July 28, 2015

Greer Garson

Famed actress Greer Garson was born Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson in London, England, on September 29, 1904. She was the only daughter of George Garson, a London clerk, and Nina Nancy Sophia Greer. Her father died in 1906. She attended East Ham Secondary School in London and the prestigious University of London, where she graduated with a B.A. and with honors in English in 1926. Though family members suggested that she might enter the teaching field, Garson had ambitions to become an actress. She did postgraduate work and studied French theater at Grenoble University in France in 1927.

From 1927 to 1931 she worked at an advertising agency in London where she met another aspiring actor, George Sanders, who later starred in such films as The Gay Falcon and The Saint. She joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in late 1931 and made her stage debut in 1932. In just a few short years she landed starring roles in a number of West End productions on the London stage. During one of her productions, she caught the eye of MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer, who was desperate to find a leading lady to revitalize his studio with the impending departures of Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo. Garson signed with MGM in 1937.

Garson’s first Hollywood production, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), won her an Academy Award nomination. This began a remarkable run of five more Oscar nominations during the first half of the 1940s for her leading roles in Blossoms in the Dust (1941), Mrs. Miniver (1942), Madame Curie (1943), Mrs. Parkington (1944), and The Valley of Decision (1945). In 1942 she earned her only Oscar for playing the title role in Mrs. Miniver. Her portrayal of a British homemaker on the home front during World War II was a particular favorite of Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Her remarks upon accepting the Oscar remain the longest recorded acceptance speech (5.5 minutes in length) in the Academy’s history, which afterward prompted organizers to place a cap on them. After her role in Madame Curie, which featured the popular pairing of Garson with actor Walter Pidgeon, she was pictured on the cover of Time magazine. Garson was honored as Hollywood’s most popular star in polls within the United States and throughout the world in 1944.

Her star was waning, however, by the later 1940s. During the 1950s her movie efforts were regarded mostly with disappointment. Garson negotiated the end of her contract with MGM in 1953 after playing a small role in the blockbuster production of Julius Caesar. She made occasional television performances and in 1958 made her Broadway debut in Auntie Mame. Garson’s portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1960 movie Sunrise at Campobello earned her a final Oscar nomination.

Garson’s first marriage, to Edward Snelson in 1933, ended in divorce in 1940. In 1943 she married Richard Ney, who had played her son in Mrs. Miniver; the couple divorced in 1947. Garson's third and final marriage, this time to Texas millionaire oil executive and rancher E. E. “Buddy” Fogelson, occurred on July 15, 1949. The union lasted nearly forty years and only ended with Fogelson’s death from Parkinson’s disease in 1987. It was Fogelson who brought Garson to Texas, and she remained connected to Dallas for the rest of her life, although she split her time between Los Angeles and the ranch they shared near Pecos, New Mexico. Garson retired from acting permanently in 1980.

During these years Garson was a generous financier and benefactor to the arts, with Dallas being the recipient of many of her greatest contributions. Garson donated millions of dollars to Southern Methodist University in Dallas and funded the Greer Garson Theatre (part of the Meadows School of the Arts) which opened in 1992. The theater features a 366-seat classical thrust stage, which bears a striking resemblance to the Globe Theater in London. SMU holds many of Garson's papers and personal effects, which were donated to the university’s Jake and Nancy Hamon Library. In recognition for her contributions to the arts in Dallas, Garson received the prestigious TACA/Neiman-Marcus Silver Cup Award. The Meadows School of the Arts awarded her their Medal of Distinction. Garson also established an endowment for theater student awards at the College of Santa Fe (now Santa Fe University of Art and Design) in New Mexico, and the Greer Garson Theatre Center on that campus was dedicated in her honor. Garson received the Women’s International Center (WIC) Living Legacy Award in 1990, and in 1993 she received another honor when Queen Elizabeth II named her Commander of the British Empire.

