August 28, 2012

Ann Richards

   Dorothy Ann Willis Richards, state treasurer and forty-fifth governor of Texas, daughter of Cecil and Ona Willis, was born in Lacy-Lakeview, Texas, on September 1, 1933. Richards entered Waco High School in 1946 and dropped her first name Dorothy and was known as Ann thereafter. She was a member of the Waco High School debate team and was the state debate champion as a senior. Prior to her senior year in high school, Ann Richards attended Girls State, the annual mock-government assembly of students, where she was elected lieutenant governor. She later acknowledged this experience as fueling her interest in government and politics. Richards graduated from high school in 1950 and attended Baylor University where she received a B.A. in 1954. While at Baylor, Ann Willis married David Richards in 1953. The couple moved to Austin where David Richards attended law school at the University of Texas and Ann taught government at Fulmore Junior High School. Upon David Richards' graduation from law school, they spent a year in Washington D.C. before moving to Dallas, where David practiced law and Ann became active in Democratic politics in Dallas. Their family grew to include four children: Cecile, Dan, Clark, and Ellen. In 1969 the Richards family returned to Austin where David became a labor and civil rights attorney. Ann became involved in local politics and successfully managed the legislative campaigns of both Sarah Weddington (1972) and Wilhelmina Delco (1974). Weddington later presented the oral arguments to the United States Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade (1973). Delco was the first African American to represent Austin in the Texas Legislature. Richards also served as Sarah Weddington's administrative assistant in the Texas House of Representatives.

   In 1976 David Richards declined a request from the Travis County Democratic leadership to challenge three-term Travis County commissioner Johnny Voudouris in the party's primary election. In David's stead, with her husband's encouragement, Ann Richards won the Democratic nomination for county commissioner and became the first woman elected to that office in Travis County. In 1980 Richards was elected to a second term. In 1982 she entered the statewide race for state treasurer and was not only the first woman to serve in that office, but also was the first woman elected to statewide office in Texas since Miriam Ferguson's successful gubernatorial race in 1932. During this time, Ann Richards and David Richards divorced, and she sought and completed treatment for alcoholism in 1980.

   Ann Richards's keynote speech to the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta brought her national attention when she said of the wealthy, then Vice President of the United States, George H. W. Bush: "Poor George, he can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth." In 1990 Governor William Clements decided to leave office at the end of his term, and Richards entered the primary campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in a three-way race with Attorney General Jim Mattox and former governor Mark White. In a bruising campaign, Mattox attacked Richards for substance abuse problems beyond her acknowledged alcoholism. Richards won the nomination and defeated the Republican nominee, Clayton Williams, by narrow margin on November 6, 1990.

   As governor, Ann Richards led the reform of the Texas prison system, establishing a substance abuse program for inmates, reducing the number of violent offenders released, and increasing prison space to deal with a growing prison population (from less than 60,000 in 1992 to more than 80,000 in 1994). During her term, Governor Richards signed into law the amendment to the Texas Financial Responsibility Law - an act in which motor vehicle registration renewal, as well as initial registration of a new-purchased vehicle, safety inspection sticker, driver's license, and license plates, required that the applicant have a valid auto insurance policy. The Texas Lottery also was instituted during her term of office; Ann Richards purchased the first lottery ticket on May 29, 1992, in the Austin suburb of Oak Hill. Public school finance was a key issue during Richards's term of office, and the "Robin Hood Plan" was launched during the 1992-1993 biennium in the attempt to make school funding more equitable by having wealthier school districts remit property taxes to the state for redistribution to poorer school districts. Governor Richards also vetoed the Concealed Carry Bill that would have permitted licensed citizens to carry firearms for self-defense inside public establishments without the owner's permission. She was asked, in the midst of the controversy, whether the women of Texas might feel safer if they could carry guns in their purses. The governor replied, "Well, I'm not a sexist, but there is not a woman in this state who could find a gun in her handbag, much less a lipstick."

   Ann Richards was defeated in 1994 by the Republican George W. Bush and before leaving office, she said, "I did not want my tombstone to read, 'She kept a really clean house.' I think I'd like them to remember me by saying, 'She opened government to everyone.'"

   Ann Richards was a political consultant in the years after leaving office. She was the recipient of a number of awards for her years of service, including the Texas NAACP Presidential Award for Outstanding Contributions to Civil Rights, the National Wildlife Federation Conservation Achievement Award, and the Mexican government's Order of the Aztec Eagle. She was also honored by the Texas Women's Hall of Fame. From 1997 to 1998 Richards served as the Fred and Rita Richman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Politics at Brandeis University. In 2003 she coauthored, with Dr. Richard U. Levine, I'm Not Slowing Down: Winning My Battle With Osteoporosis, a book about her experience with that disease. She was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in March 2006 and died at home in Austin on September 13, 2006, surrounded by her family. She was buried in the Texas State Cemetery. In August 2007 the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, an all-girl preparatory school, opened in Austin. Source 

30° 15.934, -097° 43.613

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

August 21, 2012

William Stilwell

   A native of New York (b 1809), William Stilwell came to Texas through Velasco on January 28, 1836, likely for the purpose of enlisting in the Texas army. A few days after landing, on February 1, he enlisted with Turner's Company but was transferred shortly afterward to Captain Isaac N. Moreland's Company. He was at the Battle of San Jacinto and apparently impressed his superiors enough that he was appointed an officer some time after. Stilwell was stationed on Galveston Island when he was promoted to Captain of Artillery and ended his military career with that rank when his enlistment ended in February, 1837. He died a few months afterward in Houston on September 12, 1837, possibly from one of the yellow fever epidemics sweeping through the area at the time.

Note: This is a cenotaph. Founders Memorial Park, originally founded in 1836 as Houston's first city cemetery, was rapidly filled due to a yellow fever epidemic and closed to further burials around 1840. The cemetery became neglected over a period of time, often vandalized and was heavily damaged by the 1900 hurricane. In 1936, despite a massive clean up effort, a century of neglect had taken its toll. The vast majority of grave markers were either destroyed or missing and poor record keeping prevented locating individual graves. Several cenotaphs were placed in random areas throughout the park in honor of the more high-profile citizens buried there, but a great number of graves go unmarked to this day.

29° 45.429, -095° 22.740

Founders Memorial Park

August 14, 2012

Jiles Perry "The Big Bopper" Richardson

   The Big Bopper, disc jockey, songwriter, and singer, was born Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr., on October 24, 1930, in Sabine Pass, Texas. He was the son of Jiles and Elsie Richardson. He usually went by the initials J. P. and briefly used the nickname Jape, before settling on the pseudonym, "The Big Bopper," on air and when recording. He is best-known for his hit, Chantilly Lace, which reached Number 6 on the charts in 1958, and for dying in a plane crash with Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly.

   His family moved to Beaumont when he was very young. At Beaumont High School he sang in the school choir as well as played on the football team. He graduated from Beaumont High School in 1947 and enrolled at Lamar College. While still a teenager Richardson began working as a disc jockey at KTRM radio in Beaumont, and he soon left college to work full-time. He eventually became program director while still working as a disc jockey. His colorful on-air personality (a stark contrast to the naturally shy Richardson) made him a very popular disc jockey in the Golden Triangle area.

   Richardson was influenced early by country singers but soon moved into the realm of rock-and-roll. In 1958 he traveled to Houston's Gold Star Studios to record songs for Pappy Daily's D Records. Richardson recorded his novelty song, Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor, as the A-side of a single that he hoped would capitalize on the popularity of other novelty songs that had recently been released. For the B-side he recorded Chantilly Lace, which he reportedly penned as an afterthought in the backseat of the car while driving to the session. At the recording session, he also reportedly formally adopted his nickname "The Big Bopper" as his musical persona.

   Unexpectedly, the record's B-side, Chantilly Lace, quickly gained the attention of radio programmers and listening audiences, and Daily released it on his D label and subsequently leased it to Mercury Records for national distribution. Chantilly Lace became very successful and would eventually go gold and multi-platinum as an early hit in rock-and-roll history. It was by far the most famous record on Daily's D label. Songs from the Gold Star sessions comprised Richardson's only album, Chantilly Lace. He followed with Little Red Riding Hood and Big Bopper's Wedding, which were also hits but not of the same caliber as Chantilly Lace. Richardson's song, White Lightning became the first Number 1 hit for George Jones in 1959. Later that year, his song Running Bear became a Number 1 hit for fellow Texan Johnny Preston.

   The Bopper wrote about thirty-eight songs during his life and recorded twenty-one of them. Most of his recordings were classified as novelty songs that did not have lasting popularity. His appeal was largely in his flamboyant stage performances. He wore checkered jackets and zoot suits and used a prop phone during Chantilly Lace to talk to his girl. In 1958 he also made a pioneering video for the hit song and later coined the term "music video" for the production. In order to maintain his showman image, he did not wear his wedding ring in public and generally kept his marriage to Adrianne "Teetsie" Fryou, a secret from his fans. The couple had two children.

