January 31, 2017

William Homer Thornberry (1909-1995)

William Homer Thornberry was born on January 9, 1909, in Austin, Texas, to Mary L. and William N. Thornberry, teachers in the State School for the Deaf and themselves deaf. He attended public schools in Austin, graduated from Austin High School in 1927. He received his BBA in 1932, and his LLB in 1936 from the University of Texas. In 1954, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Gallaudet College, Washington, D.C. He served as a Member in the House of Representatives, Legislature of Texas, in 1937-1941. He was in private practice of law from 1936-1941 in the law firm of Powell, Wirtz, Rauhut and Gideon. During 1941-1942, he served as District Attorney in Travis County, resigning to serve in the Navy during World War II. Discharged from the Navy as Lieutenant Commander in 1946, he returned to Austin to re-enter the practice of law in partnership with the late Judge Herman Jones. He was a member of the City Council of Austin from 1946-1948, serving as Mayor pro tempore in 1947-1948. Thornberry was elected in 1948 to the 81st Session of the United States Congress as Representative of the 10th Congressional District of Texas. He was re-elected to each Congress until his resignation in December, 1963. During his time in Congress, he was a member of the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives from January of 1955, until his resignation.

He was appointed by President John F. Kennedy as a United States District Judge for the Western District of Texas in 1963, and commissioned by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and sworn in as a United States Judge in El Paso, Texas, on December 21, 1963. He was appointed and commissioned by President Johnson as a United States Circuit Judge (Fifth Circuit) in 1965, and sworn into office as a Circuit Judge on July 3, 1965, at the LBJ Ranch. He took senior status December 21, 1978. During his service on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, he participated in decisions including many civil rights cases of the 1960s and 1970s. He served as a member of the Judicial Conference Committee to Implement the Criminal Justice Act from 1964 to 1979, and the Fifth Judicial Council Committee on Criminal Justice Act in 1967. Thornberry received the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award in 1948. He served as a board member of Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C. (the only senior college for the deaf in the world) from 1949 until his resignation from Congress, at which time he was named honorary life member of the Gallaudet Board. He was a Delegate-at-Large at the National Democratic Convention in 1956 and 1960. He was an Honorary Member of the Order of the Coif, an honorary legal organization and was chosen as a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Texas in 1965. He was elected to the Austin High School Hall of Honor in May, 1983. He received the Leon Green Award from the Texas Law Review Association of the University of Texas School of Law in April, 1986. Judge Thornberry was a past member of the Texas Bar Association and a current member of the Travis County Bar Association. He was a member of the Texas Society of Sons of the American Revolution and a 33rd Degree KCCH Member of the Austin Scottish Rite Bodies. He was an honorary member of Kiwanis International, and served as Potentate of the Ben Hur Temple Shrine in 1948. He died peacefully at home in Austin on Tuesday, December 12, 1995. Source

30° 15.925
-097° 43.635

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

January 24, 2017

Edward Leon Durst (1916-1945)

Edward Durst was born in Leona, Texas on on November 12, 1916 and subsequently moved with his family to Texas City. After his graduation from Central High School in Texas City, he became a student at the University of Texas, where he studied acting and practiced his craft in dramatic activities on the campus. While a student, he worked as a committee clerk in the house of representatives as well as a radio announcer. After leaving the University, Durst joined the Woodstock Summer Theatre in Woodstock, New York. From there, he joined a theatrical group in Arizona, where he acted regularly in several plays. His talent came to the attention of a scout for the Pasadena Playhouse in California, which he soon joined. He was selected to play in the motion picture, Days of Glory as "Petrov", a part which won him some acclaim. On March 10, 1945, he was rushed to the hospital after being found seriously ill in his apartment by fellow actor John Carradine. He died later that night of complications from pneumonia. He was only 29.

