April 29, 2014

Nimrod Lindsay Norton (1830-1903)

Nimrod Norton, government official, was born near Carlisle, Nicholas County, Kentucky, on April 18, 1830, the son of Hiram and Nancy (Spencer) Norton. He was educated at Fredonia Military Academy in New York and Kentucky Military Institute. On October 27, 1853, he was married to Mary C. Hall in Nicholas County; they had eight children. The family moved to Missouri, where he farmed. At the beginning of the Civil War Norton organized one of the first companies north of the Missouri River for the defense against federal troops. In May 1864 he was chosen as one of the Missouri representatives in the Confederate States Congress. After the war he returned to Missouri. In 1867 he and his family moved to DeWitt County, Texas, then to Salado, in Bell County, where in 1873 Norton was a charter member of the Grange, an agrarian order that powerfully influenced the Constitutional Convention of 1875. A section of the Constitution of 1876 provided for the designation, survey, and sale of 3,050,000 acres of public land in the High Plains to pay for the construction of a new Capitol. Governor Oran Milo Roberts selected Norton as commissioner to supervise the survey of that land for the state in July 1879. With surveyors and a ranger escort, Norton made the necessary land surveys, which opened the Llano Estacado to settlement. In his diary (from August to December 1879) and in his letters to Governor Roberts, Norton described the country, the daily camp life, and the flora and fauna that the survey party encountered. In 1880 he was appointed a member of the three-man Capitol building commission, which considered eleven designs submitted for the Capitol, made a survey of various quarries in the Austin area, and studied qualities of various building materials. On February 1, 1882, Norton and another Capitol building commissioner, Joseph Lee, shoveled the first spade of dirt for the beginning of construction. Norton with his two business partners, W. H. Westfall and G. W. Lacy, ended the limestone-granite controversy by donating all the red granite needed for construction from Granite Mountain in Burnet County. Although Norton had purchased land in the Montopolis area in 1872 and journeyed to Austin to supervise the annual Travis County fairs, he continued to live in Salado. He and his family were living in Austin later, however, and in 1893 he built a large home north of the site of the present Travis County Courthouse. He died on September 28, 1903, in Austin and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery there. Source 

COORDINATES
30° 16.605
-097° 43.587

Section 3
Oakwood Cemetery
Austin

April 22, 2014

Willard Jessie "Home Run" Brown (1915-1996)

Willard Jessie Brown was born in Shreveport to a poor family who encouraged his interest in sports and baseball in particular. He became known in the neighborhood as an excellent hitter and joined a minor Negro League team, the Monroe Monarchs, in 1934. As he gained experience on the field, he refined his batting skills to the point that he was signed to the Kansas City Monarchs in 1936 and played professionally with them for eight years. He was the most powerful slugger in the Negro Leagues, possibly in all of baseball, but since records weren't kept consistently there is no way of knowing what his home run total is. It is known that he surpassed the legendary Josh Gibson, who was so impressed by his ability that he bestowed Willard with the nickname that would follow him for life: "Home Run" Brown. In 1944, Willard enlisted in the Army to fight in World War II and served until the following year when victory was declared. He returned to baseball playing in Puerto Rico, where he played during the Negro League off-season; he had lost none of his talent during his wartime service, reaching averages of .410 at one point. In 1947 he played briefly for the St Louis Browns but the overall lack of talent on his team and the foreign atmosphere of racism affected his hitting; he left the team after only twenty-one games, but not before becoming the first black player to hit a home run in the American League. Returning to Puerto Rico, his averages shot back up and he achieved his greatest season ever, attaining .432, twenty-seven home runs and eighty-six RBI in just sixty games, winning the Triple Crown - a feat he would achieve again in the 1949-1950 season. In 1948 he returned to the Monarchs and remained with them until his retirement in 1950, although he would occasionally suit up for minor league teams in the Texas League until 1956. After quitting the game for good, he moved to Houston where he lived a quiet life until he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 1989; he underwent treatment which helped retard the progression of the disease until it finally claimed him. The greatest home run hitter of the Negro Leagues, and quite possibly all of baseball, passed away on August 4, 1996. Ten years later on February 2006, Willard "Home Run" Brown was elected unanimously into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

