May 28, 2019

Albert Clinton Horton (1798-1865)

Albert Clinton Horton, the first lieutenant governor of Texas, son of William and Mary (Thomas) Horton, was born in Hancock County, Georgia, on September 4, 1798. In 1829 he married Eliza Holliday. Before moving to Texas he served as a representative in the Alabama state legislature (1829-30, 1833-34), representing Greensboro district. He arrived in Texas in April 1835 and became an early and active supporter of the Texas Revolution. He traveled to Alabama to recruit volunteers; the company became known as the Mobile Grays and were outfitted at Horton's own expense. He also organized a company of cavalry volunteers in Matagorda in February 1836. Colonel Horton's company joined Col. James Walker Fannin, Jr.'s command in South Texas in early March. On March 19 Horton advanced with a small detachment on a scouting patrol of Coleto Creek. Turning to find the remainder of Fannin's army surrounded by hostile forces, Horton and his patrol fled, an action that saved his life but haunted his later political career. His military service ended on May 1, 1836. From 1836 to 1838 Horton, a Democrat, served as senator in the First and Second congresses of the republic, representing Matagorda, Jackson, and Victoria counties. He campaigned unsuccessfully for the vice presidency in 1838.

In January 1839 he was chosen by the Republic of Texas Congress to chair the committee to select the site of the new capital. On March 7, 1842, Horton was recruited to serve as captain under Colonel Owen, to defend against Rafael Vásquez, and his force of 500-700 Mexican soldiers, who had seized San Antonio. Horton served as a delegate to the Convention of 1845 and subsequently consented to run for lieutenant governor. Voting returns initially awarded the victory to his opponent, Nicholas Henry Darnell, but late returns from several South Texas counties were sufficient to alter the results. On May 1, 1846, Horton was declared the first lieutenant governor of the new state. When Governor James Pinckney Henderson left to assume command of Texas volunteers assembled to deal with troubles with Mexico, Horton served as governor pro tem from May 19, 1846 until Henderson returned on November 13, 1846. He was never elected to another public office, and he emerged from retirement only to attend the Democratic national convention in Charleston in 1860 and the state Secession Congress in 1861. Horton moved to his plantation on Caney Creek in what is now Wharton County, near Wharton, by 1843 and maintained a large home on a plantation in Matagorda County, near the town of Matagorda. On the eve of the Civil War he owned more than 150 slaves and was one of the wealthiest men in the state. During the war, however, he lost most of his money. He was a lifelong Baptist and an original member of the board of trustees that established Baylor University. Of the six children born during his marriage, only a son and a daughter survived him. Horton died on September 1, 1865, at Matagorda, where he is buried. Source

COORDINATES
28° 42.008
-095° 57.333

Section D
Matagorda Cemetery
Matagorda

May 21, 2019

Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias (1911-1956)

Mildred Ella (Babe) Didrikson Zaharias, athlete, was born on June 26, 1911, in Port Arthur, Texas, the sixth of seven children of Norwegian immigrants Ole Nickolene and Hannah Marie (Olson) Didriksen. Ole Didriksen was a seaman and carpenter, and his wife was an accomplished skater in Norway. In 1915 the family moved to Beaumont, Texas, where the children, with the encouragement of both parents, became skilled performers on the rustic gymnasium equipment that their father built in the backyard. Mildred Didrikson, who changed the spelling of her surname, acquired her nickname during sandlot baseball games with the neighborhood boys, who thought she batted like Babe Ruth. A talented basketball player in high school, Didrikson was recruited during her senior year in 1930 to do office work at Employers Casualty Company of Dallas and to spark the company's semi-professional women's basketball team, the Golden Cyclones. Between 1930 and 1932 she led the team to two finals and a national championship and was voted All-American each season. Her exceptional athletic versatility prompted Employers Casualty to expand its women's sports program beyond basketball. Didrikson represented the company as a one-woman team in eight of ten track and field events at the 1932 Amateur Athletic Union Championships. She placed in seven events, taking first place in five - shot put, javelin and baseball throws, eighty-meter hurdles, and long jump; she tied for first in the high jump and finished fourth in the discus throw. In three hours Didrikson single-handedly amassed thirty points, eight more than the entire second-place team, and broke four world records. Her performances in the javelin throw, hurdles, and high jump qualified her to enter the 1932 Olympics, where she again broke world records in all three events. She won gold medals for the javelin and hurdles and, despite clearing the same height as the top finisher in the high jump, was awarded the silver medal because she went over the bar head first, a foul at that time.

Didrikson received a heroine's welcome on her return to Texas. She had started another basketball season with the Golden Cyclones when the Amateur Athletic Union disqualified her from amateur competition because her name appeared in an automobile advertisement. Her family was badly in need of money, and Didrikson turned professional to earn what she could from her status as a sports celebrity. Never hesitant to capitalize on her own abilities or to turn a profit from showmanship, she spent 1932-34 promoting and barnstorming. She did a brief stint in vaudeville playing the harmonica and running on a treadmill and pitched in some major league spring-training games; she also toured with a billiards exhibition, a men's and women's basketball team called Babe Didrikson's All-Americans, and an otherwise all-male, bearded baseball road team called the House of David. Since golf was one of the few sports that accommodated women athletes, Didrikson made up her mind to become a championship player, and between engagements she spent the spring and summer of 1933 in California taking lessons from Stan Kertes. Her first tournament was the Fort Worth Women's Invitational in November 1932; at her second, the Texas Women's Amateur Championship the following April, she captured the title. Complaints from more socially polished members of the Texas Women's Golf Association led the United States Association to rule her ineligible to compete as an amateur, thus disqualifying her from virtually all tournament play. Didrikson resumed the lucrative routine of exhibition tours and endorsements, impressing audiences with smashing drives that regularly exceeded 240 yards. She met George Zaharias, a well-known professional wrestler and sports promoter, when she qualified at the 1938 Los Angeles Open, a men's Professional Golfers' Association tournament. They were married on December 23, 1938, and Zaharias thereafter managed his wife's career.

She regained her amateur standing in 1943 and went on to win seventeen consecutive tournaments, including the British Women's Amateur Championship (she was the first American to win it), before turning professional in 1947. The following year Didrikson helped found the Ladies Professional Golf Association in order to provide the handful of professional women golfers with a tournament circuit. She was herself the LPGA's leading money winner between 1949 and 1951. In 1950 the Associated Press voted her Woman Athlete of the Half-Century. In April 1953 Didrikson underwent a colostomy to remove cancerous tissue. Despite medical predictions that she would never be able to play championship golf again, she was in tournament competition fourteen weeks after surgery, and the Golf Writers of America voted her the Ben Hogan Trophy as comeback player of the year. In 1954 she won five tournaments, including the United States Women's Open. Portrayed as a courageous survivor in the press, Didrikson played for cancer fund benefits and maintained her usual buoyant public persona, but in June 1955 she was forced to reenter John Sealy Hospital at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston for further diagnosis. Medical treatment was unable to contain the spreading cancer, and Didrikson spent much of the remaining fifteen months of her life in the hospital. In September 1955 she and her husband established the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Fund, which financed a tumor clinic at UTMB. She died at John Sealy Hospital on September 27, 1956, at the age of forty-five, and was buried in Beaumont. Didrikson's exuberant confidence, self-congratulatory manner, and cultivation of her celebrity status irritated some fellow athletes, but she was the most popular female golfer of her own time and since. She enjoyed playing to the gallery in her golf matches, and her wisecracks and exhibitions of virtuosity delighted spectators. She was voted Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press six times during her career. Between 1940 and 1950 she won every women's golf title, including the world championship (four times) and the United States Women's Open (three times). She established a national audience for women's golf and was the first woman ever to serve as a resident professional at a golf club. In 1955, a year before her death, she established the Babe Zaharias Trophy to honor outstanding female athletes. Source

COORDINATES
30° 07.620
-094° 05.927

Zaharias Circle
Forest Lawn Memorial Park
Beaumont

May 14, 2019

James Wilson Henderson (1817-1880)

James Wilson Henderson, governor, was born in Sumner County, Tennessee, on August 15, 1817. At the age of nineteen he left college near Georgetown, Kentucky, to travel to Texas, expecting to participate in the struggle for independence. He arrived in Texas shortly after the battle of San Jacinto and was sent back to the United States on recruiting service. When he returned to Texas, Sam Houston offered him a commission in the ranger service, but he declined, having decided to settle in Harris County and become a surveyor. While he was county surveyor of Harris County, Henderson began reading law in his spare time and was admitted to the bar. In 1842 he interrupted his practice to enlist as Orderly Sergeant to Capt. Jack Hays from September 1842 to January 7, 1843, on the Somervell expedition. On September 4, 1843, he defeated Col. James Morgan for a seat in the House of Representatives, to which he was reelected in 1844. After annexation Henderson was elected to the House of the First Texas Legislature. In 1847 he was reelected and chosen speaker, defeating former president Mirabeau B. Lamar. On June 6, 1848, Henderson was married to Laura A. Hooker. He was defeated for lieutenant governor in 1849 but elected to the position on August 4, 1851. Governor Peter H. Bell resigned his office, effective November 23, 1853, and on that day Henderson was inaugurated governor of Texas; he served until December 21. He was reelected to the legislature in 1857. His wife died on July 21, 1856, leaving him with two sons. Later he was married to Saphira Elizabeth Price; they had three children. When the Civil War broke out Henderson joined the Confederate Army and was made a captain under Gen. John B. Magruder. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1866, a member of the executive committee at the Democratic state convention in 1868, and vice president of the state Democratic convention in 1871. He was afflicted with paralysis in 1877 and died at the home of his sister in Houston on August 30, 1880. Source

COORDINATES
29° 45.917
-095° 23.085

Section F3
Glenwood Cemetery
Houston

May 7, 2019

Jiles "The Big Bopper" Richardson (1930-1959)

The Big Bopper, disc jockey, songwriter, and singer, was born Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr., on October 24, 1930, in Sabine Pass, Texas. He was the son of Jiles and Elsie Richardson. He usually went by the initials J. P. and briefly used the nickname Jape, before settling on the pseudonym, "The Big Bopper," on air and when recording. He is best-known for his hit, Chantilly Lace, which reached Number 6 on the charts in 1958, and for dying in a plane crash with Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly. His family moved to Beaumont when he was very young. At Beaumont High School he sang in the school choir as well as played on the football team. He graduated from Beaumont High School in 1947 and enrolled at Lamar College. While still a teenager, Richardson began working as a disc jockey at KTRM radio in Beaumont, and he soon left college to work full-time. He eventually became program director while still working as a disc jockey. His colorful on-air personality (a stark contrast to the naturally shy Richardson) made him a very popular disc jockey in the Golden Triangle area. Richardson was influenced early by country singers but soon moved into the realm of rock-and-roll. In 1958 he traveled to Houston's Gold Star Studios to record songs for Pappy Daily's D Records. Richardson recorded his novelty song, Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor, as the A-side of a single that he hoped would capitalize on the popularity of other novelty songs that had recently been released. For the B-side he recorded Chantilly Lace, which he reportedly penned as an afterthought in the backseat of the car while driving to the session. At the recording session, he also reportedly formally adopted his nickname "The Big Bopper" as his musical persona. Unexpectedly, the record's B-side, Chantilly Lace, quickly gained the attention of radio programmers and listening audiences, and Daily released it on his D label and subsequently leased it to Mercury Records for national distribution.

Chantilly Lace became very successful and would eventually go gold and multi-platinum as an early hit in rock-and-roll history. It was by far the most famous record on Daily's D label. Songs from the Gold Star sessions comprised Richardson's only album, Chantilly Lace. He followed with Little Red Riding Hood and Big Bopper's Wedding, which were also hits but not of the same caliber as Chantilly Lace. Richardson's song, White Lightning became the first Number 1 hit for George Jones in 1959. Later that year, his song Running Bear became a Number 1 hit for fellow Texan Johnny Preston. The Bopper wrote about thirty-eight songs during his life and recorded twenty-one of them. Most of his recordings were classified as novelty songs that did not have lasting popularity. His appeal was largely in his flamboyant stage performances. He wore checkered jackets and zoot suits and used a prop phone during Chantilly Lace to talk to his girl. In 1958 he also made a pioneering video for the hit song and later coined the term "music video" for the production. In order to maintain his showman image, he did not wear his wedding ring in public and generally kept his marriage to Adrianne "Teetsie" Fryou, a secret from his fans. The couple had two children. With his newfound fame, Richardson resigned his position as disc jockey at KTRM in Beaumont in order to perform full-time by November 1958. In this capacity, he appeared on the top pop shows of the day and was booked on the "Winter Dance Party" tour with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. On February 2, 1959, Richardson, Holly, and Valens played a show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. They were scheduled to play in North Dakota the next day. After the show Holly and Valens chartered a plane so that they could rest before their bands arrived. Richardson, who had the flu, was supposed to take the bus, but at the last minute switched places with Holly's band member, Waylon Jennings. The plane went down just after takeoff at about 1:00 A.M. in Mason County, Iowa, killing the pilot and all three musicians. Richardson was survived by his wife and a daughter and son. He was buried in Beaumont. In the late 1980s the Port Arthur Historical Society commissioned sculptor Donald Clark to create a memorial to the musicians. The piece was initially displayed at a Fabulous Thunderbirds benefit concert on February 3, 1989, thirty years after the crash. The Big Bopper is an inductee in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and is honored in the Music Hall of Fame at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur. In 2004 he was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. The following year the Texas Historical Commission erected a marker in his honor. His body was reburied next to his wife in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Beaumont in 2007. In 2008 he was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame.  Source 

COORDINATES
30° 07.380
-094° 06.004

Tranquility Garden
Forest Lawn Memorial Park
Beaumont