Monthly Archives: October 2013

Flesh-and-Blood Dealey Behind Dallas’ Plaza

That is the title of the “This Week in Texas History” column for Wednesday, October 30 through Tuesday, November 5.  Don’t miss it in your local newspaper or subscribe today to 52 weeks of TWITH by private email.

George Bannerman Dealey was 15, when he went to work for the “Galveston News” and 26 when he launched “The Morning News” in Dallas.  His rise to the top of American journalism is much more than just another rags-to-riches success story.

Welles Meets Wells at Texas Radio Station

H.G. Welles, the Englishman who wrote “War of the Worlds,” and Orson Welles, the American who scared the dickens out of listeners with his radio adaptation of the sci-fi classic, met at a San Antonio radio station on October 29, 1940.

The encounter was strictly a coincidence.  Both men were passing through the Alamo City on lecture tours, and neither knew the other had been booked for an on-air interview at the same time.

Multi-Millionaire Rice Murdered For His Money

The New York City coroner confirmed on October 27, 1900 what many had suspected, that multi-millionaire William Marsh Rice had been murdered for his money.

Valet Charlie Jones promptly confessed to poisoning the Texas tycoon and implicated Rice’s attorney Albert Patrick, who had forged a will to profit from the premature passing of his client.  Jones went free in a plea bargain and stayed out of sight until his 1954 suicide in Baytown.  One New York governor commuted Patrick’s death sentence and another granted him a full pardon.

Friars Burned Mission and Left East Texas to the Indians

On October 24, 1693, the frustrated Franciscan friars packed up their bell and sacraments, set fire to the first mission in Spanish Texas and headed back to Mexico.

Mission San Francisco de los Tejas was built in 1690 a little west of the Neches River in modern Houston County.  At first, Indians in the area tolerated the presence of the missionaries but the sicknesses the Europeans brought with them soon turned the tribes hostile.  With no converts to show for three years in the wilderness, the church abandoned Texas for the next 20 years.

Looney Perfect Name for Football’s “Most Uncoachable Player”

Joe Don Looney had it all: strength, speed and a Mr. America physique body-builders envyed.  But the running back just couldn’t keep it together and wound up wasting his talent.

The strange story of football’s “most uncoachable player” is the subject of the “This Week in Texas HIstory” column for Wednesday, October 23 through Tuesday, October 29.  Read it in your local newspaper or with a private email subscription available on this web site.

Businessman Wrote Longest English Language Novel

On October 22, 1952, Houghton Miflin published the two-volume, 1,731-page novel “Sironia, Texas,” the longest ever written in the English language.

The author was a well-to-do Waco businessman named Madison Cooper, who worked on the book in secret for 11 years.  “Sironia, Texas” stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for almost three months before fading into literary obscurity.  Today it is a prized collector’s item.

Mary Martin Flew High as the Original “Peter Pan”

The marvelous musical “Peter Pan” opened on Broadway on October 20, 1954 with 40 year old Mary Martin in the title role.

The Weatherford native already was an established star of the New York stage, when she started her long-running impersonation of the lovable boy who refused to grow up.  A favorite of Rodgers and Hammerstein, the talented Texan was also the original Nellie Forbush in “South Pacific” and Maria von Trapp in “The Sound of Music.”

Mexicans Bandits Demand Ransom for Kidnapped Diplomat

Mexican bandits kidnapped the U.S. consular agent at Puebla on October 19, 1919 and demanded $150,000 for his release.  With 60,000 American soldiers already lining the border from San Diego to Brownsville, the incident brought the two tense neighbors to the brink of war.

For weeks congressional leaders tried in vain to meet with President Wilson, bedridden since a stroke on October 2, but could not get past the First Lady.  When two senators finally succeeded in seeing him on December 5, the White House doctor burst into Wilson’s sickroom with the news that the diplomat had bought his own freedom.

Dallas Doctor Cheats on Wife With “It Girl”

Dr. William Earl Pearson’s estranged wife Elizabeth filed for divorce in a Dallas court on October 18, 1928 after pocketing a $30,000 payoff to keep actress Clara Bow’s name out of the proceedings.

The scandalous “It Girl” had secretly slipped into Big D several times to see the latest in her long line of lovers.  But when the doctor’s missus found out about the affair and threatened to go public, studio bosses bought her silence and Bow moved on to her next romantic fling.

Bob Wills Was the “King of Western Swing”

Tex Ritter and Roy Acuff announced the name of the newest member of the Country Music Hall of Fame during induction ceremonies on October 17, 1968, but Bob Wills missed his cue.  Taping of the show had to be stopped until the “King of Western Swing” was found backstage chewing the fat with old musician friends.

Born in Limestone County in 1905, Wills was 29 when he formed the Texas Playboys.  The legendary group performed continuously for the next three decades until the famous founder’s second heart attack in 1965.