January 28, 2014

Wilmer Lawson Allison

Wilmer Lawson (Lee) Allison, tennis player, was born in San Antonio, Texas, on December 8, 1904, one of two children of Dr. and Mrs. Wilmer L. Allison. His family moved to Fort Worth in his youth, and he graduated from Fort Worth Central High School, where he was an outstanding amateur baseball player. He enrolled at the University of Texas in 1925 after his father refused to permit him to sign a professional baseball contract with the Beaumont team of the Texas League. At UT he began an internationally acclaimed career as a tennis player. Under the tutelage of Daniel A. Penick he won the Southwest Conference and National Collegiate Athletic Association championships in 1927.

Allison won the Wimbledon doubles title in 1929 and 1930 with partner John Van Ryn. They are considered by many tennis historians to be the best doubles combination of the period. Perhaps Allison's finest moment as a singles player came on June 30, 1930, when he upset the legendary Henri Cochet of France in the quarterfinal round of the 1930 Wimbledon tournament. However, he lost the championship in the finals to fellow American Bill Tilden in straight sets.

Allison achieved the number-one ranking in the United States in 1934 and again in 1935 and won the United States National Open Championship in 1935 by defeating Fred Perry in the semifinals and then Sydney Wood for the title at Forest Hills, New York. Along with partner Van Ryn he claimed National Doubles in 1931 and 1935 and finished second in 1930, 1932, 1934, and 1936. Allison competed on behalf of the United States in Davis Cup competition from 1928 until 1937. He retired from full-time competition in 1937 after a serious injury to his lower abdomen. Upon retirement, he served as an assistant to Penick at the University of Texas from 1938 to 1941, when he left to join the army air corps; he achieved the rank of colonel. After his discharge he returned to the university in 1947 and served as Penick's assistant until 1957. That year he became the head tennis coach at the university, where he served until his retirement in 1972. He instituted a policy restricting athletic scholarships for tennis to players from Texas. His teams won four Southwest Conference team championships, three singles titles, and one doubles title. He was elected to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1957 and is a member of the Longhorn Hall of Honor. In 1963 he was enshrined in both the national and international tennis halls of fame.

Allison died on April 20, 1977, of a heart attack, only four days after the dedication of the new University of Texas tennis facility in his and Penick's honor. He is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Austin. He was survived by his wife, Ann (Caswell). The couple had no children.

GPS Coordinates
30° 16.565, -097° 43.517

Section 2
Oakwood Cemetery
Austin

January 21, 2014

Peck Kelley

John Dickson (Peck) Kelley, jazz pianist, was born in Houston on October 22, 1898. He was one of nine brothers. Although his mother reportedly had a fine singing voice, the Kelleys were not particularly musical. A cousin, Charlie Dickson, was a pianist and popular Houston bandleader in the 1920s.

Peck was the only one of the nine brothers who showed much interest in the family's upright piano. He received his first instruction on the instrument from the teenaged daughter of a neighbor but soon quit because she kept rapping his knuckles with a pencil when he made a mistake. His interest in the piano continued, however, and by 1919 he was reportedly playing with Jack Sharpe in the red-light district south of Buffalo Bayou. In the fall of 1921 he organized his own band, Peck's Bad Boys, which at various times during the decade included such notable musicians as Jack Teagarden, Pee Wee Russell, Wingy Manone, Snoozer Quinn, Johnny Wiggs, Leon Prima (the brother of Louis), and Leon Roppolo. The band played dances and fraternity parties around the Houston-Galveston area and also performed at the Washington Hotel in Shreveport in 1926. In addition, Kelley played occasional solo engagements around Houston and provided accompaniment for silent films at several local theaters.

He studied harmony and musical theory with Aldrich Kidd in Houston in the mid-1920s. He also studied classical piano with his friend Patricio Gutierrez and, possibly, with Albino Torres. Kelley idolized Vladimir Horowitz, though jazz immortal Art Tatum was the pianist to whom his peers most often compared him; many of his fellow musicians considered Kelley "the finest white jazz pianist of all time." In late 1925 Kelley journeyed briefly to St. Louis, where he played with Frankie Trumbauer's orchestra, which also included former Bad Boy Russell and Bix Beiderbecke. Beginning in 1929 Kelley played with several local bands that performed at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, and the Hollywood Club in Galveston, and briefly in New Orleans. In 1931 he also had a regular gig at the cafeteria of the Rice Hotel in Houston.

As alumni of his bands moved on to other organizations and spread word of his talents, Kelley became a legend in jazz circles, but he stubbornly resisted the stardom that seemed his due. "I never liked to play for a living," he once said, "but I liked to play on the piano." He refused to leave Houston, turning down offers from Paul Whiteman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Rudy Vallee, among others. "If I was working with a top band," he reasoned, "it would be rehearse, record, broadcast, play, rush, hurry, with no time to myself." He also declined recording contracts from Decca and OKeh. One measure of his growing reputation came in July 1939, when an admiring article by John Hammond, Peck Kelley Is No Myth, appeared in Down Beat. Kelley attracted more attention in February 1940, when Collier's ran an article titled Kelley Won't Budge. Kelley began an engagement in 1938 at the Southern Dinner Club, where he played off and on until late 1950. He joined the United States Army in 1942 and was stationed in San Antonio. There he organized a band, but eye problems led to his discharge in March 1943, whereupon he found work in a Houston shipyard for the duration of World War II.

Plagued by deteriorating vision from cataracts and glaucoma, Kelley retired from the music business in 1950, although he reportedly spent hours practicing at home on a stringless, silent piano so as not to disturb his neighbors. He had begun to show the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. He finally recorded informally, at the urging of friends, in 1951, 1953, and 1957. The 1957 session, recorded at the studios of radio station KPRC, was released as a double album in 1983. At a Houston gig in 1960 his old friend Teagarden invited Kelley to sit in, but Kelley, nearly blind, refused to play in public.

Kelley married in 1920, but he and his wife were divorced amicably two years later, reportedly over her refusal to attend a Christmas party at a movie theater where he had been working. In later years he lived with his nephew and his nephew's wife. Despite his lack of formal education he was a dedicated reader of philosophy and was especially fond of the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson. "He was extremely modest," remembered his old friend Johnny Wiggs. "He just wanted to stay on in Houston and live a quiet life." Kelley died in Houston on December 26, 1980.

GPS Coordinates
29° 45.961, -095° 23.270

Section D
Washington Cemetery
Houston

January 14, 2014

John Goodwin Tower

John Tower, United States senator, was born on September 29, 1925, in Houston, Texas, to Joe and Beryl (Goodwin) Tower. His father was a Methodist minister. Tower grew up in the various East Texas communities where his father preached, graduated from Beaumont High School in the spring of 1942, and entered Southwestern University in the fall of the same year. By June 1943 he had enlisted in the United States Navy; he served during World War II on an amphibious gunboat in the western Pacific and was discharged as a seaman first class in 1946. He remained active in the naval reserve from 1946 until 1989, when he retired with the rank of master chief boatswain's mate. After the war, Tower returned to Southwestern University, where he received a B.A. in political science in 1948. He worked for a time during and after college as a radio announcer at country and western station KTAE in Taylor. By spring of 1949 he had moved to Dallas and enrolled in graduate courses at Southern Methodist University. While in Dallas, he also worked as an insurance agent. He completed his coursework at Southern Methodist University in Spring of 1951 and accepted a position as assistant professor of political science at Midwestern University in Wichita Falls, a job he held until 1960. In 1952 and 1953 Tower continued his graduate studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science. While in London, he conducted field research on the organization of the Conservative party in Britain, which he used for his master's thesis, The Conservative Worker in Britain. He received his M.A. in political science from Southern Methodist University in 1953. In March of 1952 he married Lou Bullington in Wichita Falls. They had three daughters during their years in Wichita Falls; they were divorced in 1976, and Tower married Lilla Burt Cummings in 1977. They were divorced in 1987.

In Wichita Falls, Tower became active in the Republican party of Texas. In 1954 he ran an unsuccessful race for state representative from the Eighty-first District, and in 1956 he led Texas as a delegate to the Republican national convention. By 1960 he was sufficiently well known to be nominated at the state Republican convention to run against Lyndon B. Johnson for senator in the November general election. Johnson easily won the election but was also elected vice president. William Blakely was appointed to fill the seat that Johnson resigned, and a special election was slated for the spring. Tower led in this election and beat Blakely in the runoff on May 27. As the first Republican senator elected in Texas since 1870, he was seen by many as heralding the arrival of two-party politics in Texas. He was reelected to the Senate in 1966, 1972, and 1978. Upon assuming his Senate seat, Tower was assigned to two major committees: Labor and Public Welfare, and Banking and Currency. He served on the former until 1964. He remained on the Banking and Currency Committee, which in 1971 became the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, throughout his Senate career. In 1965 Tower was assigned to the Senate Armed Services Committee, in which where he served continuously until his retirement; he was chairman from 1981 to 1984. He also served on the Joint Committee on Defense Production from 1963 until 1977 and on the Senate Republican Policy Committee in 1962 and from 1969 until 1984. He was elected chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee from 1973 to 1984. In his twenty-four year Senate career, Tower influenced a variety of domestic and foreign policy issues. As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he worked to strengthen and modernize the nation's defenses. He was widely respected for his skills at guiding legislation through Congress. He worked to stimulate economic growth, improve opportunities for small business, improve transportation systems, and encourage strong financial institutions and systems. He was also concerned with promoting prosperity in agriculture, the energy industry, the fishing and maritime industries, and other areas of commerce particularly important to Texans.

Senator Tower took a leadership role in Republican politics in Texas and on the national level. He supported Barry Goldwater for president in 1964, headed Richard M. Nixon's Key Issues Committee in 1968, supported Gerald Ford for president in 1976, and worked for the Reagan-Bush tickets in 1980 and 1984, and the Bush-Quayle ticket in 1988. He was a member of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 1962-63, 1969-70, and 1973-74 and was its chairman in 1969-70. He was a Texas delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, and 1980. He also chaired the National Security and Foreign Policy Platform Subcommittee in 1972, and was chairman of the National Republican Platform Committee in 1980. Tower also maintained close ties with his alma mater, Southwestern University, and served on its board of trustees from 1968 through 1991. In 1964 he received an honorary doctorate degree from the university and was named distinguished alumnus in 1968. The Tower-Hester Chair of Political Science, named for Tower and his former professor George C. Hester, was inaugurated at Southwestern University in 1975.

Tower retired from the Senate on January 3, 1985. Two weeks later President Ronald Reagan appointed him chief United States negotiator at the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks in Geneva. Tower served for fifteen months in this role and gained the Soviets' respect for his negotiating skills, knowledge of the issues, and mastery of technical details. In April 1986 he resigned to pursue personal business. Tower was distinguished lecturer in political science at Southern Methodist University from 1986 until 1988 and chaired Tower, Eggers, and Greene Consulting, Incorporated of Dallas and Washington from 1987 to 1991. Reagan again called Tower into government service in November 1986, when he appointed him to chair the President's Special Review Board to study the actions of the National Security Council and its staff during the Iran-Contra affair. The board, which became known as the Tower Commission, issued its report on February 26, 1987. In 1989 Tower was President George Bush's choice to become secretary of defense, but the Senate did not confirm his nomination because of his conservative political views and alleged excessive drinking and womanizing. The charges, counter-charges, and accusations of the hearings are chronicled in Tower's 1991 book, Consequences: A Personal and Political Memoir. In 1990 President Bush named Tower chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Senator Tower died, along with his daughter Marian, in a commuter plane crash near New Brunswick, Georgia, on April 5, 1991.

GPS Coordinates
32° 52.128, -096° 46.675

Providence Monument Garden
Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery
Dallas

January 7, 2014

Thomas Henry Borden

Thomas Henry Borden, early settler, soldier, and inventor, son of Gail and Philadelphia (Wheeler) Borden, Sr., was born in Norwich, New York, on January 28, 1804. After a boyhood in New York, Kentucky, and Indiana, he joined Stephen F. Austin's colony in Texas in 1824 as one of the Old Three Hundred. In 1830 he was Austin's official surveyor, a post he later resigned in favor of his brother, Gail Borden, Jr. In 1833 T.H. Borden was farming near Tenoxtitlán, but by 1835 he had moved to Fort Bend.

During November and December 1835 he participated with the Texas army in the Grass Fight and the siege of Bexar under Benjamin R. Milam. In October 1835 he helped Gail Borden and Joseph Baker found the Telegraph and Texas Register. He remained with that paper until March 14, 1837, when he sold his interest to Dr. Francis Moore, Jr. In October 1836 Borden helped lay out the city of Houston, and the following year he entered the real estate business in Columbia, sometimes in partnership with Erastus (Deaf) Smith and sometimes with Robert D. Johnson. He was active in founding the town of Richmond, and as late as 1873 still owned much land in Fort Bend and Brazoria counties.

In 1840 Borden was living in Galveston, engaged principally in surveying and butchering. He constructed the first windmill on Galveston Island and ran it in combination with the first local gristmill. At his home the first Baptist church in Galveston was organized, on January 30, 1840. Like his brother Gail he had a gift for invention; he is sometimes credited with inventing the terraqueous machine often attributed to his brother. In Galveston he invented a steam gauge, or manometer, for use on river steamboats. In 1849 he moved to New Orleans, where he had an excellent business. According to tradition, he did not believe in the principle of patents; so other gauge manufacturers patented his product and eliminated him from competition.

On June 4, 1829, Borden married Demis Woodword, who bore him two sons before her death in Houston on September 16, 1836. He married Louisa R. Graves of New York in 1838. Loss of his steam-gauge business, Civil War losses, and the protracted illness of his wife reduced Borden to comparative poverty in the late 1860s and necessitated his moving back to Galveston, where he died on March 16, 1877.

GPS Coordinates
29° 17.640, -094° 48.835


Evergreen Cemetery
Galveston