December 25, 2012

William George Harrell (1922-1964)

World War II Medal of Honor recipient William George Harrell was born on June 26, 1922, in Rio Grande City, Texas, to Roy E. and Hazel Marion (Culver) Harrell. His father served in the cavalry in World War I, worked as a ranch hand, and patrolled the Mexican border as an employee of the Bureau of Immigration. After the death of Roy Harrell in 1931, Hazel Harrell was left to support William, his older brother Dick, and his sister Virginia. As a youngster, Harrell attended school in Rio Grande City and in Mercedes. In junior high school, he was a member of the Boy Scouts. Like his father, Harrell developed a love for horses. He also enjoyed camping and hunting and spent much of his time boating at a local lake. He worked in the summer at various jobs including a stint on a ranch. In 1939 Harrell graduated from Mercedes High School and enrolled at Texas A&M University. In September 1939 Harrell arrived at Texas A&M and remained there for four semesters. With an interest in the scientific breeding of horses and cattle, he selected animal husbandry as his field of study and selected the cavalry as his military science requirement. An aunt provided some financial support, but Harrell understood that he had to finance his own way. After two years in College Station, he decided to seek employment in order to pay for his the rest of his education. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he sought to join the military. After being rejected twice by the United States Army Air Corps due to color blindness and once by the United States Navy, Harrell enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in July 1942. He took basic training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and received training as an armorer at Camp Elliott. After completing the basic rocket course, Harrell was assigned to Company A, Twenty-eighth Marine Regiment, Fifth Marine Division in early 1943.

   After additional training in Hawaii and then Saipan, Sergeant Harrell hit the beach on Iwo Jima with the Twenty-eighth in the early hours of February 19, 1945. The Fifth Division was ordered to the southern part of the island facing Mount Suribachi. The marines had taken Mount Suribachi and one of the two airfields by February 24. In the early morning of March 3, Harrell and fellow Texan PFC Andrew J. Carter of Paducah manned a foxhole in a perimeter defense about twenty yards in front of the company command post. At about 5:00 A.M., the enemy attacked. Carter shot first and killed four Japanese moving toward him. Sergeant Harrell rapidly fired his carbine and killed two Japanese that had emerged from a ravine. After Carter’s rifle jammed, Harrell ordered him to the rear to secure another one. Fighting alone and ignoring the dangers of enemy grenades landing near him, Harrell fought the Japanese and took enemy fire that shot off his left hand and fractured his thigh. After securing a rifle, Carter returned to aid Harrell. Unable to reload his rifle, Harrell drew a pistol with his right hand to kill a Japanese officer who slashed Carter’s hand with a samurai sword. Convinced his comrade might bleed to death, Harrell ordered him to the command post. Although exhausted and injured, Harrell found the strength to kill two more Japanese charging him; one with pistol fire and the other with a grenade that exploded and tore off his (Harrell’s) right hand. After the fighting, medics found Harrell and twelve dead Japanese by him. Harrell’s commander called the position the “two-man Alamo.” For their heroics, Harrell received the Medal of Honor, and Carter received the Navy Cross.

   First treated for his wounds at the Army Hospital Station on Iwo Jima, Harrell was later moved to a U.S. Naval hospital at Pearl Harbor and then to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Mare Island, California. While undergoing treatment and rehabilitation at the Mare Island Hospital, Harrell met Larena Anderson, a clerical worker at the local naval base. They married on February 16, 1946. Their son William Carter was born in 1947 and daughter Linda Gail in 1948. President Harry S. Truman presented the Medal of Honor to Harrell in a ceremony at the White House on October 5, 1945. With his new bride William Harrell returned to Mercedes, Texas, in early 1946 and was welcomed home as a hero. The local Kiwanis Club along with several other groups raised $25,000 for the marine hero to purchase a ranch. Harrell accepted a job with the Veterans Administration as a contact representative and relocated to San Antonio where he purchased a home. Equipped with general hooks for hands, Harrell appeared to have adapted well after the war. He later served as the chief of the Prosthetic Appliance Group with the Veterans Administration, worked with disabled veterans, and was a frequent speaker to groups and an advocate for disabled veterans. Harrell’s first marriage ended in divorce. In 1951 he married Olive Cortese; they had two children - Christie Lee and Gary Douglas.

