"Lone Star Historian" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College (www.panola.edu) in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published almost 40 books, half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine.
On Thursday, December 6, I presented a program on Pearl Harbor over KGAS Radio Station in Carthage. The half-hour program, Panola Pride, airs five days a week. Jerry Hanszen, owner-manager of KGAS, maintains a keen interest in local, Texas, and U.S. history, and he has kindly invited me to present programs on numerous occasions in the past. For the Pearl Harbor program, I was hosted by Judy McNatt, a longtime KGAS employee.
While relating the events of Pearl Harbor, I included the exploits of such Texans as Dorie Miller of Waco. A mess attendant aboard the battleship West Virginia, Miller's heroism aboard the sinking vessel rendered him the first African-American sailor to earn the Navy Cross. The Navy's highest award for valor was presented to him by another Texan, Admiral Chester Nimitz of Fredericksburg. Chuck Otterman, whose daughters were enrolled in my history classes in past years, was a young gunner's mate aboard U.S.S. Arizona on December 7, 1941. When the battleship was blown apart by an explosion, Otterman and a shipmate swam to nearby Ford Island, where they later obtained a motor launch and returned to pick up survivors.
Following the broadcast, I happily recorded a newscast about my recent trip to Texarkana and subsequent awards. This news story also was placed on the KGAS website. Shortly afterward I was interviewed by the Panola Watchman about this same story, and the newspaper account and a photo were placed on the front page. The local media are helping to spread the word about the State Historian of Texas.
Late on Thursday afternoon, December 6, I was visited at my home office by Brooke Hanszen Paddie and her two sons, Topher and Noah. Brooke is the daughter of Jerry and Wanda Hanszen and the wife of Chris Paddie, former mayor of Marshall and the recent winner of election to the Texas House of Representatives. The oldest son of Brooke and Chris, eleven-year-old Topher is a middle school student in Marshall, and he has been assigned to prepare a project for an upcoming History Fair. Topher is working on a project about the Texas Governor's Mansion, and his mother scheduled an interview with me as State Historian. Our interview lasted nearly an hour, and we posed together for photos. Topher is a highly intelligent young man, and I'm pleased that the State Historian was able to assist him with his history project.