Tag Archives: Today in Texas History

Today in Texas History – December 7

From the Annals of the Death House –   In 1982, Texas became the first state to use lethal injection to execute prisoners. The lethal dose was an intravenous injection of sodium pentathol – a barbiturate that is known as a “truth serum” when administered in lesser doses. Texas adopted the lethal injection procedure as a supposedly more humane method of executing those convicted of capital crimes.  Over the next few years, 32 other states, the federal government, and the U.S. military all began using various forms of lethal injection to execute prisoners.

Charlie Brooks Jr., convicted for the murder of David Gregory, was the first prisoner in the U.S. to be executed by injection at the Walls Unit in Huntsville.  Gregory, an auto mechanic at a used car lot, accompanied Brooks on a supposed test drive of a car.  However, Brooks took Gregory back to a motel where he was hanging out and shooting heroin with Woody Lourdes and his girlfriend Marlene Smith after engaging in a shoplifting spree.  Brooks shot and killed Gregory in an almost absurdly amateurish manner.  Lourdes had informed the hotel manager that they had a man in the room who was bound and gagged and that they were going to have to kill him while pointing a revolver at the manager and telling her that he would kill her too if she talked.  As such, the crime was easily discovered and solved.  Brooks was sentenced to death.  Lourdes was also sentenced to death but his conviction was reversed and he reached a plea deal to serve 40 years.   David Gregory left behind a wife and young son.

Advertisements

Today in Texas History – November 30

From the Annals of the Governing Documents – In 1869, Texas voters approved a new state constitution. The 1869 Constitution was adopted during Reconstruction in compliance with Congressional mandates.  The preface of the bill of rights in the new constitution reflected strong sentiment against the previous unpleasantness of secession and the horrors of the Civil War.  The Constitution of the United States was declared to be the supreme law.  Slavery was outlawed and the equality of all persons before the law was recognized.  This was intended to protect the rights of freedmen.  The 1869 Constitution was short-lived.  As Reconstruction ended, the very racist southern Democrats of the time called for a new constitution which was adopted in 1876 and provided strict limits on governmental powers.  That document is still the basis for Texas governance today – even though heavily amended subsequent years.

Today in Texas History – August 16

From the Annals of the Temblors –  In 1931, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Texas shook up the good folks of Valentine in Jeff Davis County. The quake measured 6.5 on the Richter Scale which is relatively minor in the California falling into the ocean scheme of things..  No casualties were reported, but the quake caused damage to almost every wooden structure in Valentine.   The local school building was damaged beyond repair.  There were also reports of landslides as far away as the Guadalupe Mountains.

Figure showing  felt area and Modified Mercalli Intensities experienced by Texans from the Valentine earthquake from www-udc.ig.utexas.edu.

Today in Texas History – October 4

From the Annals of the Insurrection  In 1862,  insurrectionist troops under Confederate command surrendered Galveston to Union forces.   Commander William B. Renshaw led a squadron of eight ships into Galveston harbor to force surrender.  The rebel commander, Brig. Gen. Paul O. Hebert, had removed most of the heavy artillery from the island believing it to be indefensible.  As the squadron approached, the Fort Point garrison fired on the federal ships, return fire dismounted the rebel cannon. Col. Joseph J. Cook, in command on the island, arranged a four-day truce while he evacuated his men to the mainland. The Union ships held the harbor.  Union forces did not contral the town until the arrival of the Forty-second Massachusetts Infantry, led by Col. I. S. Burrell on December 25.  Union control was short-lived as rebel forces recaptured the island and drove off the Union squadron about a week later.

Today in Texas History – September 1

From the Annals of the River Crossings –  In 1889, the Waco suspension bridge crossing the Brazos River opened for traffic as a free bridge.  The bridge had opened in 1870 as a toll bridge.  Until then no bridges spanned the Brazos in Texas and for 800 miles travelers had to look for low water crossings or ferries to move east and west through central Texas.  In 1866, the Texas Legislature granted a charter to the Waco Bridge Company giving the WBC a monopoly on transportation across the Brazos for 25 years and prohibiting other bridges to be built within five miles.  The WBC eventually settled on a steel cable suspension bridge design as affordable and practical for the intended use.   The WBC  engaged the John A. Roeblng Company, the firm which originated the suspension span bridge concept.  The WBC hired Thomas M. Griffith, Roebling’s chief engineer, as civil engineer for the project.  The Roebling Company was commisssioned to provide cables and bridgework. After Robeling died in 1869, his four sons inherited the company, which was renamed The John A Robeling’s Sons Company. Washington Robeling, most famous for building the Brooklyn Bridge, finished the Waco bridge which opened to paid traffic in 1870. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge west of the Mississippi River.  The toll revenues quickly paid for the bridge.  Popular demand for a free bridge arose and McLennan County bought the Suspension Bridge from the WBC  for $75,000 and then sold it Waco for one dollar in an agreement that required the City to maintain the bridge and eliminate any tolls.  The bridge was open to vehicles until 1871 serving for more than 100 years.  Despite many mostly cosmetic renovations, the bridge has been restored to its original glory and is now the centerpiece of Indian Springs Park.

 

Today in Texas History

Wegefarth and Greer Ghost Counties TX 1876 RR Map

From the Annals of the Lost Counties –  In 1873, the Texas Legislature declared the existence of Wegefarth County.  It was named for C. Wegefarth, president of the Texas Immigrant Aid and Supply Company. The county, which was created in a disputed area west of Greer County in the eastern panhandle region, had but a brief existence. It was abolished by another act of the Legislature in 1876 which created the current Panhandle counties.

Texas Rising Takes a Few Hits

The History Channel mini-series Texas Rising debuts this weekend.  Critical acclaim awaits.  The early reviews are not particularly promising.

The Seattle Times for one is unimpressed.

It’s only partially “history” in “Texas Rising,” however, which we’ve come to expect from the History Channel. Some of the events are accurately portrayed in the miniseries, but others are invented and, at least in the first two episodes, there is embarrassingly little effort to portray the Mexicans and Native Americans as anything other than cartoon villains and savages. In fact, if you squint just a little, you’ll think you’re watching a John Wayne film from, say, 1960, when he directed and starred in “The Alamo.”

Dominic Patten of Deadline is harsher still.

With a Memorial Day debut on History Channel, Texas Rising has ambitious aims. But sad to say, the 10-hour multi-week miniseries just doesn’t hit the target. Brought to the small screen by some of the team behind the blockbuster The Hatfields And McCoys series, the Roland Joffe-directed tale of Lone Star warfare and revolution ends up, as my video review above says, being shrill instead of strong.

Brian Lowry of Variety takes a pass.

Watching the first six hours of “Texas Rising,” a wonderfully cast and otherwise completely wooden miniseries, one has to wonder what inspired the History channel to expand the production from six hours to 10. Chronicling a chapter in the Lone Star state’s bloody ascent to U.S. statehood that begins in the ashes of the Alamo, the Roland Joffe-directed project juggles too many indifferently written, tough-talkin’ characters, as if “Lonesome Dove” had experienced a sharp blow to the head. Fans of Westerns will no doubt be eager to immerse themselves in this once-abundant, now-underutilized genre, but for those who tend to be discriminating about their TV watching, don’t mess with “Texas.”

Jeanne Jakle of the San Antonio Express News points out that there isn’t much “history” on the History Channel.

Texas Rising,” TV’s upcoming star-studded saga about the birth of the Lone Star State, may be on the History channel, but it’s no history lesson.

“It’s big, epic and sexy,” Bill Paxton, who plays Sam Houston, said in a recent interview. “It’s historical fiction like the movie ‘Titanic.’ There are characters who’ve been brought in to flesh it out, make it move better.

“You can do a lot of research,” Paxton added, “but that can be a very dry affair.”

“Texas Rising” kicks off with parts one and two at 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday on History. The remaining three episodes will run at 8 p.m. Mondays from June 1 through 15.

The series’ Oscar-nominated director, Roland Joffé, also described the 10-hour miniseries as much more emotional than historical, a way to transport viewers to Texas in the aftermath of the Battle of the Alamo and convey how people were feeling.

“You can do history as archaeology, which I think is rather dull,” Joffé (”The Killing Fields”) told TV critics at a History press session.

Red will wait and form his own opinion, but generally thinks that history itself is plenty fascinating if done right.  At least Santa Anna isn’t played by some old ugly Mexican dude.