Monthly Archives: June 2013

Tennis Star Tut Bartzen Coached As Well As He Played

Sixteen year old Bernard “Tut” Bartzen of Austin and San Angelo beat Ed Ray, also 16 from Sinton, in straight sets on June 30, 1944 to win the national interscholastic singles championship in Philadelphia.

The southpaw never lost a singles match in his college career at William & Mary and also added the 1948 NCAA doubles to his list of titles.  Bartzen was a Top Ten performer on the U.S. tennis circuit in the 1950’s and for two successful decades the tennis coach at TCU.

Famous Sculptress Spent Last 45 Years in Texas

Elisabet Ney, a classically trained sculptress once the toast of Europe, died on June 29, 1907 on the plantation outside Hempstead where she spent nearly the last half century of her life.

Ney and her husband, a research scientist who devoted much of his time to getting Prairie View Normal off the ground, came to Texas in 1872.   She resumed sculpting 20 years later in the Austin studio that is now the museum named for her, and her life-size likenesses of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston can be seen in state capitol.

“Pappy” Wins Senate Seat in “Long Count”

In the special election held on June 28, 1941 to fill the seat left empty by the death of longtime Senator Morris Sheppard, Lyndon Baines Johnson led Gov. W. Lee O’Daniel by 5,000 votes when he decided to turn in for the night.

After all, the young congressman reasoned, how could “Pass the Biscuits, Pappy” catch him with 96 per cent of the ballots tabulated?  But the totals kept trickling in from East Texas, and by the time the winner was declared three days later it was O’Daniel by 1,300 votes.

Famous Sheriff Stabbed to Death in Palestine

Christopher Columbus Rogers, famed sheriff of Anderson County and reputed killer of 17, was laid to rest in Palestine on June 27,1888.  He was 42 years old.

Rogers had been sitting unarmed in a local saloon, when a former friend stabbed him to death in retaliation for a fatal shooting the previous year.  The once respected lawman, who stood up to the Klan in his heyday, was no longer the hero he once had been.

Silent Film Actress Turns Her Back on Fame and Fortune

The subject of my “This Week in Texas History” column for Wednesday, June 26 thru Tuesday, July 2 is Margaret Philpott aka “Madge Bellamy.”

The Hillsboro native was a rising star in Hollywood’s silent era before she totally self-destructed at the peak of her career.  Madge’s problem was not alcohol or drugs but an eccentric, out-of-control personality that turned her dream-come-true into a down-the-drain nightmare.

Wiley Post Flies Around the World Twice

Wiley Post, son of an East Texas cotton farmer, and his Australian navigator took off from a New York airfield on June 23, 1931 on the first attempt by a fixed-wing aircraft to circle the globe.  Eight days, 15 hours and 51 minutes later they were right back they started and heroes second only to “Lucky Lindy.”

The next year, the one-eyed aviator made the same flight solo shaving 21 hours off his record.  But in August 1935 Post and his even more famous passenger, humorist Will Rogers, perished in a plane crash near Point Barrow, Alaska.

Outlaw With A Badge Gets What He Deserves

John Larn, recently resigned sheriff of Shackleford County, surrendered to vigilantes who had him dead to rights on charges of rustling cattle.  That night, June 22, 1878, a mob stormed the Albany jail and with a single volley shot Larn to death in his cell.

Lucky for him, John Selman, Larn’s sidekick who also worked both sides of the law, had made himself scarce on that fateful occasion.  He, in fact, lived long enough to murder John Welsey Hardin in an El Paso saloon in 1895.

Ex-Chicken Farmer Wins Greatest Race in World

On June 21, 1959, Carroll Shelby and a co-driver finished first in the most grueling road race of them all — the 24 hours at Le Mans.  But a year later, a bad heart forced the popular Texan to quit racing for good.

So Shelby turned to designing classic “muscle cars” and perfecting the chili concoction that still bears his name.  He lived the last 22 years of his life with the heart of a Las Vegas gambler and the last 16 with a son’s kidney before dying in 2012 at the age of 89;

Congress Gives Big Bend National Park the Go-Ahead

The National Park Service reported in 1934 that Big Bend was “decidedly the outstanding scenic area of Texas” and should be become a national park.  Congress agreed in legislation passed on June 20, 1935.

Big Bend National Park opened to the public in 1944 with a staff of five and a bare-bones appropriation $15,000.  Only 1,409 people toured the new park that first year, but by the 1980’s the annual number of visitors climbed to 230,000 while the yearly budget increased to over two million dollars.

Two Hard-Luck Warships Named “Houston”

The Navy launched the new U.S.S. Houston at Newport News, Virginia on June 19, 1943.  The original cruiser with the same name was sunk in March 1942 with the loss of 693 lives and the internment of the 368 survivors in Japanese POW camps.

The second Houston took several torpedo hits off Formosa in the fall of 1944 but somehow managed to stay afloat.  Manned by a skeleton crew, it limped home reaching safe harbor at New York five months later.