   Tragically, William Harrell used a rifle to kill Ed and Geraldine Zumwalt and then himself in the early morning hours of August 9, 1964 at his home in San Antonio. Ed Zumwalt, who had lost part of his leg during the Korean War, had known Harrell for about a year. Friends of Harrell and the Zumwalts knew of no friction between them. Dr. Ruben Santos, the medical examiner, stated a motive “probably never will be established.” William Harrell was buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery on August 11, 1964. Harrell has been honored in a various ways. In Mercedes, Texas, a monument of Harrell stands in the center of town, and the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps building is named for him. Texas A&M named a dormitory William G. Harrell Hall, placed a large bronze plaque of him in the Sam Houston Sanders Corps of Cadets Center, and hung an artist’s portrait of him with a specimen Medal of Honor and the citation for his medal in the Memorial Student Center.  On December 11, 2015, the Mercedes ISD rededicated the new North Middle School as the William George Harrell Middle School in his honor. Source 

CITATION
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as leader of an assault group attached to the 1st Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division during hand-to-hand combat with enemy Japanese at Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, on 3 March 1945. Standing watch alternately with another marine in a terrain studded with caves and ravines, Sgt. Harrell was holding a position in a perimeter defense around the company command post when Japanese troops infiltrated our lines in the early hours of dawn. Awakened by a sudden attack, he quickly opened fire with his carbine and killed 2 of the enemy as they emerged from a ravine in the light of a star shellburst. Unmindful of his danger as hostile grenades fell closer, he waged a fierce lone battle until an exploding missile tore off his left hand and fractured his thigh. He was vainly attempting to reload the carbine when his companion returned from the command post with another weapon. Wounded again by a Japanese who rushed the foxhole wielding a saber in the darkness, Sgt. Harrell succeeded in drawing his pistol and killing his opponent and then ordered his wounded companion to a place of safety. Exhausted by profuse bleeding but still unbeaten, he fearlessly met the challenge of 2 more enemy troops who charged his position and placed a grenade near his head. Killing 1 man with his pistol, he grasped the sputtering grenade with his good right hand, and, pushing it painfully toward the crouching soldier, saw his remaining assailant destroyed but his own hand severed in the explosion. At dawn Sgt. Harrell was evacuated from a position hedged by the bodies of 12 dead Japanese, at least 5 of whom he had personally destroyed in his self-sacrificing defense of the command post. His grim fortitude, exceptional valor, and indomitable fighting spirit against almost insurmountable odds reflect the highest credit upon himself and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

COORDINATES
29° 28.572
-098° 25.794

Section W
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery
San Antonio

December 18, 2012

John Bowden Connally (1917-1993)

John Bowden Connally, Jr., thirty-eighth governor of the state of Texas, was born on a farm near Floresville, Texas, on February 27, 1917, one of eight children of John Bowden and Lela (Wright) Connally, Sr. He attended Harlandale High School in San Antonio, graduated from Floresville High School, and entered the University of Texas in 1933. He was elected president of the UT Student Association for 1938-39 and received his law degree from the UT law school in 1941. Connally passed the state bar examination in 1938 and began his career in government and politics in 1939 as secretary (legislative assistant) to Representative Lyndon B. Johnson, Connally's "mentor, friend and benefactor." It was the beginning of a close personal relationship that was storied but often stormy, and lasted until Johnson's death in 1973. Connally met Idanell (Nellie) Brill of Austin at UT and they were married on December 21, 1940. They had four children. Their eldest, Kathleen, eloped in 1958 at age sixteen and the same year died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. Connally was commissioned in the United States Naval Reserve in 1941. As a fighter director aboard aircraft carriers, he went through nine major air-sea battles in the Pacific Theater. Aboard the USS Essex he endured fifty-two consecutive hours of Japanese kamikaze attacks in April 1945. He attained the rank of lieutenant commander and came home a hero.