29° 21.211
-095° 00.455

Section A
Galveston Memorial Park

January 17, 2017

Howard Robard Hughes (1905-1976)

Howard Hughes, aviator, movie producer, and billionaire, was born in Houston, Texas, on Christmas Eve 1905 to Allene (Gano) and Howard Robard Hughes, Sr. Sonny, as the family called him, grew up in the upper crust of Houston society. Like his father, he enjoyed tinkering with mechanical things, and as a youth he built a shortwave radio set and started the Radio Relay League for amateurs. Because of his father's traveling, Hughes became close to his mother, who constantly worried about her son's health. At the slightest hint of an epidemic, she would take him out of town. In 1919 Hughes was paralyzed for a short time by an unexplained illness. The young man developed a lifetime phobic regard for his health. He also grew up a loner whose only solid friend was Dudley Sharp, son of his father's partner, Walter B. Sharp. His father sent him to a private school in Boston, where he did fairly well in classwork and excelled in golf. On a visit to Harvard, his father took him on a plane ride, an experience that stimulated a life-long love of aviation. While Howard was attending the Thacher School in California, his mother died, on March 29, 1922. In California, Hughes spent time with his father's brother Rupert, a writer for Samuel Goldwyn's movie studios.

Although Howard had no high school degree, through his father's intercession (and donation), he sat in on classes at Cal Tech, then returned to Houston and enrolled at Rice Institute. On January 14, 1924, the elder Hughes died suddenly in Houston. At age eighteen Howard received access to a large part of the family estate and dropped out of Rice. Rupert Hughes agreed to supervise Howard's part of the estate and interests in the Hughes Tool Company until he was twenty-one. Howard quarreled with the family and had company lawyers buy out his relatives. Through the decision by a Houston judge, who had been a friend of his father's, Howard was granted legal adulthood on December 26, 1924, and took control of the tool company. On June 1, 1925, he married Houston socialite Ella Rice. After a summer of tinkering with a steam-powered car, Howard and Ella headed for Hollywood. Howard wanted to make movies. After a first effort that flopped, he hired Noah Dietrich to head his movie subsidiary of the tool company and Lewis Mileston as director. In 1928 Mileston directed Two Arabian Nights and won an Academy Award. Hughes worked next on his epic movie Hell's Angels, a story about air warfare in World War I. He wrote the script and directed it himself. He acquired eighty-seven World War I airplanes, hired ace pilots, took flying lessons and obtained a pilot's license. He crashed and injured his face. As he spent little time at home, Ella divorced him in December 1929.

Since talkies had become popular, Hughes added dialogue scenes to Hell's Angels that included actress Jean Harlow. The movie, released in June 1930, had cost $3.8 million, the most expensive movie to that date. Though Hell's Angels was a box-office smash, Hughes actually lost $1.5 million on it. He was now accepted by the Hollywood establishment, however, and went on to produce Scarface (1932), which was decensored after he sued the censorship agency. His later film The Outlaw (1941) also was controversial because of promotional publicity. In 1932, Hughes acquired a military plane through the Department of Commerce and converted it for racing. When the costs rose, he formed the Hughes Aircraft Company as a division of Hughes Tool Company. Since Charles Lindbergh's license number had been 69, Hughes (whose number was 4223) badgered the Department of Commerce to lower his number to 80 in 1933. He signed on with American Airways as a co-pilot under the name Charles W. Howard to gain experience. The deception was immediately discovered and Hughes resigned, thus leaving the only job he ever had. In 1934 he entered his converted Boeing in the All-America Air Meet in Miami and won. Afterward, he gathered a group of engineers and technicians to work on the H-1, the most advanced plane of its time. He personally test-flew the plane himself and precipitated a power struggle in the Hughes empire when he placed Vice President Dietrich in control of his holdings. Meanwhile, on September 13, 1935, Hughes set a new land-speed record of 352 miles per hour with his H-1 (he called it Winged Bullet).

In 1936 he set a new transcontinental record, and the next year he shortened the record to seven hours and twenty-eight minutes. Hughes was now immensely popular and was hosted by the president at the White House. He next converted a special Lockheed 14 for an around-the-world flight. He studied weather patterns and installed an autopilot and four radios to make contacts along his route. He and a four-man crew left New York on July 10, 1938, and cut Lindbergh's record in half in his flight to Paris. He personally piloted the plane on the flight. Hughes landed in New York on July 14, 1938, having circled the globe in three days, nineteen hours, and seventeen minutes. He was honored with parades all over America. Houston briefly renamed its airport (now William P. Hobby Airport) in his honor. He now decided to invest in military aircraft, and sought to sell his planes and ideas to the government. But he veiled his plans in secrecy and ignored regulations and protocol. He also insisted on building planes out of plywood using a "duramold" process, when the industry standard was aluminum. When the Army Material Command declared that the airplanes could not be made combat ready, Hughes used friends in Washington in an attempt to go over their heads. At last, shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser got Hughes a contract. Kaiser convinced the government that a fleet of gigantic flying boats was needed to ferry men and supplies across the ocean. On November 16, 1942, Hughes Aircraft won a contract to build three flying boats at a cost of up to $18 million in ten months. Hughes declared the goal impossible to meet, and the contract was canceled.