COORDINATES
29° 55.745
-095° 26.850

Section G-2
Houston National Cemetery
Houston

April 15, 2014

Richard Ellis (1781-1846)

Richard Ellis, planter, jurist, and legislator, son of Ambrose and Cecilia (Stokes) Ellis, was born in the "Tidewater Section" (probably Lunenburg County) of Virginia, on February 14, 1781. After a common-school education he possibly attended college, but no record of attendance has survived. In any event, he studied law with the Richmond firm of Wirt and Wickham until 1806, when he was admitted to the Virginia bar and joined that law firm. Sometime between 1813 and 1817 Ellis left Virginia and settled at Huntsville, Madison County, and later at Tuscumbia, Franklin County, Alabama, where he established a plantation and continued the practice of law. Then, in 1818, he was elected one of two delegates to represent Franklin County at the Alabama Constitutional Convention. The next year saw him elected a judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Alabama, an election that automatically made him an associate justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. During his tenure on the bench, Ellis had a reputation for firm administration and a rough manner that made him unpopular with the other members of the bar. In 1829 he helped to found and served on the first board of trustees of La Grange College in Franklin County, Alabama. The college had a Methodist connection, which may indicate that Ellis was a Methodist. Ellis made his first trip to Texas in 1826 not as a colonist but in a futile effort to collect a debt from a Colonel Pettus. In December Stephen F. Austin induced him, along with James Kerr and James Cummings, to go to Nacogdoches in an unsuccessful effort to persuade Haden Edwards to abandon his revolt against the Mexican government. It was not until February 22, 1834, that Ellis moved his family and more than twenty-five slaves to Pecan Point in the disputed territory claimed by Mexico as part of Old Red River County and by the United States as part of Miller County, Arkansas. Ellis's land grant of 4,428.4 acres (one league and one labor) was located near Spanish Bluff in what became Bowie County, Texas. He established a considerable cotton plantation there and entertained lavishly at his elegant home.

Late in 1835 he was chosen by Miller and Sevier counties as a delegate to the Arkansas constitutional convention scheduled to meet at Little Rock on January 4, 1836. Ill health forced him to decline, and he resigned his seat by January 21, 1836. Near the end of the month he was selected as one of five delegates from around Pecan Point to the Texas constitutional convention scheduled to meet at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 1, 1836. As the convention opened Ellis was unanimously elected president. On March 2, 1836, he signed the Texas Declaration of Independence as president of the convention. Although some observers were critical of him as a presiding officer, the general verdict is that he had a good grasp of parliamentary procedure and that he presided with a remarkable degree of gentleness and urbanity. Most importantly, he held the convention together for the seventeen days needed to draft a constitution for the Republic of Texas. Between October 3, 1836, when he was first elected, and February 5, 1840, when he retired from public life, Ellis represented his district as a senator in the First, Second, Third, and Fourth congresses of the Republic of Texas. On January 9, 1806, he married Mary West Dandridge, daughter of Nathaniel West and Sarah (Watson) Dandridge of Hanover County, Virginia. The bride was a second cousin of Martha Custis Washington and a first cousin of Dolly Madison. Richard and Mary Ellis had at least two children. An obituary printed in the Clarksville Northern Standard reports that Ellis died at his home in Bowie County on December 20, 1846, at age sixty-five and states, "Judge Ellis came to his death suddenly by his clothes taking fire." He was buried in the family cemetery near New Boston, Texas, but in 1929 his remains and those of his wife, who died on October 2, 1837, were transferred to the State Cemetery in Austin. A son, Nathaniel Dandridge Ellis, also settled in Old Red River County and was granted a league and labor of land as the head of a household. Ellis County, formed in 1849, most probably was named in Richard Ellis's honor. Source

