From the Annals of Space Exploration – In 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up upon reentry killing all seven astronauts. It was the second catastrophic failure of the Space Shuttle program following the Challenger which exploded about a minute after liftoff in 1986. The problem occurred during the launch when a piece of foam insulation broke off from the external tank and struck insulating tile under the left wing of the Shuttle craft. NASA was aware of this problem as previous shuttle launches had seen foam shedding damage in various degrees. Some NASA engineers suspected that the damage to Columbia was serious, but managers limited the investigation arguing that any fix was impossible even if a major problem was confirmed. The engineers were right and when Columbia re-entered the atmosphere hot gasses penetrated the heat shield causing the Shuttle to ultimately break apart. A massive search and recovery mission ensued with pieces of Columbia being primarily found over a 28,000 square mile area of Texas and Louisiana.
National Weather Service Radar Image of Columbia breakup upon reentry.
From the Annals of the Hoteliers – In 1859, The Menger Hotel opened on what is now Alamo Plaza in San Antonio. The hotel was the idea of William Menger was a local brewer. Menger hired an architect, John M. Fries, along with a contractor, J. H. Kampmann, to build a two-story, 50-room hotel which would be the first top rate hotel of its kind in San Antonio. The Menger has been in more or less continuous operations under several owners and has expanded several times since its opening. It is renown for its mahogany paneled Menger Bar (where Teddy Roosevelt recruited the Rough Riders), the Spanish Patio Garden, an elegant and spacious main lobby and the Colonial Dining Room. It is a member of the Historic Hotels of America and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Although remodeled, the original part of the hotel still stands and one can imagine the wonder of travelers at finding such an oasis in San Antonio. The Menger continues to serve as a center for meetings and other social affairs in San Antonio. And it is one of Red’s favorite hotels in Texas.
From the Annals of the Blues – In 1982, Sam (Lightnin’) Hopkins passed away. Hopkins was a blues legend whose influence cannot be overstated. He was born in Centerville, Texas, in 1912. By age ten, Hopkins was already playing music with his cousin, Alger (Texas) Alexander, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. He played all over for decades on the blues club circuit except when he was incarcerated in the mid-1930’s at the Harris County Prison Farm. In 1950 he settled in Houston and finally had his breakthrough in 1959 when Hopkins began working with legendary producer Sam Chambers. White audiences were exposed to his music and began to appreciate the blues legend. In the 1960s, Hopkins switched to an acoustic guitar and became a hit in the folk-blues circuit. During the early 1960s he played at Carnegie Hall with Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, and by the end of the decade was opening for rock bands. Hopkins recorded a total of more than eighty-five albums and performed around the world. His most famous songs include Mojo Hand, Baby Please Don’t Go, Bring Me My Shotgun, Jail House Blues and Have You Ever Loved a Woman.
From the Annals of Bad Decisions – In 1861, the Texas State Secession Convention voted overwhelmingly to secede from the United States following the lead of several other southern states. Rather than concede that Republican Abraham Lincoln had been duly elected, the Southern states chose to secede precipitating what would be the worst tragedy in U.S. history. As Red has noted many times, the Texas Ordinance of Secession is one of the most vile, racists screeds that an organized governmental body has ever produced. The Ordinance of Secession was subject to a popular referendum to which was held on February 23, 1861. The vote was 46,153 in favor of secession and 14,747 against.
From the Annals of Heraldry – In 1839, the Republic of Texas Congress adopted the Texas national seal consisting of a five point white star on a sky blue background ringed by olive and live oak branches. The Republic’s seal has been modernized but has remained essentially the same to date. When Texas became a state in 1845, the words encircling the main elements were changed from Republic of Texas to State of Texas.
From the Annals of the Llano Estacado – In 1871, former slave Britton Johnson was killed by a band of Kiowa who attacked his wagon train. Johnson had been a slave of Moses Johnson, but was treated more like the foreman of his ranch and allowed freedom of movement and to raise his own livestock. In October of 1864, Indians killed his son and kidnapped his wife and other children in the Elm Creek Raid. Johnson pursued his relatives and became somewhat legendary for his exploits across the Llano Estacado that eventually resulted in the ransom of his relatives. After the Civil War, Johnson worked as a teamster hauling goods between Weatherford and Fort Griffin. On the fateful trip he and two other black teamsters were ambushed by a band of about 25 Kiowa four miles east of Salt Creek in Young County. A group of teamsters from a larger train of wagons discovered the bodies and reported that it appeared that Johnson died last in a desperate defense behind the body of his horse. Other teamsters who found the mutilated bodies of Johnson and his men counted 173 rifle and pistol shells in the area where Johnson made his stand. He was buried with his men in a common grave beside the wagon road.
From the Annals of the True Heroes of the Civil War -In 1863, former Texas State Sen. Martin Hart was executed in Fort Smith, Arkansas for his supposed treason against the Confederate States of America. Hart was an attorney from Hunt County who had served in the Texian Army during the Revolution at age 15. He later served in the Texas Legislature as a representative and senator. He was opposed to secession. After the Texas Legislature passed the vile screed known as the “Ordinance of Secession”, he resigned from the Legislature and organized the Greenville Guards, pledging the company’s services “in defense of Texas whenever she is invaded or threatened with invasion.” In the summer of 1862 he received a Confederate commission with permission to raise a company and conduct operations in northwest Arkansas. However, he used his commission to travel through Confederate lines leading his followers to Missouri where they joined Union forces. He returned to Arkansas where he led a series of rear-guard actions against Confederate forces, and is alleged to have murdered at least two prominent secessionists. He and others were captured on January 18, 1863, by Confederate forces, hung five days later and buried in an unmarked graves under the hanging tree. After Fort Smith was recaptured by Union forces, his remains were moved to the National Cemetery there. Contributions from Union soldiers paid for his headstone.