TexasEscapes.comWe Take Texas Personally
A Texas Travel, History & Architecture Magazine
SITE MAP : : NEW : : RESERVATIONS : : TEXAS TOWNS A-Z : : FEATURES : : COLUMNS : ::ARCHITECTURE : : IMAGES
HOME
SEARCH SITE
RESERVATIONS
Hotels
Cars
Air
USA
World
Cruises
TEXAS TRAVEL
TOWNS A to Z
Towns by Region
Ghost Towns
TRIPS :
State Parks
Rivers
Lakes
Drives
Maps
LODGING
TEXAS
FORUM
FEATURES :
Ghosts
People
Historic Trees
Cemeteries
ARCHITECTURE :
Courthouses
Jails
Bridges
Theaters
Churches
Gas Stations
Water Towers
Monuments/Statues
Schoolhouses
Post Offices
Depots
IMAGES :
Old Neon
Murals
Signs
BOOKS
COLUMNS
TE Site
Site Information
Recommend Us
Newsletter
About Us
Contact TE
 
 Texas : Features : Columns : "Texas Tales"
BARBECUE BUST
by Mike Cox

With more than 20,000 chanting anti-war protestors headed downtown from UT, the governor decided he was hungry for barbecue.
Mike Cox

O. Henry was not from Texas, but he spent enough time here to pick up some good story material.

Sixty years after his death, the famous short story writer had a hand in one more yarn, this one involving the late Preston Smith. Call it "The Ransom of the Red-faced Chief."

To set the scene: In the spring of 1970, President Richard Nixon ordered U.S. troops into Cambodia. This apparent escalation of an already unpopular war triggered an immediate uproar among those opposed to America's continuing involvement in Vietnam.

On Monday, May 4, an anti-war protest at Kent State University in Ohio turned violent when Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on unarmed students, killing four of them. Outrage quickly swept through the nation's college campuses.

In Austin, protestors began gathering at the University of Texas the following morning. That afternoon, thousands of angry students and others against the war spilled off campus and marched toward the Capitol. Despite the efforts of Austin police, Department of Public Safety troopers and Texas Rangers, the protestors poured into the pink granite building, breaking glass and wreaking havoc.

Tear gas finally repulsed the students, but they soon began planning an even larger march for Friday, May 8. The Austin City Council denied the organizers a parade permit, saying they would have to walk on the sidewalks. But at the last minute, U.S. District Judge Jack Roberts granted a temporary restraining order allowing the students to walk in the street. Many Austinites bordered on hysteria at the prospect of a second unruly protest.

But the volatile situation that day did not spoil the appetite of then-Governor Smith when the noon hour rolled around. With more than 20,000 chanting anti-war protestors headed downtown from UT, the governor decided he was hungry for barbecue. Smith and his DPS security detail left the Capitol and drove in a state vehicle to a popular BBQ place on 5th Street.

That eatery -- long since torn down to make room for a new high rise hotel -- was across the street from the O. Henry Museum, which is how Texas' favorite North Carolinian gets into this story.

The governor's driver could not find a parking place (some things don't change), so he whipped the unmarked DPS car into the O. Henry Museum's small parking lot. Neither Gov. Smith nor his body guards paid any attention to a sign clearly indicating that parking was for museum patrons only.

When Smith and the DPS officers returned to their car, they found a locked chain stretched across the entrance to the lot. As the governor and his party pondered why someone would impound the vehicle used by the chief executive of Texas, Mrs. Maree Larson appeared.

The museum curator asked the governor if he had seen the sign, and he said he had. Her point made, Larson unlocked the chain so Smith could return to the duties of high office. Before he left, however, the embarrassed but good-humored governor promised Mrs. Larson he wouldn't park in the O. Henry Museum lot any more.

In true O. Henry style, the tale even had a surprise ending: Despite the violence earlier that week, the protest march that day proceeded peacefully.

Mike Cox
December 14, 2003
HOME
Privacy Statement | Disclaimer
Website Content Copyright 1998-2004. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved
This page last modified: January 22, 2004