From Donald Chambers founding the Bandidos in Houston to Gordon Granger reading General Orders No. 3 in Galveston

March 2011By Comments

51 | Donald Chambers founds The Bandidos

Houston Ship Channel, Houston | March 1966

Before weekend warriors straddling $30,000 custom Harleys turned motorcycle culture into an exercise in middle-class escapism, there were the Bandidos. In 1966, the same year that Hunter S. Thompson published his famous book about the infamous Hell’s Angels, Donald Chambers, a stevedore at the Houston shipyards, started his own motorcycle gang, whose outlaws lived by the motto “We are the people our parents warned us about.” He dubbed the club the Bandidos after Mexican bandits, chose red and gold as its colors in deference to his Marine Corps roots, and recruited from biker bars across Texas. As their numbers grew—there were more than one hundred members by the early seventies—the Bandidos emerged as the most dangerous gang in the state. In 1972 Chambers lived up to that reputation when he was convicted of murder and given two life sentences. —ANDREA VALDEZ

52 | Sam Houston defeats Santa Anna

Along Independence Parkway, La Porte | April 21, 1836

Mathew B. Brady

“For our country’s sake,” David Burnet pleaded during the monsoonal Texas spring of 1836, “let something be done, something that will tell upon our enemies and upon ourselves.”

Burnet, the interim president of the hastily organized Republic of Texas, was writing to Thomas Rusk, his interim Secretary of War, about the conduct of General Sam Houston, who was at the head of what remained of the Texas army after the disasters of the Alamo and Goliad. “Interim” does not begin to describe the chaotic and wildly improvisational weeks in which the entity now known as Texas managed somehow to survive its creation. The citizens were in panicky flight, and the government and the army were filled with men who held one another in contemptuous distrust. Burnet, for example, thought Houston was a coward who would not fight, as did many of the men he uncertainly commanded.

“The enemy are laughing you to scorn,” the president wrote Houston as the general kept retreating, first across the Colorado, then across the Brazos. “You must fight them.”

Houston was a man prone to duels, tempestuous love affairs, and abrupt acts of political theater. But at times he could have a surprisingly cool head, and he needed all the calm he could summon as he led his almost openly mutinous forces to the east, taking advantage of the flooded rivers to keep Santa Anna’s armies at bay while he tried to create a workable strategy on the fly.

It was Burnet and his cabinet, not Houston, who ended up being laughed to scorn. They barely managed to escape to Galveston in a rowboat as the Mexicans swept into New Washington to arrest and hang them. Houston, meanwhile, found a place to hole up and wait for his enemy. He positioned his rambunctious army in a grove of live oaks facing a broad swath of coastal prairie alongside the San Jacinto River. Santa Anna showed up a day later, and the two armies skirmished, exchanged artillery volleys, and then withdrew to separate ends of the field. Houston slept soundly through the night. Santa Anna, perhaps a little too convinced that the rebels were on the defensive and had no plans to attack, took a siesta the next afternoon. He woke to the sound of cannon and musket fire. If you look closely when you visit San Jacinto today, you can still detect a slight swell of land in the center of the battlefield. That was how the Texians managed to march almost unnoticed to the Mexican army’s outer breastworks. Eighteen minutes later, they had swarmed through the main camp, mercilessly shooting and clubbing and tomahawking the fleeing Mexican soldados. Houston ordered them to stop short of slaughter, but they were through listening to him. The telling blow that David Burnet had yearned for had at last been struck, and Texas was no longer just a fragile conceit but a real place, its interim existence ratified in blood. —STEPHEN HARRIGAN

53 | The Houston Stonewalls beat the Galveston Robert E. Lees—in baseball

Along Independence Parkway, La Porte | April 21, 1867

Thirty-one years to the day after Sam Houston’s army defeated Santa Anna’s forces, another skirmish took place on the same elevated bank overlooking Buffalo Bayou. But instead of wielding bayonets, the opposing factions—the Houston Stonewalls on one side, the Galveston Robert E. Lees on the other—brandished crude wooden bats in what seems to be the first baseball game ever recorded in Texas. Even though a formal league wouldn’t be created until 1888, the matchup was billed as the “championship of the state” and drew more than a thousand spectators. The outcome was nearly as lopsided as Sam Houston’s historic fight; the Stonewalls crushed the Lees 35—2. A local paper’s recap of the four-hour contest was only four sentences long but ended with a zinger aimed at the city’s coastal challengers: “Try it again, boys; but our Houston athletes are hard to beat.” We can only guess as to where, precisely, the backstop might have been, but if you take the elevator up to the observation deck at the top of the San Jacinto Monument, you can look down and imagine which patch of this hallowed ground would have made for the perfect diamond. —JB

54 | Gilley’s opens

4500 Spencer Highway, Pasadena | 1971


In 1978 a locally famous saloon in Pasadena ended up on the cover of Esquire magazine with the headline “The Urban Cowboy—Saturday Night Fever, Country & Western Style.” Aaron Latham’s article itself was a big deal, but it was soon eclipsed by an even bigger deal—a movie, Urban Cowboy, starring John Travolta, which was itself followed by a national outbreak of honky-tonk bars with mechanical bulls and “cowboys” who’d never been near a ranch. It all started at Gilley’s, which opened its doors in 1971. They closed eighteen wild years later, and in 1990 the building burned to the ground. Today the property is next to a car lot. (The sign from the original Gilley’s is down the street, in front of the Two Cities Grill & Cantina.) In order to stand where the Gilley’s bull once bucked, you have to walk southeast of the lot about two hundred feet, into the woods—an exercise that is much kinder on the hindquarters than a few seconds on Old Ohmaballs. —KV

55 | Judge grants Howard Hughes Jr. legal adulthood

301 Fannin, Houston | December 26, 1924

When Howard Hughes died unexpectedly, in January 1924, his only child, Howard Hughes Jr., stood to inherit a chunk of the family fortune, which the elder Hughes had made after inventing the two-cone rotary rock drill bit. But Hughes couldn’t access the estate until he turned 21. It didn’t help that his relatives thought he was lazy. And though it was true that he would rather play golf than keep up with his studies at Rice, Hughes was motivated enough to capitalize on a legal loophole. If he could convince the court that he could handle his own affairs, he could be declared an adult and take control of his father’s tool company. It just so happened that Houston judge Walter Montieth, of the Sixty-first District Court, was a family friend—and a fellow golfer. After several rounds of golf with the judge at the Houston Country Club, Hughes had his attorneys file a motion in Montieth’s court to remove his disabilities of minority. What is legend and what is fact about Hughes’s life has always been blurry, but this we know: On December 26, 1924—two days after Hughes’s nineteenth birthday—Montieth granted him legal adulthood. And he was off to build his empire. —JB

56 | The Allen brothers invent Houston

1001 Commerce, Houston | August 1836

Augustus and John Allen were a pair of hucksters from New York who settled on this site—located downtown just below the Wortham Center, near the confluence of Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou—as the heart of what they hoped would become an important inland port up the bayou from Galveston Bay. They founded their imaginary city, named it after the first president of the Republic, and posted ads in newspapers around the country, boasting that their new town would be “the great interior commercial emporium of Texas.” Allen’s Landing has been prettied up of late, with comfy wooden benches and large chains evocative of a public wharf. Go there, take a picnic lunch—the homeless men have been mysteriously relocated—and contemplate the value of thinking big. —MIMI SWARTZ

57 | Leon Jaworski Joins the Firm

220 Main, Houston | 1931

R. C. Fulbright and John H. Crooker Sr., the founders of Houston law firm Fulbright, Crooker, and Freeman, had no idea how profound an impact the new lawyer they had just hired would have on their firm and on state and national politics. His name was Leon Jaworski, a Baylor grad and the youngest person ever admitted to the Texas bar. Jaworski made partner four years later, and working out of offices in the Union National Bank Building (now home to the Hotel Icon), he helped transform the firm into the most powerful law practice in Texas. By then it had been renamed Fulbright & Jaworski and the young lawyer had become a figure in his own right, investigating war crimes in Germany after World War II, defending the law that allowed Lyndon Johnson to run for vice president and senator simultaneously in 1960, and winning national fame as the special Watergate prosecutor who took on Richard Nixon. It was Jaworski who told the Supreme Court that Nixon should release tape recordings of Oval Office conversations concerning the cover-up of the 1972 break-in at the Democratic party headquarters. The Supreme Court agreed, the tapes implicated Nixon beyond denial, and the president was forced to resign. Jaworski returned to Houston a hero. —HWB

58 | Van Cliburn performs with the Houston Symphony

615 Louisiana, Houston | April 12, 1947

In front of a packed house at the City Auditorium, a rail-thin twelve-year-old from Kilgore walked onstage and performed the first movement of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in B-flat Minor, accompanied by the Houston Symphony Orchestra. His name was Van Cliburn, the son of a small-time oil executive and a piano teacher, and he was performing as the winner of a statewide piano contest sponsored by the Texas Gulf Sulphur Company. The crowd knew at once that it was witnessing musical greatness. Eleven years later, Cliburn performed the same work in his triumphant final round of the first International Tchaikovsky Competition, in Moscow, at the height of the Cold War and became Texas’s first international music superstar. He received a ticker-tape parade in New York City—some 100,000 people lined the streets to cheer the hero—and Time magazine put him on the cover with the headline “The Texan Who Conquered Russia.” His fame lives on with his own international piano competition in Fort Worth —S. HOLLANDSWORTH

59 | Enron goes bust

1500 Louisiana and 1400 Smith, Houston | December 2, 2001

Enron’s plans for its $200 million, 1.2-million-square-foot office building on Louisiana Street, announced in early 1999, were typically bold. The forty-story, glass-and-chrome tower would be designed by Cesar Pelli, the architect of the Petronas Twin Towers, in Kuala Lumpur, then the tallest buildings in the world. The offices of Chairman Ken Lay and CEO Jeff Skilling, outfitted in exotic African cherrywood and luna pearl granite floors, would overlook four massive trading floors for buying and selling interests in everything from natural gas to wood pulp to bandwidth. There was $20 million budgeted just to buy art, including Donald Judd boxes, a Claes Oldenburg sculpture, and a $1 million relief map of the world hand-etched into eighteen-feet glass panels. The glass skybridge connecting the new tower to Enron’s existing fifty-story building on Smith Street was designed to look from above like one of Saturn’s rings; artist Olafur Eliasson was to install lights in its floor for a piece to be called “Milky Way.” Employees were slated to move in during the summer of 2001, but that never happened. Instead the stock plunged, the shell game came to light, and on December 2, the company that Fortune magazine had named the country’s most innovative for six years running declared bankruptcy. The towers sat empty until Chevron bought the new one in February 2004 and leased the second in 2006. —JS

60 | Timmie Jean Lindsey receives the first silicone breast implant

1801 Allen Parkway, Houston | March 1962

Timmie Jean Lindsey wasn’t the first woman to fall in love, memorialize her affections with a tattoo, and later regret her impulsive behavior. But it was that decision that led her to become a different sort of pioneer. Frank Gerow, the doctor who removed the red roses inked on her chest, and his colleague, Thomas Cronin, had recently developed silicone implants for women who had sagging breasts as a result of multiple pregnancies. He suggested that Lindsey, a mother of six, become the first one to receive them, a proposal that stunned her. “It wasn’t my breasts that bothered me,” she later said. “It was my ears.” (She agreed to undergo surgery after Gerow promised to pin them back.) That first successful implantation took place at Jefferson Davis Hospital, which was torn down in 1999; the site is now a branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. —AV

61 | Michael R. Levy walks into a pool while promoting Texas Monthly

3262 West Main, Houston | 1972


The biggest obstacle Michael R. Levy saw to creating a monthly magazine about Texas was neither the size of the state nor competition from national publications—it was making people believe that he, a 25-year-old UT law student, was the person to pull it off. He approached Mimi Crossley, a reporter with the Houston Post, the same way he had three-hundred-plus other candidates for the editor’s job, armed with only a pilot’s case full of glossy city magazines and an earnest sales pitch: “This nation-state of Texas deserves a magazine of national quality.” He arrived at Crossley’s apartment on West Main—today it’s called Harwood Court—in the pouring rain and talked up his dream for two hours. “He was ebullient, effervescent,” she says. “He acted like he had the most wonderful idea in the world, and did I want to join. But that’s what it was, an idea. I needed a paycheck. And to be honest, the title, TEXAS MONTHLY,, sounded rather dull.” Though she promised to think about it, he left her apartment dejected and, head low, walked outside and straight into the complex’s swimming pool, where those magazines dragged him to the bottom. He tried to save the magazines first, then himself, and then went back to Crossley’s and asked if he could change clothes. Levy (left) would soon make a better impression on Rice alum Bill Broyles (right), and in February 1973 they published the first issue of their magazine. A few years later, the complex owners filled in the pool. —JS

