July 28, 2015

Ashbel Smith (1805-1886)

Ashbel Smith, pioneer doctor and leader in the development of Texas, son of Moses and Phoebe Smith, was born at Hartford, Connecticut, on August 13, 1805. He has been called "the father of Texas medicine" and "the father of the University of Texas." He also made valuable contributions to Texas in the areas of politics, diplomacy, agriculture and ranching, warfare, finance, transportation, and immigration. After graduating from Hartford Public School and Hartford Grammar School, Smith attended Yale College. By the time he was nineteen he had earned A.B. and A.M. degrees from Yale, where he was made a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. After a year and a half of teaching in a private school in Salisbury, North Carolina, he returned to Yale to study medicine and earned the degree of M.D. in the spring of 1828. He did a subsequent two-year stint of teaching in North Carolina, then studied medicine in Paris for a year. During the Paris cholera epidemic of 1832 he helped treat the sick and wrote and published a pamphlet on the disease. Upon his return to the United States around 1833 Smith established a successful medical practice in Salisbury, North Carolina. He was involved in politics in that state and became editor and half owner of the Western Carolinian, a nullification newspaper. In the fall of 1836 James Pinckney Henderson, a fellow North Carolinian already in Texas, persuaded Smith to move to the newly formed Republic of Texas.

Smith had a long and distinguished medical career. When he arrived in Texas in the spring of 1837 he became Sam Houston's roommate and close friend. Houston appointed him surgeon general of the Army of the Republic of Texas on June 7, 1837. In this role Smith set up an efficient system of operation and established the first hospital in Houston, a military institution. He also served as the first chairman of the Board of Medical Censors, which was established by the Second Congress of the republic in December 1837. During the devastating epidemic of yellow fever in Galveston in 1839, he treated the sick, published factual reports of the progress of the disease in the Galveston News, and, after the epidemic abated, wrote the first treatise on yellow fever in Texas. In 1848 Smith met with ten other Galveston doctors to begin working for the formation of the Medical and Surgical Society of Galveston. When the Texas Medical Association came into being in 1853, he was chairman of the committee that drafted its constitution and bylaws. He also may have served as an early president of the board of trustees of the Texas Medical College and Hospital after it was organized in Galveston in 1873. He served as president of the Texas Medical Association in 1881-82.

When Smith first came to Texas, Sam Houston quickly recognized his diplomatic ability and in 1838 sent him to negotiate a treaty with the Comanche Indians. In 1842 Smith traveled to Europe as the chargé d'affaires of Texas to England and France, a position he held from 1842 to 1844. He secured ratification of a treaty of amity and commerce between England and Texas and improved the republic's relations with France, which had been disturbed by the Pig War. He was also charged with working for friendly mediation by European powers to stop Mexican threats to reinvade Texas, with encouraging immigration to Texas, and with learning the attitude of Russia, Prussia, and Austria toward Texas. In addition, he investigated and reported to leaders in Texas and the United States activities of the British antislavery party, which seemed potentially harmful to Texas, and the fact that two steamers were being built in England for Mexico. In 1845, as secretary of state, Smith worked with President Anson Jones to give the people of Texas a choice between remaining an independent republic and being annexed to the United States of America. To this end, he negotiated a treaty with Mexico, by which that country acknowledged the independence of Texas. This treaty, known as the Smith-Cuevas Treaty, angered many Texans who were avid for annexation, and Smith was burned in effigy by citizens of Galveston and San Felipe. After Texas became a state Smith served three terms (1855, 1866, and 1879) in the state legislature as a representative from Harris County. As a legislator he supported measures to aid railroad construction, validate land titles, improve common schools, found the University of Texas, and pay off the public debt. He also helped to found the Democratic party in Texas, took an active part in county and state party meetings, and represented the party several times in Democratic national conventions.

Smith rendered further military service to Texas during the Mexican and Civil wars. During the former he was on active duty with Gen. Zachary Taylor in the field. When the Civil War began he organized a company, the Bayland Guards, which he drilled and trained. While leading this company, a part of Company C, Second Texas Infantry, at Shiloh, he received a severe arm injury and was cited for bravery, along with the rest of his company. He was promoted to colonel and named commander of the Second Texas Infantry, which he led in several engagements in Mississippi, including Corinth and the Tallahatchie River. During the siege of Vicksburg, he was in command of a vulnerable earthen fortification at one of the entrances to that city. After the surrender of Vicksburg, Smith was in charge of several positions in the vicinity of Matagorda Peninsula on the Gulf Coast of Texas, and was credited with preventing Union invasions in that area. Toward the end of the war he was put in charge of the defenses of Galveston. After the war he and William P. Ballinger were sent by Governor Pendleton Murrah as commissioners to negotiate peace terms for Texas with Union officials in New Orleans.

Smith devoted much time and energy to the cause of education, and he often urged that Texas underwrite the education of every child in the state. He was a charter member and first vice president of the Philosophical Society of Texas; one of that organization's first acts was to draw up a memorial to the Texas Congress urging the establishment of a system of public education in Texas. Smith served as superintendent of Houston Academy before the Civil War, and he was also a trustee at various times on a number of school boards in Houston and Galveston. He championed public education for blacks and women and was one of three commissioners appointed by Governor Richard Coke to establish an "Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, for the benefit of the Colored Youths." This school, located five miles east of Hempstead, is now Prairie View A&M University. Smith also helped organize Stuart Female Seminary in Austin and served as a trustee on its first board. He spent his last years in an unceasing effort to establish a state university with a first-class medical branch. As president of the University of Texas Board of Regents, established in 1881, he led the effort to recruit the best professors available for the university faculty and to set up a curriculum necessary for a first-rate institution of higher learning. He also served as president of the board of visitors to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1848.

Smith was a powerful orator, many of whose numerous speeches were published in newspapers and as separate monographs. He was also an able and indefatigable writer. In addition to editing the Salisbury Western Carolinian, he served a brief stint (December 1839 - January 1840) as guest editor of the Houston Morning Star. His writings were published in scientific, agricultural, educational, and general magazines and newspapers in the United States and Europe. His Reminiscences of the Texas Republic (1876) contains much valuable material pertaining to the early history of Texas. In 1869, when the Southern Historical Society was organized, Smith was named vice president for Texas, along with Gen. Robert E. Lee for Virginia and Adm. Raphael Semmes for Alabama. Smith's experiments and innovations in agriculture and ranching were recognized internationally. He published numerous articles based on firsthand observation of the climate, soil, vegetation, and wildlife in Texas, as well as his experiences raising livestock and crops on the Gulf Coast. In 1851 he was sent as Texas delegate to the Great London Exhibition at the Crystal Palace and was named one of the judges. In May 1852 he served as superintendent of the first fair in Texas, held in Corpus Christi. He was elected the first president of the Texas State Agricultural Society when it was formed in 1853. In 1876 he was appointed by the United States Centennial Commission to act as a judge on the Jury of Awards at the Great International Exhibition in Philadelphia, and in 1878 President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed him one of the two honorary commissioners from Texas to the Paris International Exposition, where he was named one of the judges of agricultural products. Smith never married. He died on January 21, 1886, at Evergreen, his plantation home on Galveston Bay. He is buried in the State Cemetery in Austin. Source 

30° 15.924
-097° 43.639

Monument Hill
Texas State Cemetery

July 21, 2015

Oliver Jones (1794-1866)

Oliver Jones, Texas pioneer, Indian fighter, and public official, was born in New York City in 1794. He served in the War of 1812 and was taken prisoner by the British. He became so disturbed by the failure of the United States to secure release for himself and his fellow prisoners of war that after the conflict he resolved to live no longer under such a government. He made his way to Mexico City, where he met Stephen F. Austin and was persuaded to travel with him to Texas in 1822. As one of Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, Jones received title on August 10, 1824, to a league of land on Cedar Lake Creek in what is now western Brazoria County and a labor on the west bank of the Brazos River in land now part of eastern Austin County. The census of March 1826 classified Jones as a farmer and stock raiser with six servants. In 1829, as a captain in the colony's militia, Jones led a company of fifty volunteers on an expedition against Waco and Tawakoni Indians from the Brazos River to the Colorado and then to the mouth of the San Saba.

From 1829 to 1830 he served as alguacil, or sheriff, of Austin's colony.  By 1833 he had become a client of William B. Travis at San Felipe de Austin. As a delegate to the Convention of 1833, he advocated a separate state government for Texas within the Mexican confederation. As a representative of Texas in the legislature of Coahuila and Texas in 1834, Jones, with his colleague José Antonio Vásquez and Supreme Court judge Thomas J. Chambers, issued a public appeal for a convention at Bexar to consider the establishment of a more satisfactory government for Texas. After the Texas Revolution Jones represented Austin County in the House of the Second Congress of the republic (1837-38), and in the Senate of the Third (1838), Fourth (1839-40), Sixth (1841-42), and Seventh (1842-43) congresses. He was chairman of the committee appointed to produce a flag and seal for the republic and also served as a delegate to the annexation convention in 1845. While attending Congress in Austin in 1840, Jones became acquainted with Mrs. Rebecca Greenleaf Westover McIntyre, whom he soon married. After annexation the couple established residence at Burleigh, a plantation on the Brazos River a few miles from Bellville, where Jones became a successful cotton planter. There Anson Jones, a political ally who referred to Oliver Jones as his adopted cousin, was a frequent guest. Jones resided at Burleigh until 1859, when he purchased a home in Galveston; he remained in the Houston vicinity for most of the rest of his life. He died in Houston at the residence of Mrs. Sarah Merriweather on September 17, 1866, and was buried in the city's Episcopal and Masonic Cemetery beside his wife, who had died on Christmas Eve the previous year. The bodies of both Rebecca and Oliver Jones were reinterred in the State Cemetery at Austin in 1930. Source

30° 15.936
-097° 43.642

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

July 14, 2015

George Washington Smyth (1803-1866)

G. W. Smyth, early Texas surveyor and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, son of a German millwright father and a Scots-Irish mother, was born on May 16, 1803, in North Carolina. After moving to Alabama and Tennessee as a child, he left for Texas in 1828 against the wishes of his parents. He crossed the Sabine River on February 11, 1830, and briefly taught school at Nacogdoches before securing an appointment in 1830 as surveyor for Bevil's Settlement from Thomas Jefferson Chambers, surveyor general. In 1832 Smyth and seven other Bevil-area residents, upon hearing of the Anahuac Disturbances, went to the scene but arrived after the excitement was over. Smyth married Frances M. Grigsby in 1834; they had seven children. Smyth became surveyor in 1834 for George A. Nixon, recently named commissioner of the Zavala, Vehlein, and Burnet colonies. He also served as land commissioner at Nacogdoches, where he remained until the office of land commissioner was closed on December 19, 1835. He was appointed first judge of Bevil Municipality by the General Council of the Provisional Government.

After being elected a member of the Convention of 1836 by the residents of Jasper Municipality, Smyth signed the Texas Declaration of Independence and raised sixteen men, but they arrived at San Jacinto after the battle was over. Smyth and his family took part in the Runaway Scrape. Mirabeau B. Lamar appointed Smyth to the boundary commission that was to set the Texas-United States boundaries in 1839. He was also elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1844 and avidly supported annexation. In addition he took part in the convention that drew up the Constitution of 1845. Smyth became the second commissioner of the General Land Office in March 1848, a position he retained for four years. As Democratic elector for president, he voted for Franklin Pierce in the 1852 election. The following year he won a seat in the Thirty-third United States Congress, but he did not seek reelection in 1855. He returned to his farm in Jasper County and by the eve of the Civil War had amassed an estate valued at $27,000, which included twenty-eight slaves. Smyth opposed secession, although his sons served with Confederate troops. After the Civil War, he went to Austin as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1866. He died in Austin on February 21, 1866, and was buried in the State Cemetery. In 1936 the Texas Centennial Commission erected a marker at the Smyth home, built 100 years earlier in Jasper County at the junction of Big Run and Little Walnut Run. Source

30° 15.934
-097° 43.645

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

July 7, 2015

Thomas Wade "Tom" Landry (1924-2000)

Tom Landry, longtime coach of the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was born in Mission, Texas, on September 11, 1924, the third child and second son of Ray and Ruth Landry. Ray Landry, an automobile mechanic, had moved with his family to Texas from Illinois upon the recommendations of doctors who believed the warmer climate would help his rheumatism. Landry became a star quarterback on the Mission High School football team, leading the Eagles to a 6-4 record and the district championship as a junior, then to a 12-0 record and the regional championship, beating Hondo 33-0, as a senior in 1941. Landry was named to the Texas High School All-Star Game and offered an athletic scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin. After one semester of college, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. As a copilot and gunner of B-17 bombers with the Eighth Air Force, Landry flew more than thirty missions over Germany. He was discharged as a first lieutenant in November 1945 and returned to UT in 1947. Though he had been recruited as a quarterback, Landry switched to defensive halfback and running back because the Longhorns already had a star passer in Bobby Layne. UT finished that season with a 10-1 record and beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and Landry earned All-Southwest Conference recognition. In 1948 Landry was elected co-captain of the Longhorns, who finished with a 6-3-1 record and upset favored Georgia in the Orange Bowl. In that game, Landry filled in on offense for the injured regular fullback and led both teams with 117 yards rushing.

Landry married Alicia Wiggs on January 28, 1949. They had three children. After graduating with a degree in business in May 1949, Landry joined the New York Yankees of the professional All-America Football Conference (AAFC). When the AAFC dissolved a year later, he joined the New York Giants of the NFL, for whom he quickly became a star defensive back renowned for his intelligence and analytical skills. In his first season with the Giants, the cerebral Landry was credited with helping devise the 4-3 defensive scheme, which quickly became the standard alignment in the NFL. Landry was named an All-Pro defensive halfback in 1954, and was selected to play in the Pro Bowl in 1955. In 1956 he retired as a player and became a full-time assistant coach with the Giants, in charge of the defense as a young assistant named Vince Lombardi was in charge of the offense. Under head coach Jim Lee Howell, the Giants won the NFL title by routing the Chicago Bears 47-7. Landry's rise to prominence as one of the brightest young minds in football - Howell once called him "the greatest football coach in the game today" - coincided with a national boom in the sport's popularity. Bud Adams, the owner of the Houston Oilers of the American Football League, which began play in 1960, wanted Landry to coach his team, but Landry had moved his family to Dallas, where he ran an insurance business in the off-season, in 1957, and elected to stay with the established NFL, which was about to expand. He signed a five-year personal services contract with Dallas oilman Clint Murchison Jr., the owner of the brand-new Dallas Cowboys, in December 1959.

The Cowboys began play in 1960 with a record of no wins, eleven losses, and one tie, and fared little better in the ensuing seasons, but before the 1964 season Murchison announced that he had signed Landry to a ten-year contract despite the team's 13-38-3 record. Landry, who had planned to retire from football a few years after getting the Cowboys off the ground, now decided to make the sport his life's business. That decision soon began paying dividends. Landry was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1966 after the Cowboys posted their first winning record, and led Dallas to the NFL championship game in 1966 and 1967, losing both times to his old colleague Lombardi's Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys finally made it to the Super Bowl following the 1970 season, only to lose 16-13 to the Baltimore Colts. That defeat, however, marked the beginning of a stretch of successes that established the Cowboys as "America's Team" and turned Landry's stoic expression and ever-present gray fedora into national icons. Landry's teams won 105 games and lost only 39 during the 1970s, appearing in four more Super Bowls and winning two. Despite his aloof and colorless demeanor - in 1971 one of his own players, Duane Thomas, called him "a plastic man...actually, no man at all" - Landry was an innovative, even daring, coach, and his teams were among the most entertaining in football history. Landry devised Dallas's "Flex" defensive scheme, which became one of the most feared in the NFL, and revived the "Shotgun" formation, which stationed the quarterback several yards behind the line of scrimmage, to take advantage of the mobility of his star passer Roger Staubach. He coached the team to an amazing twenty consecutive winning seasons.

By the mid-1980s, however, Landry seemed to be slipping. He signed a three-year contract extension during the 1984 season, when the Cowboys finished with a 9-7 record and failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1974. The Cowboys finished 10-6 in 1985 but were shut out by the Los Angeles Rams in the playoffs, and local newspapers began running polls asking their readers if Landry should be fired. In 1986 the Cowboys finished 7-9, their first losing season in 22 years, and Landry received a death threat during a December loss to the Rams. He briefly left the field and returned wearing a bulletproof vest, though no actual attempt was made on his life. Landry signed another three-year contract extension before the 1987 season, but began hearing criticism from team president Tex Schramm and owner H. R. "Bum" Bright, who had bought the team from Murchison in 1984, during the Cowboys' 7-8 campaign. The Cowboys staggered to a 3-13 record in 1988, and when Arkansas oilman Jerral (Jerry) Jones bought the team early in 1989 his first move was to fire the coach. Landry's overall record in 29 seasons with the Cowboys was 270-178-6. Landry was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and to the Cowboys' Ring of Honor in 1993. He remained active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which he had joined in 1962 and served as national chairman in 1973-1976, and the Billy Graham Crusades. Landry also enjoyed flying his Cessna 210, and in June 1998 he was named to the air safety foundation of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. He was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in May 1999 and died on February 12, 2000. Landry was survived by his wife, Alicia, and two children. A street and high school stadium in Mission, a fitness center in Dallas, and an elementary school in Irving all bear his name. Source

32° 52.053
-096° 46.705

Monument Garden
Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park