of the 19th century generally were not noted for their ability to give short speeches.|
To the contrary, most political orations were long-winded affairs. At least
they were more intimate, since the only way to hear some official was to see him
But on Oct. 21, 1897, Gov. Charles Allen Culberson gave a
short talk at an annual event then called the Dallas Fair, better known today
as the State Fair of Texas. This was long before Big Tex and his booming voice
towered over the Midway, but the fair even then was a big deal for Texans.
The occasion on this date was to welcome a delegation of Tennesseans led
by the state's governor, Robert L. Taylor. For whatever reason, the Texas governor
chose not to wax on about Governor Taylor. Culberson had another point he wanted
to make: The debt the Lone Star State owed the Volunteer State.
we recall the past," Culberson began, "it appears particularly appropriate that
Tennesseans should assemble here and rejoice in this imposing evidence of the
progress of this great state. Broadly speaking, Texas is probably more indebted
to Tennessee for her independence and subsequent development than to any State
in the Union."
governor then singled out for recognition five Tennesseans who had contributed
greatly to the development of Texas, though he gave the full name of only one
of them - Texas Declaration of Independence author George C. Childress. The young
Tennessean's words, the Texas governor declared, "rang like a bugle call to arms
and [rank] with those of Mecklenburg and Philadelphia."
mentioned, by last name only, Texas Ranger Ben McCulloch, "a knightly hero from
plume to spur." The governor did not point out that Ben's Tennessee-born brother,
Henry, also wore spurs for Texas as an Indian-fighting ranger.
by last name only was a fellow named Crockett, who "with his comrades at the Alamo
wrested the crown of valor from all the ages, and taught the world a new and loftier
Then the governor talked of "Wharton, the keenest blade that
flashed on the field of San Jacinto." With that description, Culberson was stealing
a phrase first used by Republic of Texas President David G. Burnet, back when
the subject of the remark was much better known than he is today.
governor was talking about John Austin Wharton, a native of Nashville, a transplanted
Tennessean who played a major part in procuring supplies for Texas forces. Among
the war material he acquired for Texas were two pieces of artillery known as the
Twin Sisters. Death in 1838 from "the fever" cut short his service to the republic
at the age of 32.
Finally, of course, Culberson recognized a Tennessean
whose given name did not need to be used: Houston. Of the first president of the
Republic of Texas, Culberson said, "[his] genius contributed this empire to the
American republic and Anglo-Saxon civilization."
Wrapping up his introduction,
Culberson devoted only one sentence to the Tennessean he was there to introduce,
Governor Taylor, "the superb gentleman, the distinguished citizen, the gifted
Like the men he had listed in his speech, Culberson came to
Texas from elsewhere. Born in Alabama, his family moved to Texas when he was barely
a year old. As future non-native Texans would eventually claim, he got here as
soon as he could.
© Mike Cox
Tennessee, Mike Cox "Texas Tales" Sept. 26, 2003 || |