After returning to civilian life, Connally headed an investors' group of war veterans that owned and operated Austin radio station KVET (1946-49). He also joined an influential Austin law firm and during this period served as campaign manager in LBJ's 1946 reelection to Congress and successful 1948 Senate race. He then served as LBJ's aide until 1951, when he became Sid W. Richardson's legal counsel, a position he held until Richardson's death in 1959. Connally earned a reputation both as "Lyndon's boy" and as a "political mastermind" and expert strategist. His political credo was "Fight hard and rough, but when the battle is over, forget and dismiss." Connally managed five of LBJ's major political campaigns, including reelection to the United States House of Representatives in 1946, the 1941 and 1948 races for the United States Senate, the unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960, and the election to the presidency in 1964. In LBJ's pivotal 1948 Senate race against former governor Coke R. Stevenson, Connally, as LBJ's campaign manager, was publicly linked to the suspicious late report of 200 votes in Box 13 from Jim Wells County, which had provided LBJ's eighty-seven-vote margin of victory. Connally denied any tie to vote fraud, but acknowledged that he had learned a lesson in managing LBJ's unsuccessful 1941 race for the Senate, when Johnson's seemingly decisive 5,000-vote lead had been whittled away by late election returns from East Texas. LBJ lost the 1941 race by 1,311 votes. In 1948 Connally instructed South Texas campaign operatives to understate their early returns in the vote canvassing because, he claimed, "we had been bitten once. It would not happen again." Connally also ably assisted in various political turf skirmishes, including fights to control the state Democratic party. In these he was a field operative or grass-roots political ally of both LBJ and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, who considered themselves leaders of the state party's "moderate conservative wing."

One major struggle for party control was fought in 1952-56 against the "right-wing Shivercrats," led by Governor Allan Shivers, who bolted in 1952 and led a "Democrats for Eisenhower" move that helped the Republican presidential candidate carry Texas. A second, and longer-running, feud that extended through Connally's tenure as governor was with liberal senator Ralph Yarbrough. Divisions between liberal and conservative-moderate Democrats became a personal feud between Lyndon Johnson and Yarbrough, and Connally found himself embroiled in the feud because of his close ties to Johnson. Connally served as U. S. Secretary of the Navy in 1961 in the cabinet of Democrat President John F. Kennedy. He won his first political race as a candidate for governor the next year. He was tall, handsome, personable, and articulate; his speech reflected his debate, drama, and declamation training in high school and college. He was also well-schooled in politics and government and had profited from his experience as Sid Richardson's legal counsel. Connally entered the race against a large field of candidates, including Governor Price Daniel, Sr., who was seeking a fourth term. A poll showed that Connally had only 4 percent of the votes at the outset. But in addition to wealthy backers such as the oilman Richardson, he had a strong grass-roots network of politically astute supporters. Connally won a 1962 runoff by 26,000 votes.

The next year he survived serious gunshot wounds inflicted in the Kennedy assassination. He speculated that both he and JFK might have been the assassin's targets. He was reelected by a 3-to-1 vote margin in 1964 and won a third term in 1966 with 72 percent of the vote. Connally had grown up on his family's South Texas cotton farm in the hard-scrabble status of "a barefoot boy of mule-plowed furrows." His accomplishments as governor "epitomized the big man of Texas" and "personified the Texas establishment as the Texas establishment wanted to see itself." He considered himself "a conservative who believed in active government." He had a vision of moving Texas into a dynamic era and entered the governorship saying that his administration should emphasize one of three crucial issues of the day: education, race relations, or poverty. He chose to be "an education governor" both because he believed that the most enduring way to address social problems was through education and because he "had a farm boy's dream to become the governor of the intellectuals and of the cultivated." Connally effectively used his political skills to increase taxes substantially in order to finance higher teachers' salaries, better libraries, research, and new doctoral programs. He considered this the crowning achievement of his administration. He promoted programs to reshape and reform state government, to develop the state's tourism industry (including his endorsement of liquor by the drink and pari-mutuel betting), to establish a state fine arts commission and a state historical commission, and to establish the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, which was initiated as part of HemisFair '68, a state-supported world's fair at San Antonio.

