May 19, 2010

Texas gets a bad rap

In many ways I can’t blame folks elsewhere for lambasting my fair state, but I must admit it gets a little old. Much of the state has weirded out of late, but there is a substantial bastion of reasonable folks still to be found. For a brief few paragraphs, I’d like to pick some of the slams I’ve heard recently and take a stand in defense of Texas.

Some claim that Texas is overrun with bigoted right-wing conservatives. We’ve got our share, sure, but consider these facts.

By the close of the 18th century 52 freedmen had served either as representatives to the constitutional convention, or in the state legislature. Texas can brag of the first and only all female State Supreme Court (1925). Texas has had 48 governors, with only six of them Republicans. While I must admit that our current Chief Executive is a bonehead, try to remember the likes of Ann Richards if you will.

Perhaps the most famous markers of the civil rights movement, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, were signed into law by native Texan Lyndon B. Johnson. Prior to that Dwight Eisenhower, another Texas native, proposed and fought for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

The cut that gets me most of all is that nothing of any value ever comes out of Texas. A great many notable Americans were born and bred in Texas, and their list of accomplishments fills volumes. Where would music be without bluesmen like Gatemouth Brown, Leadbelly, and Charlie Brown? Some of the best country music has roots with Texas artists like Bob Wills, Willie Nelson, Boxcar Willie, Lefty Frizzel, and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Numerous rock & roll musicians once called Texas home, including Janis Joplin, Buddy Holly, and ZZ Top. Van Cliburn is a Fort Worth homeboy. Woody Guthrie and his son Arlo called Texas home before moving to Oklahoma.

Aviation pioneers Howard Hughes, Queen Bess Coleman, and Wiley Post were Texans. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, of Miracle on the Hudson fame grew up in Denison, Texas on a street named for his mother’s family. Pioneer cardiac surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey hails from Houston, and trauma surgeon Red Duke still works in Galveston.

I mentioned LBJ, Ike and Ann Richards already. Add to that illustrious list of statesmen the name long-serving Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn.

Sports figures you will recognize include the first (and best) coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Tom Landry, sportscaster and former Cowboy quarterback Don Meredith, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, pitching great Nolan Ryan, baseball’s first black manager, Frank Robinson, basketball bad boy Dennis Rodman, Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, and Tour de France 7-time victor and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong.

WWII veteran bomb technician turned oilfield wild well fire fighter Red Adair was born in Houston, and never left. Hotelier Conrad Hilton bought a little, 40-room inn in Cisco, Texas before moving on the fame, starting with the Dallas Hilton. His son Baron was born in Dallas and carried on the family business from that city.

Texas is replete with humorists. Western author and humorist J. Frank Dobie was born onto a ranch in rural Live Oak County. Political satirist Moly Ivins penned columns for the Dallas Times Herald, Fort Worth Star Telegram and Austin American Statesman, expending many a column inch stripping the hide off worthless politicians. Kinky Friedman, a singer, songwriter and comedian, once ran for the Governorship. Linda Ellerbee, who was born in Bryan, spent time with NBC’s Today Show and 60 Minutes.

Audie Murphy was given a hero’s welcome when he returned from the war, then went on to an acting career. Bonanza’s Hoss Cartright, born Bobby Dan Blocker, was raised in the rural east Texas community of De Kalb. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was born in El Paso, Joan Crawford and Carol Burnet both come from San Antonio, Farrah Fawcett was born in in Corpus Christi, Jamie Foxx in Terrell, and Kris Kristofferson grew up in the Rio Grande Valley city of Brownsville.

Another charge is that Texan’s wear their religion like a badge. This is a comment that is difficult to refute, but again I have to say that there are exceptions. Take for example the ongoing battle with the religious right wingers on the State Board of Education. The science deniers and history rewriters are waging a mighty battle to corrupt Texas schoolbooks. You’ve seen this discussed if you’ve followed this blog at all.

The most recent primary election results offer some insight. One of the extremists chose not to run again, and that seat will now go to a more moderate Republican candidate. Two others were defeated in their bid for reelection, including the gubernatorialy appointed chairman. Both seats will remain in Republican hands, but the winners are of a more rational sort. I expect the next revision review to be a more sedate affair.  

So let me just say that I haven’t given up on Texas. Lots of nuts live here, and those nuts attract others, but there are plenty of reasonable people left. Bill White, the Democrat challenging teabagger Rick Perry probably can’t win, but he is poling near 40%. Lots of wonderful and reasonable folks come from Texas, and there are quite a few of us still left.


Rogue Medic said...

You called Van Cliburn a homeboy? :-)

Ambulance Driver said...

Point of order: Michael DeBakey is from Lake Charles, LA.

We had him first.

But you're right in other respects. If I didn't have a daughter here in Louisiana, I'd be living in Texas.

Anonymous said...

Timely post and a good reminder.

Mule Breath said...

RM: Ol' Van is a Foat Wuth boy...

AD: I guess I have to grant your point of order, but will make two of my own in return. First, DeBakey got here as quick as he could, and secondly, Lake Charles is almost a suburb of Houston.

Thank you jeg :)