May 28, 2013

George Thomas "Mickey" Leland (1944-1989)

Mickey Leland, legislator, was born in Lubbock, Texas, on November 27, 1944. Soon after his birth, his father abandoned the family, and his mother moved to Houston where she worked in a drugstore and later became a teacher. After enjoying a successful career as a high school sports star in Houston, Leland entered Texas Southern University in 1965. He received a pharmacy degree and practiced the profession for several years. Leland soon entered the public realm by utilizing the tense political environment of the 1960s to help Houston's poor. He pressured Houston health officials to set up community clinics. During this time, as an active member of the black Community Action team, he worked towards other reform measures. In north Houston, he worked with an archetype health system for Casa del Amigos. In the Fifth Ward, Houston, Leland helped initiate a free community health clinic called the Jensen Medical Referral Service. In 1972, supported by philanthropist John de Menil, Leland was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. He was re-elected twice for two-year terms in the House. During this time he worked as the director of special development projects for Herman Hospital and functioned as the vice president of King State Bank. Leland is especially remembered in the Texas House for promoting legislation that allowed for the prescription of generic drugs and fostered state employment opportunities for minorities.

In 1978 Leland constructed the National Black-Hispanic Democratic Coalition that drew attention at the Democratic midterm convention in Memphis. Leland took the congressional seat vacated by Barbara Jordan of Houston later that same year. Leland served actively for over ten years in the United States House of Representatives. Many members considered his style flamboyant with his dashiki, Afro haircut, and eccentric hats. Eventually Leland abandoned these more unconventional characteristics and made attempts to establish bipartisan relationships. However, his commitment to hunger and hopelessness did not waver. During his dedicated years in Congress, Leland chaired the Congressional Black Caucus; he served as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee; and in 1984 he helped in establishing the Select Committee on Hunger, which pushed Congress to approve $8 million annually for an incremental Vitamin A program in the Third World that is believed to have reduced child mortality. The committee has also fought for measures to improve hunger conditions for impoverished neighborhoods in the United States. However, Leland's trip to the Sudan in the spring of 1989 influenced him unlike any other previous experiences. That trip marked the beginning of tenacious efforts aimed primarily at aiding the Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia. On Leland's sixth visit to Africa on August 7, 1989, his plane crashed into a mountainside on the way to visit the Fugnido refugee camp. The camp held more than 300,000 Sundanese escaping famine and war in their adjacent country. The plane, carrying sixteen people, was found after a six day search in southwestern Ethiopia. Leland's dedication and service were honored at services throughout the state of Texas and in Washington, D.C.. Leland's wife, Alison, survived him and was six weeks pregnant at his death. In January 1990 she gave birth to twin sons. Source 

29° 50.269
-095° 19.527

Block 1
Golden Gate Cemetery

May 21, 2013

May Esther Peterson (1880-1952)

May Esther Peterson Thompson, opera star, was born on October 7, 1880, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. She was one of nine children of a Methodist minister. She began singing at the age of four in church meetings and later joined her sister Clara, an accomplished organist, to give recitals and concerts. She began her formal training at the Chicago Conservatory of Music and then traveled to Europe, where she raised money for her voice studies by teaching English and singing concerts. After spending two years in Florence, she went to Germany, where she was reduced to eating bread and water and was near starvation after a companion absconded with her funds. Nevertheless, she managed to secure the tutelage of a singing master in Berlin and gave a command performance before Kaiser Wilhelm II. Weakened by a severe illness, she was advised to seek a milder climate, and thus set her sights on the Opéra Comique in Paris.

After her arrival there in 1913, she studied under tenor Jean de Reszke, for whom she worked as an accompanist. When World War I broke out, she returned to the United States to pursue a career in opera. After a six-week tour through her home state, in which she gave twenty-six concerts, she went back to Paris and was offered the lead in Manon at the Opéra Comique. She performed the role in rented costumes and makeup borrowed from Mary Garden. When the United States entered the war in 1917, Peterson visited and performed at various army camps. In 1918 she signed a six-year contract with the Metropolitan Opera of New York, where she sang with Enrico Caruso and John McCormack. Among her favorite roles were Micaela in Carmen and Mimi in La Bohème. Her golden voice and personality soon won her international fame as the "Golden Girl" of opera. Even then, she continued giving benefit concerts for the Methodist Church during the off-season.

She made several records under the Vocalion label and was one of the first American artists to sing on radio. In 1921 Emil Myers arranged to have May Peterson appear in concert at the First Methodist Church in Amarillo. The local civic committee selected attorney Ernest O. Thompson to be her escort. A romance ensued, and the two were married on June 9, 1924, in Bronxville, New York. Afterward they returned to Amarillo to a glittering reception held in the ballroom of the Amarillo Hotel, which Thompson had built and owned. May Thompson retired from the opera after her marriage, but she continued doing concert tours for several years. In 1925 she sang in the first musical festival to be staged at the Amarillo Municipal Auditorium, and she regularly assisted with local musical programs. In 1932, after Thompson was appointed to the Railroad Commission, the couple moved to Austin, where Mrs. Thompson became a leading figure in musical circles. The Thompsons had no children. On October 1, 1952, May Thompson suffered a cerebral hemorrhage at their summerhouse in Estes Park, Colorado, and lapsed into a coma. She was flown back to Austin, where she died in Seton Infirmary on October 8 without regaining consciousness. Source

30° 15.908
-097° 43.624

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

May 14, 2013

John Smith Davenport Byrom (1798-1837)