62 | John Hill is murdered in his River Oaks Mansion

1561 Kirby Drive, Houston | September 24, 1972

The house at the intersection of Brentwood and Kirby Drive is not, for River Oaks, architecturally significant. Built in 1935 in an antebellum style, it’s protected from the bustle of a busy thoroughfare by tall green hedges that accentuate its blinding-white brick facade. Today luxury cars fill the driveway, and a child’s soccer goal sits in the front yard. But in 1969 it was the home of John Hill, a plastic surgeon, and his wife, Joan Robinson Hill, the beloved daughter of oilman Ash Robinson. The address is known to many locals as the Blood and Money House, a reference to a book written in 1976 by Thomas Thompson. Out of a treacherous, tragic triangle, he wrote the classic book about Houston. The story goes like this: Joan took fatally ill, either from a mysterious illness or poisoning at the hands of her cheating husband; John was charged with her death, but the case ended in a mistrial. He was subsequently shot dead at the home’s front door, the work of killers hired by his vengeful, grieving father-in-law. But within these walls there’s so much more, about oil, money, family, and secrets that most of us could never begin to imagine.—MS

63 | Race riots consume Camp Logan

Memorial Park, Houston | August 23, 1917

The setting was ripe for disaster—the heat, the mosquitoes, the racial tension, and the war. But when a white policeman dragged a partially clothed black woman from her home, a Northern black soldier, who had been stationed in Houston with his squad to help guard the construction site of a new Army encampment, tried to intervene. He too was severely beaten and taken to jail. And when a black officer went to the police station to ask about the soldier, he was hit in the head with a gun. From there, chaos ensued in the area between what is now Memorial Park and downtown—the black soldiers, thinking a white mob was coming their way, grabbed guns stored in supply tents and started firing. The resulting riot left twenty people dead. Three separate court martials followed, and nineteen of the soldiers were hanged and more than sixty were sent to prison, though no whites were punished. Today Memorial Park is a happier place. Joggers and speed walkers commandeer the paths with a fierce dedication; sword fighters from the Renaissance Fair cheerfully smite one another. There is tennis and golf, and the aroma of burgers from Beck’s Prime fills the air. But the memory of the riot lives on, even though there was a fight over where to put the commemorative marker—some citizens protested its placement inside the golf course clubhouse. So it sits a few blocks away at 6401 Arnot, far from the runners and picnickers, a sad bit of history Houston would just as soon forget. —MS

64 | the galleria opens

Westheimer Road and Post Oak Boulevard just west of Interstate 610, Houston | November 16, 1970

In the mid-sixties, when developer Gerald Hines announced that he was ,creating a Texas version of Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the opulent shopping arcade built a century earlier, it seemed a little over the top, even for Houston. Four decades and four expansions later, Hines’s audacious idea, built around a glazed barrel vault that spans the complex’s central axis, lures in more than 35 million shoppers each year. But the Galleria is no mere mall; it’s Houston’s epicenter of shopping as sport. Reading the directory is like perusing the guest list for Anna Wintour’s birthday party: Giorgio Armani! Fendi! Michael Kors! Ralph Lauren! Valentino! Versace! Or her wish list: a $500 pen at Montblanc! A $5,000 handbag at Gucci! A $15,000 wristwatch at Bulgari! Those who don’t have thousands to spare can show up simply to engage in some first-rate people-watching. Hey! Is that Becca Cason Thrash doing triple salchows around the ice rink?—JB

65 | Tony’s Restaurant Reopens

1801 Post Oak Boulevard, Houston | August 17, 1972

What vignette in the star-spangled history of Tony’s best sums up its place in Houston society? Would it be the night that Princess Margaret danced the Texas two-step at a private dinner in the wine cellar? The evening that Luciano Pavarotti and a party of sixty came in after the opera? What’s for sure is that the day in 1972 that Tony’s moved from its humble location on Sage Road to its glamorous digs on Post Oak, it instantly became the place to be, not just for Texans but international dignitaries and celebrities. Tony’s had it all: a magnificent French menu, superlative wines, flawless service, a theatrical setting, and—most important—an owner, Tony Vallone, who agonized over every detail. For sheer star power, few occasions top the evening in the eighties when, following a charity function, the center table was occupied by Richard Nixon; Donald and Ivana Trump; Barbara Walters; former governor John Connally and his wife, Nellie; and Texas oilman Oscar Wyatt and his stunning socialite wife, Lynn. “The air was electric,” Vallone says. The footlights dimmed a bit after Tony’s moved to its present location, on Richmond, in 2005 (several retail shops occupy the old spot). Yes, the food is still excellent and the clientele impressive, but it’s hard not to look back and think, “Oh, those were the days.” —PATRICIA SHARPE

66 | James A. Baker and George H. W. Bush play doubles

1 Potomac Drive, Houston | Late 1950’s

Courtesy of George Bush Presidential Library

One of the most critical friendships in twentieth-century Texas politics was an unlikely alliance between a Republican oilman from New England and a Democratic lawyer from Houston. The careers of George H. W. Bush and James Baker were intertwined from the start. When Bush ran for the U.S. Senate against Lloyd Bentsen, in 1970, Baker switched parties and managed his campaign. Bentsen won, but both Bush and Baker went on to successful careers: Bush as ambassador to the United Nations, Republican national chairman, envoy to China, director of the CIA, and vice president; Baker as undersecretary of Commerce, White House chief of staff, and Secretary of the Treasury. They reconnected in 1980, when Baker managed Bush’s campaign for president; upon Bush’s election, in 1988, Baker became Secretary of State. Twelve years later, when George W. Bush was embroiled in a dispute over the 2000 presidential election, it was Baker who got called in to oversee the recount. So where did this hugely consequential friendship begin? On the tennis courts of the Houston Country Club, where Bush, a lefty, and Baker, a righty, were doubles partners. —HWB

67 | sharpstown state bank goes under

7500 Bellaire Drive, Houston | 1971

Houston developer Frank Sharp liked to put his name on things. His tenth-floor corner office in the Sharpstown State Bank overlooked the adjacent Sharpstown Center, which was one of the state’s first air-conditioned malls when he opened it, in 1961. Stretching out from that was Sharpstown proper, a self-contained community of some 25,000 homes he’d developed just southwest of downtown Houston. But when the SEC filed suit for stock fraud against Sharp and his bank on January 18, 1971, Sharpstown became synonymous with political scandal. The date of the SEC’s filing was no accident. That was the day Preston Smith would be sworn in as governor for a second term. But that event was overshadowed by the suit’s allegations that Smith, along with Speaker Gus Mutscher and other state officials, had effectively been bribed by Sharp to push legislation favorable to his bank. Mutscher was soon convicted, and the ensuing anti—old guard fervor would sweep Smith out of office, along with Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes—even though Barnes was never directly tied to the shenanigans—and nearly half the House. Sharp pled out, but his empire was gone. Later in life—he died in 1993—he liked to wander his mall, which is now called PlazAmercas. His bank is known as the Jewelry Building, home to a hundred gold and diamond dealers. The only hint at its previous life are the covered drive-through lanes, which now provide shade for the parking lot. —JS

68 | Selena breaks Astrodome attendance records—again

8400 Kirby Drive, Houston | February 26, 1995

The first song on the set list was a six-minute medley of disco hits, a rousing treat for the 61,041 fans who had come to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at the Astrodome just to see Selena Quintanilla Perez. Over the next hour, the Queen of Tejano, bedecked in a sparkly purple jumpsuit, belted her way through twelve of her most popular songs, including “Baila Esta Cumbia,” “No Me Queda Mas,” and “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.” It was the third time the Lake Jackson native had performed at the Astrodome and the third time she had broken the attendance record. She ended what turned out to be her last concert in Texas with “Como la Flor,” a bittersweet cumbia about a lost love, then descended from the stage and stepped into an open convertible. As it drove her around the circular arena, she waved to the crowd, laughing and flashing her charismatic smile. The car disappeared into a tunnel, but her fans cheered on, hoping she might walk back into the stadium for one last goodbye. —JB

69 | Glenn McCarthy opens the Shamrock Hotel

Southwest corner of Main and West Holcombe Boulevard, Houston | March 17, 1949

In Texas, there are social events. And then there are social events in Houston. But even in a city famous for its over-the-top soirees, one party stands above the rest. On St. Patrick’s Day in 1949, Glenn McCarthy opened the resplendent Shamrock Hotel, an eighteen-story, 1,100-room colossus with a pool so big a speedboat could race across it. The eccentric McCarthy, who was known as the King of the Wildcatters, spared no expense on the $21 million project or its lavish grand opening, for which he doled out another $1.5 million. Thousands of Houstonites turned out that night to watch a steady stream of Hollywood celebrities—Ginger Rogers, Errol Flynn, Hedda Hopper, Robert Preston, Lou Costello, Sonja Henie—make their way inside. A throng of gate-crashers turned the $42-a-plate dinner into a cutthroat game of musical chairs (Houston mayor Oscar F. Holcombe and his wife were relegated to the hallway after their seats were commandeered). A live radio broadcast had to be yanked from the airwaves when a stampede of noisy guests flooded into the Emerald Room to take their seats. The next day, the Houston Chronicle’s society editor called it “bedlam in diamonds.” The whole spectacle played straight into the burgeoning myth of Texas as the gauche playground of rags-to-riches oilmen like McCarthy, who was the thinly veiled inspiration for Jett Rink, the lowly cowpuncher turned crude tycoon in Edna Ferber’s 1952 novel Giant. But the reality of Texas’s Riviera—as the Shamrock came to be known—couldn’t be sustained. Just three years later, McCarthy defaulted on a loan and lost the hotel. In 1987 the Shamrock was demolished. The site is now Texas A&M’s Institute of Biosciences and Technology. Snore. —JB

70 | Denton Cooley implants an artificial heart

6720 Bertner Avenue, Houston | April 4, 1969

Less than a year after Denton Cooley performed the first heart transplant in the United States, the Houston surgeon made headlines again at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital: On April 4, 1969, he implanted the world’s first artificial heart into Haskell Karp, a 47-year-old Illinois man with advanced coronary artery disease. Knowing that Karp was fading, Cooley made the dramatic decision to swap his patient’s failing heart with a synthetic replacement. The experimental two-chambered device, which was made of silicone plastic and Dacron, kept the patient alive until a donor heart arrived 64 hours later. Though Karp eventually succumbed to pneumonia and renal failure, critics took Cooley to task for using a device that hadn’t been adequately tested, and he was censured by the American College of Surgeons. But the most inflammatory charge came from Michael E. DeBakey, Cooley’s colleague at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine, who accused Cooley and an associate of stealing a heart he had been developing with federal grants. Cooley maintained that the device was one he had been working on with funds from his Texas Heart Institute. Cooley would resign from Baylor, and his famous feud with DeBakey would last until the men reconciled in 2007, shortly before DeBakey died, at the age of 99. —JB

71 | Barbara Jordan hones her debating skills

Hannah Hall, Texas Southern University, Houston | 1952

AP/Houston Chronicle/Tom Colburn

Barbara Jordan may have inherited her oratorical skills from her father, a Baptist minister, and her mother, whom she called “the most eloquent, articulate person I ever heard,” but it was at Texas Southern University where she honed those natural skills with Dr. Thomas Freeman, the university’s debate coach. “ThomasFreeman found a flaw and worked on it until it was corrected,” she later recalled. There were certainly no flaws remaining in 1976, when, as a U.S. representative, she delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, a speech ranked by many historians as the greatest convention keynote in modern history. The headquarters of TSU’s debate team have since been moved (and been renamed the Thomas F. Freeman Center for Forensic Excellence). The original debate space where Jordan practiced with Dr. Freeman is now Hannah Hall, an administrative building, where if you listen very closely you just might hear the distant sound of a young woman finding her voice. —KV

72 | Jackie Robinson reports to spring training

Gulf Freeway at Cullen Boulevard, Houston | March 1945

Jackie Robinson was a man in transition when he arrived in Houston, the spring training home of the Negro American League’s Kansas City Monarchs, in March 1945. The previous fall, he’d been an Army officer stationed at Camp Hood, near Killeen. But when his all-black 761st Tank Battalion deployed that October, Robinson stayed in Texas; he’d been brought up on court-martial charges related to his refusal to move to the back of a military bus. After an acquittal and honorable discharge, he signed with the Monarchs. Organized baseball was fairly new to him, but he quickly established himself as a hard-hitting shortstop. Since most of the Monarchs’ stars were fighting in World War II, the former All-American UCLA running back was also one of the team’s few marquee names. The spring training schedule would take them to San Antonio, Fort Worth, Waco, and Dallas, but their home field was old Buffalo Stadium, in Houston, which later served as a practice facility for the Oilers before eventually being torn down and replaced by a Finger Furniture showroom (a plaque inside marks the precise spot where home plate used to be). After the regular season, the Monarchs returned to Texas for a barnstorming tour, but by then Robinson was gone. In August he’d agreed to play for Branch Rickey’s Brooklyn Dodgers. The great experiment was under way. —JS

73 | Freddy Fender records “Before the Next Teardrop Falls”

5626 Brock, Houston | 1974

Freddy Fender, known to his mother as Baldemar Huerta, had been singing Tex-Mex rock and roll since the fifties, but a pot bust and prison stretch in the early sixties had broken his momentum. Then, in 1974, he came to SugarHill Studios, which to this day remains the oldest continuously operating studio in the state. Producer Huey Meaux persuaded him to sing an inconsequential tearjerker called “Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” which had already been recorded more than two dozen times. But something about the way Fender sang it—with such great feeling, in both English and Spanish—made the song a huge hit. It reached number one on the country and the pop charts and turned Fender into a giant country star. “The recording only took a few minutes,” Fender once recalled. “I was glad to get it over with, and I thought that would be the last of it.” He had hated country music at the time, but he didn’t hate it for long. “Si te quire de verdad / Y te da felicidad . . .” —MICHAEL HALL

74 | Mission control saves Apollo 13

1601 NASA Parkway, Houston | April 11-17, 1970

Courtesy of NASA

About 55 hours after Apollo 13 blasted off, command module pilot Jack Swigert uttered one of the most famous (and often misquoted) phrases in NASA’s history: “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” Swigert and fellow crewmembers James Lovell and Fred Haise had heard a loud bang, and they watched as the pressure dropped on two of the ship’s three fuel cells. The men quickly crammed themselves into the lunar excursion module, but the “lifeboat” was built for two and was never meant to be used for more than 45 hours. All eyes were on the Manned Space Center, in Houston, as flight director Gene Kranz and his twenty-member Mission Control team on the third floor of Building 30N began calculating how to bring the men back. Their solution—a “free return,” in which the crippled ship would loop around the moon to gain enough speed for reentry—would require the astronauts to make three critical course corrections by firing the LEM’s rocket at just the right moment. For the next four days, the world was gripped by the life-or-death drama. On April 17 the astronauts landed safely into the Pacific Ocean, and NASA described the harrowing flight as “a successful failure.” Though a newer Mission Control Center has been built at what is now called the Johnson Space Center, you can still tour the old console-filled room in Building 30N. —JB

Watch a video about Mission Control and the Apollo 13 mission.

75 | Gordon Granger reads General Orders No. 3

2328 Broadway, Galveston | June 19, 1865

Although President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, his words had no effect in Texas until more than two months after Confederate forces had surrendered. In June 1865 Union major general Gordon Granger and about 1,800 federal troops arrived in Galveston to take control of the state. Granger stood on the balcony of a grand antebellum home called Ashton Villa—which is now an events venue owned by the city—and read General Orders No. 3, which began, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” Joyous celebrations broke out among freed men and women across Texas, and Juneteenth was born. —PC


To visit every place on our list—or tell us what we missed—go to our Terquasquicentennial Blog.

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