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on Texas History
Edited by Mary
University of North Texas Press, 2017.)
Illustrated. 342 pages. Hardcover.
Review by Dr.
pivotal moment in Texas history would you liked to have eavesdropped
on as the proverbial 'fly on the wall' and why?" So begins Mary Scheer's
unique, engaging, and entertaining new anthology, Eavesdropping
on Texas History. To answer this intriguing query, she assembled
a team of fourteen distinguished Lone Star specialists, including
two State Historians, two West Texas Historical Association past presidents,
three East Texas Historical Association past presidents, and two Texas
State Historical Association past presidents. This notable group consists
of Watson Arnold (TCU); Nancy E. Baker (Sam Houston State University);
Paul H. Carlson (Texas Tech University); Michael Collins (Midwestern
State University); Patrick Cox (Dolph Briscoe Center for American
History, UT Austin); Carolina Castillo Crimm (Sam Houston State University);
Tom Crum (independent scholar and retired State District Judge); Light
T. Cummins (Austin College); Victoria H. Cummins (Austin College);
Bill O'Neal (Panola College); Chuck Parsons (independent scholar);
Merline Pitre (Texas Southern University); Scheer (Lamar University);
Dan K. Utley (Center for Texas Public History at Texas State University);
and Heather Green Wooten (University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston).
Students of the Lone Star experience will recognize these individuals
as some of the foremost scholars of state history.
The compilation's chapters, each solidly researched and clearly presented,
are as follows: Victoria Cummins' " 'The Earth Had Chills and Fever':
The New Madrid Earthquakes and Caddo Lake, 1811-1812"; Crimm's "A
Fly on Stephen F. Austin's Shoulder in Mexico, 1822-1823"; Arnold's
"The Fall of the Alamo, March 6, 1836"; Carlson and Crum's " 'I Was
There': The Abduction of Cynthia Ann Parker, December 19, 1860"; Scheer's
" 'Margaret, Texas Is Lost': Sam Houston Refuses to Take a Loyalty
Oath to the Confederacy, March 16, 1861"; Parsons' " '…and Then the
Ball Opened': A Violent Incident at Scabtown, Menard County, Texas,
on New Year's Eve, 1877"; Utley's "With the Yalies in the Deep Woods,
May 10-13, 1909"; Wooten's " 'So Long, It's Been Good to Know You':
Black Sunday, April 14, 1935"; O'Neal's " 'The Game of the Century,'
November 30, 1935"; Light T. Cummins' "The Firing of Homer Price Rainey,
November 1, 1944"; Cox's " 'Harry, the President is Dead': Speaker
Sam Rayburn of Texas, Vice President Harry Truman, and Congressman
Lyndon Johnson at the 'Board of Education' on April 12, 1945"; Pitre's
"The Establishment of Texas Southern University, 1947"; Collins' "
'The Loneliest Job in the World': The Day Lyndon Johnson Became President,
November 22, 1963"; and Baker's " 'I Remember it Well. I Lived It':
Louise Ballerstedt Raggio and the Passage of the Marital Property
Act of 1967." What a diverse and fascinating collection of essays!
Scholars and lay historians alike will enjoy, and profit from, Scheer's
volume. Texas history enthusiasts should add this exceptional compendium
to their reading list.
1. A prolific scholar, Dr. Scheer teaches at Lamar University in Beaumont.
She also directs the Center for History and Culture of Southeast Texas
and the Upper Gulf Coast. Dr. Scheer's books include The Foundations
of Texan Philanthropy (2004), Twentieth-Century Texas: A Social
and Cultural History (2008), Women and the Texas Revolution
(2012), and Texan Identities: Moving beyond Myth, Memory, and Fallacy
in Texas History (2016).
2. For a similar approach to U. S. history, see Byron Hollinshead's
excellent I Wish I'd Been There: Twenty Historians Bring to Life
Dramatic Events That Changed America (2006), which includes essays
by such eminent scholars as Robert Dallek, Thomas Fleming, William
Leuchtenburg, and Mary Beth Norton.
Review by Kirk Bane,
Managing Editor, Central Texas Studies
March 1, 2017
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