Fogelson and Garson prized education and the advancement of the arts and sciences, establishing multiple endowments and donatives to Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, and the University of Texas Health Science Center. Garson was joined by Fogelson in establishing the E.E. Fogelson and Greer Garson Fogelson Charitable Foundation, which sought to fund a variety of causes, including the creation of the Folgelson Honors Forum at Fogelson’s alma mater, Texas Christian University, through a $1 million dollar donation. In 2010 the Fogelson Honors Forum was in its twelfth year and had engaged some of America’s most sought-after speakers, including Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Governor Jeb Bush, Ben Stein, David McCullough, and Doris Kearns Goodwin. In honor of her husband’s memory, Garson also established the endowed E. E. Fogelson and Greer Garson Fogelson Distinguished Chair in Urology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and the Distinguished Chair in Medical Research at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

Because of her late husband's fight with Parkinson's, Garson had a strong desire to use her name and celebrity status to kindle public awareness of various medical conditions that needed the support of the community in order to make advancements and/or breakthroughs that could only be facilitated through research dollars. By the early 1990s, Garson, a valiant spokeswoman, championed these initiatives at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Texas. The Texas Health Presbyterian Foundation’s most recognized fund-raising event is the annual Greer Garson Gala, a signature event that seeks to raise money and support for programs and services of the hospital. Garson was a zealous healthcare advocate and vociferous supporter of medical research, healthcare, and education. On April 6, 1996, at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Texas, Greer Garson passed away in the company of her close friend, pianist Van Cliburn. She was buried at the Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas.

GPS Coordinates
32° 52.163, -096° 46.761

Fogelson Triangle
Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery
Dallas

July 21, 2015

Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar

Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, son of John and Rebecca (Lamar) Lamar, president of the Republic of Texas, was born near Louisville, Georgia, on August 16, 1798. He grew up at Fairfield, his father's plantation near Milledgeville. He attended academies at Milledgeville and Eatonton and was an omnivorous reader. As a boy he became an expert horseman and an accomplished fencer, began writing verse, and painted in oils. In 1819 he had a brief partnership in a general store at Cahawba, Alabama; in 1821 he was joint publisher of the Cahawba Press for a few months. When George M. Troup was elected governor of Georgia in 1823, Lamar returned to Georgia to become Troup's secretary and a member of his household.

He married Tabitha Jordan of Twiggs County, Georgia, on January 1, 1826, and soon resigned his secretaryship to nurse his bride, who was ill with tuberculosis. In 1828 he moved his wife and daughter, Rebecca Ann, to the new town of Columbus, Georgia, and established the Columbus Enquirer as an organ for the Troup political faction. Lamar was elected state senator in 1829 and was a candidate for reelection when his wife died on August 20, 1830. He withdrew from the race and traveled until he was sufficiently recovered. During this time he composed two of his best known poems, At Evening on the Banks of the Chattahoochee and Thou Idol of My Soul. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1832, helped organize a new party, and was again defeated for Congress in 1834 on a nullification platform. He then sold his interest in the Enquirer and in 1835 followed James W. Fannin, Jr., to Texas to collect historical data. By the time he reached Texas, Lamar's health and spirits began to mend and he decided to settle in the Mexican province. Characteristically, he immediately declared for Texas independence, helped build a fort at Velasco, contributed three poems to the Brazoria Texas Republican, and hurried back to Georgia to settle his affairs.

At the news of the battle of the Alamo and the Goliad Massacre Lamar rushed back to Velasco and inquired the way to the scene of battle. He joined the revolutionary army at Groce's Point as a private. When the Mexican and Texan forces faced each other at San Jacinto on April 20, 1836, Thomas Jefferson Rusk and Walter Paye Lane were surrounded by the enemy. Lamar's quick action the next day saved their lives and brought him a salute from the Mexican lines. As the battle of San Jacinto was about to start, he was verbally commissioned a colonel and assigned to command the cavalry. Ten days after the battle, having become secretary of war in David G. Burnet's cabinet, he demanded that Antonio López de Santa Anna be executed as a murderer. A month later Lamar was major general and commander in chief of the Texas army, but the unruly Texas troops refused to accept him and he retired to civilian life.

