May 28, 2013

Tom Landry

Thomas Wade Landry, longtime coach of the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was born in Mission, Texas, on September 11, 1924, the third child and second son of Ray and Ruth Landry. Ray Landry, an automobile mechanic, had moved with his family to Texas from Illinois upon the recommendations of doctors who believed the warmer climate would help his rheumatism.

Landry became a star quarterback on the Mission High School football team, leading the Eagles to a 6-4 record and the district championship as a junior, then to a 12-0 record and the regional championship, beating Hondo 33-0, as a senior in 1941. Landry was named to the Texas High School All-Star Game and offered an athletic scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin.

After one semester of college, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. As a copilot and gunner of B-17 bombers with the Eighth Air Force, Landry flew more than thirty missions over Germany. He was discharged as a first lieutenant in November 1945 and returned to UT in 1947. Though he had been recruited as a quarterback, Landry switched to defensive halfback and running back because the Longhorns already had a star passer in Bobby Layne. UT finished that season with a 10-1 record and beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and Landry earned All-Southwest Conference recognition. In 1948 Landry was elected cocaptain of the Longhorns, who finished with a 6-3-1 record and upset favored Georgia in the Orange Bowl. In that game, Landry filled in on offense for the injured regular fullback and led both teams with 117 yards rushing.

Landry married Alicia Wiggs on January 28, 1949. They had three children. After graduating with a degree in business in May 1949, Landry joined the New York Yankees of the professional All-America Football Conference (AAFC). When the AAFC dissolved a year later, he joined the New York Giants of the NFL, for whom he quickly became a star defensive back renowned for his intelligence and analytical skills. In his first season with the Giants, the cerebral Landry was credited with helping devise the 4-3 defensive scheme, which quickly became the standard alignment in the NFL.

Landry was named an All-Pro defensive halfback in 1954, and was selected to play in the Pro Bowl in 1955. In 1956 he retired as a player and became a full-time assistant coach with the Giants, in charge of the defense as a young assistant named Vince Lombardi was in charge of the offense. Under head coach Jim Lee Howell, the Giants won the NFL title by routing the Chicago Bears 47-7.

Landry's rise to prominence as one of the brightest young minds in football - Howell once called him "the greatest football coach in the game today" - coincided with a national boom in the sport's popularity. Bud Adams, the owner of the Houston Oilers of the American Football League, which began play in 1960, wanted Landry to coach his team, but Landry had moved his family to Dallas, where he ran an insurance business in the off-season, in 1957, and elected to stay with the established NFL, which was about to expand. He signed a five-year personal services contract with Dallas oilman Clint Murchison Jr., the owner of the brand-new Dallas Cowboys, in December 1959.

The Cowboys began play in 1960 with a record of no wins, eleven losses, and one tie, and fared little better in the ensuing seasons, but before the 1964 season Murchison announced that he had signed Landry to a ten-year contract despite the team's 13-38-3 record. Landry, who had planned to retire from football a few years after getting the Cowboys off the ground, now decided to make the sport his life's business.

That decision soon began paying dividends. Landry was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1966 after the Cowboys posted their first winning record, and led Dallas to the NFL championship game in 1966 and 1967, losing both times to his old colleague Lombardi's Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys finally made it to the Super Bowl following the 1970 season, only to lose 16-13 to the Baltimore Colts.

That defeat, however, marked the beginning of a stretch of successes that established the Cowboys as "America's Team" and turned Landry's stoic expression and ever-present gray fedora into national icons. Landry's teams won 105 games and lost only 39 during the 1970s, appearing in four more Super Bowls and winning two. Despite his aloof and colorless demeanor - in 1971 one of his own players, Duane Thomas, called him "a plastic man...actually, no man at all" - Landry was an innovative, even daring, coach, and his teams were among the most entertaining in football history. Landry devised Dallas's "Flex" defensive scheme, which became one of the most feared in the NFL, and revived the "Shotgun" formation, which stationed the quarterback several yards behind the line of scrimmage, to take advantage of the mobility of his star passer Roger Staubach. He coached the team to an amazing twenty consecutive winning seasons.

By the mid-1980s, however, Landry seemed to be slipping. He signed a three-year contract extension during the 1984 season, when the Cowboys finished with a 9-7 record and failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1974. The Cowboys finished 10-6 in 1985 but were shut out by the Los Angeles Rams in the playoffs, and local newspapers began running polls asking their readers if Landry should be fired. In 1986 the Cowboys finished 7-9, their first losing season in 22 years, and Landry received a death threat during a December loss to the Rams. He briefly left the field and returned wearing a bulletproof vest, though no actual attempt was made on his life.

Cenotaph in Texas State Cemetery
Landry signed another three-year contract extension before the 1987 season, but began hearing criticism from team president Tex Schramm and owner H. R. "Bum" Bright, who had bought the team from Murchison in 1984, during the Cowboys' 7-8 campaign. The Cowboys staggered to a 3-13 record in 1988, and when Arkansas oilman Jerral (Jerry) Jones bought the team early in 1989 his first move was to fire the coach. Landry's overall record in 29 seasons with the Cowboys was 270-178-6.