After leaving the governor's office in 1969 Connally joined Vinson and Elkins, a large law firm in Houston named for William Ashton Vinson and James A. Elkins, both early principals in the firm. The same year, he was named a member of President Richard M. Nixon's foreign-intelligence advisory board and assumed a favored position among Nixon's advisors (it was said that "If Connally is not for a matter, the President won't do it"). In 1971 he became Nixon's Secretary of the Treasury and earned a reputation as "a tough American statesman." He sought to address the nation's growing trade deficit and inflation by such mechanisms as currency devaluation and a price freeze. In 1972 he spearheaded a Democrats for Nixon organization that helped the Republican president carry Texas. Connally switched parties from Democrat to Republican in 1973, three months after LBJ's death. In the wake of the bribery-related resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew in October 1973, Nixon passed word that he would name Connally to fill the vacancy. This would have put Connally in a strong position to run for president in 1976. Nixon and Connally had privately mused about starting a new Whig-type party in the tradition of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. But Democrats and Republicans alike in the Senate erupted in a "firestorm of protest." Warnings went up that if Nixon pursued the appointment, some powerful Senate Democrats "would be determined to destroy Connally." This was during the height of the Watergate scandal, which ultimately forced Nixon to resign. Nixon named House minority leader Gerald Ford vice president but said that he intended to support Connally for the 1976 GOP nomination. In the aftermath, Connally rejoined Vinson and Elkins but soon confronted a criminal prosecution for alleged bribery and conspiracy in a "milk-price" scandal. He was acquitted after a trial in federal court.

Connally's aborted effort to win the GOP's presidential nomination in 1980 was short-lived. He was hurt in part by a "wheeler-dealer" identification reminiscent of LBJ, and a press criticism that he was a political "chameleon." He was also damaged by a 1977 bank partnership he entered into with two Arab sheikhs and an ill-advised or misunderstood speech he delivered to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. in 1979, that was interpreted as having anti-Semitic overtones. Connally raised and spent $11 million on the fourteen-month campaign but dropped out of the primaries, having gained the binding commitment of only one GOP convention delegate. He felt himself to be a victim of the Watergate scandal. After he lost his bid for the presidential nomination in 1980, he left politics and government. In February 1982 Connally, a man of some wealth, took mandatory retirement from Vinson and Elkins. In 1981 he went into the business of real estate development with his former political protégé, Ben Barnes. In the partnership Connally was the "intimidating Olympian eminence," and Barnes was the "sometimes overpowering salesman and legman." Both had superb business and political contacts in the state and nation "and saw no reason why the values of their political life could not work equally well in their business life." The partners "conducted business," however, "as if they were campaigning for higher office." They signed personal notes on loans bearing short-term interest at 18 percent and by June 1983 had sixteen major projects under way totaling $231 million.

It was a boom time in the Texas petroleum industry, with world oil prices ranging up to thirty-seven dollars a barrel. When the oil price collapsed, the state's economy collapsed. Connally and Barnes were out on a limb that broke and took them with it, along with many other wealthy Texans and most of the state's major financial institutions. The fiasco led Connally to acknowledge that "we were moving too far too fast and paying dearly for it." He declared bankruptcy, and he and Nellie held a globally publicized auction of their holdings and expensive personal belongings to apply the proceeds to their debt. The positions Connally held in law and business had taken him to the high echelons of corporate America. He was a director of the Coastal Corporation, Kaiser Tech, Kaiser Aluminum, Methodist Hospital of Houston, and Maxxam, Incorporated. He had earlier served on the boards of the New York Central Railroad, U.S. Trust, Pan American Airways, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, Greyhound Corporation, Ford Motor Company, Signal Companies, First City Bank Corporation, Superior Oil Company, Falkenbridge Nickel, and American General Insurance. He was a member of the State Bar of Texas, and the American, Houston, and District of Columbia Bar associations. Connally died on June 15, 1993, at the Methodist Hospital of Houston, where he was being treated for pulmonary fibrosis. He was buried in the State Cemetery in Austin. He was survived by his wife, a daughter, Sharon C. Ammann, and two sons, John Bowden III and Mark. Source