In September 1836, in the first national election, Lamar was elected vice president, an office in which he had leisure to augment his historical collections and study Spanish. He spent most of the year 1837 in Georgia being feted as a hero and publicizing the new republic. Upon his return to Texas, he organized the Philosophical Society of Texas on December 5, 1837, and found that his campaign for the presidency of Texas was already under way, sponsored by opponents of President Sam Houston, who by law could not succeed himself. The other candidates, Peter W. Grayson and James Collinsworth both committed suicide before election day, thus assuring Lamar's election by an almost unanimous vote. At his inauguration on December 10, 1838, Lamar declared the purposes of his administration to be promoting the wealth, talent, and enterprises of the country and laying the foundations of higher institutions for moral and mental culture. His term began with Texas in a precarious situation, however: only the United States had recognized her independence, she had no commercial treaties, Mexico was threatening re-conquest, the Indians were menacing, the treasury was empty, and currency was depreciated.

It was characteristic of Lamar to divert the thoughts of his constituents from the harassments of the moment toward laying the foundations of a great empire. Opposed to annexation, he thought Texas should remain a republic and ultimately expand to the Pacific Ocean. For Houston's conciliatory Indian policy, Lamar substituted one of sternness and force. The Cherokees were driven to Arkansas in 1839; in 1840 a campaign against the Comanches quieted the western Indians in the west at a cost of $2.5 million. Lamar sought peace with Mexico first through the good offices of the United States and Great Britain, then by efforts at direct negotiation. When it was clear that Mexico would not recognize Texas, he made a quasi-official alliance with the rebel government in Yucatán and leased to it the Texas Navy. He proposed a national bank, but instead of establishing the bank Congress authorized additional issues of paper money in the form of redbacks, which were greatly depreciated by the end of his administration. Receipts for his administration were $1,083,661; expenditures were $4,855,213.

At Lamar's suggestion, the new capital city of Austin was built on the Indian frontier beside the Colorado River and occupied in October 1839. Another step in his plans for a greater Texas was the Texan Santa Fe expedition, undertaken without congressional approval in the last months of his administration. If it had succeeded, as Lamar had reason to believe it would, this botched venture might have solved many of the problems of Texas; its failure was proof to his enemies that he was "visionary." Lamar's proposal that the Congress establish a system of education endowed by public lands resulted in the act of January 26, 1839, which set aside land for public schools and two universities. Although it was decades before the school system was established, Lamar's advocacy of the program earned for him the nickname "Father of Texas Education." A dictum in one of his messages to Congress, "Cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy," was rendered by Dr. Edwin Fay into Disciplina Praesidium Civitatis, the motto of the University of Texas.

As the national election of 1841 approached, Lamar's popularity was at its lowest ebb, and Texas was at the verge of bankruptcy. The blame cannot be assessed against the president exclusively, however, for most of his policies were implemented by acts of Congress, and economic and political conditions in the United States and abroad blocked measures that might have temporarily stabilized the Texas currency. Forces that neither Lamar nor his enemies fully understood or controlled brought failure to his grandest projects. Smarting under criticism, he retired to his home near Richmond at the end of 1841 and busied himself with his plantation and with the collection of historical materials. After his daughter's death in 1843, he was plunged into melancholia and sought relief in travel. He wrote the poem On the Death of My Daughter, which was later published in the Southern Literary Messenger. At Mobile in 1844 he fell in with a literary coterie that encouraged his interest in poetry. He received callers at the City Hall in New York and was given a courtesy seat in the United States Senate at Washington. Though he had formerly opposed annexation, he had been convinced that Texas statehood was necessary to protect slavery and prevent the state from becoming an English satellite; he therefore lobbied for annexation while in Washington.

With the outbreak of the Mexican War, he joined Zachary Taylor's army at Matamoros as a lieutenant colonel and subsequently fought in the battle of Monterrey. Later he was captain of Texas Mounted Volunteers on the Rio Grande. He organized a municipal government at Laredo and in 1847 represented Nueces and San Patricio counties in the Second Texas Legislature. After 1848 Lamar traveled much and began writing biographical sketches for a proposed history of Texas. He denounced the Compromise of 1850, which convinced him that the interests of the South could be protected only by secession. In February 1851 in New Orleans he married Henrietta Maffitt. Their daughter, Loretto Evalina, was born at Macon, Georgia, in 1852. In 1857 Lamar was appointed United States minister to Nicaragua and Costa Rica, a post he held for twenty months. His Verse Memorials appeared in September 1857. Two months after returning from his diplomatic mission, he died of a heart attack at his Richmond plantation on December 19, 1859. He was buried in the Masonic Cemetery at Richmond.

Lamar had great personal charm, impulsive generosity, and oratorical gifts. His powerful imagination caused him to project a program greater than he or Texas could actualize in three years. His friends were almost fanatically devoted to him; though his enemies declared him a better poet than politician, they never seriously questioned the purity of his motives or his integrity. Lamar County and the town of Lamar in Aransas County were named for him. In 1936 the Texas Centennial Commission placed statues of him in the Hall of State in Dallas and in the cemetery at Richmond. The commission also marked the site of his home near Richmond and the place of his residence as president in Austin, and built a miniature replica of his home on the square at Paris. At his death the Telegraph and Texas Register eulogized him as a "worthy man."

GPS Coordinates
29° 35.136, -095° 45.803

Masonic West Section
Morton Cemetery
Richmond

July 14, 2015

Asa Brigham

Asa Brigham, signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, first treasurer of the Republic of Texas, and mayor of Austin, was born in Massachusetts about 1790. With his wife, Elizabeth S., two sons, a daughter, and a son-in-law, he arrived in Texas from Louisiana in April 1830. In December the ayuntamiento of San Felipe de Austin announced his election as síndico procurador for the precinct of Victoria (Brazoria), and in December 1831 he was elected comisario for the same precinct. He was one of those who signed a document on June 20, 1832, indicating readiness to participate in military operations in the interest of Texas independence. On October 6, 1832, he was elected treasurer for the Brazoria district. Brigham was appointed a member of the Brazoria board of health in 1831.

After 1832 he kept a ferry at Brazoria, where he ran a mercantile business with his son-in-law, and later he was a stockholder in the San Saba Colonization Company and receiver of stock for the Brazos and Galveston Railroad. He acquired leagues of land at Hall's Bayou in Brazoria County and in Galveston and Bastrop counties, and raised sugar, cotton, corn, and cattle. By 1833 his daughter, wife, and son-in-law had all died. Though he held slaves for a time, Brigham later signed petitions for free blacks. As one of those instrumental in establishing a Masonic lodge at Brazoria, he served as junior warden there and was also a charter member of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas, organized at Houston on December 20, 1837.

Independence Hall, location of the Declaration signing
Brigham was elected Brazoria alcalde in 1835. He served as one of four representatives from Brazoria to the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos and was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. He remained at the convention until at least March 16, 1836. David G. Burnet appointed him auditor of the Republic of Texas, and President Sam Houston named him treasurer on December 20, 1836. He was the first to hold the latter office and was reappointed by Mirabeau B. Lamar in January 1839.

On February 16, 1839, Brigham became a Houston alderman while serving as national treasurer. He left the treasury on April 12, 1840; later that year he was charged with using state funds for private purposes but was cleared. Houston reappointed him treasurer on December 31, 1841, and in 1842 Brigham became mayor of Austin. After the death of his first wife he married Mrs. Ann Johnson Mather, on July 8, 1839. He died on July 3, 1844, at Washington, Texas, where he is buried. A monument was erected by the state of Texas at the burial site in 1936, and Brigham's remains were removed to a site in Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site sometime later.

GPS Coordinates
30° 19.566, -096° 10.165


Washington Cemetery
Washington

July 7, 2015

Edmund Jackson Davis

Edmund J. Davis, Union Army officer and Reconstruction governor of Texas, was born at St. Augustine, Florida, on October 2, 1827, the son of William Godwin and Mary Ann (Channer) Davis. His grandfather Godwin Davis, an Englishman, had settled in Virginia and had fought and died in the Revolutionary War. His father, who had lived in South Carolina, was a land developer and attorney at St. Augustine. The young Davis received his education in Florida and moved with his family to Galveston, Texas, in January 1848. There he worked as a clerk in the post office and studied law. In mid-1849 he moved to Corpus Christi, where he worked in a store and read law. He was admitted to the bar in the fall of 1849. Between 1849 and 1853 he was an inspector and deputy collector of customs at Laredo. In 1853 he became district attorney of the Twelfth Judicial District at Brownsville. About 1856 Governor Elisha M. Pease named him judge of the same district, and Davis continued to serve as a state judge until 1861. As judge he accompanied the ranger unit of Capt. William G. Tobin, who was involved in the Cortina affair at Brownsville in 1859.