Landry was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and to the Cowboys' Ring of Honor in 1993. He remained active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which he had joined in 1962 and served as national chairman in 1973-1976, and the Billy Graham Crusades. Landry also enjoyed flying his Cessna 210, and in June 1998 he was named to the air safety foundation of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. He was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in May 1999 and died on February 12, 2000. Landry was survived by his wife, Alicia, and two children. A street and high school stadium in Mission, a fitness center in Dallas, and an elementary school in Irving all bear his name.

GPS Coordinates
32° 52.053, -096° 46.705

Monument Garden
Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park
Dallas

May 21, 2013

John Woods Harris

John Woods Harris, Texas legislator, attorney, and special counsel to the United States Supreme Court, was born in 1810 and reared in Nelson County, Virginia. He attended Washington College (later Washington and Lee University) for two years and in 1831 entered the University of Virginia, where he remained for five years and graduated in six departments, including law. In the fall of 1837 he came to Texas and settled near the mouth of the Brazos River in Brazoria County. By January 1, 1838, he was practicing law in partnership with John A. Wharton and Elisha M. Pease.

After Wharton's death in 1839, Harris and Pease continued the partnership, and their firm, which continued until the election of Pease to the governorship in 1853, was one of the most noteworthy in Texas. When Harris became a member of the Texas bar, the republic comprised only four judicial districts. He and Pease divided the work of their office for the sake of greater efficiency and for their own convenience; Pease remained permanently at Brazoria, while Harris attended the courts of the six counties composing their district. In this way the firm was able to practice in all of the most important cases that came before the courts and before the Supreme Court of Texas as soon as it was organized in 1840.

In 1839 Harris was elected to represent Brazoria County in the House of Representatives of the Fourth Congress, where he introduced a bill providing for the abolition of the civil, or Mexican, law and the adoption of common law as the law of the land. The bill passed despite considerable opposition on the ground that common law was not sufficiently liberal in its provisions regarding the rights of married women. This feature was incorporated five years later in the Constitution of 1945qv. Harris was appointed the first Texas state attorney general by James Pinckney Henderson in 1846 and reappointed by George T. Wood, but he resigned on October 30, 1849. He was subsequently employed as a special counsel to represent the state's interests in the United States Supreme Court in matters involving land certificates issued by the Republic of Texas and suits or actions involving the constitutionality of the republic's revenue laws. In 1854 Governor Pease appointed him to a committee of three to revise the laws of the state.

Although Harris was a staunch Democrat he disapproved of secession and regarded the Civil War as entirely unnecessary. Nevertheless, he was a strong supporter of the Confederate cause. After the Civil War he moved to Galveston and resumed his law practice in partnership with Marcus F. Mott and later with Branch T. Masterson. In 1874-75 Harris represented Matagorda, Galveston, and Brazoria counties in the Texas House of Representatives. He married Mrs. Annie Pleasants Dallam, the only daughter of Samuel Rhoads Fisher, in 1852 and later adopted her daughter. The couple had four children. Harris continued to practice law until his death, on April 1, 1887, at home in Galveston.

GPS Coordinates
29° 17.588, -094° 48.721


Trinity Episcopal Cemetery
Galveston

May 14, 2013

Jane Long

Jane Herbert Wilkinson Long was called the "Mother of Texas," even during her lifetime, because of the birth of her child on Bolivar Peninsula on December 21, 1821. She was not, however, as she claimed, the first English-speaking woman to bear a child in Texas. Censuses between 1807 and 1826 reveal a number of children born in Texas to Anglo-American mothers prior to 1821. Jane was born on July 23, 1798, in Charles County, Maryland, the tenth child of Capt. William Mackall and Anne Herbert (Dent) Wilkinson. Her father died in 1799, and about 1811 her mother moved the family to Washington, Mississippi Territory.

After the death of her mother around 1813, Jane lived with her older sister, Barbara, the wife of Alexander Calvit, at Propinquity Plantation near Natchez, where she met James Long when he was returning from the battle of New Orleans. The couple married on May 14, 1815, and for the next four years lived in the vicinity while James practiced medicine at Port Gibson, experimented with a plantation, and became a merchant in Natchez. When Long left for Nacogdoches in June 1819, Jane and their daughter, Ann Herbert, born on November 26, 1816, remained with another sister, Anne Chesley, a widow, because of advanced pregnancy.

Twelve days after the birth of Rebecca on June 16, Jane hastened to join her husband. She left with her two children and Kian, a black slave. While with the Calvits, now living near Alexandria, Louisiana, Jane became ill. She continued on while still recovering, and it was August before she reached Nacogdoches. Within two months she had to flee with the other American families towards the Sabine when Spanish troops from San Antonio approached the frontier outpost. James Long was returning to the stone fort from a visit to Galveston Island and managed to meet Jane near the Sabine. Jane returned to the Calvits' where she found that little Rebecca had died. About March 1820 James Long took Jane to Bolivar Peninsula on Galveston Bay, and she claimed to have dined with Jean Laffite on Galveston Island. The Longs returned to Alexandria for their daughter on their way to New Orleans to seek support for Long's cause. Jane missed sailing to Bolivar when at the last minute she returned to Rodney, Mississippi, for her daughter Ann, whom she had left with Anne Chesley. Jane and Ann waited in Alexandria until Warren D. C. Hall came to guide her overland to Bolivar.

