October 31, 2017

James A. Michener

   James Albert Michener was born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, on February 3, 1907, and soon after abandoned by his parents. His foster mother, Mabel Michener, a poor widow who made a scant living by taking in laundry and sewing, took him in and raised him to young adulthood. At fourteen, Michener began what would become a lifelong inclination toward travel when he went on a hitchhiking tour that took him through 45 states. That fall he entered Doylestown High School, where his chief interest was sports, especially basketball. Upon graduation in 1925, he won a scholarship to Swarthmore College. He graduated from college summa cum laude in 1929 with a bachelor's degree in English and history.

   His first job was as an English teacher at Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, where he worked from 1929 to 1931. He then received a Lippincott Travel Fellowship and, for the next two years, traveled in Europe. He studied in Scotland, England, and Italy, worked on a Mediterranean cargo ship, and toured Spain with a troupe of bullfighters. Upon returning to the United States in 1933, Michener accepted a teaching position at George School in Doylestown. While there he met Patti Koon; they were married in 1935. The following year, Michener was offered an associate professorship at the Colorado State College of Education in Greeley, where he taught until 1939. He also obtained his master's degree in English in 1937. His next move was to Harvard University's School of Education, where he was a visiting professor from 1939 to 1940. In 1940, he began a nine-year stint as a social studies editor at Macmillan.

   In 1943, an event occurred that would drastically change Michener's life, although perhaps not in the way he expected. He had enlisted as an apprentice seaman in the United States Naval Reserve when World War II broke out and, in 1943, was called to active duty. He was sent to the South Pacific in 1944, where he traveled from island to island, learning about local culture and history and hearing stories from the residents. Michener developed an idea for a book and began to spend his nights tapping it out with two fingers on an old typewriter, using the backs of letters from home, old envelopes, and official Navy correspondence. Ultimately the recording of his experiences became his first well-known book, Tales of the South Pacific, published in 1947. It paid off - Tales of the South Pacific won a Pulitzer Prize in 1948 and was adapted by Rogers and Hammerstein into the popular musical comedy, South Pacific in 1949.

   In 1948, Michener and his first wife were divorced and he married Vange Nord, an aspiring writer. The couple bought some property and built a new house, and Michener proceeded to publish several more books, including The Fires of Spring (1949), Return to Paradise (1951), The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1953), and Sayonara: The Floating World (1954). In addition, Michener began working as a roving editor for Readers Guide, an endeavor he continued until 1970. In 1955, he and his second wife divorced and Michener married Mari Yoriko Sabusawa. Although they had no children of their own, throughout their 39-year marriage Michener and his third wife housed and cared for many underprivileged children.

   With the publication of his first historical novel, Hawaii, in 1959, Michener's writing career took on greater challenges. Like many such novels that were to follow, Hawaii was based on extensive research into the social, cultural, economic, and political history of a particular region and spanned generations of a family. Others of this kind included Caravans, about a romantic American girl in Afghanistan (1963); Centennial, which presented the history of Colorado from prehistory through the twentieth century (1974); Chesapeake, a depiction of 400 years of history on Maryland's eastern shore (1978); and The Covenant, a full history of South Africa (1980). Poland (1983), Texas (1985), Alaska (1988), and Caribbean (1989) were others among the more than 40 books Michener published. Space, published in 1982, dealt with NASA and space exploration and was one of Michener's most popular books. His novels sold an estimated 75 million copies worldwide. Several were made into motion pictures, including Tales of the South Pacific, Hawaii, Texas, and Space.

   Despite the popularity of his novels, Michener received mixed critical reviews. Some called him mediocre and long-winded, relying too much on trivial historical detail and not enough on imaginative language and subtlety. Others praised his ability to mold the vast amount of research into a story that taught about cultural diversity. Michener first became active in politics when he was chairman of the Bucks County, Pennsylvania, campaign for John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election. In 1962, he lost his run for Congress as a Democrat. He served as secretary of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention in 1967-1968, during which a new state constitution was written. Michener also served as a correspondent for President Richard Nixon during his 1972 trips to the Soviet Union and China.

   Although Michener was best known for his novels, they were not his only products. His earliest work, which consisted of 15 articles on teaching social studies published between the years 1936 and 1942, provided examples of the way in which Michener used fiction as a teaching device. In his book Return to Paradise (1951), Michener alternated essays about Asia with stories designed to exemplify the essays. The Novel (1991), though fiction, taught about art and the craft of writing. Michener also wrote books about Japanese art, the electoral college, sports and the 1970 shooting at Kent State. He published his memoirs, titled appropriately The World is My Home, in 1992. In 1994, he wrote Recessional, about retirement life in Florida and gave readers insight into Michener's own thoughts and feelings at that point in his life.

   Michener is known for his generous contributions to various organizations, estimated to be at least $100 million. Examples include $7.2 million to his alma mater, Swathmore College; $64.2 million to the University of Texas at Austin; and $9.5 million to the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. In addition, Michener designated the royalties from many of his books to various charitable organizations. In 1997, Fortune magazine listed Michener as the previous year's twenty-first most generous philanthropist. Throughout his long career, Michener received numerous awards. Some of the most noteworthy include the Einstein Award from Einstein Medical College in 1967, the Medal of Freedom from President Gerald Ford in 1977, the Pennsylvania Society Gold Medal in 1978, the Franklin Award and Spanish Institute Gold Medal in 1980, and an award for Outstanding Philanthropist by the National Society of Fund Raising Executives in 1996. Another honor came in the form of a television series on PBS called The World of James A. Michener, a program that explored some of the regions in which his novels were set.

   In the midst of his professional achievements, Michener suffered a severe loss when his wife died of cancer in 1994. By this time Michener himself was in poor health; he had undergone hip surgery, major bypass surgery, and suffered from severe kidney problems which required dialysis treatments three times a week. Despite these ailments, Michener continued to write, publishing This Noble Land: My Vision for America in 1996 and A Century of Sonnets in 1997. He died in his home in Austin, Texas, on October 16, 1997, at the age of 90. Source

30° 19.949, -097° 45.192

Section 11
Austin Memorial Park Cemetery

October 24, 2017

Arnold "Arnie" Moser

   Arnold Robert Moser was born in Houston, Texas on August 9, 1915. At the age of 22, he made his major league baseball debut as a pinch hitter for the Cincinnatti Reds on June 20, 1937, but after only five games was sent back down to the minors. He spent the next nine years in the International League, playing for the Montreal Royals, the Syracuse Chiefs, the Knoxville Smokies, the Milwaukee Brewers, the New Orleans Pelicans and the Nashville Volunteers before finishing out his baseball career in 1946 with the Houston Buffaloes.

   He is best remembered by baseball historians for getting his belt caught on a scoreboard peg while leaping for a fly ball and left dangling above the field until he was helped down by his teammates. Moser died in his hometown of Houston on August 15, 2002 at the age of 87.

29° 44.246, -095° 36.677

Section 305
Forest Park Westheimer Cemetery

October 17, 2017

Felix Anthony "Doc" Blanchard

   "Doc" Blanchard was born on December 11, 1924 in McColl, South Carolina. His father was a doctor and the family moved frequently when Felix was a child before settling in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. He seemed to be naturally gifted in athletics, and while at Saint Stanislaus College in Bay St. Louis led the school's football team to its first undefeated season in 1941, resulting in offers from Notre Dame, Fordham and Army, which he refused. Now nicknamed "Doc" due to his father's occupation, he chose to play for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, in part because its coach was a relative.

   In 1943, Doc decided to enlist in the Army. He was stationed in New Mexico with a chemical-warfare unit until July 1944, when his father secured him a spot at West Point in July 1944. During his three years of playing for West Point, Doc racked up an undefeated streak of twenty-seven games. An all-around athlete, Blanchard served as the placekicker and punter in addition to his primary roles as an offensive fullback and a linebacker on defense, and his skills won him the Heisman trophy in 1945, as well as the cover of Time magazine. He had the opportunity to play professional football after being selected third overall in the 1946 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but was refused a furlough.

   In 1947, Blanchard played himself in the movie The Spirit of West Point, the same year that he graduated and commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He coached Army’s freshman team in the 1950s, but never played professionally, choosing a military career as a fighter pilot instead. He would be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959.

   While with the 77th Tactical Fighter Squadron and flying back to his base at RAF Wethersfield near London in 1959, a gas leak in his F-100 Super Sabre broke and caught his plane on fire. Rather than escaping and parachuting out safely, he decided to stay with the plane and land it safely, because of a village on the ground that would have been damaged. The event garnered him an Air Force commendation for bravery. In the Vietnam War, Blanchard flew 113 missions from Thailand, 84 of them over North Vietnam. He piloted a fighter-bomber during a one-year tour of duty that ended in January 1969. He retired from the Air Force in 1971 as a colonel and spent several more years as the commandant of cadets at the New Mexico Military Institute.

   Blanchard died of pneumonia on April 19, 2009 in Bulverde, Texas, where he had been living with his daughter for the last twenty years of his life. He was interred at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas. In Blanchard's honor, the Interstate 20/U.S. Route 15 interchange near his hometown of Bishopville, South Carolina was named the Felix "Doc" Blanchard Interchange.

29° 28.543, -098° 25.101

Section 50
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery
San Antonio

October 10, 2017

Xavier DeBray

   Xavier Blanchard Debray, soldier, was born in Selestat (Schlettstadt), near Epinal, France, on January 25, 1818, the son of Nicholas Blanchard, a government official, and his wife Catherine Benezech. He is often said to have attended the French Military Academy at St. Cyr and then served in the French diplomatic service until he immigrated to the United States via New York on September 25, 1848. St. Cyr, however, has no record of his attending. He moved to Texas in 1852, settled in San Antonio, and was naturalized there on April 5, 1855. That same year he established a Spanish newspaper with A. A. Lewis called El BejareƱo. Later he worked in the General Land Office as a translator. He also established an academy that prospered until the Civil War began. In 1859 Debray ran a strong but losing race for mayor of Austin.

   After brief service with Company B, Fourth Texas Infantry, Debray served as aide-de-camp to Governor Edward Clark during the summer of 1861. In September, 1961, he was commissioned major of the Second Texas Infantry. On December 7, 1861 he was elected lieutenant colonel and commander of Debray's Texas Cavalry battalion and on March 17, 1862, colonel of the Twenty-sixth Texas Cavalry. From January to June of 1862 he commanded on Galveston Island. In July he assumed command of the military subdistrict of Houston in the Department of Texas. He commanded some of the Confederate troops in the recapture of Galveston on January 1, 1863. On February 13, 1863, he was relieved of command of the eastern subdivision of Texas in the Trans-Mississippi Department, and on May 30 he took command of the troops on Galveston Island in the District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. British observer Arthur Fremantle found Debray “a broad shouldered Frenchman, and a very good fellow,” who’d left France because of political differences with Emperor Napoleon. Although he was assigned temporary command of the eastern subdistrict of Texas in June 1863, by July 1 he had resumed his position on Galveston Island. Debray led his regiment in the Red River campaign in Louisiana during the spring of 1864. For his participation in the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, he was appointed brigadier general by General Edmund Kirby Smith on April 13, 1864, but this was never confirmed by President Jefferson Davis. Nevertheless, he commanded a brigade consisting of the Twenty-third, Twenty-sixth, and Thirty-second Texas Cavalry regiments. Debray discharged his men on March 24, 1865.

   After the war he moved to Houston and then to Galveston, working as a teacher and a bookkeeper before eventually returning to his position as translator in the General Land Office. He died in Austin on January 6, 1895, and was buried in the State Cemetery. Source

30° 15.905, -097° 43.643

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

October 3, 2017

James "Red" Duke

   James Henry “Red” Duke, Jr., surgeon, teacher, television host, and conservationist, son of James Henry Duke, Sr., and Helen Marion (Donegan) Duke, was born in Ennis, Texas, on November 16, 1928. He grew up in Hillsboro and was given the nickname “Red” for his curly red hair. As a youth, he delivered newspapers, picked cotton, and dug ditches, and he earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts. Duke graduated from Hillsboro High School and attended Texas A&M University in College Station, where he became head yell leader; he received a bachelor of science degree in 1950. Following his graduation, Duke served in the United States Army for two years as a tank commander in Germany during the Korean War.

   After his military service, Duke attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. During this time he married Betty Cowden, a fellow student, and they eventually had four children - Hank, Rebecca, Sara, and Hallie. The couple later divorced. After Duke received a divinity degree in 1955, he was inspired to go into medical school by learning about humanitarian and physician Albert Schweitzer. He received his M. D. from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas in 1960. During his residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Duke was the emergency surgeon on hand to attend to President John F. Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally following their shooting. He has been credited with saving Connally’s life.

   Duke briefly served on the faculty of UT Southwestern and at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, where he also took graduate classes at Columbia University. In 1970 he was a visiting professor at Nangarhar University School of Medicine in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In 1972 Duke became one of the first faculty members at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and eventually became the John B. Holmes Professor of Clinical Sciences. He practiced in the Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston for four decades and established his reputation as an outstanding trauma surgeon. Duke established the trauma service at Memorial Hermann and in 1976 founded the Life Flight service - a model in the nation - in Houston. He was a founding member of the American Trauma Society and was influential in the development of EMS (Emergency Medical Services) in Texas. 

   Duke wore many hats during his lifetime; he was a surgeon, a teacher, and a colorful television personality. Duke appeared on nationally-syndicated television broadcasts called Dr. Red Duke’s Health Reports for fifteen years. He also hosted the PBS series Bodywatch in 1986. Known for his cowboy dress and country twang, Duke was called “John Wayne in scrubs” by U. S. Congressman Ted Poe and was the inspiration for the television series Buck James starring Dennis Weaver in 1987.

   During his lifetime, Duke, a conservationist who had grown up hunting and fishing, served as president of the Wild Sheep Foundation, an organization dedicated to restoring wild sheep populations in North America, and the Boone and Crockett Club. He was also the founder of the Texas Bighorn Society, which tasks itself with restoring desert bighorn sheep to their native ranges in Texas.

   Duke authored numerous chapters and gave many presentations during his career. He also devoted much time to support the United States military both through enhanced medical technology in combat and the promotion of employment of veterans at home through his Texas Medical Center’s Hiring Red, White & You! program. He received many honors during his lifetime, including the Texas Governor's EMS and Trauma Advisory Council's Journey of Excellence Award and knighthood in the Order of Saint George of the U.S. Cavalry and Armor Association. He was named Surgeon of the Year by the James F. Mitchell Foundation in 1988. The Boy Scouts honored him with their Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in 1993. The James H. “Red” Duke, Jr., M. D. Endowed Scholarship for students at UT Health Medical School was established in 2014. That same year the Dr. James “Red” Duke Elementary School opened in Alvin, Texas. Life Flight established a worldwide call sign - “Red Duke” - in his honor.

   James Henry “Red” Duke, Jr., died of natural causes at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston on August 25, 2015. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. In a memoriam to Duke, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston described his “trademark bottle-brush mustache, military issued wire-rimmed glasses,” and “folksy humor” as characteristics that “made Duke a one-of-a-kind folk hero with the personality of an old-fashioned country doctor and the extraordinary talent of [a] modern-day surgeon.” In May 2016 the Memorial Hermann Health System renamed its Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute the Memorial Hermann Red Duke Trauma Institute in his honor. Source

30° 15.955, -097° 43.532

Monument Hill
Texas State Cemetery