This annual event, open to the public, is recognized to be one of the most unique events
in Northeast Texas.
This spring's program begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 21, and following Dr. Oliver’s appearance, all those in attendance are invited to remain and enjoy a complimentary catered lunch on the chapel grounds.
Dr. Oliver’s credentials are impressive. A native of San Antonio, Oliver is a graduate of Baylor University with a bachelor’s degree in education. He earned a master’s degree in educational psychology and doctorate in educational administration from Texas A&M University. He is also a licensed and ordained Baptist minister. His comments on “the faith of our fathers” promises to be memorable.
On a country road between Harleton and Gilmer, the Josephine Davidson Memorial Chapel was constructed to honor the mother of one of Harrison County’s most outstanding jurists and political figures. Judge T. Whitfield Davidson, being largely self-educated “read the law,” and then passed the Texas Bar Exam. He served as City Attorney in Marshall, Texas State Senator, Lt. Governor and subsequently ran for Governor of Texas in 1924 on a platform opposing the Ku Klux Klan, which was then attempting to influence and control many state offices. Though he failed to win the governor’s race, he was appointed United States District Judge by President Franklin D. Roosevelt where he continued his battle against vigilante justice until he was in his 90s.
Having never had children of his own, in 1955 Judge Davidson decided to use his wealth to honor his mother by building a stone chapel in her name on the farm where he was born. He intended it to last forever, he said, and was buried there himself in 1974, just two years shy of his 100th birthday.
When he established the Davidson Foundation he gave its Trustees two mandatory tasks: maintaining the chapel and holding two gatherings there each year.
One gathering was to be in the fall where someone “learned in the Constitution and laws of the land” would speak and the other gathering in the spring was directed to be a celebration of “the faith of our fathers.” Reflecting, perhaps, on his own memories of arduous trips to the county seat from the country, he also made sure the guests at each gathering would be fed before they left the chapel grounds.
To reach the chapel from Marshall, travel north on S.H. 154 to Harleton, then turn onto FM 450 North and follow it until it meets the Davidson Road (a TxDOT sign marks the turn) then turn left from FM 450 onto Davidson Road and follow it until it intersects the entrance to the Chapel property, which is clearly marked as the entrance.
From Gilmer take S.H. 154 southeast to Harleton and follow the same directions.
From Longview, take Alpine Road (FM 2208) north to Harleton and then follow the same instructions. From Jefferson, take FM 2208 west to Harleton and then follow the same instructions. From Hallsville, take FM 450 north and then follow the same instructions. The Foundation’s Trustees invite the public to come and enjoy this unique East Texas tradition with a truly impressive speaker in one of our area’s most picturesque settings.