Jane Long was not the only woman at Fort Las Casas on the peninsula. Several families remained in the little community surrounding the military post when Long left for La Bahía on September 19, 1821. Instead of returning within a month as promised, Long was captured at San Antonio and taken to Mexico City where he was accidentally killed on April 8, 1822. Pregnant again, Jane stubbornly waited for her husband even when the guard and the other families left Bolivar. She was all alone except for Kian and Ann when she gave birth to her third daughter, Mary James, on December 21, 1821. Lonely and near starvation, Jane welcomed incoming immigrants heading for the San Jacinto River early in 1822. She abandoned her vigil and joined the Smith family at their camp on Cedar Bayou. By mid-summer she moved farther up the San Jacinto River, where she finally received word that James Long had been killed. She traveled to San Antonio in September to seek a pension from Governor José Félix Trespalacios, her husband's former associate.

She arrived on October 17, 1822, and remained ten months without success in her quest, after which she returned, disappointed, to Alexandria in September 1823. Jane Long returned to Texas with the Calvits after the death of her youngest child on June 25, 1824. She received title to a league of land in Fort Bend County and a labor in Waller County from empresario Stephen F. Austin on August 24, 1824. She did not live there, preferring San Felipe until April 1830, when she took Ann to school in Mississippi. They lived with Anne W. Chesney Miller until January 1831, when Ann James married Edward Winston, a native of Virginia. The newlyweds and Jane made a leisurely pilgrimage back to Texas, where they arrived in May. Jane bought W.T. Austin's boarding house at Brazoria in 1832, which she operated for five years.

In 1837 the widow, age thirty-nine, moved to her league, a portion of which she had sold to Robert E. Handy who developed the town of Richmond, the county seat of Fort Bend County. Jane opened another boarding house and also developed a plantation two miles south of town. She bought and sold land, raised cattle, and grew cotton with the help of slaves (twelve in 1840). Her plantation was valued at over $10,000 in 1850. By 1861 she held nineteen slaves valued at $13,300 and about 2,000 acres. When the war ended, she continued to work the land with tenants and briefly experimented with sheep. In 1870 she lived by herself next door to Ann who had married James S. Sullivan; Ann died in June, leaving the care of Jane to the grandchildren.

By 1877 Jane was unable to manage her diminished estate valued at only $2,000. She died on December 30, 1880, at the home of her grandson, James E. Winston, and was buried in the Morton Cemetery in Richmond. Folklore and family tradition hold that Jane was courted by Texas's leading men, including Ben Milam, Sam Houston, and Mirabeau B. Lamar, but that she refused them all. Her history depends primarily on her own story told to Lamar about 1837, when he was gathering material for a history of Texas. In 1936 a centennial marker was erected in her honor in Fort Bend County.

GPS Coordinates
29° 35.132, -095° 45.801

Masonic West Section
Morton Cemetery
Richmond

May 7, 2013

William Christian Menefee

William Menefee (Menifee), lawyer and public official, was born in Knox County, Tennessee, on May 11, 1796, son of John and Frances (Rhodes) Menefee. He studied law and was admitted to the bar sometime before 1824, when his family and that of John Sutherland Menefee moved to Morgan County, Alabama, and settled near Decatur. In 1830 he moved to Texas with his wife, the former Agnes Sutherland, daughter of George Sutherland, and seven children. Another daughter was born in Texas. Menefee settled in the community of Egypt in what is now Colorado County. By 1840 he had acquired title to 1,300 acres of land and owned fifty cattle, four horses, and seven slaves. He was a delegate from the district of Lavaca to the conventions of 1832 and 1833.

He represented Austin Municipality in the Consultation and on December 8, 1835, was seated as a member of the General Council of the provisional government. On January 9, 1836, he was elected first judge of Colorado Municipality. He and William D. Lacey were delegates from Colorado to the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos and there signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. Menefee was appointed the first chief justice of Colorado County on December 20, 1836. In 1839 he was one of the five commissioners who selected Austin as the capital of the Republic of Texas. He was nominated secretary of the treasury of the republic on December 23, 1840, but the Senate had taken no action by January 21, 1841, and the nomination was withdrawn.

Menefee represented the Colorado district in the House of the Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth congresses of the republic, September 1837 to November 1841, and in the Ninth Congress, December 1844 to February 1845. He was defeated by Edward Burleson for the vice presidency of the republic in 1841. In 1842 he participated in the campaign against Rafael Vásquez. Menefee was elected chief justice of Colorado County on July 13, 1846, but during that year moved to Fayette County, which he represented in the House of the Fifth Legislature. He died on October 28 or 29, 1875, and was buried in the Pine Springs Cemetery, six miles from Flatonia. The state of Texas later moved his remains and those of his wife to the State Cemetery.

GPS Coordinates
30° 15.921, -097° 43.621

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery
Austin