Historians remember Texas hero Sam Houston as a flamboyant social maverick with a penchant for ostentation. Had he been born to this era, the dashingly unconventional Houston might have been delighted to be among the list of assorted dignitaries, celebrities and Texas gentry attending the upcoming 90th anniversary celebrations for the world-renowned specialty retailer, Neiman Marcus.

Perhaps sporting a leopard-skin vest or adorned in Cherokee Indian attire, Houston wouldn't have missed the opportunity to engage in a little self-promotion.

And though the legendary general won't be rubbing elbows with the store's elite patrons at the opulent Texas-style shindigs slated for Sept. 19 and 20 in Dallas and Houston, he won't be forgotten. The two galas, benefiting the Texas Cultural Endowment Fund, will kick off a three-week Texana exposition at Neiman Marcus stores in both cities. In keeping with the event's theme, "Neiman Marcus, Texas: The Crossroads," the colorful life and indelible spirit of General Sam Houston will be showcased alongside an eclectic array of historical and cultural exhibits.

"Neiman Marcus is Texas born and bred," said Burton Tansky, Neiman Marcus chairman and CEO. "The Texas celebration allows us to celebrate our 90th birthday while paying tribute to our home state and heritage. We expect people to travel from across Texas and the Southwest to take part in this exciting event."

The crowds anticipated by event organizers were an important factor in enlisting the cooperation of Sam Houston State University, which will supply the exposition with a number of valuable Sam Houston artifacts from its Sam Houston Memorial Museum collection.

"Participation in the Neiman Marcus anniversary exhibit fits into our mission to educate people about the life and contributions of Sam Houston," explained Mac Woodward, curator of collections at the university's Sam Houston Memorial Museum.

"If we are going to talk about Sam Houston as a national figure, then we need to appeal to a national audience," added Patrick Nolan, museum director. "This is an opportunity for the museum to reach beyond the confines of Huntsville and carry Sam Houston's story to a broader audience."

The Sam Houston exhibit will be displayed at the Neiman Marcus expositions in both cities. Entitled "The Many Lives of Sam Houston," it will focus on three aspects of the legendary Texan -- the man, the hero, and the statesman.

To illustrate these facets of Houston's character, the museum is loaning a veritable gallery of photographs featuring the camera-friendly Houston, his family and Huntsville homes. Additionally, several treasured Houston artifacts, including his leopard-skin vest, Cherokee moccasins, hat and wooden cane, will be displayed.

From the general's military career, the museum will provide a replica of the sword Houston carried at the Battle of San Jacinto and a pair of military epaulettes that adorned his uniform.

Known for his inclination to whittle while pondering the affairs of state, Houston left behind a collection of wooden items he carved throughout his political career. Many of these hand-carved trinkets, including a cross and two gavels carved from the oak tree under which Houston took the oath as President of Texas, will also be exhibited at the Neiman Marcus events.

Other exhibits slated for the anniversary celebrations include an animatronic "Roadside Chat with LBJ," artifacts from the La Salle excavation in Matagorda Bay, a gallery of famous Texas ghosts as interpreted by Texas artists, and numerous fashion and historical retrospectives on Texas culture. Many of the exhibits will be exclusive to Dallas or Houston, but some will be included in both stores.

In addition to the exhibits, the celebration includes entertainment, dining and a variety of visual displays echoing the "crossroads" theme. The exhibitions are free and open to the public.

"Neiman Marcus, Texas: The Crossroads" will run from Sept. 20 through Oct. 12 at the retailer's flagship store located in downtown Dallas at 1618 Main Street and at the Houston Galleria store, located at 2600 S. Post Oak Road.

Tickets to the Texas Cultural Endowment Fund benefit galas that launch the expositions run $125 at the sponsor level and $250 at the patron level. They may be purchased by calling (888) 591-5159. The endowment fund, administered by the Texas Cultural Trust Council, supplies needed monies for arts in education programs across Texas.

Governor and Mrs. George Bush will serve as honorary chairs for the galas which are scheduled for Sept. 19 at Neiman Marcus in downtown Dallas and Sept. 20 at the Houston Galleria location.

The Sam Houston Memorial Museum in Huntsville, Texas, is one of the many organizations that benefit from Texas Cultural Endowment Fund allocations. Located on the Sam Houston State University campus at the corner of 19th Street and Avenue N, the museum is open from 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Tours are given Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. and by arrangement to large groups. For more information contact the museum at 409-294-1832 or visit the Sam Houston Memorial Museum web site.


Media Contact: Phillip Rollfing

Sept. 9, 1997