November 24, 2009

George Eastland Christian (1927-2002)

George Eastland Christian, Jr. , a fifth-generation Texan, was born January 1, 1927, in Austin. He graduated from Austin High School in 1944 and enlisted at 17 in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served as a rifleman in the Second Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force-Pacific, and was among the first troops to occupy atomic bomb-ravaged Nagasaki, Japan. After World War II, he attended the University of Texas on the G.I. Bill of Rights and became sports editor of the Daily Texan. His close association with U.T. continued thereafter. His professional career began with a seven-year stint as capitol correspondent for International News Service under bureau chief Bill Carter. He was recruited by Jake Pickle and Joe Greenhill in 1956 to work on the staff of U.S. Senator Price Daniel. After Daniel became governor, Christian was his press secretary and then chief of staff. He later joined Governor John Connally as press secretary, a post he served at the time Connally was wounded during the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

In 1966, Christian joined the White House staff, working with National Security Advisor Walt Rostow and then succeeding Bill Moyers as President Johnson's press secretary. He served three turbulent years at the White House during the height of the Cold War, the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, the Vietnam conflict, and some of the nation's most severe racial crises. After serving President Lyndon Baines Johnson from 1966 to 1969, Christian began a successful career as a public affairs and political consultant. He also volunteered a large part of his time to fundraising for the University of Texas, historical preservation projects, and many other causes. A prolific writer since his teens, Christian wrote hundreds of speeches for public officials, authored a book, The President Steps Down, commissioned by Macmillan in 1969, and edited or contributed to a number of others, including The World of Texas Politics and LBJ: The White House Years. He was guest columnist for the Dallas Morning News for many years and also wrote frequently for the Houston Post and the Houston Chronicle. He was a frequent guest on television, news and history programs, both nationally and in Texas. He remained active in all respects until his death in 2002. Source

30° 15.914
-097° 43.613

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

November 17, 2009

William Henry Barnes (1841-1866)

Born in St. Mary's County, Maryland, Barnes was a 23 year old farmer when he enlisted in the Union Army on February 11, 1864. Only a few months after his enlistment, the morning of September 29th, 1864 found Private Barnes on the outskirts of Richmond, VA. His regiment, the 38th U.S. Colored Troops (USCT), along with the 4th, 5th, 6th and 36th USCT were about to lead an attack on seasoned and entrenched Confederate soldiers, including five infantry regiments from the Texas Brigade, led by Col. Frederick Bass. The Battle of New Market Heights (a.k.a. Battle of Chaffin's Farm) would be the first major battle in Virginia where African American troops led an assault. It was a brutal morning for these men, and the last for many. After crossing hundreds of yards of rising ground, the 4th and 6th regiments neared the rebel lines and were killed in great numbers when their advance was stopped at the first line of barricades (abatis).

Sgt. Major Christian Fleetwood, 4th USCT, described the battle in his diary. "It was a deadly hailstorm of bullets sweeping men down as hailstones sweep the leaves from trees. It was very evident that there was too much work cut out for our two regiments.We struggled through two lines of abatis, a few getting through the palisades, but it was sheer madness". A second assault was ordered that included the 5th, 36th and 38th but the results were similar to what had occurred to the 4th and 6th regiments. Colonel Alonzo G. Draper, commander of the 2nd Brigade USCT, filed a report while recuperating from wounds sustained in the battle in which he described the assault, "After passing about 300 yards through young pines, always under fire, we emerged upon the open plain about 800 yards from the enemy's works. Within twenty or thirty yards of the rebel line we found a swamp which broke the charge. Our men were falling by the scores. All the officers were striving constantly to get the men forward." Ultimately, the fire from the rebels began to lessen as they withdrew from their positions and the USCT continued to their objective and finally entered the confederate position after great loss of men killed outright or wounded. The battle of New Market Heights was considered a great success by the Union Army officers as it was determined they could count on African American soldiers to fight to the death if called upon. A soldier from the Texas Brigade, J.D. Pickens, summed up the fighting of the USCT they faced that day writing, "I want to say in this connection that, in my opinion, no troops up to that time had fought us with move bravery than did those Negroes".

On April 6, 1865, Private William Henry Barnes was awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation reads: "Among the first to enter the enemy's works, although wounded." Fourteen of the 16 recipients of the Medal of Honor awarded to black soldiers in the Civil War were for action at New Market Heights. Barnes and approximately 200 more members of the USCT would also be awarded the Butler Medal, created by Gen. Benjamin Butler to honor the USCT under his command. After the end of the Civil War in May 1865, Barnes came to Texas with his 38th USCT after it was assigned to assist in Reconstruction as part of the 25th Corp. On July 1, 1865, William Barnes was promoted to Sergeant. This was the highest rank that he could achieve as a soldier in the Union Army. The service of the 38th USCT in Texas would include Brownsville and various points on the Rio Grande, Brazos Santiago Island, Galveston and finally Indianola. While the number of African American troops in Texas eventually became the majority of all Federal troops in the state, numbering close to 26,000, they began to withdraw in the fall of 1865 with the last leaving in 1867. On Christmas eve of 1866, Sgt. Barnes died in the City Hospital and was buried at Indianola. He had been ill since July 1866 with tuberculosis or "consumption" as it is described as the cause of death in his service records. After the Civil War, soldiers that had died at, or near, Indianola, were disinterred and reinterred in the San Antonio National Cemetery in a common grave. A marker was erected at the San Antonio National Cemetery in memory of William H. Barnes. From this marker, the group burial site where Barnes is interred can be seen. In 2013, a Texas Historical Marker in honor of Sgt. William H. Barnes was placed at the Indianola Cemetery. Source

Among the first to enter the enemy's works; although wounded.

29° 25.276, -098° 28.022

Section MA
San Antonio National Cemetery
San Antonio

November 10, 2009

Wyly Martin (1776-1842)

Wyly (Wiley) Martin, soldier, judge, and legislator, was born in Georgia in 1776. As a young man he worked as a clerk, as a teacher, and at a variety of other occupations. During the War of 1812 he was commissioned a third lieutenant in the Ninth United States Infantry on August 9, 1813. He served as a scout for Gen. William Henry Harrison and fought under Gen. Andrew Jackson at the battle of Horseshoe Bend, Alabama. He was promoted to first lieutenant in the Thirty-ninth Infantry on July 29, 1813, and to captain of the Third Rifle Regiment on March 17, 1814. He was honorably discharged on June 15, 1815, and reinstated on December 2. On June 1, 1821, he transferred to the Sixth Infantry. He resigned his commission on July 21, 1823, reputedly because he killed a man in a duel.

In 1825 he immigrated to Texas, where he was appointed alcalde of Stephen F. Austin's colony. In 1835 he was acting jefe político of the Department of the Brazos. He was a delegate from San Felipe de Austin to the conventions of 1832, 1833, and 1835. As a member of the so-called "Peace party," Martin disavowed the actions of William B. Travis and others of the "War party" at Anahuac and was opposed to Texas independence from Mexico; but with the coming of the Texas Revolution he signed the declaration of war against Antonio López de Santa Anna's Centralist regime, on November 7, 1835. At Bexar in December he drew a pen-and-ink sketch of Travis, the only known portrait of the man done from life. Martin raised a company that joined Sam Houston's army at Columbus. He was promoted to major and detached to guard the crossings of the lower Brazos River, then flanked out of his position at Fort Bend when the Mexican army crossed at the site of present Richmond. Although both Houston and secretary of war Thomas J. Rusk approved his action in falling back before superior numbers of the enemy, Martin was irate because he had been given an inadequate command - forty-six men - to observe the four fords and ferries he was responsible for holding. When he was ordered on April 13 to rejoin the main army at the Donaho plantation, he marched his force back to Houston's headquarters and relinquished his command. Subsequently, he was an outspoken opponent of Houston and his political policies.

Martin saw little service for the remainder of the war, and on May 15 Rusk regretfully accepted his resignation. After independence Martin made his home in Fort Bend County, where he was appointed chief justice of the county on December 29, 1837, and was elected to the post on September 6, 1841. He was admitted to the bar in 1838. He was elected to represent Austin, Colorado, and Fort Bend counties in Congress. At age sixty-five, he was the oldest senator in the Sixth Congress of the Republic of Texas. He died at the home of Randal Jones in the Fort Bend settlement on April 26, 1842, in the interval between sessions. Martin County is named for him. Source

29° 34.659
-095° 45.420

Dyer Cemetery

November 3, 2009

Jimmy Nelson (1919-2007)

T-99 Nelson was an American jump blues and rhythm and blues shouter and songwriter; he got his start singing in church. In 1941, he saw a performance by Big Joe Turner while he was visiting Oakland, California, and realized he wanted to sing the blues. Turner taught Nelson about singing, performance and the music business. Nelson, in turn, absorbed the shouting style of his mentor. From 1951 through 1961, Jimmy Nelson and the Peter Rabbit Trio released eight singles with the Bihari Brothers' Modern/RPM label. The biggest of these was T-99 Blues (which referred to the old Texas Highway #99), which debuted in June 1951. It stayed on the US Billboard R&B chart for twenty-one weeks and reached number 1.

In 1952, Nelson had another RPM hit with Meet Me With Your Black Dress On. He began touring, performing with bands led by Joe Liggins and Roy Milton, and playing venues including the Apollo and Howard theaters. He cut singles for a number of labels including Kent, Music City, Paradise and All Boy, and Chess. In 1955, Nelson married and adopted Houston, Texas as his hometown. For the next 20 years, he settled down and took a job working construction, though he continued to write songs and sit in with bands. In the 1980s, Nelson came to the wider attention of blues fans when Ace issued ten of his sides on an album. Sweet Sugar Daddy, a compilation album from the Japanese P-Vine Records, which mainly consisted of unreleased studio recordings from the 1960s and 1970s, was also released in 1988.

He resumed touring and in 1999, released a comeback album Rockin' and Shoutin' the Blues from the Bullseye Blues & Jazz label. This album was nominated in two categories of the W.C. Handy Awards the following year. Two more newly recorded albums followed on his own Nettie Marie label prior to his death, both featuring an all-star back-up band including Duke Robillard. In 2004, Ace released Cry Hard Luck, featuring re-issues of Nelson's Kent & RPM recordings from 1951-1961. Nelson died of cancer at a nursing home in Houston on July 29, 2007.

Note: Jimmy Nelson's grave is presently unmarked. It is located beneath Yolanda Flanagan's and to the left of Robert Taylor's markers.

29° 33.738
-095° 21.163

Section 19
Houston Memorial Gardens