COORDINATES
30° 15.937
-097° 43.631

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery
Austin

December 11, 2012

Jack English Hightower (1926-2013)

Born September 6, 1926 in Memphis, Texas, Hightower served as a United States Navy sailor for two years during World War II. In 1949, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and in 1951 procured an LLB from Baylor Law School. He was admitted to the Texas bar in 1951 and immediately became district attorney of the 46th Texas Judicial District, based in Vernon, Wilbarger County, from 1951 to 1961. From 1953 to 1955, he was a member of the Texas House of Representatives. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in a special election held in 1961. While still living in Vernon, Hightower served from 1965 to 1974 in two reconfigured districts in the Texas Senate. He was a delegate to the tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention, which met in Chicago to nominate Vice President of the United States Hubert H. Humphrey for the presidency. That fall, Humphrey narrowly carried Texas over the Republican Richard M. Nixon and the American Independent Party nominee George Wallace of Alabama. In 1974, Hightower challenged four-term Republican Bob Price of Pampa for a congressional seat and won. Hightower was one of several Democrats elected due to voter anger over Watergate.

Hightower was a fairly moderate Democrat, and served a mostly rural district stretching from Amarillo to Wichita Falls on the east. The district had become increasingly friendly to Republicans at the national level, though Democrats continued to hold most local offices well into the 1990s. Hightower was reelected four times, mainly by stressing constituent services. However, in 1984, he was toppled by Republican challenger Beau Boulter of Amarillo, who benefited from Ronald W. Reagan's massive reelection landslide that year. After he left Congress, Hightower was the first assistant attorney general of Texas under Attorney General Jim Mattox from 1985 to 1987, then was elected to the Texas Supreme Court in 1988. In 1992, he obtained an LLM from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was later appointed by U.S. President Bill Clinton to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, a position which he held from August 9, 1999, to July 19, 2004. A Freemason, Jack Hightower was a member of Vernon Lodge #655 and in 1972 served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas. Until his death, he had been the oldest living past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas. Hightower died on August 3, 2013 in Austin.

COORDINATES
30° 15.904
-097° 43.611

Monument Hill
Texas State Cemetery
Austin

Larry Blyden (1925-1975)

Larry Blyden, actor, producer (A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum), and director (Harold), was born Ivan Lawrence Blieden on June 23rd, 1925 to Adolph and Marian (née Davidson) Blieden in Houston, Texas. His childhood years consisted of attending Wharton Elementary School and Sidney Lanier Junior High School. It was sometime during this period that Larry met and befriended Rip Torn. The two became such wonderful friends that their friends and families jokingly called them Torn and Bleedin’ (an obviously cute play on the pronunciation of the Blieden surname). In the beginning of his years at Lamar High School, Larry was considering becoming an attorney just like his father (known by locals as ‘Jelly’ Blieden), with his eyes then on a law scholarship at the University of Texas. In turn, Larry proved himself a quite worthy contender on Lamar High’s debate team. But when it boiled down to needing either Home Economics, Shop, or Drama credits, Larry decided to give Drama a crack after Shop not being his forte, nor having any remote interest in Home Ec. To his surprise and delight, the future Larry Blyden discovered how much he actually enjoyed acting and learning more about it. And with the coining of Larry’s personal slogan, “Yes, I Can Do That!”, his road to Broadway commenced its construction.

