August 30, 2016

Neal Vernon Baker

   Neal Baker was born in Harlingen, Texas, on April 30, 1904, and attended school at the University of Texas in Austin. A promising baseball player in college, he was signed by the Philadelphia Athletics as an amateur free agent in 1927. He made his major league debut as a pitcher for the Athletics on April 30, 1927 but played in only five games, his last being on July 26, 1927, before being sent back down to the minors for further training. He continued in the minors until 1936, his best season being 17-10 with the C Class East Texas League Longview Cannibals, before he left the sport entirely. He passed away on January 5, 1982 and buried in Houston.

29° 47.228, -095° 28.636

Block 53
Woodlawn Garden of Memories

August 26, 2016

Hugh Montgomery Swift

   A native of Hanover County, Virginia, Swift came to Texas in January, 1836, shortly after the rest of his family. He took the oath of allegiance to Texas at Nacogdoches on January 14, 1836 and within weeks enlisted in the Texican army on February 1. He initially served as a member of Captain Isaac N. Moreland's Company, with whom he fought in the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21. On June 24, he was commissioned Adjutant on the staff of the First Regiment of Artillery, under Colonel James C. Neill, and was honorably discharged on November 5, 1836. After his time in the army he worked as "a Mississippi River pilot like Mark Twain and a gambler" according to his descendants, likely up and down the Seguin River. Swift died June 15, 1838 and was buried in the Vaughan Cemetery in Seguin, Guadalupe County, in a grave that still remains unmarked.


Vaughan Cemetery

August 23, 2016

Robert Alton Gammage

   Robert Gammage was born March 13, 1938 in Houston and attended Milby High School there. He earned undergraduate degrees in Corpus Christi from Del Mar College and the University of Corpus Christi, obtained a master's degree from Sam Houston State University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Texas at Austin. He also earned an LLM from the University of Virginia School of Law. Before Gammage entered politics, he served in the United States Army and Navy, retiring as a captain in the United States Navy Reserve. Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, Gammage was employed on the faculty the University of Corpus Christi, San Jacinto College, and the South Texas College of Law.

   Gammage served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1971 to 1973. Gammage was a member of the so-called "Dirty 30," a bipartisan group of legislators that pushed for reform in the 1970s in the wake of the Sharpstown scandal in which then state House Speaker Gus Mutscher of Brenham in Washington County was convicted and sentenced to five years probation for conspiring to accept a bribe. As a legislator he advocated government reform, consumer and health legislation, voting rights for eighteen-year -olds, and equal rights for women. He was a member of the Texas State Senate from 1973 to 1976, when he was elected to the 95th Congress, having unseated then freshman Republican Ron Paul. He served only one term in Congress, having been unseated by Paul in 1978. From 1979 to 1980, Gammage was assistant state attorney general under Attorney General Mark Wells White. In 1980, he was a special consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy under U.S. President Jimmy Carter, the last Democrat to win the electoral votes of Texas.

   In 1982, Gammage was elected as a justice to the Texas Third Court of Appeals in Austin and served in that position until 1991. He was elected in 1990 to the Texas Supreme Court, on which he served from 1991 until 1995. During his time on the bench Gammage participated in nearly 250 cases. He embraced an expansive interpretation of the legal doctrines and constitutional provisions that protect individual rights and equality. Gammage garnered national attention when he resigned from the Texas Supreme Court in 1995 to draw attention to the increasing amount of influence that campaign contributors and political action committees (PACs) had on judicial elections. Working with other proponents of judicial reform, including former Texas State Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas R. Phillips, Gammage was a key actor in bringing about caps on campaign contributions in judicial elections.

   In the late 1990s and early 2000s (decade), he taught at Sam Houston State University, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas State University in San Marcos, and Roman Catholic-affiliated St. Edwards University in Austin. In 2006, Gammage lost the Texas gubernatorial Democratic primary election to former U.S. Representative Chris Bell of Houston. Bell was then defeated by incumbent Republican Rick Perry. On May 27, 2008, Gammage delivered the funeral eulogy for his former "Dirty Thirty" colleague Joseph Hugh Allen, a former representative from Baytown. Later in 2008, Gammage worked in the unsuccessful campaign to nominate Hillary Clinton for U.S. president, having traveled to Iowa to meet with voters. According to his wife, Lynda, he spent his last years often performing pro bono legal work for the needy. Gammage died at the age of 74 in his Llano home of an apparent heart attack on September 10, 2012.

30° 15.934, -097° 43.639

Monument Hill
Texas State Cemetery

August 19, 2016

John Richardson

   Richardson arrived in Texas in 1834 and shortly afterward involved himself in the Texas Revolution. He served in Captain Silas M. Parker's Ranging Company from October 23, 1835 to January 25, 1836, then re-enlisted in the army from March 1 through May 30, 1836. During that time he was a member of Captain James Gillaspie's Company and fought in the Battle of San Jacinto. He died in Harris County on May 25, 1840 and was buried in the City Cemetery in Houston.

Note: This is a cenotaph. Founders Memorial Park, originally founded in 1836 as Houston's first city cemetery, was rapidly filled due to a yellow fever epidemic and closed to further burials around 1840. The cemetery became neglected over a period of time, often vandalized and was heavily damaged by the 1900 hurricane. In 1936, despite a massive clean up effort, a century of neglect had taken its toll. The vast majority of grave markers were either destroyed or missing and poor record keeping prevented locating individual graves. Several cenotaphs were placed in random areas throughout the park in honor of the more high-profile citizens buried there, but a great number of graves go unmarked to this day.

29° 45.431, -095° 22.757

Founders Memorial Park

August 16, 2016

Cleveland T. "Big Cat" Williams

   Georgia native Cleveland Williams was an American heavyweight boxer who fought in the 1950s through the 1970s. A Ring Magazine poll once rated him as one of the finest boxers never to win a title. He made an imposing figure, tall with an impressive athletic broad shouldered build. Williams turned professional in 1951 and fought many of the best heavyweights of his era. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the 6 ft 3 in Williams was a top-rated heavyweight. His quest to obtain a title fight, however, was consistently derailed. First he was knocked out by Liston on April 15, 1959, after hurting Liston early and breaking Liston's nose (Liston often said Williams was the hardest puncher he ever fought). Williams recovered from the Liston fight to score more wins, but was again stopped by Liston in two rounds in their rematch on March 21, 1960. His quest for the title was again stalled when he was held to a draw by Eddie Machen on July 10, 1962 and when he dropped a split decision on March 13, 1963 to Ernie Terrell, a fighter he had previously knocked out in seven rounds in 1962.

   On November 29, 1964, during the height of the American Civil Rights Movement, a car driven by Williams was stopped near Houston, Texas, by highway patrolman Dale Witten, who stated afterwards Williams was speeding. According to the police report subsequently filed by the patrolman, Williams resisted arrest, and the officer's .357 magnum revolver went off during the struggle to arrest him. The bullet moved across his intestines, and lodged against his right hip. He ultimately had to undergo four operations in the next seven months for colon damage and an injured right kidney. The right kidney of Williams was too damaged and not working, and had to be removed in June 1965. Doctors could not take out the patrolman's bullet, which had broken his right hip joint and caused partial paralysis of some of Williams' hip muscles. He was fined $50 and briefly jailed after pleading no contest to charges arising from the incident.

   Williams was inactive the entire year of 1965 while recovering from his injuries. The injury, surgeries and subsequent convalescence caused Williams to lose over 60 pounds, and over 17 months of his career. He regained his weight and strength by tossing 80-pound bales of hay daily on a cattle ranch until he had regained his fighting weight and physique. On February 8, 1966, Williams got a standing ovation from Houston fans as he returned to the ring, and knocked out Ben Black in the first round. It was in this condition that Williams fought for the heavyweight championship against Muhammad Ali on November 14, 1966 at the Astrodome. He lasted until the third round.

   He retired from boxing after the Ali bout, but later made a comeback. Although able to defeat journeymen fighters, he suffered several knockout losses before retiring for good in 1972. Williams finished his career with a record of 78 wins (58 KOs), 13 losses and 1 draw. He worked as a forklift operator and other odd jobs through the 1980s. On September 3, 1999, he was tragically killed in an unsolved hit-and-run accident. Four years later, Ring Magazine ranked him 49th on their list of the 100 greatest punchers of all time.

Note: Cleveland Williams' grave is presently unmarked. He is buried in the bottom left space of the White family plot. There is no mention of his name on the headstone.

29° 53.419, -095° 27.580

Block 12A
Paradise North Cemetery

August 12, 2016

Joel Walter Robison

   Joel Walter Robison, soldier and legislator, was born in Washington County, Georgia, on October 4 or 5, 1815, the son of John G. Robison. He moved to Texas from Georgia with his parents and one sister in 1831 and settled first near Columbia in Brazoria County. With his father, he served in Capt. Henry Stevenson Brown's company at the battle of Velasco on June 26, 1832. In 1833 the family moved to a farm on the west bank of Cummings Creek in Fayette County, and Robison became a volunteer Indian fighter in the company of Capt. John York. He served at the siege of Bexar in 1835 and took part in the Grass Fight and the battle of Concepción. At the battle of San Jacinto, Robison was a private in Capt. William Jones Elliott Heard's Company F of Col. Edward Burleson's First Regiment, Texas Volunteers, and was one of the party that captured Antonio López de Santa Anna. The Mexican general is said to have entered the Texan camp riding double on Robison's horse.

   On December 14, 1836, Sam Houston commissioned Robison a first lieutenant in the Texas Rangers. In 1837 Robison married Emily Almeida Alexander, who was born in Kentucky in 1821. They became the parents of seven children. In 1840 Robison owned 6,652 acres in Fayette County, and on January 31, 1840, he was elected commissioner of the Fayette County land office. His brother-in-law, Jerome B. Alexander, was killed in the Dawson Massacre in 1842. Robison became a prosperous planter and was elected in 1860 as a Democrat to the Eighth Legislature, where he favored secession. He served until 1862. From 1870 until 1879 he owned a store in Warrenton in partnership with one of his sons. At the end of the Reconstruction period he was elected to the Constitutional Convention of 1875. Emily Robison died in 1887, and Joel died at his home in Warrenton on August 4, 1889. Both were buried in the Florida Chapel Cemetery near Round Top, but in 1932 their remains were moved to the State Cemetery in Austin. Robison, an active Mason, was second vice president of the Texas Veterans Association at the time of his death. Source 

30° 15.914, -097° 43.638

Monument Hill
Texas State Cemetery

August 9, 2016

Richardson A. Scurry

   Richardson A. Scurry was born November 11, 1811 in Gallatin, Tennessee, the eldest of five children. His father was a lawyer, and Scurry apparently received a privately tutored education, after which he studied law under a Tennessee judge. He was admitted to the bar around 1830 and began practicing law in Covington, Tennessee.

   Like other young Tennesseans, Scurry was drawn by the promise of adventure to join a group of men headed to Texas to fight for Texas independence. He arrived in time to fight in the battle of San Jacinto and earned the rank of first lieutenant for his bravery and good conduct. When he left the Texas army in October 1836, he settled in Clarksville, practiced law, and served in various leadership roles in the Texas Republic.

   He was secretary of the Senate of the First Congress in the fall of 1836, and by the end of the first session that fall, President Sam Houston had appointed him district attorney of the First Judicial District. The Congress of the Republic elected him judge of the Sixth Judicial District on January 20, 1840, automatically making him an associate justice of the supreme court. He held the post until February 5, 1841, when he resigned to become district attorney of the Fifth Judicial District.

   In 1843 Scurry married; he fathered nine children. Following his marriage he served as a member of the House of Representatives of the Seventh and Eighth Congresses (1842-44), serving as speaker of the House of the Eighth, and was elected to the House of Representatives of the Thirty-second United States Congress in 1851. In 1853 he returned to law practice near Hempstead in Austin County. In 1861, Scurry was appointed adjutant general in the Confederate army.

   Scurry had accidentally shot himself while hunting in the summer of 1854; the wound had never healed, and eventually his leg was amputated. He never recovered from the surgery and died on April 9, 1862. Source 

30° 05.020, -096° 04.073

Hempstead Cemetery

August 5, 2016

John Forbes

   John Forbes, lawyer, judge, and military man of the Texan army during the Texas Revolution, was born to Scottish parents on February 26, 1797, in Cork, Ireland. His family moved when he was two to England, where he remained until 1817. That year Forbes immigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he engaged in business. While in Ohio he married Emily Sophia Sisson. They moved to Nacogdoches, Texas, in 1835. There, Forbes was appointed chairman of the Committee of Vigilance and Public Safety, and according to one account he wrote to President Andrew Jackson, protesting that various Indian chiefs of the Creek Nation were contracting with Archibald Hotchkiss and Benjamin Hawkins to enter and settle a vast tract of land in East Texas, to which 5,000 Creeks would migrate.

   When the General Council of the provisional government passed an act providing the council authority to elect two judges, Forbes was elected first judge of Nacogdoches Municipality on November 26, 1835. In December Gen. Sam Houston, John Cameron, and Forbes were appointed commissioners by provisional governor Henry Smith and the Consultation to secure a treaty with the Cherokees who were living near Nacogdoches. This treaty was signed by Chief Bowl, Sam Houston, and Forbes after a three-day conference with the Indians; the treaty bound the Cherokees to strict neutrality. Forbes also administered the oath of allegiance to army recruits, including David Crockett, as they passed through Nacogdoches. Forbes was then given the rank of major and appointed aide-de-camp to Sam Houston. He also served as commissary general under Houston during the campaigns at Anahuac and San Jacinto.

   According to the accounts of Nicholas D. Labadie, Forbes murdered one or two Mexican women, took prisoners without justification, and reportedly took a gold snuffbox from the dead body of a Mexican colonel. After the defeat of the Mexican forces under Antonio López de Santa Anna, Forbes was placed in charge of the spoils of war and acquired Santa Anna's sword. Eventually his reputation was restored, after he filed a libel suit in a Nacogdoches court against Labadie, a suit that was on the civil agenda from 1859 to 1867. Forbes was cleared of all charges. He was discharged on November 17, 1836, from military duty. On his return to Nacogdoches, he served as principal judge of the Municipality of Nacogdoches, in which office he administered the oath of allegiance to many of the new Texans who arrived after the revolution. In 1856 he ran for mayor of Nacogdoches and won. He served in that capacity for several years. In 1876 he was appointed lieutenant colonel on the staff of Richard Coke. Forbes died on February 10, 1880, in Nacogdoches, and was survived by two daughters, who buried him beside his wife in the Oak Grove Cemetery. Source

31° 36.160, -094° 38.946

Oak Grove Cemetery

August 2, 2016

Henry Lee Lucas

   Henry Lee Lucas was born on August 23, 1936, in Blacksburg, Virginia. One of nine siblings, Lucas was raised by abusive alcoholic parents. His mother ruled the household with an iron fist and prostituted herself in their backwoods community to make money. As a teenager, Lucas's sexual deviance became increasingly pronounced, and he reported having sex with his half-brother and with dead animals.

   Lucas spent his teen years in and out of jail. In March 1960, he was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison for murdering his mother. He was sent to Jackson State Penitentiary in southern Michigan, but after two attempted suicides, he was admitted to Ionia State Mental Hospital. He was paroled in 1970 after serving 10 years.

   A year after his release, Lucas was sentenced to five years for attempting to kidnap a fifteen-year-old girl at gunpoint. After his second release in 1975, he traveled to Michigan where he teamed-up with a petty thief named Ottis Toole. They shared an unhealthy interest in rape and death. In October 1979, Lucas traveled the country accompanied by Ottis and his young niece, Becky Powell, who was mildly retarded. According to Lucas, he and Powell became romantically involved, filling one another's lifelong need for love and respect. Despite this romance, however, he eventually killed Powell, along with Katharine Rich, an elderly woman with whom they had been staying.

   In June 1983, Lucas was arrested for possession of a deadly weapon. In his cell, he began confessing to hundreds of murders. Egged on by investigators from around the country, Lucas's confessions became increasingly farfetched. It is unclear how many murders he actually did commit, but some believe it was just three: his mother, Becky Powell and Katharine Rich. He was sentenced to death, but the sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment by Texas Governor George W. Bush. While on Death Row, Lucas became a born again Christian and spent the last 18 years of his life as a model prisoner. He died in a Huntsville, Texas, prison from natural causes on March 12, 2001, at the age of 64. Source

30° 42.732, -095° 32.158

Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery