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Sam Houston Birthday Bash Set March 2
The Huntsville Item
From Corpus Christi to Lubbock and all points in between, March 2 is an important day since it is the anniversary of Texans declaring their independence from Mexico. For Huntsville, the second day of March takes on added importance, since it is also the birthday of one Samuel Houston, a Huntsville resident who had a little something to do with Texas winning its independence.
This year, the Walker County Historical Commission, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, the Sam Houston Statue and Visitors Center, Huntsville Main Street and the Gibbs Centre for the Performing Arts have collaborated on a series of events honoring Houston and his contribution to the state.
"(Both Houston and Texas) are born on the same date, and this year it happens to fall on a Saturday," said Patrick Nolan, director of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum. "We've always had a policy of celebrating on the exact day, and not waiting until the nearest weekend."
This year's celebration will begin at 9:30 a.m. with coffee and refreshments at the Gibbs-Powell Home Museum, 1228 11th St. At 10:15 a.m., a march from the gazebo at the Walker County Courthouse to Houston's grave in Oakwood Cemetery will begin. The march, organized by Main Street manager Shawn Lewis, is an attempt to revive a lost tradition.
"Shawn came up with idea of reviving the march," Nolan said. "The students over at what used to be the Normal Institute (now Sam Houston State University) used to march the mile or mile-and-a-half to the gravesite, but somewhere along the line it just stopped."
The procession will be led by the Bearkat Battalion from SHSU's ROTC. At the conclusion of the procession, descendants of Houston will take part in a wreath-laying at his gravesite. Descendants from Cincinnati, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio are scheduled to attend.
The guest speaker at the gravesite ceremony will be author and syndicated columnist Mike Cox, who is best known for his column "Texas Tales," which runs every other Wednesday in The Huntsville Item.
"(Cox) is a guy who writes a column that has funny facts and tidbits about Texas," Nolan said. "He always has something interesting about the state that people didn't know."
Dignitaries expected at the ceremony include Walker County Judge Charles Wagamon, SHSU president James Gaertner and Clayton Sylestine, Chief of the Alabama-Coushatta tribe.
"Sam was always seen as sort of their patron or supporter," Nolan said of the tribe. "He helped them get the land they have now when he was president of the Republic of Texas."
After the ceremony is completed, a luncheon will be held at The Homestead, 1215 19th St. Reservations are required for the luncheon, and the cost is $14 per person. Requests for reservations must be received by Feb. 26. For more information on the luncheon, contact the museum at (936) 294-1832.
At 2 p.m., the museum will dedicate its new exhibit entitled "The Tallest Texan: Sam Houston and the Republic of Texas." The exhibit will follow Houston's life through the state's fight for independence and his two terms as president of the infant republic. One display, which may not be entirely complete by the opening of the exhibit, will recreate Mexican dictator Miguel Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's surrender to Houston at San Jacinto.
"There are about three paintings that try to show the scene, and they're all wrong," Nolan said. "They all show Sam's right leg being bandaged, but it was his left leg that was wounded. Our characters (life-size mannequins) will have the scene right."
The exhibit will likely be opened by one or more of Houston's descendants, cutting the yellow ribbon with Houston's sword used in the battle of San Jacinto.
James L. Haley, author of a new biography on Houston, will give a brief speech followed by a question-and-answer session after the exhibit's opening and a short reception. Haley's remarks will be at the Walker Education Center, 1402 19th St.
The festivities will conclude with the premiere of "He Was Houston," a 30-minute film on Houston and his time in Huntsville. The film will be shown at the newly renovated Gibbs Center for the Performing Arts, 1023 12th St., at 7 p.m. The film is narrated by CBS News anchor and SHSU graduate Dan Rather.
"The film is mainly focused on Sam and Huntsville," said Mac Woodward, curator of collections at the museum. "This is really something the theater wanted to do."
"I think there's a lot of good things scheduled," Nolan said. "It should be an exciting day."
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