At the tender age of fourteen, Larry landed his first ever role in a Margo Jones production. He would find himself starring in more of the Texas theatre giant’s offerings throughout the remainder of his high school years and time with the Houston Little Theatre…including S.N. Behrman’s Here Today and The Sound Of The Hunting, the latter of which officially opened Houston’s world renowned Alley Theatre. After graduating from Lamar High, Larry attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) for just under a year before enlisting with the United States Marine Corps due to the outbreak of World War II. Before receiving an honorable discharge in 1946, Larry rose to the officer rank of Lieutenant. He went back to school, this time with the University of Houston, from whence he graduated in 1948 with degrees in English and mathematics. During this time, Larry worked at KPHC, a Houston radio station and where he began to demonstrate a penchant for foreign accents and cultures with a well received show called the International Hour. Throughout the hour, Larry would perform as four different DJs introducing the music of their featured native countries, with his accents fluctuating between British, French, and Chinese, among many others. After graduating from the U of H, Larry dabbled in politics, and did campaign work for George Peddy.

In 1948, Larry Blyden traveled to New York City to try to trip the lights fantastic of the Great White Way. In addition to finding further work in radio, Blyden immediately enrolled at the Stella Adler School of Acting, where he would further study the craft of theatre for eighteen months. In 1949, Larry would get his much coveted big break…during a performance of The Importance of Being Earnest, Joshua Logan, one of Broadway’s most esteemed director/producers at the time, spotted Larry and decided he would be perfect in his up and coming hit, Mister Roberts, starring Henry Fonda. At first, Larry’s role was only a small one as a Shore Patrol Officer…but over the course of a few months, and with the departure of David Wayne from the production, Larry would take over as Ensign Pulver, and as whom he won the first of several applauses of critical acclaim. Joshua Logan appreciated Blyden’s efforts as much as the general public did and immediately cast him in his next production, titled Wish You Were Here (which would also feature Jack Cassidy and Florence Henderson), in 1952.

Work for Larry, in television (for which he appeared in several of the playhouse and omnibus/anthology shows prevalent then, the two most noteworthy of them, both in 1959, being the TV movie What Makes Sammy Run with Blyden turning in a decadently ruthless portrayal of the title character, Sammy Glick, and the TV musical, George M. Cohan’s Forty-Five Minutes From Broadway, which had Larry co-starring alongside Tammy Grimes) and stage, instantaneously became steady upon Logan’s discovery of him. Hollywood took notice, and came calling. In 1957, Blyden was cast in Paddy Chayefski’s The Bachelor Party, also starring Don Murray and Carolyn Jones, as well as Kiss Them For Me, also starring Cary Grant, Ray Walston, Werner Klemperer, and Jayne Mansfield. Earlier, and while in the midst of such an immensely busy schedule, Blyden managed to meet Carol Haney, famed choreographer and then actress (who won a 1955 Best Featured Actress In A Musical Tony Award for The Pajama Game, but would quit acting due to never quite overcoming stage fright), during a touring production of Oh Men, Oh Women! The two got married in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 14th, 1955. Blyden and Haney would actually work together three years later in Flower Drum Song, the Rodgers and Hammerstein culture clash musical which would see Larry sporting an exquisite use of a Chinese accent as Sammy Fong, and helped him land his first Tony Award nomination (1959 Best Leading Actor In A Musical), as well as Ms. Haney receiving a further nomination (1959 Best Choreographer). The Blydens’ marriage went on to produce two children (Joshua, born in 1957 and named after Joshua Logan, and Ellen Rachel, born in 1960), but ended in divorce in 1962. Two years later, Ms. Haney would die of pneumonia complicated by diabetes and alcoholism. Larry, wanting to keep the family together and vowing to be the best father AND parent his children had ever known, immediately took Joshua and Ellen under his wing.

