Early this year, I attended a memorial service for the celebrated Texas Monthly writer Al Reinert, who died last New Year’s Eve, at age 71. I didn’t know Al, but I had long been a fan of his work, especially his reporting on the space program. The service was held at Texas State University’s Wittliff Collections, in San Marcos, where Texas Monthly’s archives reside. It was attended by many veteran TM staffers and alumni, including this magazine’s first editor in chief, Bill Broyles, with whom Al cowrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for the Tom Hanks movie Apollo 13.
Around the same time that Al was being remembered by his friends, deputy editor Jeff Salamon and others on the TM staff were memorializing him in another way, as they selected a handful of his stories to include in our special issue on space travel, timed to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon. This magazine has long been fascinated by Texas’s role in the space program. Beginning with a Reinert-penned story that appeared in our second issue, in March 1973, TM has reported retrospectively on the inside story of the race to the moon, and contemporaneously on everything from the shuttle program to private space ventures funded by billionaires Jeff Bezos (who first began tinkering with computers in a Houston elementary school) and Elon Musk that have facilities in Texas.
This issue includes curated articles from our archives, as well as fresh ones. I’m especially fond of our look at Presidio High School’s much-admired rocketry club. Exclusively on the website, you’ll find a guide to space-related attractions in Texas and recordings of the interviews we conducted ten years ago for our oral history of the moon landing.
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Because we’ve devoted this issue to one topic, our biennial list of best and worst legislators appears exclusively online. Forrest Wilder, our news and politics editor, assembled the list with help from chief political writer Carlos Sanchez, writer-at-large Christopher Hooks, and political writer emeritus R. G. Ratcliffe. Technically speaking, R. G., whose four-decade career was recently honored in a resolution passed by the Texas House of Representatives, retired from TM at the end of 2018. But we lured him back for this particular project. Now that the lege is out of session, we’ll try to interrupt fewer of R. G.’s fiddle lessons and long Chinese lunches.
A few days before the Legislature decamped from the Capitol, Texas Monthly took over Austin’s Paramount Theatre for a night for a new installment of “Texas Monthly Live,” a two-hour show in which we bring our magazine from the page to the stage. We put on the first of these shows last year, and it was so popular, drawing a crowd of more than eight hundred, that we’ve decided to expand to four more cities this year: Houston, Brownsville, Dallas, and San Antonio.
At the Austin show, on May 22, eight of our best writers, accompanied by Carrie Rodriguez’s excellent band and some captivating visuals, strode onstage and told the sort of stories that are Texas Monthly’s trademark. They ranged from Cat Cardenas’s tale of her grandfather the lion tamer to Michael Hall’s re-creation of the time he and some friends played the rock anthem “Gloria” for 24 hours straight, to celebrate the passing of a beloved Austin music venue. The audience seemed to love the show, as did the folks in Houston, two weeks later. We hope you’ll give it a look in a city near you. The full schedule, as well as tickets, can be found at texasmonthly.com/TMlive.
As always, please let me know what you think of this issue of Texas Monthly and what stories you’d like to read next.