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When Belle Starr was shot to death in 1889, a newspaper declared her to be "a most desperate woman." Her killer was never identified. Many suspected her son, whom Belle had recently beaten for mistreating her horse. Her unsolved murder was a fitting end to a life that was a whirlwind of violence, crime, and legend. She was born Myra Maybelle Shirley in 1848, and at the age of sixteen moved to the North...
Texas revolutionary Juan Seguín was a politician, a soldier, a businessman, even a suspected traitor. Yet he was also a hero and an honored veteran. The contradictions of Seguín's life illustrate how complicated loyalty was during the struggle for Texas independence—especially for Tejano citizens of the Republic. Seguín was born in San Antonio in 1806. As a young man, he formed a...
According to one of his fans, actor and Texas native Zachary Scott had an air of sophistication that made him look like he had "been born in a dinner jacket." Best known for portraying scoundrels, playboys, and villains, Scott was one of Texas's most recognizable faces during Hollywood's golden age. Born in Austin in 1914, Scott studied acting at The University of Texas. He worked in regional...
In 1925, an anonymous novel called The Wind spotlighted the West Texas town of Sweetwater. The Wind told the tragic tale of Letty Mason, a Virginian who moves to Sweetwater during the drought-stricken 1880s. By book’s end, Letty has committed murder and suicide—driven in part by the relentless West Texas wind. Reviewers praised the book for depicting the West with "cold truth." However, many...
The German army considered Pointe du Hoc a perfect spot for defending the coast of France from Allied forces during World War II. From atop its hundred-foot cliffs, German guns could reach both Omaha Beach and Utah Beach. The Germans thought their position was secure. And it was—until June 1944, when Texan James Earl Rudder and his Second Ranger Battalion began to climb those cliffs. Rudder graduated from...
The series of pastels titled Twenty-four Hours with the Herd depicts an iconic Texas scene: the cattle drive. Artist Frank Reaugh completed the series in the 1930s, but they portray an earlier chapter of Texas history, when fences had not yet crossed the landscape, and men and cattle moved freely on the open range. Born in Illinois in 1860, Reaugh moved to Texas when he was fifteen. His family grew cotton, but young...
The Gutenberg Bible, completed in 1454, is the first substantial book printed with movable type. Of the twenty-one complete copies in existence, one is on view at The University of Texas at Austin's Harry Ransom Center. This book—and the center that houses it—are the proud legacy of Chancellor Harry Huntt Ransom, known as "The Great Acquisitor." Born in Galveston in 1908, Ransom came to UT...
William Sydney Porter—better known by his pen name, O. Henry—was born in North Carolina and died in New York. But his sixteen years in Texas, from 1882 to 1898, made a lasting mark on his life and work. In Texas, Porter developed an abiding love for the American West. He worked as a ranch hand, a pharmacist, a draftsman; edited his own newspaper; and met his wife. It was also in Texas where Porter was...
Critics call Texas-born writer Katherine Anne Porter a "poet of the story." Her carefully crafted short fiction earned her the highest acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Porter was born in 1890 in Indian Creek to a family of modest means. As an adult, she lived for several years in Mexico, and later at points throughout the U.S. and Europe. But her most accomplished stories...
Born about 1845, Comanche leader Quanah Parker lived two vastly different lives: the first as a warrior among the Plains Indians of Texas, and the second as a pragmatic leader who sought a place for his people in a rapidly changing America. Parker's birth was a direct result of the conflict between Native Americans and white settlers. His mother, Cynthia Parker, was captured by the Comanche as a child and later...
Connecticut-born Frederick Law Olmsted is best known for his design of New York's Central Park. But his writings on the slaveholding South, including Texas, enjoyed critical acclaim in the 1850s for their detailed descriptions and keen social commentary. The New York Times sent Olmsted to the South to record his observations. On his second trip, he and his brother John arrived in Texas on Christmas Day, 1853....
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 left the U.S. Navy stunned. With American ships still smoldering in the water, Navy Secretary Frank Knox turned to a Texan, Chester Nimitz, to restore confidence in the Pacific Fleet. Nimitz was born in Fredericksburg in 1885. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1905 and then served in several command and staff positions, including the new Atlantic submarine fleet...
In the south foyer of the Texas State Capitol stand two life-sized statues: one of Sam Houston, the other of Stephen F. Austin. These men helped shape the state of Texas, but their marble likenesses were shaped by the hands of Elisabet Ney. Ney was born in Prussia in 1833, when ladies were expected merely to dabble in art, certainly not study it as a career. But Ney became the first woman admitted to Munich's...
Tejano leader José Antonio Navarro lived under five of the six flags of Texas.Born in 1795 to a prominent family in San Antonio, Navarro grew up along with his city. In the 1820s, he championed Stephen F. Austin's colonization efforts. At the time, both Anglo American immigrants and Tejano residents wanted increased settlement in Texas for economic development and frontier defense. When trouble arose...
Writer and editor Willie Morris was born in Mississippi and made his name in New York, but he left an indelible mark on Texas journalism.In 1952, Morris enrolled at The University of Texas, where he worked as a reporter for theDaily Texan. Morris ultimately became editor-in-chief, writing blunt editorials about the lack of student representation in university decisions and the influence of lobbyists on the...
On June 28, 1919, Jane McCallum wrote in her diary, "Somehow I felt too thankful to be jubilant. We have a great responsibility and I pray God we may meet it squarely and successfully." The responsibility McCallum referred to was the right to vote—a right American women finally won in 1920 with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. As a leader of Texas women's fight for suffrage, McCallum...
In 1683, Franciscan priest Damián Massanet left Barcelona to serve as a missionary in the New World. He lived the rest of his life in Mexico, and died in obscurity, but he holds an important place in the history of Spanish settlement in Texas. Massanet spent several years building missions in Mexico. Then, in 1690, he accompanied General Alonso De León, governor of the state of Coahuila, to establish a Spanish...
Folklorist John Lomax spent his life collecting songs. According to one writer, Lomax would find the music among "chuck wagons, on levees and railroads, in the saloons, churches, and penitentiaries of the South and Southwest." John Lomax's lifelong commitment to preserving folksong began when he first heard cowboy ballads near the Chisholm Trail in Bosque County, Texas. He graduated from The University...
Alan Lomax believed every culture has a "right . . . to equal time on the air and equal time in the classroom." As director of the Library of Congress Archive of American Folk Song and as a radio and television host, Lomax introduced folksong to popular audiences and promoted it among students and scholars. His interest in traditional song started when Lomax was a teenager. In the 1930s, Alan accompanied his father...
When the Texas House of Representatives met in January 1973, three of the new members were the first African Americans elected to the House since Reconstruction. One of these, twenty-eight-year-old Mickey Leland, entered the Capitol wearing an Afro and a vibrant dashiki. The New York Times described him as "a jolt to the conservative Texas body." Raised in Houston, Leland was committed to providing jobs for...
A mural in the El Paso Federal Court House named Pass of the North typifies the work of Texas artist Tom Lea. Larger-than-life figures representing El Paso's many inhabitants—a Mexican vaquero, a conquistador, Apache Indians, and pioneers—all range across the courthouse wall. Behind them, stark desert light illuminates a mountain range, while storm clouds threaten in the distance. In Lea’s...
In July 1974, as the Watergate hearings took place, one voice stood out expressing faith in American ideals. That voice—deep, measured, and unmistakable—belonged to Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. "My faith in the Constitution is whole," Jordan declared, "it is complete, it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution."...
Jack Johnson was born in Galveston in 1878. He went on to become the greatest boxer in the world and one of America's most famous celebrities. Johnson won the World Colored Heavyweight Championship in 1903, but could not claim the overall title because white fighters refused to face him in the ring. That changed in 1908 when Johnson beat Tommy Burns to become the first African American World Heavyweight Champion...
In 1861, as the Civil War loomed, Texas Governor Sam Houston watched his constituents vote to secede from the Union. Houston could not believe that two decades of his work was about to unravel. His loyalty to the Union was genuine, and he was not willing to switch his allegiance to the Confederacy. Houston was forced out of office, but not before saying, "I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed...
Writer Mary Austin Holley introduced English-speaking readers of the 1830s and '40s to Texas, which she called a land of "surpassing beauty . . . a splendid country." A Connecticut native, Holley lived in Boston and Lexington, Kentucky, until the death of her husband in 1827. She later wrote to her cousin Stephen F. Austin, inquiring about the colony he founded in far-off Texas. Stephen replied enthusiastically,...
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