Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Authors Tell the True Story of Lawmen "Warts and All"


"Most of these lawmen memorial volumes have exploded since 9-11. And most of them sing the praises of the brave heroic officer who, with guns blazing, goes down in a hail of lead from Evil Roy Slade, blah, blah, blah. What we've done is tell the stories of the bad guys as well as the good guys. And sometimes it's hard to tell the difference because all of these officers weren't saints."--Richard F. Selcer to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Richard F. Selcer and Kevin S. Foster, co-authors of Written in Blood: The History of Fort Worth’s Fallen Lawmen, Volume 1, 1861-1909 talk to the Star-Telegram/Associated Press about their efforts to chronicle the lives and deaths of 13 early lawmen: police officers, sheriffs, constables and even a police commissioner. Read more here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Find TAMU Press Consortium Authors at Texas Book Festival

The Texas Book Festival has just announced authors who will be present at the free event, happening Oct. 16-17 at the State Capitol Building.

TAMU Press Consortium authors include:

Birkelbach, Alan (Smurglets Are Everywhere)

Bush, David (Hill Country Deco: Modernistic Architecture of Central Texas)

Crimm, Carolina Castillo (Tejano Leadership in Mexican and Revolutionary Texas)

de la Teja, Jesus F. (editor, Tejano Leadership in Mexican and Revolutionary Texas)

Hardin, Stephen (contributor, Tejano Leadership in Mexican and Revolutionary Texas)

* Hobby, Bill (How Things Really Work: Lessons From a Life in Politics)

Kruvand, Charles (The Living Waters of Texas)

Monroe, Debra (On the Outskirts of Normal: Forging a Family Against the Grain)

Parsons, Jim (Hill Country Deco: Modernistic Architecture of Central Texas)

Ramos, Raul (Tejano Leadership in Mexican and Revolutionary Texas)

Tijerina, Andres (Tejano Leadership in Mexican and Revolutionary Texas)

Todd, David (The Texas Legacy Project: Stories of Courage and Conservation)

Winningham, Geoff (Traveling the Shore of the Spanish Sea)

Wood, Jane Roberts (Out the Summerhill Road)

Zamora, Emilio (Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas: Mexican Workers and Job Politics during World War II)

For a full list, see the Austin American Statesman Reader.

Stop by the TAMU Press Consortium tent!

Friday, July 9, 2010

A&M System and Harte Research play instrumental role in response to the oil spill


Released earlier this week, Governor Perry named the Texas A&M System a participant in the Gulf Project, a coalition of energy and environmental scientists, policy experts, academic researchers, private sector research scientists and state officials.

Consultants for the Project include Dr. Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M - Corpus Christi. The Harte Research Institute has proved instrumental in providing data and research for information on the Gulf of Mexico and the oil spill. McKinney has also authored a foreword to the forthcoming book Glory of the Silver King edited by Brandon Shuler.

Texas A&M University Press authors Sylvia Earle and Wes Tunnell are both active at HRI, providing articles, interviews and access to research for greater understanding of the Gulf of Mexico and the effects of the recent oil spill.



Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Human Origins and Human Evolution: "The Human Edge. Without it, we might just be up a tree."

NPR recently released an article by Christopher Joyce about the about the station's latest radio addition. NPR will be investigating 500 million years of human evolutionary history to determine the development cycles and "how we ended up the way we are." This will all be examined in "The Human Edge" radio show. The summer special will feature radio and web series.

"In Human Origins, by Rob DeSalle and Ian Tattersall, two of the world's foremost scientists show how research into the human genome confirms what fossil bones have told us about human origins. Human Origins serves as a companion volume to the American Museum of Natural History's permanent exhibit as well as an overview of recent insights into what it means to be human."

The information available on this topic is extensive. NPR's radio show will cover topics such as why feet ache, what is the cause of backache and the evolutionary developments that led to modern women having complexes about their hip size. In addition to these physical changes, "The Human Edge" will explore the mental complications of self doubt, the blues and delusions of grandeur, to name a few. Joyce comments that there's a reason "chimps don't need shrinks or Viagra."

Q&A with Gay Gomez, author of The Louisiana Coast: Guide to an American Wetland





Gay Gomez is associate professor of geography at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Gomez, a professional nature guide and longtime activist and champion for the state's wetlands, has served on the board of directors for the Coalistion to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Louisiana Ornithological Society. She is actively involved in many other organizations and is the author of The Louisiana Coast: Guide to an American Wetland.

  1. What is a wetland environment? And, why should we preserve them?

"Wetlands are transition environments between dry land and open water. They are places where standing water is present for all or part of the year, and, because of this, they support vegetation that is adapted to saturated soil conditions. In the Gulf Coast region, swamps and marshes predominate. Swamps are forested wetlands, while marshes feature many species of grasses, sedges, rushes, and submerged aquatic vegetation. 'Water brings life,' and these wetland habitats are high in both plant and animal diversity. Humans also are part of these ecosystems; we impact them by managing water and wildlife and use them for a variety of commercial and recreational activities, from bird watching to seafood harvesting. Without coastal wetlands, valuable fish and shellfish like brown shrimp, white shrimp, redfish (red drum) speckled trout (spotted sea trout), gulf menhaden, blue crabs, and American oysters would not have a place to grow to adulthood. Without these wetlands, many species of waterfowl and other wildlife would not have a refuge in winter, or a place to breed in summer, or a spot to rest and feed during migration."


Photo by Gay Gomez at the Cameron East Jetty Park and Pier, Camero, LA

2. In your book, The Louisiana Coast: Guide to an American Wetland, you describe the coast as a "place of interaction among land, people, and ideas." Can you tell us more about this connection between the land and local people? Why is this connection unique to the Louisiana coast?

"People are an integral part of the Louisiana coastal environment. Generations of families of many ethnicities have adapted to the opportunities and challenges of the region, which include a long growing season, bountiful fishery, and location along the Mississippi and central flyways, as well as threats from hurricanes, storm surges, flooding and insects. Louisiana coastal culture reflects these adaptations in its architecture, food ways, wetland and wildlife management, commercial and recreational activities and attitude toward life. According to 2007 U.S. Census estimates, approximately 47% of Louisiana’s population lives in the state’s coastal parishes. There is a strong emotional attachment and sense of identity associated with living in or near the coast and using its resources. People here feel we are part of the coast, and it is part of us."

3. Over many years, hurricane damage, erosion, human land development, and the byproducts of oil exploration have taken their toll on the coast. What are the specific, long-term implications of the recent BP oil spill with which you are most concerned?

"I’m concerned about the presence and effects of both oil and toxic dispersants in our wetlands, on our beaches, and in our marine environment. All these habitats are interconnected; foul one habitat and the others will also be affected. I fear the contaminants will have long-lasting effects on our fisheries and of course on the entire food web. I’m also wondering how the presence of oil will affect water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico. If the presence of oil results in higher water temperature, this could cause hurricanes to intensify as they pass over the warmer area. I recall how rapidly Hurricane Katrina strengthened to a category 5 storm as it passed over a warm water eddy west of Florida in 2005. On the subject of hurricanes, I’m concerned that a hurricane and storm surge crossing oil-impacted wetlands will both convey oil further into fragile wetland areas and cause land loss where wetland plants have already succumbed to the suffocating effects of the oil."

Photo courtesy of Gay Gomez. Shrimp boat and the Gulf of Mexico shoreline at Holly Beach, LA.

4. You also discuss coastal restoration at length, in your book. The environmental devastation associated with this spill seems to be massive and widespread, with broad implications. What can individuals do now to aid both in recovery from the spill and long-term restoration?

"Individuals can stay informed about the spill and can learn about its impacts on coastal wetlands by exploring sites like the coalition to restore coastal Louisiana, http://www.crcl.org/, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/. Becoming informed about and supporting coastal restoration, and urging your U.S. congressmen and senators to do likewise, will also help. One way you can support the gulf coast seafood harvesters and businesses is by refusing to buy imported shrimp, crabs and oysters; don’t let the spill be an opportunity for foreign competitors to steal the market from domestic producers and suppliers. In addition, people might want to help by coming to the gulf coast and directly patronizing businesses impacted by the spill. There is much to see and do, even if fishing and swimming are currently unavailable in some areas."

5. Tourism will, no doubt, be affected by the spill. Will it be safe for families to visit the coast this summer? If so, what are some of your favorite, must-see spots?

"I believe tourism is still a possibility, especially eco-tourism. It is still possible to visit many wildlife refuges and coastal communities. Some of my favorite spots in Louisiana are the Creole Nature Trail in Cameron Parish, Grand Isle in Jefferson Parish, and the Louisiana Great Gulf Coast Birding Trail, which stretches across the state’s entire coast region. My book, The Louisiana Coast: Guide to an American Wetland, has information on these and other locations.






Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Huffington Post names Texas Review Press one of 15 'feisty small presses'


Huffington Post released this article late last week naming Texas Review Press of Sam Houston State University one of the top fifteen feisty small presses. Featured in the paragraph below, was Richard Burgin's new novel, Rivers Last Longer.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Guest Blogger: Gay Gomez, Associate Professor of Geography at McNeese State University

As published in the Baton Rouge Business Report Letters to the Editor section June 15:

GULF OIL SPILL’S LESSON: THE ENVIRONMENT IS THE ECOMONY

From my home 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico I feel the moist air the south wind carries from the southwest Louisiana coast. There is no odor of petroleum yet, but that may be present soon, since the oil continues to gush from the punctured sea floor, and the prevailing current along the northern shores of the Gulf flows from east to west. This was, of course, what carried the Mississippi River’s voluminous sediment to Louisiana’s shores and built the state’s vast coastal wetlands during most of the past seven thousand years, before humans intervened by building tall levees along the river’s banks. The levees have served the state’s and the country’s economic interests well, as have the thousands of miles of canals and pipelines and the myriad oil and gas operations that are as much a part of this coastal region as are its shrimpers, fishermen, and hunters. As the Gulf oil spill disaster has at last forced us to realize, however, everyone—from our national leaders to oil company executives to wildlife harvesters to seafood eaters—has a common interest in a healthy coastal and marine environment.

Damage lands and waters, and there will be damage to economies and cultures. Countless events throughout the U.S. and the world during past decades have proclaimed this message, but governmental decision makers and corporate executives have rarely given the message a hearing, much less acted as though they understood the correlation. Instead, a myopic focus on and prioritization of economic gain trumps restraint, caution, and defense of environmental quality. As BP’s spill-related expenditures climb, as federal aid packages for beleaguered coastal fisheries and tourist operations multiply, and as Louisiana’s already threatened coastal wetlands endure contamination from oil and chemical dispersants, isn’t the message clear? The environment IS the economy. It is time for people everywhere to absorb this fundamental lesson and to act accordingly.

Restoring environmental quality and economic strength in the Louisiana coastal region will be a long and difficult process. Everyone can help by learning about and supporting the state’s coastal restoration efforts, and by urging their U.S. senators and representatives to do likewise. Visit the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana’s site, www.crcl.org, to read about the issue or to volunteer to help with the recovery. Also consider supporting Gulf Coast seafood businesses by refusing to buy imported shrimp, crabs, and oysters; let’s not let this disaster allow foreign competitors to steal the market away from U.S. harvesters and suppliers. Finally, BP must pay the full price for the disaster its negligence and greed have caused to our intertwined environment, economy, and culture. BP should pay off the mortgages of every affected seafood harvester, seafood business owner, and tourist operator in the spill-affected areas of the Gulf Coast, as well as provide funding to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for restoration of the state’s coastal resources and livelihoods. Having “fouled the nest,” the least the oil giant can do is to leave resource users with the “nest egg” that could allow them to remain in the region and facilitate its recovery.

Gay Gomez

Associate Professor of Geography, McNeese State University, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Author of The Louisiana Coast: Guide to an American Wetland and A Wetland Biography: Seasons on Louisiana’s Chenier Plain

Thursday, July 1, 2010

'Sea Monster' fossil found


An article on CNN notes the recent discovery of the fossilized teeth of the "Leviathan Melvillei." The teeth were recently found in fossils in the Pisco-Ica desert in coastal Peru. Originally thought to be elephant tusks because of their size, the teeth indicate that these sea monsters fed on large prey like baleen whales. At about the size of three modern day killer whales, the reason for their extinction is unknown but as they were top predators, only few thrived at any given time.

In The Archaeology of Animal Bones, Terry O'Connor analyzes bone composition and the archaeological evidence left by the processes of life, death and decomposition. Tim Tokaryk, a Canadian Field Naturalist, said the book "proves to be a useful guide not only for zooarchaeologists and event paleontologists alike, but for mainstream archaeologists as well."More information on O'Connor's work can be found here, or purchased on Amazon.

This rare archaeological find will be detailed in the scientific journal Nature, published today.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Not Largest in US


In a news conference with Pepperdine's Joe Hahn and Kenny Franks, author of Early California Oil, discuss the largest oil leak ever, not in the Gulf, but in California. To see the video, click here.

Franks tells the history of oil in California from 1865 to 1940 through vivid photographs illustrating the early exploration to the boom years of the twentieth century.
Early California Oil is available on Amazon and more information can be seen here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Spanish Water, Anglo Water author featured in Texas Observer


Charles Porter, author of Spanish Water, Anglo Water was featured in this month's Texas Observer. For more on his book, click here.

For more information on the Texas Observer, go to TexasObserver.org.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Publishers Weekly Review of SMU Press's One Day the Wind Changed

"The lone characters in Daugherty's (Desire Provoked) 16 loose-limbed, well developed stories brave a sense of isolation as big as the arid Texas landscape they mostly inhabit. Many of these characters find themselves chafing against an unpopular decision like the architect in "Purgatory, Nevada" who in 1945 risks losing his bride, his reputation, and his professional integrity for the "fascinating challenge" of creating a ghost town in the desert for the Allies to test the effects of a spectacularly lethal firebombing. In the similarly smartly hewn tale "Magnitude," the beleaguered first-person director of the Dollman Planetarium has to break it to the visiting middle-schoolers that there is some doubt about Pluto's being a planet, sending the children into paroxysms of disappointment. A besotted young grad student hangs on disastrously to his infatuation with a stunningly manipulative girlfriend in "The Saint," while the drifting narrator and native of Oklahoma City in "The Republic of Texas" finds himself back among a community of hate-filled secessionists the week after Timothy McVeigh is put to death. With their strong sense of historical context, Daugherty's stories are stirring and relevant."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Klaus Nigge's photos featured in National Geographic


In Nigge's forthcoming work, Whooping Cranes, he captures the beauty and essential mystery that have led humans the world over to include cranes in their earliest myths and legends.

A recent article in National Geographic featured Nigge's photographs of the whooping crane. The article can be seen here.

Kathy Moran, senior editor of natural history for National Geographic, said "Klaus Nigge's photography captures the rarely seen behavior and astounding grace of whooping cranes. More importantly, it gives voice to the cranes' continuing struggle for survival."

For more on Klaus Nigge's book, click here. His photographs can be seen on his website, www.nigge.com and in the National Geographic Image Collection.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

25 years later: Lonesome Dove

This month's Texas Monthly features a cover story about the 25th anniversary of Lonesome Dove. It is characterized as "our Gone with the Wind," an enduring tale of adventure, friendship and the western frontier. For more on the Texas Monthly cover story, click here.


TexasMonthlyReads is a new blog by John Spong and magazine that welcomes Larry McMurty's novel as its first review. Spong writes that "they were able to explain it in terms of the history of Texas, the myth of the West, and McMurtry's career. It was like being back in a college lit class, and almost as much fun as rereading the book."


University of North Texas Press, one of the Texas A&M University Press' consortium partners, has the first major book in twenty years to examine the life and work of Texas' foremost novelist. Mark Busby's Larry McMurtry and the West: An Ambivalent Relationship is available here.




Related titles that may be of interest:

























Thursday, June 17, 2010

HRI Panel to be Broadcast Live on Internet


The third of four panels the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is holding to discuss the long-term impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster on the world’s sixth-largest body of water will be broadcast live over the Internet on Ustream tomorrow (Friday, June 18), from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the Harte Research Institute, Conference Room 127.

Coral Reefs of the Southern Gulf of Mexico author John Wes Tunnell Jr will speak on comparisons between the Deepwater Horizon spill and the 1979 Ixtoc I oil spill in the Bay of Campeche off the coast of Mexico.

Celebrated oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Sylvia Earle, is speaking on putting the Gulf oil spill in a world perspective. Earle is the author of the foreword to both Tunnell's Coral Reefs of the Southern Gulf of Mexico and Jesse Cancelmo's Texas Coral Reefs. Earle has recently been quoted in many articles and publications about the current issues facing the Gulf of Mexico and will be attending the independent TEDxOilSpill conference in Washington DC at the end of this month.

The panel discussion is free and open to the public. The meeting can also be viewed on the Internet by going to http://www.ustream.tv/user/tamuccvideogallery and clicking on “TAMUCC HRI Panel Discussion on Gulf Oil Spill.” The final panel in the series will be held on Friday, June 25.

The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies supports and advances the long-term sustainable use and conservation of the Gulf of Mexico through research, public policy initiatives and public education. Advisory board members represent leaders in academia, industry, and conservation from the United States, Mexico and Cuba.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Guest Blogger: Alan J. Watt -- Fortieth Anniversary of Historic Contract between Farm Workers and California Growers

Guest Blogger: Alan J. Watt

This summer will mark the fortieth anniversary of the historic signing of a binding contract between the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee–later the United Farm Workers–and most of the table grape growers in California. On July 29, 1970, after a grueling five-year struggle, farm labor leader Cesar Chavez and grower John Guimarra, Sr., sat down at a table and signed the contract in the Filipino farm workers’ union hall in Delano, California. Standing behind them were Catholic clergy who had served as mediators.

This arbitration team served as the last of three religious expressions playing pivotal roles in this victory. The other two were the pan-Protestant National Migrant Ministry and Chavez’s use of Mexican devotional piety. During various stages of the table grape strike, each religious entity provided support without which the farm workers could not have achieved their hard-won goal.

In September of 1965, Filipino farm laborers called a strike and were soon joined by Mexican-American workers. Immediately, the Migrant Ministry supported the workers’ demands for higher wages and better working conditions. It was an ecumenical ministry originally conceived, funded, and operated by middle-class women belonging to the moderate arm of the Social Gospel and had maintained a presence among farm workers from the 1920s. It provided traditional support, including food, clothing, health care, and religious education. Later, however, it undertook a more aggressive approach, advocating for legislation to improve the lives of farm laborers. In the 1960s, it adopted yet another tack, calling itself a servanthood ministry and thus operating at the beck and call of the farm worker union. Without the organization’s support in the early months of the strike, it would have failed.

Chavez himself was largely responsible for tapping into another religious expression to promote the movement, namely, Mexican devotional piety. More accurately, he creatively combined it with elements of the civil rights struggle, for example, the 1966 planning and execution of a march from the union headquarters in Delano to the state capitol in Sacramento. The very name of this event, “Pereginacion, Penitencia, Revolucion,” spoke to the intent to appeal to various segments of the general population. First, this event was likened to a Lenten pilgrimage. Second, it was a penitential act among farm workers, who were harboring feelings of resentment and hate toward the growers. Third, it was an act of self-determination, by which the union protested against the growers, the governor, and other interests. Another example of Chavez’s use of popular religion was his first public fast in 1968. Again, its ostensible purpose was to quell threats of worker violence and otherwise maintain the moral high ground. The union’s headquarters was converted into a virtual shrine, and the room in which Chavez held his fast became a monastic cell. Once again, witnesses identified with at least one of the meanings of the fast. For many Catholics, it espoused the ideals of Franciscan self-denial. For the Mexican faithful, it was a reminder of their own suffering. For the general public, it was regarded as a nonviolent means to effect social change, in which Chavez took a cue from the African-American civil rights movement.

Finally, the Bishops Ad Hoc Committee laid the groundwork for final negotiations. Representing the prolabor wing of the Catholic Church, it was able to approach the growers, who were primarily second-generation Catholics from Italy and Yugoslavia and who, in spite of strained relations, were still on speaking terms with California bishops.

Thus, all three of the aforementioned religious expressions aided the union to reach a binding contract with growers. They were by no means sufficient factors in the success of this event, but were certainly necessary factors.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Debra Monroe is On the Outskirts of Normal


"Debra Monroe's adoption of a black baby puts her On the Outskirts of Normal" read page 78 of this May's edition of Vanity Fair. Monroe has also recently been featured in the Austin Chronicle.

Monroe grew up in Wisconsin and moved to Texas in 1992. She is the author of two collections of stories, The Source of Trouble, which won the Flannery O'Connor Award, and A Wild, Cold State, and two novels, Newfangled and Shambles. She teaches at Texas State University and lives in Austin, Texas.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sylvia Earle, Wes Tunnell on BP Oil Spill

"The exploratory oil well two miles below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico exploded in a ball of fire, spurting millions of gallons of crude into the sea. As weeks turned to months, oil executives grappled with capping the well. The growing slick turned into an immediate ecological nightmare."--Miami Herald, May 23, 2010, on the 1979 Ixtoc oil spill in the Bay of Campeche

John "Wes" Tunnell Jr., associate director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies

That year, John W. "Wes" Tunnell Jr., now associate director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies and co-editor of the multivolumed work Gulf of Mexico: Origin, Waters, and Biota (Texas A&M University Press, 2009) and the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Texas Seashells: Identification, Ecology, Distribution, and History, worked with other researchers to predict how long it would take the current to carry the oil 600 miles to south Texas.


"The south Texas restaurant and hotel organizations, at the time, claimed they lost $50 million in revenue. Back then that was a lot," Tunnell told the Herald.

However, with the lead time on the Ixtoc spill, Tunnell told reporters that workers were able to lay boms across entrances to the area's lagoons, keeping much of the oil out of some of the most fragile ecosystems.

The recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill, touching marshes along the Louisiana coast, is far different, Tunnell told the Herald. Read the article in its entirety here, and see this article in the Seattle Times for further analysis of the Ixtoc and BP disasters by McClatchy Newspapers.

Tunnell is one of several Texas A&M University Press authors and prominent Gulf of Mexico experts who have been in the news recently, in connection to the catastrophic BP oil spill.

Sylvia Earle, the National Geographic Society's explorer-in-residence and foreword contributor to Coral Reefs of the Southern Gulf of Mexico (co-edited by Tunnell, 2007) and Texas Coral Reefs (2008), recently told a House panel she came "to speak for the ocean."


"We are pointing anywhere we can for blame," she told the panel. "But actually, the blame of this and other catastrophes were costs related to our demand for cheap energy. (It) is something that all of us need to bear. We all must share the cost of those who demand cheap oil at any price."

See Earle's recent appearance on the Charlie Rose Show (below) and a recent CNN story about her testimony.











Visit Texas A&M University Press for more reading on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, the Louisiana coast, and business history, as it pertains to offshore oil exploration, written by some of the world's leading experts.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dan K. Utley (History Ahead) on Think Radio Program

"Something I have always joked about is that we could someday tell the history of the world in four paragraphs . . . it's an impossible task; we do the best we can."─Dan K. Utley, co-author of History Ahead: Stories beyond the Texas Roadside Markers (Texas A&M University Press, 2010)

More than 13,000 historical markers line the roadsides of Texas, giving drivers a way to sample the stories of the past. But these markers only tell part of the story.

In a lively interview with Krys Boyd, host of KERA's Think radio program in Dallas, Utley discusses his career as a chief historian of the Texas Historical Commission, the back- and forth- compromise between state and county officials on historical marker inscriptions, and fascinating stories of the people behind the markers.

At the end of the interview, listeners offer their suggestions for Utley and co-author Cynthia Beeman's next book, which will include even more stories behind the roadside markers.


Hear the full interview here.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Don't Miss it! "Skulls. Slaves, and Sex: Secrets of Early Texas"

In 1837, American naturalist John James Audubon picked up four skulls of Mexican soldiers from the San Jacinto battleground and sent them to his friend, Dr. Samuel Morton, in Philadelphia.

Last year, Symposium Founder Jeff Dunn discovered the skulls' existence, and renowned anthropologist Doug Owsley conducted a forensic examination on behalf of the Friends of the San Jacinto Battleground.

He will present his findings publicly for the first time in April, at the Battle of San Jacinto Symposium, "Skulls, Slaves, and Sex: Secrets of Early Texas."

The event will be held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 17 at the Hilton Hotel and Conferece Center at the University of Houston. The $50 registration includes lunch and parking.

If skulls, slaves, and sex isn't quite enough to grab you, consider the impressive line up of speakers:

Owsley, division head of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. He is also the author of the forthcoming Arch Lake Woman: Physical Anthropology and Geoarchaeology (Texas A&M University Press, 2010).

The book, which focuses on the third-oldest human remains found in North America (in eastern New Mexico) will be the first volume in the new Peopling of the Americas Publications ─ released by Texas A&M University Press for the Center for the Study of the First Americans.

Ron Tyler, director of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth. Tyler will speak about Audubon's visit to Galveston, Houston, and San Jacinto Battleground in 1837.

Tyler, who spent 20 years as a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and executive director of the Texas State Historical Association, is also a member of the Texas A&M University Press faculty advisory council.

Speaking on Slaves:

"The Slaveholder's Republic"

Andrew J. Torget, assistant professor of history at the University of North Texas. Torget, creator of the digital Texas Slavery Project, will discuss slavery and its impact on revolutionary Texas. He is currently working on a book titled Cotton Empire: Slavery, Texas, and the Origins of the Mexican-American War.

Speaking on Sex:

"Was Sam a Bigamist? ─ A Lawyer Looks at Sam Houston's Divorce"

James W. Paulsen, professor of law at South Texas College of Law. Paulsen, who specializes in family law, legal history, and civil procedure, will discuss Sam Houston's legal problems following the breakup of his marriage to Eliza Allen in Tennessee and subsequent romance with Anna Raguet of Nacogdoches during the Texas Revolution and the early years of the Republic.

"Revolutionary Sex: Texas' Philandering Founders"

Lael Morgan, author, journalist, lecturer, photographer, and teacher. Morgan currently lectures at the department of communications in the University of Texas at Arlington. She is author of Good Time Girls of the Alaska Yukon Gold Rush (Epicenter Press, 1999).

Also:

James E. Crisp, associate professor of history at North Carolina State University. Crisp, author of the newly released How Did Davy Die? And Why Do We Care So Much? (Texas A&M University Press, 2010), will moderate the event.

In the commemorative edition of Dan Kilgore's original book ─ where Kilgore had the audacity to state publicly that historical sources suggested Crockett did not die on the ramparts of the Alamo, swinging the shattered remains of his rifle, "Old Betsy" ─ Crisp examines the origins and subsequent impact of Kilgore's work.

Crisp will also sign and discuss his book with 2009 speaker Jim Bevill, author of The Paper Republic: The Struggle for Money, Credit, and Independence in the Republic of Texas (Bright Sky Press, 2010) 6-8 p.m. April 15 at Brazos Bookstore (2421 Bissonnet in Houston).

The special luncheon presentation will focus on the Hon. William P. Hobby, Jr., Lt. Governor of Texas, 1973-1991.

Frank de la Teja, professor and department of history chair for Texas State University in San Macos and former state historian. He will comment on his new book, Tejano Leadership in Mexican and Revolutionary Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2010).

In this book, de la Teja and ten other scholars examine the lives, careers, and influence of many historically-significant but long-neglected Tejano leaders who were active in the formation, political and military leadership, and economic development of Texas.

Monday, March 29, 2010

David Sedaris to Recommend Irish Girl!

In December, Playwright, NPR commentator, and bestselling author David Sedaris selected Irish Girl by Tim Johnston (University of North Texas Press, 2009) as one of his favorite books of the year.

Now, he has chosen the short story collection as the book he will be recommending on his 34-city, 2010 book tour, which he starts next week!

Bookslut recently called Johnston's stories "sharp and smart, infused with a small-town sensibility that renders them eerie and restless."

Read the review in its entirety here.

Also, be sure to catch Sedaris on his tour, which lands first in Wilmington, DE on April 6!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Houston Celebrates James Surls

The Houston Chronicle's Zest section Sunday featured a cover story on the arrival of seven pieces by artist James Surls to the Rice University campus, after their turn on New York's Park Avenue.

Surls will give a lecture at noon Tuesday in the university's Herring Hall, Room 100. His work will be on display through Aug. 31 as part of the exhibit, Magnificent Seven: Houston Celebrates Surls.

Surls's work is also featured in James Surls: In the Meadows and Beyond, edited by Jeanne Chvosta (Southern Methodist University Press, 2004). The book is the first full-length examination of Surls's life and art. It also includes an interview with the artist, a tribute by his wife, Charmaine Locke (also an artist), and commentary by Mark A. Roglán, curator of the exhibition In the Meadows: Recent Sculpture, Drawings, and Prints of James Surls (2003).

As part of the ongoing exhibit, three of Surls's bronze and steel scultures, featuring flower-, diamond-, vortex- and needle-like forms currently stand in a green space near Brochstein Pavilion, the Chronicle reported. Another three are located near the campus parking garage beneath McNair Hall, and the seventh stands in front of the BioScience Research Collaborative on University near Main.

For more on the exhibit, read the article in the Houston Chronicle.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Pacific Premiers!

Last night, millions of users tuned in to the first installment of HBO's new miniseries, The Pacific, which tracks the stories of three U.S. Marines in the Pacific Theater of World War II.

The series, executive produced by Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Gary Goetzman, "tracks the intertwined real-life stories of" U.S. Marines Robert Leckie, John Basilone, and Eugene Sledge from their first battle with the Japanese on Guadalcanal to their return home after V-J Day.

In conjunction with the premier, HBO.com has posted an excellent historical video, "Anatomy of the Pacific War:"




Anatomy of the Pacific War

For history, memoirs, analysis, and more on the Pacific Theater, check out these great titles from Texas A&M University Press Consortium:

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Ghosts of Iwo Jima

The 5th Division hits the beach on D-Day, 19 February 1945. The dead and living mingle.

"I've lived with those memories all of my life and it was not something I ever wanted to go back to."─Jerry Yelin, World War II P-51 fighter pilot, to CNN

In a recent story on CNN, World War II veterans talked about their emotional pilgrimage to Iwo Jima for the Tour of Honor, an annual commemoration of the 35-day battle.

In February 1945, some 80,000 U.S. Marines attacked the heavily defended fortress thatt the Japanese had constructed on the tiny Pacific Island. About 22,000 Japanese soldiers died defending Iwo Jima, along with more than 6,000 Americans.

The article alludes to how the battle proved to be "longer and deadlier than planners had anticipated, depleding much of the U.S. military's resources."

In The Ghosts of Iwo Jima (Texas A&M University Press, 2006), Captain Robert S. Burrell reconsiders the costs of taking Iwo Jima and its role in the war effort. He asserts that the Air Forces' fighter operations on Iwo Jima subsequently proved both unproductive and unnecessary.

An excerpt:

"With the start of World War II, the U.S. armed services made enormous transitions. The size of the naval operations dwarfed anything witnessed in American history. At the same time, the Army and Navy were forced to work together as never before in ambitious joint operations. Since the pre-war military had distinctly divided Army and Navy responsibilities based upon geographical boundaries of land and sea, amphibious operations in the Pacific left much ambiguity over how best to integrate service efforts. The creation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was a giant leap forward in unified command of the armed services. Still, the Army and Navy had great difficulty working together, both in Washington and abroad. Intense rivalry continued to influence problematic command arrangements and had tragic repercussions, especially in the Pacific.

Army/Navy division of the Pacific Theater, 1942

Considering Iwo Jima within the overall context of the Pacific war demonstrates that Operation Detachment was influenced by U.S. service interests. Plans to seize Iwo Jima began as a result of Army Air Forces strategy. The Army Air Forces sought to provide fighter escort from an intermediate air base between the Marianas and Japan in order to improve B-29 Superfortress performance. Although there were many small islands in the Nanpo Shoto, none had both the ideal terrain and the proper location to meet the Army Air Forces' requirements. Because General Arnold desperately sought to demonstrate the value of an independent air force through the performance of the B-29, he strongly urged the capture of the most suitable island anyway. Although Iwo Jima had an appropriate landscape for large airfields, distance from mainland Japan, adverse weather conditions, and limitations of the P-51 Mustang proved detrimental to effective U.S. fighter support. Planners from 1943 onward had expressed doubts that seizing Iwo Jima would justify its cost. They also doubted the ability of fighters to operate such long distances to mainland Japan. Admiral Spruance, ther leading Navy officer to adhere to the Army Air Forces' desires, retained deep reservations about the island's value throughout the planning and preparation process. In retrospect, one could certainly question whether the price was worth the gain─an approach that strongly contrasts with the embellished justifications given in most scholarship on the subject. . . "

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Texas State Historical Association Annual Meeting and Awards

Tejano Leadership in Mexican and Revolutionary Texas Editor Jesús F. de la Teja and contributors sign copies of the newly released book at the Texas State Historical Association annual meeting.

The Texas State Historical Association's annual meeting is always a huge event for the Texas A&M University Press Consortium. And, this past weekend in Dallas was no exception.

Authors for most of our imprints ─ Texas A&M University Press, TSHA Press, University of North Texas Press, Texas Christian University Press, Southern Methodist University Press, Texas Review Press, and State House/McWhiney Foundation Press ─ attended in force to sign books, and at least a dozen authors received awards or other recognition.

The highlights:

Drs. James E. Crisp of North Carolina State University and Emilio Zamora of the University of Texas were named 2009 Fellows of the association with Donaly E. Brice of the Texas State Library.

Crisp is co-author of How Did Davy Die? And Why Do We Care So Much? (TAMU Press, 2010) and an author of the expanded edition of With Santa Anna in Texas: A Personal Narrative of the Revoluation (TAMU Press, 1997).

Zamora is author of Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas: Mexican Workers and Job Politics in World War II (TAMU Press, 2009), Mexican Americans in Texas History, Selected Essays (TSHA Press, 2000), and The World of the Mexican Worker in Texas (TAMU Press, 2000).

Zamora also picked up the Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Prize for Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas, for the best book on Texas published during the calendar year.

Emilio Zamora, author of Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas, accepts the Tullis Memorial Prize.

Dr. Kyle G. Wilkison, author of Yeomen, Sharecroppers, and Socialists: Plain Folk Protest in Texas, 1870-1914 (TAMU Press, 2008),received the Kate Broocks Bates Award for Historical Research for a signigicant piece of historical research dealing with any phase of Texas history prior to 1900. Wilkison, a professor of history at Collin College, is also co-author of the newly released The Texas Left: The Radical Roots of Lone Star Liberalism (TAMU Press, 2010).

Kyle Wilkison, author of Yeomen, Sharecroppers, and Socialists, accepts the Kate Broocks Bates Award.

Congrats to Dr. Michael Botson of Houston Community College received the Mary M. Hughes Research Fellowship in Texas History for the best research proposal on twentieth-century Texas History. He is author of Labor, Civil Rights, and the Hughes Tool Company (TAMU Press, 2005).

Dr. Elizabeth Hayes Turner of the University of North Texas received the John H. Jenkins Research Fellowship in Texas History for the best research proposal having to do with Texas history. Hayes Turner was an editor of Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas (TAMU Press, 2006).

Also, the Texas A&M University Department of History and Texas A&M University Press presented the 2010 Robert A. Calvert Book Prize to The Texas Left, by Wilkison and Dr. David Cullen of Collin College, during the annual meeting.

Congratulations to our award-winning authors!

The Texas A&M University Press Consortium team at the Texas State Historical Association annual meeting. Photo includes Ron Chrisman (UNT), Paula Oates (UNT), Karen DeVinney (UNT), Melinda Esco (TCU), Sharon Mills (TAMU), Kent Calder (TSHA), Stephen Hardin (State House/McWhiney Foundation Press), Don Frazier (SHMFP), George Ann Ratchford (SMU), Kathie Lang (SMU), Beth Alvarez (TSHA), Amy Smith (SHMW), Susan Petty (TCU), Gayla Christiansen (TAMU), Holli Estridge (TAMU), Keith Gregory (SMU), and Paul Ruffin (TRP)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rolando Briseño in San Antonio Express-News

As the twentieth century drew to a close, renowned Mexican American artist Rolando Briseño mounted an exhibition of work titled "La Mesa de Moctezuma/Moctezuma's Table."

A number of artists, writers, poets, and scholars who know his work will soon be featured as part of a forthcoming book on the exhibit, Moctezuma's Table: Rolando Briseño's Mexican and Chicano Tablescapes, edited by Norma Cantú. The book is currently scheduled for a Fall 2010 release.

The San Antonio Express-News recently featured a seven-course dinner Briseño hosted for ten family members at his home, commemorating a meal his ancestors held in Mexico on Jan. 27, 1910, for his grandparents after they returned home from their honeymoon.

The Express-News describes the dinner party, which Briseño calls "Ancestral Tablescape" as "part gourmet meal, part art project and part memorial to family members who died long ago."

Read the article in its entirety here, and follow this link to see a slideshow of photos from the dinner.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Civil War Officer's Descendant on Moss Bluff Rebel

It isn't often that our history authors make personal contact with descendants of the individuals they research.

So imagine Moss Bluff Rebel: A Texas Pioneer in the Civil War author Phil Caudill's surprise when he heard recently from the great-great grandson of Texas pioneer cattle drover turned reluctant Civil War commanding officer William Berry Duncan.


In his book (Texas A&M University Press, 2009), Caudill draws from Duncan's previously untapped diaries and letters written by candlelight on the Gulf Coast cattle trail to New Orleans, in Confederate Army camps, and on his southeast Texas farm after the war, to paint a picture of Texas life the Republic's early citizens. Caudill's carefully crafted narrative reveals Duncan's wartime emotions and his postwar struggle to reinvent the lifestyle he knew before the war.

John Urban had the following to say:

". . . enjoyable and informative. . . my wife and I were thoroughly captivated by your story and style of writing. We feel that because of your writing, we were able to get a lot of insight into my family."

For more on Moss Bluff Rebel, visit the author's Web site.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Leadership of George Bush on CBS News

"For Bush, a leader is someone who can bring people together to get things done."─Roman Popadiuk, author of The Leadership of George Bush
As President Obama and Congressional Republicans prepare for tomorrow's health care reform summit, CBS News White House Correspondent Peter Maer says in an article on today's Political Hotsheet that the leaders could "profit" from the words of two presidents named George ─ Washington and Bush.

In his book, The Leadership of George Bush: An Insider's View of the Forty-first President (TAMU Press, 2009), Roman Popadiuk examines the ways in which Bush's personal leadership style influenced the formation and execution of policy.


Maer, who cites Popadiuk's book in the article, refers to the book as a "surprisingly frank and objective account. . . Popadiuk provides fascinating details of the Bush administration's internal debate on many of the same health care issues that confound the current administration and Congress."

The correspondent goes on to say, "Since the former president adamantly insists he will not write an autobiography, The Leadership of George Bush will serve as a definitive record of his White House tenure.

In the story, Maer also reflects on a quote from George Washington's Farewell Address, "The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and the duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it."

Read the story in its entirety here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Welcome Back, Dat Nguyen!

COURTESY: 12th Man Magazine

Texas A&M University Press is home to some of Dat Nguyen's most die-hard fans! We would like to congratulate Nguyen on his upcoming post, as an assistant linebackers and defensive quality control coach to the Aggies.

Front row: Texas A&M University Press Marketing Manager Gayla Christiansen. Second row (l to r) former Publicity and Advertising Manager Jennifer McDonald, Dat Nguyen, Rusty Burson. Third row: (l) Press Director Charles Backus.

Five years ago Nguyen ─ a leading tackler of A&M's famed Wrecking Crew and the first Vietnamese football player to make the pros, playing as middle linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys ─ graciously signed more than 1,000 copies of his autobiography, Dat: Tackling Life and the NFL (Texas A&M University Press, 2005) for Bryan High and A&M Consolidated High School students at a Bush Library-hosted event.



His book, which he wrote with Rusty Burson, offers an insightful look at his faith, his family, and his career, recounting his father's decision to flee Vietnam, the boat that took his family to freedom, and their eventual settling in Rockport, Texas, where a community of Vietnamese shrimpers established an economic livelihood using skills brought from their homeland.

In addition, Nguyen also examines the personalities and playing (or coaching) styles of many celebrated stars of college football and the NFL.

Find out more about the book and view a Google Preview here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spring '10 Sneak Peek: Exploring the Edges of Texas

Walt Davis holds an ornate box turtle at Spring Creek Ranch in the Texas Panhandle (Courtesy: Walt and Isabel Davis)

"It took an unlikely coalition of farmers, sportsmen, and conservationists to stop and finally reverse the slide to extinction. We owe their continued presence to a previous generation of conservationists who deserve our recognition and gratitude."
In 1955 Frank X. Tolbert, a well-known columnist for the Dallas Morning News, circumnavigated Texas in a Willis Jeep, sending his dispatches to the newspaper. Fifty years later, Walt Davis -- an avid fan of Tolbert's column -- and his wife Isabel repeated Tolbert's trek.

In their new travelogue, Exploring the Edges of Texas, the Davises offer a dual perspective of each of the places they visited -- from the eyes of both previous visitors (artists, explorers, naturalists, or archeologists) and contemporaries (biologists, ranchers, river-runners, and paleontologiests) who serve as modern-day guides for their journey of rediscovery.


Here, the Davises talk more about their book, the experiences they shared along their treks, and why they hope readers will find Texas' explorers and nature activists fascinating.

Q: Please, tell us about how you came up with the idea for your book and what inspired you to organize it the way that you did.

WALT DAVIS: When I was 13 years old, Frank X. Tolbert and his 9 year-old son, Frank Jr., drove a Willis Jeep all the way around the border of Texas. I read about their exploits in the Dallas Morning News and wished they had asked me along. Fifty years later my wife, Isabel, and I fulfilled my boyhood dream and made our own 4,000 mile circumnavigation of the state. Exploring the Edges of Texas is the record of our journey.

Q: You have said that you hope readers will take from your book a deeper appreciation for the human dimension of scientific exploration. How did your travels serve to enhance your own appreciation of these explorers and advocates?

WALT AND ISABEL DAVIS: The explorers and naturalists who traveled the edge of Texas before us did so under difficult and dangerous conditions. Charles Wright walked 673 miles from San Antonio to El Paso and back to collect plants for Asa Gray at Harvard. Lt. James W. Abert mapped the Canadian River while being shadowed by Comanche and Kiowa warriors. Jacob Boll traveled into the wilderness to collect fossils, and paid for it with his life when appendicitis struck him down beyond the reach of medical help. The natural history of Texas was written by men and women of grit and determination drawn to the geographic and scientific frontiers of their time. The knowledge they passed on to us was bought at great personal cost.

Isabel Davis rests by a tree at Spring Creek Ranch. (Courtesy: Walt and Isabel Davis)

Q: In Exploring the Edges of Texas, you chose to retrace the steps of some very influential explorers and advocates, from French trader and explorer Benard de la Harpe (who, in 1719 established a trading post that would later become Texarkana) to artist Louis Agassiz Fuertes (who, in 1901 penned one of the most lyrical descriptions of the Big Bend country from his mountain campsite). In your research for the book, how did you choose which explorers and scientists to follow? And, what was the single most surprising thing you encountered, when studying these locales from this unique and unusual perspective?

WD and ID: Choosing the explorer or naturalist to follow as we traveled the edge of Texas was one of the most interesting, and at times most difficult, parts or our journey. We looked for someone who left a compelling personal narrative of their experience. We also looked for people whose stories were not well known hoping to bring them out of obscurity and introduce them to a new generation of readers. The most surprising thing we learned was that many of the animals we saw on our travels would have disappeared a century ago if concerned people had not fought to save them. By 1900, white-tailed deer in Texas were nearly wiped out by market hunters supplying a burgeoning wild game meat market. It took an unlikely coalition of farmers, sportsmen, and conservationists to stop and finally reverse the slide to extinction. At the same time a similar coalition, led by the Audubon Society, put a halt to the wholesale slaughter of plumed birds for the millinery market. Imagine the beaches and marshes of the Texas Gulf Coast without the flocks of pelicans, spoonbills, herons, and egrets that grace the landscape. We owe their continued presence to a previous generation of conservationists who deserve our recognition and gratitude.

Walt Davis sketches the Texas Panhandle landscape (Courtesy: Walt and Isabel Davis).

Q: For this book, you divided the 4,000-mile-long border of Texas into sixteen segments, spanning as much as 400 miles each, in some cases. How long did it take you to travel these areas? What was a typical day like for you?

WD and ID: A map of our journey around the state looks more like a spider web the shape of Texas than a single line around it. We would drive from our home to the Rio Grande Valley then back again; to the Big Bend and back, to the Sabine, the Sulphur River, the Red. Ultimately, we did manage to drive all the way around, but it took many trips over 4 years to get it done. A typical day might include a quick breakfast of cereal and banana in our tent or travel trailer, a morning interview with a local rancher, an afternoon hike to locate the campsite of a previous naturalist and a quick watercolor sketch to record the scene. After supper Isabel would write up our day in her journal, I would download photos, and together we would plan for the next day. Trying to choose a favorite locale is like trying to choose a favorite child. Each is special in its own way. Goose Island State park was the site of a birders perfect day with hundreds of migrating warblers pinned down by a spring cold front. Benito Trevio introduced us to a whole new world of semi-tropical plants at Rancho Lomitas in the Rio Grande Valley. We raced a herd of pronghorn on a Panhandle ranch and hiked to the Bowl in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. However, our personal favorite has to be the seven-day raft trip through the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande guided by Terlingua outfitter Far Flung Adventures. For seven days we floated through a desert canyon wilderness treated every night to gourmet meals served on the riverbank. But that leaves out a dozen other favorites, each with its own unique claim to our affection.

Isabel Davis looks over Mineosa Creek in the Texas Panhandle (Courtesy: Walt and Isabel Davis).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

OPINION: Lynch 'em Then Love 'em: Dr. Wakefield and His Forebears

". . . my son sprinted ahead of me on the Katy Trail, veered off onto Routh Street, and disappeared into uptown Dallas."
Two weeks ago, Dan Burns' 22-year-old autistic son, Ben, lay on the couch with a blanket wrapped around his head and his fingers in his ears, catatonic, not eating.

In this guest column, Dan, author of Saving Ben: A Father's Story of Autism, talks about Dr. Andrew Wakefield and the help he sought from Thoughtful House:

"Desperate for help, we took Ben to Thoughtful House, where Dr. Andrew Wakefield leads the research program. Dr. Jepson, author of Changing the Course of Autism, prescribed a protocol to heal Ben’s gut. The results were astonishing.

"On Tuesday, a week after starting treatment, my son sprinted ahead of me on the Katy Trail, veered off onto Routh Street, and disappeared into uptown Dallas. Squad cars, helicopter, sirens, fear. His mother and I waited in the parking lot for the call from the police, the hospital or the morgue.

"An hour and a half later, Ben came loping back down the Katy trail, thirsty, exhausted, and brimming with pride. For the first time in his adult life Ben was, briefly, on his own. And he had survived.

"Though I would have preferred less dramatic evidence, Ben’s temporary escape from autism supports the Thoughtful House protocol and, indirectly, Dr. Wakefield’s research.

"We often lynch our heroes before we saint them, and the lynching of Andrew Wakefield has reached a new level of frenzy. Yesterday I received an email from a writer doing a health care piece for a Canadian periodical. The writer was greatly pleased by the publisher’s withdrawal of Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet article, “Ileal lymphoid-modular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children,” and was outraged by people who still believe that there is a vaccine/gut/autism connection. He wanted a quote from me that he could use to thrash the ignorant parents who have supported Wakefield and his research these dozen years. “What can be done,” he asked, “to push back sooner against this quackery?”

"Dr. Wakefield is in good company. He is the latest in a line of alleged quacks whose questions and tentative answers outraged the medical and political establishment and who were shamed, fired, and censured before being honored, too often posthumously. For example:

"1. Dr. Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis. In 1847, cut the death rate from “childbed fever” at Vienna General Hospital’s maternity ward from 30% to 1% by requiring doctors who had performed postmortem examinations to wash their hands in a chlorine solution before assisting with childbirth. Germ theory had not yet been proposed; prevailing medical opinion held that childbed fever was caused either by “bad air” or by an imbalance of humors, to be remedied by bloodletting. Semmelweis had other ideas, and his practices offended the medical establishment. He was dismissed from the hospital, hand washing stopped, and women resumed expiring by the hundreds. Semmelweis toured Europe expounding his ideas, which were widely ridiculed. He was lured to an insane asylum in Lazarettgasse, secured in a straitjacket, severely beaten, and confined to a darkened cell, where he died. Today his portrait is on the 50 Euro gold coin.

"2. Dr. John Snow. Ended the 1854 cholera outbreak in London, which killed 615 people, by removing the handle of the Broad Street Pump, located on a cistern three feet from a cesspit which had been used to dispose of a dirty diaper. His theory connecting the quality of water with cholera cases offended the Southward and Vauxhall Waterworks companies, which supplied homes with water from sewage-polluted sections of the Thames. Under pressure, government officials rejected Snow's theory of oral-fecal disease transmission. “After careful inquiry,” the Board of Health report concluded, “we see no reason to adopt this belief.” The pump handle was replaced, and government refused to drain the cesspool. Snow died unrecognized, having drunk only boiled water throughout his adult life. In 2003, he was voted in a poll of British doctors as “the greatest physician of all time.”

"Because they fear him, the powers that be have decided to crush Wakefield. It is not the man but the truth that they should fear. “What lessons,” the Wakefield-despising Canadian writer asked, “can we take away from the persistence of this idea?” I wanted to fire back at the writer and tell him what a shallow, lazy, arse-licking excuse for a journalist he was. But on reflection, I think it’s an excellent question. It brings to mind another lynching. That of Medgar Evers, a black civil rights activist who on June 12, 1963, emerged from his car in the driveway of his Jackson, Mississippi, home carrying a stack of NAACP T-shirts that read “Jim Crow Must Go.” Evers was struck in the back with a bullet from an Enfield 1917 .303 rifle, staggered 30 feet, and died at a local hospital just after John F. Kennedy’s nationally
televised speech on civil rights. But not before saying, as the legend goes, “You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.” Let’s roll."

Ben Burns on the Katy Trail.

Dan E. Burns, Ph.D, is Adult Issues Liaison for AutismOne, where he is a regular columnist. He is the author of Saving Ben: A Father’s Story of Autism, published by University of North Texas Press, a member of the TAMU Press Consortium.