- Eavesdropping on Texas History ed. by Mary L. Scheer
Editor Mary L. Scheer's first-rate collection Eavesdropping on Texas History challenges the reader; is entertaining, scholarly, and informative; and inspires some questions: What is history? Why study history? How does one research and report on history? Answers to these questions are not as apparent as one might assume.
Scheer requested that the authors, each a prominent and recognized Texas history scholar, select an event or time in Texas history at which they would have enjoyed being a "fly on the wall" and to explain why. Scheer also asked that the selected episodes be researched in primary and recent secondary sources, be of interest to authors and readers, entertaining to read, and fun to write about.
Eavesdropping on Texas History includes fourteen episodes selected by the authors in conjunction with the editor; they range in time from Victoria Cummins's account of the New Madrid Earthquakes in 1811–12 to Nancy E. Baker's report on the passage of the Marital Property Act of 1967. In between are myriad intriguing and critical historical events. Among my favorites, written by Scheer, is Sam Houston's courageous decision not to take a loyalty oath to the Confederate States of America. Chuck Parsons's take on a Texas Ranger killing of four black, former United States soldiers, members of one of the Buffalo Soldier units, raises a question of meaning today: was race an issue on both sides? Of particular interest and significance to Texans is Michael Collins's vivid portrayal of the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Texan Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson became president, November 22, 1963.
Additional Texas events well-covered by historians in this volume include Stephen F. Austin's 1822–23 sojourn to Mexico; the fall of the Alamo; the abduction of Cynthia Ann Parker; an East Texas environmental meeting in 1909; the Black Sunday dust storm in April 1935; the pivotal football game between SMU and TCU that same year; the 1944 firing of the University of Texas president, Homer Price Rainey; the death of four-term President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the accession of Harry S. Truman to the presidency in 1945 (with Texans Sam Rayburn's and [End Page 227] Lyndon Johnson's involvement); and the beginning of Texas Southern University in 1947. The book, in other words, is replete with fascinating and thought-provoking stories from Texas history; it offers the reader an opportunity to graze historical moments of interest to historians.