Sunday, February 22, 2009

East Texas Historical Association Spring Meeting

I had the pleasure of attending the spring meeting of the East Texas Historical Association held in Paris, Texas from February 19th to February 21st. My wife, Victoria Cummins, who is also a member of the history faculty at Austin College, also attended. The meeting was a very pleasant mixing of solid scholarship, evidenced by the presentations made in the paper sessions we attended, and which were coupled to some exceptional tours of historical restorations in Paris and nearby Clarksville. Seen at left, Dr. Archie MacDonald, a Texas historical institution unto himself, presented a moving hour on the music of World War II, interspersing his autobiographical memories with the hit songs from the war years, which he sang in strong voice while strumming on his guitar. Other noteworthy sessions that I attended featured well-known author and historical raconteur Bill O’Neal of Carthage talking on the north Texas connection to the famous Johnson County war, Gail Beil surveying the protest in the 1950s by Marshall housewives against collection of social security taxes on their domestic servants, and Clarksville attorney Jack Harrington’s recounting the arduous efforts by the historical society in that town to restore the Lenox House, now a Victorian-era showplace. Friday afternoon all participants in the conference took a guided tour of Clarksville hosted by the local historical society and Judge Jim Lovett. This featured guided tours made by horse-drawn wagons to visit the restored county courthouse, the Old Jail, and the First Presbyterian Church, the latter founded in 1833 which makes it one of the oldest Protestant houses of worship in the state. On Saturday morning, my colleague Jerry Lincecum from Austin College gave a bang-up presentation on Ruby Allmond, a song-writer from Bonham Texas who is sadly forgotten today in the history of Texas music. ETHA Executive Secretary Scott Sosebee and the organizers of the conference should be complimented on a job very well-done.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Tennant's "Tejas Warrior"

I am currently researching a biography of Allie V. Tennant, who is best known for her statue “Tejas Warrior” at the Hall of State in Fair Park east of downtown Dallas. Allie began work on the statue in early 1936 at her Live Oak Avenue studio in Dallas’s Munger Place district. She found a local high school track star who served as the model for statue, which she first rendered in clay. By May of 1936, her clay model was ready to be cast in plaster, the casting of which would be shipped to the foundry in New York City. There it would be “pointed-up’ to its finished size and cast. The Dallas Morning News proudly carried an article describing the plaster version as it left Texas. "The warrior is depicted," Frances Folsom of the News reported, "with feet apart and left arm outstretched and grasping a large bow, the string of which is being released by the right-hand." Folsom further noted that “the head is shaved, with the exception of the scalp lock, and the figure is clothed only in a breech cloth." Allie went to New York in order to supervise the casting. She stayed there for several weeks, supervising the process at the Roman Bronze Works. By August, “Tejas Warrior” had been shipped back to Dallas and placed at its permanent location above the main entrance to the Hall of State. It proved to be particularly spectacular because it was gold plated and shinned magnificently in its permanent location. The Dallas Morning News carried a large photograph of the “Tejas Warrior” to mark the formal dedication of the Hall of State, while civic leaders praised the scale and scope of its execution. Indeed, her statue served as the backdrop for the formal dedication of the building. That ceremony was held at eight o’clock in the evening on September 5, 1936. Texas governor James V. Allred proclaimed that day as an official state holiday and closed all state offices in honor of the building’s opening. Former governor Pat M. Neff, then the president of the Baylor University, spoke at the ceremonies. A number of dignitaries including Allie Tennant were present for the formal dedication.