On March 27, 1944, after Hughes's lobbying in Washington, he received a contract for one flying boat. Only one HK-1, which the public called the Spruce Goose (a name Hughes hated), was built. He successfully flew the craft on November 2, 1947. On October 11, 1943, Hughes also received a contract for 101 of his D-2 (XF-11 reconnaissance) planes. The XF-11 was an aluminum redesign of the wooden D-2. At the end of World War II in 1945, Hughes won permission to complete the two prototypes under construction. In 1946, in his first flight of the XF-11, he crashed in Beverly Hills. This was his fourth crash (in November 1943 he had hit Lake Mead in a crash that killed two people). He successfully flew the second prototype on April 5, 1946. In 1947 a Senate war investigating committee questioned him at length about his failure to deliver on wartime contracts. Hughes remained active in the 1950s. In 1948 he had purchased the movie studio RKO, and in 1955 he sold it to the General Tire Company for profit. Hughes also invested in Trans World Airlines, and in 1956 pushed the company into the jet age by purchasing sixty-three jets. He quarreled with engineers at Hughes Aircraft in 1953, causing a shakeup that imperiled contracts with the Pentagon. That same year, he founded the Hughes Medical Institute in Delaware, thus funding the Medical Center he earlier had designated as the main recipient of his will. In 1957 he again shook the Hughes empire by firing his long-time associate Noah Dietrich. During the 1930s in Hollywood Hughes had squired many actresses and socialites, particularly Katherine Hepburn.

In 1957 he married actress Jean Peters; the marriage ended in divorce in 1970. Hughes remained in Los Angeles until 1966, then began traveling and eventually rented a penthouse in the Desert Inn in Las Vegas. When lawsuits were filed against TWA, he sold his stock in 1966 for $546 million. The next year he began buying properties to build a business empire in Nevada. In 1970 he took over Air West. By this time he was becoming increasingly reclusive and conducted most of his business through memos. He now had little control over his empire. Chester Davis, Raymond Holliday, and Bill Gay, Hughes Tool Company executives, ran his Nevada properties. In 1972, Hughes sold Hughes Tool Company stock to the public and renamed his holdings company Summa Corporation. This ended his role as a businessman and entrepreneur. In poor health and accompanied by a squadron of personal aides, he went to Panama, Canada, and London, then to Acapulco. He was indicted in a case relating to the Air West takeover, but it was dismissed. Hughes allowed a CIA ship, the Glomar Explorer, to work through one of his companies to recover a sunken Soviet sub. In Los Angeles a break-in occurred at the Hughes headquarters, and many of his personal papers were stolen. With his health rapidly deteriorating, he boarded a plane en route to a hospital in Houston on April 5, 1976, but died on the way. The Treasury Department made fingerprints to confirm his identity. More than forty alleged wills and 400 prospective heirs emerged to try to inherit part of Hughes's estimated $2 billion estate. In 1983 the estate was settled among twenty-two cousins on both sides of his family. For eight years Texas and California pursued inheritance-tax claims, although Hughes executives insisted that Nevada (which has no estate taxes) was Hughes's home. The United States Supreme Court reviewed the case three times before it was settled. Howard Hughes Medical Institute was given ownership of Hughes Aircraft and sold it to General Motors in 1985 for $5 billion. Hughes' Summa Corporation emerged with four hotels and six casinos in Las Vegas and Reno. Howard Hughes has been the subject of many books; The Amazing Howard Hughes (1977), a television film with actor Tommy Lee Jones; and three feature films, The Carpetbaggers (1964), Melvin and Howard (1980), and The Aviator (2004). Source

29° 45.799
-095° 23.231

Oakdale Section
Glenwood Cemetery

January 10, 2017

James Albon Mattox (1943-2008)

Jim Mattox was born in Dallas and grew up in a working-class neighborhood of East Dallas, the son of a sheet-metal worker and a waitress. After graduating from high school in 1961, he joined the Teamsters and worked on loading docks. He also peddled Bibles door-to-door in Dallas and Tulsa. Thinking that he might want to be a Baptist preacher, he enrolled at Baylor University, a Southern Baptist institution, where he ultimately decided to major in business. He received his undergraduate degree in 1965. After receiving his law degree from Southern Methodist University in 1968, he worked as a felony prosecutor for Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade. He also got himself arrested while in private practice when he rushed to a downtown Dallas park one evening to assist pot smokers being arrested by police. Mr. Mattox was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1973 and to Congress in 1976. In that race, he accused his Republican opponent, Nancy Judy, of being unladylike for bringing up labor contributions to his campaign that had come from outside Texas. In Congress, he was the only freshman elected to the powerful House Budget Committee and the Banking Committee and was one of the leaders of his freshman caucus. He described himself as an "urban populist" who was liberal on civil rights but conservative on fiscal and moral matters.  After serving three terms in Congress, he successfully ran for Texas attorney general in 1982.  The next year, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle charged Mr. Mattox with commercial bribery, accusing him of threatening to destroy the bond business of the Fulbright & Jaworski law firm unless it abandoned an unrelated oil company case involving his sister. Mr. Mattox refused a plea-bargain offer and was acquitted by a jury. Four years after his loss to Richards, he ran for the U.S. Senate. He vowed to project more of a "Gentle Jim" image, but both friends and foes were skeptical.  Mattox lost the Democratic primary. Four years later, he tried to regain the attorney general's seat but lost to Republican John Cornyn. Mattox continued to practice law and was a Hillary Clinton delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, later shifting his support to Barack Obama. On November 20, 2008, Mattox died of a heart attack at his home in Dripping Springs.

30° 15.917
-097° 43.620

Monument Hill
Texas State Cemetery

January 3, 2017

Sterling Clack Robertson (1785-1842)

Sterling C. Robertson, the empresario of Robertson's colony in Texas, was born on October 2, 1785, in Nashville, Tennessee, a son of Elijah and Sarah (Maclin) Robertson. He was given a liberal education under the direction of Judge John McNairy. From November 13, 1814, to May 13, 1815, he served as deputy quartermaster general under Maj. Gen. William Carroll, who went down to fight the British in the battle of New Orleans. After the battle Robertson purchased supplies and equipment for the sick and wounded on their return to Nashville over the Natchez Trace. By 1816 he was living in Giles County, Tennessee, where he owned a plantation. He had two sons: James Maclin Robertson with Rachael Smith, and Elijah Sterling Clack Robertson with Frances King. On March 2, 1822, he was one of the seventy stockholders of the Texas Association who signed a memorial to the Mexican government, asking for permission to settle in Texas. On November 21, 1825, he was one of thirty-two members of Dr. Felix Robertson's party that set out from Nashville, Tennessee, bound for Texas, to explore and survey Robert Leftwich's grant. Robertson remained in Texas until August 1826, when he returned to Tennessee, filled with enthusiasm for the colonization of Texas. He toured Tennessee and Kentucky in an attempt to recruit settlers.

In the spring of 1830 he signed a subcontract with the Texas Association to introduce 200 families, and on May 9, 1830, he took in Alexander Thomson as his partner. They brought families to Texas, but they were prevented from settling in the colony because of the Law of April 6, 1830. In 1831 that area was transferred to Stephen F. Austin and Samuel May Williams, but Robertson obtained a contract in his own name in 1834 and served as empresario of Robertson's colony in 1834 and 1835. On January 17, 1836, he became captain of a company of Texas Rangers. Then he was elected as a delegate from the Municipality of Milam to the convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos (March 1-17, 1836), where he signed the Texas Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. He was stationed at Harrisburg to guard army equipment during the battle of San Jacinto. Robertson served as senator from the District of Milam in the First and Second congresses of the Republic of Texas (October 3, 1836-May 24, 1838), after which he retired to his home in Robertson County, where he became the earliest known breeder of Arabian horses in Texas. He died there on March 4, 1842. His remains were removed to Austin and reinterred in the State Cemetery on December 29, 1935. Robertson was responsible for settling more than 600 families in Texas. Source

30° 15.914
-097° 43.630

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery