December 30, 2014

Cleveland T. "Big Cat" Williams (1933-1999)

Georgia native Cleveland Williams was an American heavyweight boxer who fought in the 1950s through the 1970s. A Ring Magazine poll once rated him as one of the finest boxers never to win a title. He made an imposing figure, tall with an impressive athletic broad shouldered build. Williams turned professional in 1951 and fought many of the best heavyweights of his era. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the 6 ft 3 in Williams was a top-rated heavyweight. His quest to obtain a title fight, however, was consistently derailed. First he was knocked out by Liston on April 15, 1959, after hurting Liston early and breaking Liston's nose (Liston often said Williams was the hardest puncher he ever fought). Williams recovered from the Liston fight to score more wins, but was again stopped by Liston in two rounds in their rematch on March 21, 1960. His quest for the title was again stalled when he was held to a draw by Eddie Machen on July 10, 1962 and when he dropped a split decision on March 13, 1963 to Ernie Terrell, a fighter he had previously knocked out in seven rounds in 1962. On November 29, 1964, during the height of the American Civil Rights Movement, a car driven by Williams was stopped near Houston, Texas, by highway patrolman Dale Witten, who stated afterwards Williams was speeding. According to the police report subsequently filed by the patrolman, Williams resisted arrest, and the officer's .357 magnum revolver went off during the struggle to arrest him. The bullet moved across his intestines, and lodged against his right hip. He ultimately had to undergo four operations in the next seven months for colon damage and an injured right kidney. The right kidney of Williams was too damaged and not working, and had to be removed in June 1965. Doctors could not take out the patrolman's bullet, which had broken his right hip joint and caused partial paralysis of some of Williams' hip muscles. He was fined $50 and briefly jailed after pleading no contest to charges arising from the incident.

   Williams was inactive the entire year of 1965 while recovering from his injuries. The injury, surgeries and subsequent convalescence caused Williams to lose over 60 pounds, and over 17 months of his career. He regained his weight and strength by tossing 80-pound bales of hay daily on a cattle ranch until he had regained his fighting weight and physique. On February 8, 1966, Williams got a standing ovation from Houston fans as he returned to the ring, and knocked out Ben Black in the first round. It was in this condition that Williams fought for the heavyweight championship against Muhammad Ali on November 14, 1966 at the Astrodome. He lasted until the third round. He retired from boxing after the Ali bout, but later made a comeback. Although able to defeat journeymen fighters, he suffered several knockout losses before retiring for good in 1972. Williams finished his career with a record of 78 wins (58 KOs), 13 losses and 1 draw. He worked as a forklift operator and other odd jobs through the 1980s. On September 3, 1999, he was tragically killed in an unsolved hit-and-run accident. Four years later, Ring Magazine ranked him 49th on their list of the 100 greatest punchers of all time.

Note: Cleveland Williams' grave is presently unmarked. He is buried in the bottom left space of the White family plot. There is no mention of his name on the headstone.

COORDINATES
29° 53.419
-095° 27.580

Block 12A
Paradise North Cemetery
Houston

December 23, 2014

J. Frank Wilson (1941-1991)

John Frank Wilson, singer, known as J. Frank Wilson, was born in Lufkin, Texas, on December 11, 1941. He was the son of a railroad engineer. Wilson became a one-hit wonder in the early 1960s when he was the lead singer of the hit song Last Kiss. He and the Cavaliers, his own band, recorded Wayne Cochran's teenage-death melodrama, which rose to the top of the American pop charts in 1964. The lugubrious song was the last exemplar of a genre that flourished in the early 1960s. Last Kiss remained on the charts for twelve weeks. Wilson had listened carefully to Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. After graduating from Lufkin High School in 1960, he joined the United States Air Force and was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base, San Angelo. He joined the Cavaliers (guitarist Sid Holmes, bassist Lewis Elliott, saxophonist Bob Zeller, and drummer Ray Smith), a group that had formed in San Angelo in 1955; moved to Memphis in the early 1960s; and returned to San Angelo in 1962. Wilson enhanced the group's appeal and enlarged its audience. The Cavaliers and J. Frank Wilson became a popular attraction at area clubs. In 1962, at the Blue Note in Big Spring, record producer Sonley Roush heard Wilson and the Cavaliers perform. At Ron Newdoll's Accurate Sound Recording Company on Tyler Avenue in San Angelo, the group recorded Cochran's song. Newdoll and his production company, Askell Productions, produced the recording and acquired ownership of the masters, with royalties, in exchange for the group's right to use the studio. Major Bill Smith, a recording executive in Fort Worth who had released Bruce Channel's hit Hey! Baby and Paul & Paula's Hey Paula, signed Wilson and the Cavaliers to record the song on the Josie label. The record was released in June 1964, entered the charts on October 10, and reached Number 2 on the Billboard Top 40 charts on November 7. The album sold more than 100,000 copies the first few months. Wilson and the Cavaliers earned a gold record for Last Kiss.

On October 22 Roush was killed in a car wreck in which Wilson was injured. The press whooped up the connection between the accident and the lyrics of Last Kiss, which is about a teen-aged girl who dies in the arms of her boyfriend after a car accident. Wilson was touring again within a week of the crash. On American Bandstand - and on crutches - he lip-synced Last Kiss and introduced a new single, Six Boys, produced by Smith with studio musicians. Wilson and Josie Records put together a new group under the name Cavaliers, although the original Cavaliers were continuing to perform with Lewis Elliott as leader and James Thomas as vocalist. Wilson recorded with session musicians. He continued as a single act, traveling with Jerry Lee, the Righteous Brothers, the Animals, and other well-known performers until he bottomed out from alcoholism. He made records and performed into the 1970s, but without much income or effect. On the tenth anniversary of the Last Kiss success, he was working in Lufkin as a nursing-home orderly for $250 a week. The depressed one-hit singer attempted marriage eight times and sank into alcohol addiction. Suffering from seizures and diabetes, he died in a nursing home in Lufkin on October 4, 1991, not long before his fiftieth birthday. In 1999 Last Kiss once again became a hit when the rock group Pearl Jam released its version, and in 2000, VH1 fans voted Last Kiss Number 3 in the all-time Top 10 cover songs. The song received a BMI 2-Million air-play award. J. Frank Wilson is honored in the West Texas Music Hall of Fame. Source

COORDINATES
31° 15.933
-094° 44.496


Garden of Memories
Lufkin

December 16, 2014

James H. Fields (1920-1970)

James H. Fields, Medal of Honor recipient, was born at Caddo, Texas, on June 16, 1920, the son of Mr. and Mrs. R. B. Fields. He graduated from Lamar High School in Houston and was drafted into the army in 1942. He was a member of the Tenth Armored Infantry, Fourth Armored Division, United States Army. First Lieutenant Fields was cited for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty" on September 27, 1944, at RĂ©chicourt, France. He led his depleted platoon in a counterattack on an enemy position and exposed himself to enemy fire while attending to one of his wounded men. He himself was wounded in the face by a bursting shell. Badly injured and rendered speechless he continued to direct his platoon in the attack by hand signals. Two enemy machine-guns had the platoon in a deadly crossfire. Fields left his foxhole, picked up a light machine gun, and, firing from the hip, knocked out both the enemy positions. His action inspired his men to increase the pressure of the attack. Only when the enemy was scattered did Fields allow himself to be evacuated to the command post. There he refused further evacuation until he could brief the battalion commander. Only eleven of the fifty-five men in his platoon survived the day's engagement. Fields's heroism was largely responsible for the repulse of the enemy forces and was an inspiration to the entire command. After the war he became an independent oil operator. He died at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Houston (now the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Houston) on June 17, 1970, and was survived by his wife, Mathilde, and four children. He was buried in the VA Houston National Cemetery. Source 

CITATION  
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, at Rechicourt, France. On 27 September 1944, during a sharp action with the enemy infantry and tank forces, 1st Lt. Fields personally led his platoon in a counterattack on the enemy position. Although his platoon had been seriously depleted, the zeal and fervor of his leadership was such as to inspire his small force to accomplish their mission in the face of overwhelming enemy opposition. Seeing that 1 of the men had been wounded, he left his slit trench and with complete disregard for his personal safety attended the wounded man and administered first aid. While returning to his slit trench he was seriously wounded by a shell burst, the fragments of which cut through his face and head, tearing his teeth, gums, and nasal passage. Although rendered speechless by his wounds, 1st Lt. Fields refused to be evacuated and continued to lead his platoon by the use of hand signals. On 1 occasion, when 2 enemy machine guns had a portion of his unit under deadly crossfire, he left his hole, wounded as he was, ran to a light machine gun, whose crew had been knocked out, picked up the gun, and fired it from his hip with such deadly accuracy that both the enemy gun positions were silenced. His action so impressed his men that they found new courage to take up the fire fight, increasing their firepower, and exposing themselves more than ever to harass the enemy with additional bazooka and machine gun fire. Only when his objective had been taken and the enemy scattered did 1st Lt. Fields consent to be evacuated to the battalion command post. At this point he refused to move further back until he had explained to his battalion commander by drawing on paper the position of his men and the disposition of the enemy forces. The dauntless and gallant heroism displayed by 1st Lt. Fields were largely responsible for the repulse of the enemy forces and contributed in a large measure to the successful capture of his battalion objective during this action. His eagerness and determination to close with the enemy and to destroy him was an inspiration to the entire command, and are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Armed Forces.

COORDINATES
29° 55.828
-095° 27.041

Section Hb
Houston National Cemetery
Houston

December 9, 2014

Joanna Troutman (1818-1879)

Joanna Troutman, designer of an early Texas Lone Star flag, was born on February 19, 1818, in Baldwin County, Georgia, the daughter of Hiram Bainbridge Troutman. In 1835, in response to an appeal for aid to the Texas cause, the Georgia Battalion, commanded by Col. William Ward, traveled to Texas. Joanna Troutman designed and made a flag of white silk, bearing a blue, five-pointed star and two inscriptions: "Liberty or Death" on the obverse and, in Latin, UBI LIBERTAS HABITAT, IBI NOSTRA PATRIA EST (Where Liberty dwells, there is our fatherland)" on the reverse. She presented the flag to the battalion, and it was unfurled at Velasco on January 8, 1836, above the American Hotel. It was carried to Goliad, where James W. Fannin, Jr., raised it as the national flag when he heard of the Texas Declaration of Independence. The flag was accidentally torn to shreds, however, and only its remnants flew above the battle. Joanna Troutman married Solomon L. Pope in 1839, and the couple moved to Elmwood, their prosperous plantation near Knoxville, Georgia, in 1840. They had four sons. Her husband died in 1872, and Joanna married W. G. Vinson, a Georgia state legislator, in 1875. She died on July 23, 1879, at Elmwood and was buried next to her first husband. In 1913 Texas governor Oscar B. Colquitt secured permission to have her remains taken to Texas for interment in the State Cemetery in Austin. A bronze statue by Pompeo L. Coppini was erected there as a monument to her memory; her portrait hangs in the state Capitol. Source 

COORDINATES
30° 15.906
-097° 43.603

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery
Austin

December 2, 2014

Thomas Jefferson Gazley (1798-1853)

Thomas J. 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. 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. Source 

Note: The birth date on his stone is incorrect.


COORDINATES
30° 15.918
-097° 43.645

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery
Austin