The August 31, 1923 execution of murderer Nathan Lee at Angleton was the last legal hanging in Texas. It was supposed to be a public affair, but a hastily built fence hid the gallows from spectators’ prying eyes.
From then on, the condemned were put to death in the new electric chair at the central prison unit (“The Walls”) in Huntsville. No long would capital sentences be carried out by rope at the seat of the county where the crime occurred.
The “California Column” of 2,350 Union soldiers entered El Paso on August 29, 1862 after a 900-mile march in wool uniforms across the Southwestern desert in the searing summer heat.
The Californians never laid eyes on the Sibley Brigade, the Texas Confederates they had been sent to drive out of New Mexico. Sibley and his men already had retreated leaving The Column in complete control of El Paso and the Trans-Pecos for the rest of the Civil War.
North Carolina congressman Robert Potter castrated two men on August 28, 1831 he suspected of fooling around with his wife. The subsequent scandal and a six-month jail sentence led to his departure for Texas in 1835.
Potter signed the Declaration of Independence and was elected to the Republic senate in 1840. A participant in the Regulator-Moderator Feud, a band of Regulators surrounded his home in March 1842. Potter ran for a nearby lake but was shot to death before he could reach the safety of the water.
“This Week in Texas History” for Wednesday, August 28 through September 3 examines the fourth and final presidential election held in the Republic of Texas.
With Sam Houston and his chief rival, Mirabeau Lamar, sitting this one out, the two primary candidates generated more yawns than interest. The only thing Edward Burleson had going for him was his reputation as an Indian fighter, while Anson Jones was a little too full of himself for the typical Texan. But someone had to win and preside over the Republic until statehood took effect.
At the Tokyo Games on August 25, 1964, Texas Aggie freshman Randy Matson of Pampa moved into first place with an Olympic-record breaking effort in the shot put only to be edged out by dentist Dallas Long.
Four years later, Matson won the gold medal at the Mexico City Olympics. The first shot putter to break the 70-foot barrier, he went on to serve as executive director of The Association of Former Students at this alma mater from 1979 until his retirement in 1999.
The choice of voters in a Central Texas congressional district, Olin “Tiger” Teague began his 32-year career in the U.S. House of Representatives on August 24, 1946.
A graduate of Texas A&M class of 1932, Teague took part in the Normandy landing and six months later was the second most decorated American soldier of World War II behind Audie Murphy. An advocate for veterans of all wars, poor health forced him to retire after 16 terms.
Rudolph Valentino, heart throb of the Roaring Twenties, died unexpectedly on August 23, 1926 from appendicitis complications plunging millions of hysterical women in mourning never before seen in America.
No one took Valentino’s passing as hard as Polish actress Pola Negri, who made such a spectacle of herself at the funeral that it wrecked her film career. Taken in by an oil heiress in 1957, Negri lived in San Antonio until her death at 90 four decades later.
For the second time in nine years, Mary Kay Ash was robbed at gunpoint in her Dallas mansion on August 22, 1974. She survived unscathed with her pugnacious personality in tact.
Ten years earlier, the ambitious widow opened her first store in Big D with $5,000, her young son and nine consulants. Then on the day after Christmas 1965, three men wearing Halloween masks robbed the future queen of cosmetics in her own home but left her unharmed.
Rep. Bruce Alger, the first Republican from Texas elected to the U.S. House of Representatives since Harry Wurzbach of Seguin in 1930, addressed the GOP national convention in the San Francisco Cow Palace on August 20, 1956.
The Dallas congressman was reelected four times but went down to defeat in the Goldwater debacle of 1964. Embittered by the loss, Alger quit politics and moved to Florida. In 1976 he returned to Dallas, where he still lives today at the age of 95.
Debs Garms collected two hits in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ August 21, 1940 win over the Boston Bees to raise his league-best batting average to .378. The story of his dream season is the subject of my “This Week in Texas History” column for the week of Wednesday, August 21 through Tuesday, August 27.
Born and raised in the West Texas hamlet of Bangs, Garms bounced around baseball for 12 years without attracting much attention. But all that changed in 1940, when he won the National League batting title by more than 30 points in spite of shameful attempts to disqualify him on a nonexistent technicality.