The Texas PBS Online Book Club gives readers a chance to ask questions of notable experts. Stay tuned for the next book in our series by checking out our blog.
The Governor’s Hounds: The Texas State Police, 1870 – 1873
In the tumultuous years following the Civil War, violence and lawlessness plagued the state of Texas, often overwhelming the ability of local law enforcement to maintain order. In response, Reconstruction-era governor Edmund J. Davis created a statewide police force that could be mobilized whenever and wherever local authorities were unable or unwilling to control lawlessness. During its three years (1870–1873) of existence, however, the Texas State Police was reviled as an arm of the Radical Republican party and widely condemned for being oppressive, arrogant, staffed with criminals and African Americans, and expensive to maintain, as well as for enforcing the new and unpopular laws that protected the rights of freed slaves.
Drawing extensively on the wealth of previously untouched records in the Texas State Archives, as well as other contemporary sources, Barry A. Crouch and Donaly E. Brice here offer the first major objective assessment of the Texas State Police and its role in maintaining law and order in Reconstruction Texas. Published by the University of Texas Press, the authors make a convincing case that the state police performed many of the same duties that the Texas Rangers later assumed and fulfilled the same need for a mobile, statewide law enforcement agency.
Dancin’ in Anson: A History of the Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball
A Cowboy tradition with its roots in the 1880s comes alive each December in Anson, Texas, 23 miles north of Abilene.
The Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball started as an event to entertain the area cowhands. It has taken place annually since 1934 in what musician Michael Martin Murphy calls “…a high stepping, warm-hearted Wild West dance that can’t be compared to anything else in the world.”
Dancin’ in Anson, published by Texas Tech University Press, looks at the history of the ball as well as Larry Chittenden’s famous poem from the 1890s, “The Cowboy Christmas Ball,” which was inspired by the original event. Author Paul H. Carlson, emeritus professor of history at Texas Tech, writes that the annual event is a beautiful reenactment of the 1880s event.
The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock
Musical magic hit Austin, Texas, in the early 1970s. At now-legendary venues such as Threadgill’s, Vulcan Gas Company, and the Armadillo World Headquarters, a host of country, rock-and-roll, blues, and folk musicians came together and created a sound and a scene that Jan Reid vividly detailed in his 1974 book, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock.
In this new edition, Jan Reid revitalizes his classic look at the Austin music scene. He has substantially reworked the early chapters to include musicians and musical currents from other parts of Texas that significantly contributed to the delightful convergence of popular cultures in Austin. Four new chapters and an epilogue show how the creative burst of the seventies directly spawned a new generation of talents who have carried on the tradition—Lyle Lovett, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle, Jimmy LaFave, Kelly Willis, Joe Ely, Bruce and Charlie Robison, and The Dixie Chicks.
Read the book that inspired the nationally popular and long-running PBS series Austin City Limits, which focused attention on the trends that fed the music scene—progressive country, country rock, western swing, blues, and bluegrass among them.
The Life and Times of Willie Velasquez: Su Voto es Su Voz
Former Rhodes Scholar and Velásquez protégé Juan A. Sepúlveda, Jr.’s biography of the man provides a first, definitive glimpse into his life and times. Based on Sepúlveda’s close personal relationship and exchanges with Velásquez during the SVREP founder’s final years, and over a dozen years of research and writing, the book chronicles Velásquez’s influences, his landmark contributions to American civic culture, and his enduring legacy.
William C. “Willie” Velásquez founded the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project (SVREP) and was an influential participant in other leading Latino rights and justice groups, including the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) and the Mexican American Unity Council (MAUC). From the late 1960s until his untimely death in 1988, Velásquez helped Mexican Americans and other Hispanics become active participants in American political life. Though still insufficiently appreciated, Velásquez holds a unique status in the pantheon of modern American civil rights figures.
Texas Ranger Tales: Stories That Need Telling
The Texas Rangers are legends in our state’s history. From the first rangers appointed by Stephen F. Austin in the early days of Anglo settlement to the Mexican War in 1846 when the rangers achieved worldwide fame as a fighting force, the stories of these remarkable lawmen are plentiful and wide-ranging. In Texas Ranger Tales: Stories That Need Telling, Mike Cox relates 27 stories that explore the Rangers and the events they encountered. Even people who think they know about the Texas Rangers will find surprises and new details. Cox explains in the introduction: “For this book, I’ve aimed my literary Winchester at two types of stories: First, they had to be interesting. Second, I wanted to concentrate on lesser-known Ranger tales.” Each story is freestanding, so readers can read the book cover to cover or skip around.
Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, Philanthropist
Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, and Philanthropist, by Debra L. Winegarten is the first biography of this remarkable woman, whose life spanned most of the 20th century – 1905 to 1995.
Around the World with LBJ: My Wild Ride as Air Force One Pilot, White House Aide, and Personal Confidant
When Lyndon Baines Johnson wanted to go somewhere, there was no stopping him. This dynamic president called for Air Force One as others summon a taxi—at a moment’s notice, whatever the hour or the weather. And the man who made sure that LBJ got his ride was General James U. Cross, the president’s hand-picked pilot, top military assistant, and personal confidante. One of the few Air Force One pilots to have a position, simultaneously, in the White House, General Cross is also the only member of LBJ’s inner circle who has not publicly offered his recollections of the president. In this book, he goes on the record, creating a fascinating, behind-the-scenes portrait of America’s complex, often contradictory, always larger-than-life thirty-sixth president.
Seat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas
The founding of Austin sparked one of the Republic’s first great political battles, pitting against each other two Texas titans: Mirabeau B. Lamar, who in less than a year had risen to vice president from army private, and Sam Houston, the hero of San Jacinto and a man both loved and hated throughout the republic.
Texas Women on the Cattle Trails
Texas Women on the Cattle Trails tells the stories of sixteen women who drove cattle up the trail from Texas during the last half of the nineteenth century. Some were young; some were old (over thirty). Some took to the trails by choice; others, out of necessity. Some went along to look at the stars; others, to work the cattle. Some made money and built ranching empires, but others went broke and lived hard, even desperate lives.
Like the cowboys on cattle drives, they faced dust and heat, thirst and exhaustion, rustlers and Indians, stampedes and prairie fires. Drawing heavily on the accounts of the women themselves, the authors of these chapters vividly illustrate the complexity and diversity of women’s experiences on the cattle trails. Their stories of cattle drives and moving cattle to distant pastures add an important chapter to the story of life in the real Old West.
In Struggle Against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP, 1900-1957
In Struggle Against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP, 1900-1957 by Merline Pitre examines the life of this civil rights champion, beginning with her birth in Elmo, Texas, in 1900, her marriage to Houston businessman and activist Julius White and her graduation from Prairie View College.
The Pecan: A History of America’s Native Nut
We Texans tend to take pecans for granted. They’re in our pantries and in our grocery stores; in our pies and in our pralines. Pecan trees grace our yards and our parks. But how much do we really know about this ubiquitous nut? Dr. James McWilliams wondered the same thing. Prompted by curiosity about the pecan tree growing through the back deck of his home, the writer and history professor set out to learn more. The result is The Pecan: A History of America’s Native Nut.
Talking about the Civil War and Emancipation
The book group started 2014 reading America’s War: Talking about The Civil War and Emancipation, an anthology of primary and secondary sources about the division and aftermath of the Civil War. The program was made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. We followed America’s War by focusing on Texas, with Dr. Charles Grear’s Why Texans Fought in the Civil War.
Assassination and Commemoration: JFK, Dallas, and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
In December, author Stephen Fagin, joined us for an exciting look into his work Assassination and Commemoration: JFK, Dallas, and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. Fagin’s book gave our readers a unique way to look at the assassination of the revered president, the political and social climate of Dallas, Texas in the 1960s, and informed us about the effort to preserve the Texas Book Depository and create a museum commemorating one of the most tragic events in American history.
“JFK: One PM Central Standard Time”
In November we had a special OVEE screening of the Secrets of the Dead episode about the Kennedy Assassination. “JFK: One PM Central Standard Time” takes a look at the role of notable press powerhouse, Walter Cronkite, as well as other members of the press tasked with breaking the news of the tragedy to American People.
My Boys and Girls Are in There: The 1937 New London School Explosion
In October 2013, author Ron Rozelle discussed his book My Boys and Girls are in There about the 1937 New London School Explosion.
Women and the Texas Revolution
Journey with us through the eyes of Texas women. In July, Dr. Mary Scheer joined us for a discussion about Women and the Texas Revolution, published by University of North Texas Press.
Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards
Learn more about what inspired Author Jan Reid to write about his friend, Ann Richards. He was the first author to chat with our book club in May 2013. Reid’s highly-acclaimed book was published by the University of Texas Press.