COORDINATES
30° 15.925
-097° 43.645

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery
Austin

April 8, 2014

Joseph Stephen Cullinan (1860-1937)

J. S. Cullinan, oilman, was born on December 31, 1860, near Sharon, Pennsylvania, the oldest son and second of eight children of John Francis and Mary (Considine) Cullinan. At the age of fourteen he began working in the Pennsylvania oilfields and learned to perform virtually every task associated with oil production. In 1882 he joined Standard Oil, and he eventually held several managerial positions in that company. He left Standard in 1895 to organize his own company, Petroleum Iron Works, an operation that manufactured steel storage tanks. When oil was discovered in Corsicana, Texas, in 1894, local developers invited Cullinan to Texas to advise them on production and marketing techniques. In Corsicana he organized the J. S. Cullinan Company, which later became Magnolia Petroleum Company. Among the contributions that Cullinan made to the Corsicana oil industry were the introduction of oil as a fuel for locomotives, the use of natural gas for lighting and heating, and the utilization of oil to settle dust on the city's streets. South of Corsicana, Cullinan constructed a refinery that began operation in 1899 and was the first such facility west of the Mississippi. In addition, in 1899 he was instrumental in persuading the Texas legislature to enact the state's first petroleum-conservation statute.

Cullinan moved his operations to Beaumont shortly after the Spindletop discovery in 1901. There he founded the Texas Company (later Texaco) in 1902; he served as company president until he lost control of the stock in a proxy fight with eastern investors in 1913. When he moved his operations and the Texaco headquarters to Houston in 1905, Cullinan established that city as the focal point of the oil industry in the Southwest. He remained active in the industry after his resignation as president of Texaco. Eventually he founded ten companies involved in the exploration, production, refining, and marketing of Texas petroleum, and he was instrumental in developing oil deposits in the Sour Lake, Humble, and East Texas oilfields. Cullinan served as president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce from 1913 until 1919 and supported development of the Houston Ship Channel. He also constructed the North Side Belt Railway around the city in 1922. During World War I he was special advisor to the Food Administration under Herbert Hoover. He was a patron of the Museum of Fine Arts, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and Houston Negro Hospital. From 1928 to 1933 he was chairman of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Committee. He married Lucy Halm on April 14, 1891; they had five children. Cullinan died of pneumonia while visiting his friend Herbert Hoover in Palo Alto, California, on March 11, 1937. Source

COORDINATES
29° 45.736
-095° 23.224

Little Hillside Section
Glenwood Cemetery
Houston

April 1, 2014

Robert Gene Elston (1922-2015)

A native of Fort Dodge, Iowa, Elston was born on March 26, 1922. His first job in announcing was high school basketball in 1941 and from there progressed to minor league baseball in 1946. His first job in the major leagues was eight years later in 1954, when he became the number two radio announcer for the Chicago Cubs, alongside Bert Wilson. In 1958, he moved to a national radio audience by announcing the Game of the Day on the Mutual Broadcasting System, with Bob Feller. In 1961, Elston joined veteran radio broadcaster Loel Passe to announce the final season of Houston's minor league franchise, the Houston Buffs. With the expansion of the major league and the inaugural 1962 season of the Houston Colt 45s, Elston was chosen to lead the radio broadcast. The team changed its name to the Astros three years later, and Elston continued as their main announcer through 1986, when he ended his association with the Astros and joined Tal Smith Enterprises as a consultant and researcher. Starting in 1987, Elston went back to calling national radio broadcasts instead of games for a specific team. He called the CBS Radio Game of the Week until 1995, and also called postseason NLDS games on CBS Radio in 1995, 1996, and 1997. He then retired from broadcasting. In 2006, Elston was awarded the Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame. The award is given annually to a baseball announcer who has given major contributions to the game. Elston was healthy enough, at the age of 84, to accept the award in person at Cooperstown.

COORDINATES
29° 55.848
-095° 26.759

Section C14
Houston National Cemetery
Houston