music scholarship established in his name at Stephen F. Austin University.

GPS Coordinates
31° 33.913, -094° 28.933


Lower Melrose Cemetery
Nacogdoches

October 11, 2011

Zeno Phillips

Zeno Philips, one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, on July 19, 1824, received title to a sitio of land in what is now Brazoria County. The census of March 1826 classified him as a farmer and stock raiser, a single man aged between twenty-five and forty, with one servant and twenty-two slaves. In March 1829 Philips and John R. Harris acted as partners in one of the first large contracts for cotton in Texas, when they bought about 100 bales from Jared E. Groce. Philips was a lieutenant colonel in the local militia in August 1829. The same year he was defeated as a candidate for regidor. In December 1830 he was administering the estate of Joseph White.

Note
Unmarked. This small field was originally the site of the Phillips family cemetery and although there were once several tombstones, none exist now. Outside of the historical marker at the gate, nothing remains that denotes this as a burying ground. The coordinates below will take you to the spot shown in the photo.

GPS Coordinates
29° 09.202, -095° 42.439


Phillips Family Cemetery
West Columbia

October 4, 2011

Thomas Jefferson Gazley

Thomas Jefferson Gazley, physician and legislator, was born in 1798 in Duchess County, New York. He established himself as a physician in Louisiana in 1828 but returned shortly to Baltimore, where he had received his medical training, to marry Eliza Boyce. They had four children. The family traveled to Texas from Ohio in November 1828 and settled in what is now Bastrop County. On April 29, 1829, Gazley applied for a license to practice medicine in San Felipe de Austin. On February 1, 1830, he was appointed clerk of the ayuntamiento. The Convention of 1832 appointed him a member of the subcommittee of safety and vigilance for the District of Bastrop. He was a delegate to the Convention of 1833. From September 28 to November 9, 1835, he was surgeon in Michael R. Goheen's company in the Texas army.

Independence Hall, location of the Declaration signing


Gazley was one of three representatives from Mina (Bastrop) at the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos and there signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. After the Texas Revolution he moved to Houston and on September 4, 1837, was elected from Harrisburg County to the House of the Second Congress of the republic. At that time he was a law partner of John Birdsall. Gazley was senior warden of Holland Lodge No. 36 and a charter member of the Grand Lodge of Texas, organized on December 20, 1837. He moved from Houston to Bastrop County and settled near the site of present Smithville, where he died on October 31, 1853. In 1937 his body was reinterred in the State Cemetery in Austin.

Note
The birth date on his stone is incorrect.


GPS Coordinates
30° 15.918, -097° 43.645

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery
Austin