Professor Bill O’Neal, noted author of over 40 books, retired college professor, and former Texas State Historian, will be the speaker at the annual fall meeting of the T. Whitfield Davidson Foundation held at the Josephine Davidson Memorial Chapel in the pine-clad woods near Harleton, a part of one of the most unique events in Harrison County.
This event begins at 11a.m. on Saturday, September 16th, 2023 and following Professor O’Neal’s appearance, all those in attendance are invited to remain and enjoy a complimentary catered lunch on the chapel grounds.
Professor O’Neal is a native of Corsicana, Texas. His long and varied career in education has included (among other things) 33 years as History professor at Panola College, as well as a stint (from 1968-70) as Athletic Director at Waskom High School in eastern Harrison County. He has written and published over 40 books, many of them on subjects related to American Western historical figures. Governor Rick Perry appointed him to be the Texas State Historian in 2012. He speaks publicly throughout Texas. He is a man whose speaking and leadership skills will be both inviting and compelling. The public is urged to attend.
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, self-educated, “read law,” then passed the Texas Bar Exam, served as City Attorney in Marshall, Texas State Senator, Lt. Governor and ran for Governor of Texas in 1924 on a platform attacking the Ku Klux Klan which was then attempting to take over many state offices. Though he failed to win the governor’s chair, he was appointed Federal District Judge by F.D.R. and continued his battle against vigilante justice until he was in his 90s.
Childless, in 1955 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 in 1974, two years shy of his 100th birthday.
Reflecting, perhaps, on his own memories of arduous trips to town from the country, he made sure the guests at each gathering would be fed before they left the grounds.
To reach the chapel from Marshall, travel north on S.H. 154 to Harleton, there turn onto FM 450 North and follow it northward (toward Ore City) 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 marked with a sign for the entrance. From Gilmer take S.H. 154 south to Harleton and follow the same directions. From Longview, take Alpine Road (FM 2208) to Harleton and then follow the same instructions.
The Foundation’s Trustees invite the public to enjoy this unique East Texas tradition in one of our area’s most picturesque settings.