In this latest installment of our “Texas Titles” series, we look at a pioneer, a cause, a sport, a feud and a batch of the state’s artists.
“Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, Philanthropist.” Debra L. Winegarten. University of Texas Press. It’s hard to believe that this is among first biographical treatments of a Texan who ran the Women’s Army Corps — becoming the first women colonel — then served as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, only the second woman to be appointed to a president’s cabinet. Not only that, she teamed with her husband, former Texas Gov. William P. Hobby, to run a media powerhouse that included the Houston Post as well as radio and TV stations (an analog for LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson?). Not the least, her son Bill Hobby served as Texas Lieutenant Governor from 1973 to 1991. Winegarten, a practiced freelance writer, penned this slim, readable volume for the Louann Atkins Temple Women & Culture Series, which includes a handy time line. It originally came out in 2014, but the author continues to speak around town on the subject, including a recent presentation to the Capitol of Texas Rotary Club.
“Saving San Antonio: The Preservation of a Heritage.” Lewis F. Fisher. Trinity University Press. Now out in a second edition — in paperback — this essential book on historic preservation chronicles one of the oldest such movements in this part of the country. As soon as the railroads arrived in the late 1870s — ending this major city’s long geographic isolation — lovers of its Spanish, Mexican, Anglo and German heritage spoke out against the destruction of its ancient sites. Fisher, who has written several books about San Antonio and its history, is something of a myth buster, though perhaps not as disruptive as Chris Wilson, whose “The Myth of Santa Fe” stripped away the Anglo-American image-making of that tourist town. This book is thoroughly and painstakingly researched and it includes rarely seen images of San Antonio before, during and after the battles to keep its built environment safe.
“The Republic of Football: Legends of the Texas High School Game.” Chad. S. Conine. University of Texas Press. It sometimes seems that one in every five books about Texas is about football. Waco-based Conine is a journalist and, more to the point, an enthusiast. Here he interviews coaches, players and others to resurrect outstanding high school programs around the state, from Snyder’s 1952 season to Aledo’s record string of wins from 2008 to 2011. Austinites will recognize some greats witnessed locally in high school or college play, such as Drew Brees and Colt McCoy. When historians look back on this time in Texas, they will find no shortage of records about a particular communal activity engaged every fall.
“The Red River Bridge War: A Texas-Oklahoma Border Battle.” Rusty Williams. Texas A&M University Press. Who doesn’t love a feud? I knew next to nothing about this short but consequential fight between Oklahoma and Texas over a Red River toll bridge. In the summer of 1931, National Guard units from the two states faced off, backed by Texas Rangers and masses of angry civilians. The two-week skirmish included the presence of field artillery and a Native American peace delegation. Williams is a former reporter with a sweet tooth for history and every indication suggests he’s also a diligent researcher. The wider question settled for a time after this confrontation involved the place of private highways and bridges in a free market, a subject that has returned to the forefront in recent years.
“The Art of Found Objects: Interviews with Texas Artists.” Robert Craig Bunch. Texas A&M University Press. The found object as art has a long and distinguished history in this state. Bunch, a librarian at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, has interviewed more than 50 Texas artists — including a few expats — about the gritty insides of their creative processes. Despite the size of the volume and its color execution, it’s not a picture book. The sampled images are relatively small. But the details are sometimes priceless. Neither is this a regionalist survey. The artists Bunch contacted — the conversations are rendered in a Q&A format — represent all sorts of styles, materials and genres. It doesn’t appear this edition in the Joe and Betty Moore Texas Art Series is in any way attached to an exhibit. But some curator might get some ideas.