   With his newfound fame, Richardson resigned his position as disc jockey at KTRM in Beaumont in order to perform full-time by November 1958. In this capacity, he appeared on the top pop shows of the day and was booked on the "Winter Dance Party" tour with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. On February 2, 1959, Richardson, Holly, and Valens played a show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. They were scheduled to play in North Dakota the next day. After the show Holly and Valens chartered a plane so that they could rest before their bands arrived. Richardson, who had the flu, was supposed to take the bus, but at the last minute switched places with Holly's band member, Waylon Jennings. The plane went down just after takeoff at about 1:00 A.M. in Mason County, Iowa, killing the pilot and all three musicians. Richardson was survived by his wife and a daughter and son. He was buried in Beaumont Cemetery.

   In the late 1980s the Port Arthur Historical Society commissioned sculptor Donald Clark to create a memorial to the musicians. The piece was initially displayed at a Fabulous Thunderbirds benefit concert on February 3, 1989, thirty years after the crash. The Big Bopper is an inductee in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and is honored in the Music Hall of Fame at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur. In 2004 he was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. The following year the Texas Historical Commission erected a marker in his honor. His body was reburied next to his wife in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Beaumont in 2007. In 2008 he was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. His son Jay had a successful music career and billed himself as The Big Bopper, Jr. He died on August 21, 2013. Source 

30° 07.380, -094° 06.004

Tranquility Garden
Forest Lawn Memorial Park

August 7, 2012

Thomas Freeman McKinney

   Thomas Freeman McKinney, trader and stock raiser, was born on November 1, 1801, in Lincoln County, Kentucky, the fourth of eleven children of Abraham and Eleanor (Prather) McKinney. Two of his brothers, Charles Chastain and James Prather, and a sister, Euphemia McKinney Austin, joined him in Travis County in the 1850s. He received a common-school education in Christian County, Kentucky, where the family lived from 1811 to 1818. By 1822 the McKinneys and their kin, the McLeans and Subletts, moved first to southern Illinois and then Randolph County, Missouri, where the men engaged in farming, hunting, and the fur trade. McKinney went to Santa Fe in 1823 and then Chihuahua, Durango, Saltillo, and Bexar. In 1824 he received a league on the Brazos River from Stephen F. Austin, but a trip to Ayish Bayou, where his uncle Stephen Prather had a trading post, convinced him that the Nacogdoches area was best for trade. He married Nancy Watts in 1827 and kept a store on the square in Nacogdoches until 1830. He made one trip to New Orleans and returned by keelboat up the Neches and Angelina rivers, but mainly he took cotton and piece goods to Saltillo and traded them for livestock and specie. In 1830 he moved to San Felipe and continued trading to the south, sometimes in partnership with the sons of Jared E. Groce. He also maintained an interest on the lower Trinity, where Michael B. Menard developed a sawmill. In 1834 he became senior partner with Samuel May Williams in McKinney and Williams, a firm located on the Brazos; Williams supplied the bookkeeping and commercial contacts in the United States, while McKinney collected and shipped the cotton. The firm developed Quintana at the mouth of the river in 1835 and used its credit to help finance the Texas Revolution to the amount of $99,000, which was never repaid in full.

   Always impetuous and ready for a fight, McKinney, on board his schooner, San Felipe, captured the Correo de Mexico in September 1835. The Mexican vessel had been preying on Texas-bound shipping. McKinney obtained a privateering licence from the Provisional Government and used the firm's credit to buy the William Robbins, renamed Liberty, for the rebel government. Though he refused commissions as commissary general and loan agent, he continued to forward men and supplies to the Texas army. He and Williams joined Menard in 1833 in a scheme to claim Galveston Island, and in 1836 they combined with others to secure a charter for the Galveston City Company. The firm had a wharf and warehouse on the island in October 1837, when Racer's Hurricane struck and severely damaged their property. McKinney built a house for Williams and an identical one for himself west of town in 1839, but he lived in his home only briefly before his marriage ended. In 1843 he secured a divorce and the same year married Anna Gibbs, a native of Boston. There were no children from either union.

   McKinney withdrew from the partnership with Williams in 1842 and devoted himself to trading and stock raising, first on the island, where he had a race course, and in 1850 in Travis County, where he constructed a fine stone house, a gristmill, and another quarter horse track opposite the capital city. He also served as state senator from Galveston in 1846 and as representative in 1849. He was a member of the Democratic party and a Unionist in 1860-61. He had opposed independence, annexation, and secession, but once each was accomplished, he worked to support the government. He served the Confederacy as a special cotton agent and made several trips to Mexico with cotton, but the duplicity of various individuals and the confusion of the times left him liable for contracted debts. This burden, along with the loss of about fourteen slaves, crippled him financially. His once-large estate was reduced to $5,000. He died on October 2, 1873, after a long struggle with a kidney disease, and was survived by his wife. His ranch became McKinney Falls State Park in 1976. Source 

30° 16.617, -097° 43.629

Section 4
Oakwood Cemetery