The 60’s were that much more of a hectic time for Larry Blyden, having to juggle the odd Broadway role or two, numerous beyond numerous television appearances, and being dad to his two quite young children. Because of the latter and its expenses, Larry turned to television even more-so than previously in the 50’s. It was during this time that some of Blyden’s most famous television appearances would occur…including two visits to The Twilight Zone (“A Nice Place To Visit” and “Showdown With Rance McGrew”), Dr. Kildaire (“Take Care Of My Little Girl”), Route 66 (“Like This, It Means Father..Like This, Bitter..Like This, Tiger”), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (“Wally The Beard”), Twelve O’Clock High (“Mutiny At 10,000 Feet”), The Fugitive (“Crack In A Crystal Ball”), and The Man From UNCLE (“The Waverly Ring Affair”). On Broadway and in 1964, Larry found himself starring alongside Bert Lahr in Foxy, and reunited with Rip Torn (who helped Blyden win his role through telling producers he was every bit as Southern as the role required the actor to be) in Blues For Mr. Charlie. 1965 had Larry appear in Mike Nichols’ Luv, which would inadvertently kickstart Blyden’s game show career via his first appearances as a panelist on the highly rated What’s My Line? to promote the production. Mike Nichols found Larry Blyden’s stage presence to be dynamic, and in turn, Larry was cast as the Devil in the 1967 Tony Award Best Musical nominated The Apple Tree (and also starring Alan Alda and Barbara Harris). Later in the spring of 1967, Blyden would be approached by NBC about hosting a then new game show called Personality. He accepted the job, all of which lasted two years, but would lead to further emceeing gigs for the likes of You’re Putting Me On, The Movie Game, and most notably, replacing Wally Bruner on the syndicated/color version of What’s My Line? in 1972.

Until 1972, Larry Blyden’s career sadly entered a small doldrums; after leaving You Know I Can’t Hear You When The Water Is Running in 1968, Larry decided to try his hand at directing again (his first time being a play titled Harold in 1962, which starred Anthony Perkins, and also featured Don Adams and John Fiedler) with a play called The Mother Lover. It ended up being the most dreaded thing in one’s Broadway career - an opening night flop. Apart from a Hollywood commute that saw him in On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (which had Larry getting to perform alongside Barbara Streisand) and two television dramas (The FBI - “The Innocents” and The Mod Squad - “Exit The Closer”), Blyden mostly laid low until 1971, when he saw a California repertory theatre production of a musical that would, almost as if by magic, turn his life and career around overnight. The revival of A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum could also be called ‘A Terrific Thing Happened To Larry Blyden’ with all it accomplished for the producer and those around him, most particularly Phil Silvers, who took the role of Pseudolus (a role he had rejected previously for the musical’s original 1962 Broadway run) and ran with it to great heights. And oh what great heights Silvers and Blyden (who played Hysterium) hit - with a 1972 Best Leading Actor In A Musical Tony Award for the former and a 1972 Best Featured Actor In A Musical Tony Award for Larry, who remained a workhorse and was one of the on-stage performers at the 1972 Tony Awards (at which Larry entertained with such greats as Hal Linden, Alfred Drake, and Ethel Merman, among others).

After A Funny Thing closed, the remainder of 1972 and beyond had Larry Blyden maintaining a steady television schedule between What’s My Line?, a couple of television dramas (notably Medical Center - “Terror” and Cannon - “The Torch”), and several appearances on other game shows as a panelist (To Tell The Truth and Match Game ’74) and celebrity assistant ($10,000 Pyramid and Blankety Blanks). Larry returned to the stage in 1973 for one evening, March 11th, to participate in the Stephen Sondheim Musical Tribute (the recording of which is affectionately known by fans as ‘the Scrabble album’ due to its cover art), and performed “Love Is In The Air” from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum and “Buddy’s Blues” from Follies (with one of his co-stars on the number being Chita Rivera). He would not see stage work again until 1974, when Blyden was asked by Burt Shevelove (who had directed A Funny Thing) to take on the role of Dionysos in a Yale Repertory Theatre production of The Frogs, Shevelove and Stephen Sondheim’s modern retelling of a comedy by Aristophenes. The show would last for eight performances in late May of 1974, and had Larry performing alongside Michael Vale of Dunkin’ Donuts commercial spokesperson fame, and also included a pre-stardom Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver.

In December of 1974, What’s My Line was cancelled after a six year syndication run and a near twenty-five year duration overall, with Larry Blyden having hosted its last two years and several months. Goodson-Todman, the production company behind What’s My Line? and other classic game shows, offered Larry an emceeing slot on an upcoming idea called Showoffs, which was basically a combination of charades and a Beat The Clock-esque format. Meanwhile, Blyden had started the last great stage role of his all too short-lived career: Sidney, in Absurd Person Singular, a British farce also featuring Tony Roberts, Carole Shelley, and Richard Kiley. Larry won the role through a heavy demonstration of his best Cockney accent during the interview and audition, and never dropped the accent at all between entering and leaving the room. It paid off most handsomely, landing Blyden his third Tony Award nomination, for 1975 Best Featured Actor In A Play, as well as also his first and only Drama Desk Award nomination, for 1975 Outstanding Featured Actor In A Play. Remaining one of Broadway’s hardest workers, Larry took on the skit directing and hosting duties for the 1975 Tony Awards and again was one of the on-stage performers (alongside other stars such as co-hosts Bobby Van and Larry Kert). Such duties would be Larry Blyden’s fifth to last ever appearance in anything…his fourth to last being a gala to Joshua Logan (which was recorded and distributed only among private parties) where he reprised his Ensign Pulver role from Mister Roberts, his third being a week on Blankety Blanks (May 12th-16th), his second being the pilot for the aforementioned Showoffs, taped on May 24th, 1975; and his final showing being a Bicentennial Minute segment that aired on CBS on May 31st.. A couple of days after the Showoffs pilot taping, Larry Blyden embarked on a plane for a promised two week vacation in Morocco before the official tapings for Showoffs were to begin later in June. On May 31st, Larry was in a horrific automobile accident between Agadir and Tan-Tan, and sustained significant wounds to his head, chest, and abdomen. Larry underwent surgery, but ultimately succumbed to his injuries on June 6th, just a little over two weeks shy of turning fifty. As well as quite sadly and literally alone, with all loved ones and friends an ocean away, and very tragically ending a most inimitable and still blossoming career and young life all too soon. Biography courtesy of MavenBlyden 

COORDINATES
29° 42.904
-095° 18.437

Section 27
Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery
Houston

December 4, 2012

William Daniel Jones (1916-1974)

W. D. Jones was born on May 15, 1916 to a poor sharecropper family. In 1921, his father moved them all to Dallas where Jones met and became friends with Clyde Barrow, seven years his senior. When Clyde left town to begin his criminal career, William stayed behind, learning the "trade" on his own by stealing cars and working for bootleggers. Clyde returned home during Christmas 1930 with his new girlfriend Bonnie, met up with his childhood buddy and asked him to keep watch over their car while the two slept. The next morning, Jones did some quick repairs on the car and accepted Clyde's offer to ride with them. In a matter of days, he was involved in his first murder. In Temple, Texas, Clyde spotted a car with the keys left in it and instructed Jones to start it up while he and Bonnie switched their things from their old car to the new one. When the owner showed up and tried to struggle over the door, Clyde shot him in the head and ordered Jones to step on it. From then on, Jones was a member of the Barrow gang and would remain so for eight months.

   He was more mechanic or driver than gunman, usually remaining in the car with Bonnie while Clyde and another member would rob gas stations, taking care of the steering while the others took shots at whomever was following them. He was involved in the several shootouts, from Joplin, Missouri to Platte City, Iowa, driving the gang from one town to another in a perpetual quest to avoid capture. Once Clyde's brother Buck was killed and Buck's wife Blanche captured by police, Jones decided it was time to jump ship before he was shot or arrested for something more serious than he could handle. While the gang was in Mississippi, Jones took off and hitched his way to Houston, where he was quickly recognized and imprisoned. He claimed that he was a victim, a virtual prisoner of the gang, forced to work for them, and tied down at night to prevent his escape; the authorities didn't believe him, but having no evidence of hard crime, could only sentence him to six years in prison. After he served his term, he drifted from job to job, hooking himself on drugs and alcohol. He surfaced in 1968 to sue Warner Brothers over what he felt was a libelous portrayal of him in the movie Bonnie and Clyde. When the suit was thrown out, he gave an interview with Playboy magazine on his time with the Barrow gang, still insisting he was an unwilling dupe, caught up by circumstances. Six years later, on August 20, 1974, Jones was gunned down during a failed drug transaction.

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