John S. D. Byrom, early settler, son of Henry and Catherine Smith (Davenport) Byrom, was born in Hancock, Georgia, on September 24, 1798. In 1806 he moved with his uncle and guardian, John Byrom, to Jasper County, Georgia. There on March 17, 1818, he married Nancy Fitzpatrick; they had three children. Byrom later moved to Heard County, Georgia, and later still to Florida. After his divorce from his first wife, he married Mary Anne Knott; they had a son and a daughter. In 1830 Byrom came to Texas and settled in what is now Brazoria County. He participated in the battle of Velasco on June 26, 1832. In 1835 he represented Brazoria at the Consultation, and the General Council appointed him one of three commissioners to organize the militia in the Municipality of Brazoria. Byrom was one of the four representatives from the municipality to the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos and there signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. He died on July 10, 1837. Source

29° 08.394
-095° 38.853

Columbia Cemetery
West Columbia

May 7, 2013

William Houston Jack (1806-1844)

William Houston Jack, Texas revolutionary soldier and leader and Republic of Texas congressman, was born in Wilkes County, Georgia, on April 12, 1806, the son of Patrick and Harriet (Spencer) Jack. Upon graduation from the University of Georgia in 1827 he was admitted to the bar, and in 1828 he began the practice of law in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. On May 15, 1828, he married Laura Harrison, the sister of Confederate generals Thomas and James E. Harrison. The same year he was elected to the Alabama state legislature. Jack immigrated to Texas in 1830. He arrived in San Felipe de Austin on June 2 with his seventeen-year-old bride and their infant daughter and his two younger brothers, Spencer H. and Patrick Churchill Jack. In the spring of 1832 Jack became a leader in the resistance to Mexican authority precipitated by the arrest of his brother Patrick, Monroe Edwards, and William B. Travis in the Anahuac Disturbances. On July 18, 1832, Jack and others wrote the revolutionary Turtle Bayou Resolutions stating the colonists' grievances against Col. John Davis Bradburn and Anastasio Bustamante's administration. At a mass meeting held at Brazoria on July 18 the resolutions were presented to Col. José Antonio Mexía as justification for taking arms against the Mexican government.

In 1834 Jack moved to Brazoria County, where, on June 28, 1835, he was elected a member of the local committee of safety and correspondence. On August 9, 1835, he prepared a resolution presented to the jurisdiction of Columbia calling for a general consultation of non-Hispanic colonists, but the resolution was defeated. Jack participated in the capture of Goliad, after which, although he expressed considerable misgivings about the wisdom of attacking Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos, Stephen F. Austin appointed Jack "Brigade Inspector" of the Texas army with the rank of major and ordered him to Bexar. With James Bowie, Jack commanded the Texas troops at the Grass Fight on November 26, 1835. In this engagement, Jack wrote to Gen. Edward Burleson, "the first division flanked to the right and the second to the left and in a few moments the ditch and field were cleared of every Mexican except their dead & wounded." When Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna marched into Texas, Jack sent his family to the Neches River for safety while he joined Sam Houston's army. At the battle of San Jacinto, Jack was a private in Capt. William Hester Patton's Fourth Company - the so-called Columbia Company - of Col. Sidney Sherman's Second Regiment, Texas Volunteers. He was discharged on May 30, 1836. On April 2 Jack was appointed secretary of state in the administration of David G. Burnet. As a cabinet member he objected strongly to the release of Santa Anna, not wishing to see him "turned loose upon the world to seek for other opportunities to glut his cannibal thirst." His health being, he wrote to Burnet, "extremely bad," Jack tendered his resignation on August 9, 1836, but remained in the cabinet until October 22, 1836, when he was elected judge of the Brazoria district court. According to Henry Millard, Stephen F. Austin was going to appoint Jack chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court if Austin had been elected president of the republic in 1836.

Jack served as compiler of the laws during the administration of Mirabeau B. Lamar but resigned at the end of 1838. He was elected to the House of Representatives of the Fourth Congress of the Republic of Texas from Brazoria County and served on the State of the Republic and the Judiciary committees, 1839-40. By 1840 he owned 2,574 acres in Brazoria County, plus seventeen town lots in Velasco and two more in Brazoria, thirty-one slaves, six horses, seventy-five cattle, two gold watches, and a silver watch. At the resignation of Timothy Pillsbury, Jack was elected to the Senate of the second term of the Sixth Congress; he was reelected to the Seventh and Eighth congresses and served until 1844. In response to Rafael Vásquez's raid of 1842, Jack volunteered for service in Capt. John Porter Gill's company of Col. Clark L. Owen's regiment and served from March 20 until June 20, 1842. He drafted a series of resolutions favoring war with Mexico that were adopted at a public meeting in Galveston on April 24, 1842, but in July he voted against Sam Houston's war bill in the Senate because he thought the use of militia for offensive purposes to be unconstitutional. Politically, he was a member of the party of Mirabeau Lamar and was generally opposed to the policies of Sam Houston. Jack died of yellow fever on August 20, 1844, at the Brazoria County plantation of Hiram George Runnels. His brother Patrick had died of the same illness only sixteen days earlier, on August 4, in Houston. William H. Jack was buried on his Brazoria County plantation. Later, however, his remains were removed to Galveston and reinterred in Lakeview Cemetery. He was the father of Thomas McKinney Jack and the father-in-law of William Pitt Ballinger and Guy Morrison Bryan. Jack County was named in honor of William Houston and Patrick C. Jack. Laura Jack died at Galveston on February 24, 1877. Source

30° 15.915
-097° 43.620

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery