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Remember the Alamo Custodians!

The DRT and the Alamo: a look back.

By May 2015Comments

When land commissioner George P. Bush wrested control of the Alamo from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas in mid-March, alleging numerous instances of mismanagement, recently retired Democratic state representative Mike Villarreal tried to put the move in a historical context. “We’ve all been watching this story unfold since 2011,” said the current San Antonio mayoral contender. This was an accurate statement, if not quite a complete one. When it comes to the DRT’s controversial stewardship of the Alamo, the story goes back more than one hundred years.

1908: DRT members Clara Driscoll, who calls for the removal of the second story of the Alamo’s Long Barracks, and Adina De Zavala, who is dead set against that notion, begin a years-long feud. The fight grows so heated that De Zavala barricades herself in the barracks for three days, to no avail: Driscoll wins, and De Zavala is barred from any further official dealings with the Alamo.

1911–1913: The DRT gets an injunction against A. B. Conley, the state superintendent of public buildings and grounds, preventing him from entering the premises to conduct some much-needed maintenance. This prompts the state to try to remove the DRT as custodians. The fight goes all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, leading to a narrow victory for the DRT.

1914–1988: All things considered, a period of relative calm, give or take a visit from Ozzy Osbourne.

1989: Representative Ron Wilson, a Democrat from Houston, begins his years-long campaign against the DRT, introducing legislation to shift control of the Alamo to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It goes nowhere.

1993: Wilson again introduces legislation to transfer control of the Alamo to a state agency. It goes nowhere.

1995: Wilson files his signature legislation for the third time.

1997: And the fourth.

1999: And the fifth.

2001: And the sixth.

2002: In an unprecedented move, the DRT’s Alamo Committee chairwoman tries to charge $5 for admission to a New Year’s Eve celebration at the Alamo. The event is canceled after another Daughter protests.

2006–2008: DRT executive Erin Bowman is expelled over disagreements on fund-raising strategies. On the bright side, the expulsion occurs during an outing at Austin’s exclusive Barton Creek Resort and Spa.

2009: The San Antonio Express-News reports that a mere 17 percent of the money the DRT raised from selling specialty license plates actually went to the Alamo.

2010: The attorney general’s office launches an investigation into the DRT.

2011: A plan to celebrate the Alamo’s 175th anniversary with a fund-raising concert featuring Alamo fanboy Phil Collins is scrapped after it has been publicly announced. Ron Wilson is no longer in the House, but his legacy lives on as the Lege passes two bills transferring management of the Alamo from the DRT to the Land Office. In a final indignity, Texas Monthly gives the DRT a Bum Steer award.

2012: The state rescinds the DRT’s custodial responsibilities and evicts them from the premises, though they are allowed to maintain their operational responsibilities (e.g., selling trinkets).

2013: Sex scandal. Burglary. Accusations that the U.N. will take over the historic site as part of a New World Order plot.

2015: Land commissioner Bush cuts all ties with the DRT. Ten days later, the DRT files suit against the state.

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