On April 6, 1858, Davis married Elizabeth Anne Britton, daughter of Forbes Britton, a state senator and friend of Sam Houston. The couple had two sons, Britton and Waters. Britton was born in 1860, attended West Point, and became an officer in the United States Army. Waters, born in 1862, attended the University of Michigan and became an attorney and merchant in El Paso. Davis was a Whig until the mid-1850s. In 1855 he joined the Democratic party in a fusion against the American (Know-Nothing) party, and he remained a Democrat until after the Civil War. In later politics he supported Sam Houston and opposed secession in 1861, when he ran unsuccessfully to become a delegate to the Secession Convention. After secession Davis refused to take the oath of loyalty to the Confederacy, and the state vacated his judgeship on April 24.

As a result of his opposition to the Confederacy, he fled the state in May 1862. With John L. Haynes and William Alexander, he went to New Orleans, then to Washington, where the men met with President Abraham Lincoln, who recommended providing arms to troops that they wanted to raise. On October 26, 1862, Davis received a colonel's commission and authorization to recruit the cavalry regiment that became the First Texas Cavalry (U.S.). Davis and the First Texas saw extensive service during the remainder of the war. They were at Galveston on January 3, 1863, and barely escaped capture when Confederates took that city back from Union hands. On March 15, 1863, Confederate citizens and off-duty soldiers seized Davis in Matamoros, where he was attempting to take his family out of Texas and recruit men for his unit. This event precipitated diplomatic trouble between the Confederacy and Mexico that lasted until Gen. Hamilton P. Bee released Davis to appease Mexican governor Albino López. From November to December 1863 Davis was in Texas as a part of Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks's unsuccessful Rio Grande campaign. His unit marched to Rio Grande City and seized cotton and slaves in an effort to disrupt the border trade. On November 4, 1864, Davis was promoted to brigadier general. For the rest of the war he commanded Gen. Joseph J. Reynolds's cavalry in the Division of Western Mississippi. On June 2, 1865, he was among those who represented Gen. Edward R.S. Canby at Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith's surrender of Confederate forces in Texas.

Davis participated in state politics as a Unionist and Republican after the war. He served in the Constitutional Convention of 1866 and ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate from his old district in the 1866 general election. He represented the border district and was president of the Constitutional Convention of 1868-69. In this period he consistently supported political programs that would have restricted the political rights of secessionists, expanded rights for blacks, and divided the state. He also favored the ab initio theory, which held that all laws passed since secession were null and void.

In the election of 1869 Davis ran for governor against Andrew J. Hamilton, another Republican, and won in a closely disputed race. His administration was a controversial one. Its program called for law and order backed by a State Police and restored militia, public schools, internal improvements, bureaus of immigration and geology, and protection of the frontier. All of these measures encountered strong attacks from both Democratic and Republican opponents and added to the controversy surrounding Reconstruction in Texas. Davis ran for reelection in December 1873 and was defeated by Richard Coke by a vote of two to one. Davis believed that the Republican national administration was partly responsible for his defeat, and relations between the governor and Washington were strained until he was removed from office by Democrats the following January in what is known as the Coke-Davis controversy.

From 1875 until his death Davis, described as a "tall, gaunt, cold-eyed, rather commanding figure," headed the Republican party in Texas as chairman of the state executive committee. In 1880 he ran again for governor but was badly defeated by Oran M. Roberts. In 1882 he ran for Congress in the Tenth District against John Hancock, again unsuccessfully. He was nominated as collector of customs at Galveston in 1880 but refused the job because of his opposition to the administration of President Rutherford B. Hayes. Supporters recommended him for a cabinet position under President Chester A. Arthur, but he received no appointment. Davis died in Austin on February 7, 1883, and is buried there in the State Cemetery.

GPS Coordinates
30° 15.926, -097° 43.637

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery
Austin