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Texas Historic Figures

Steven Fuller Austin
1793-1836: He grew up in Missouri, studied at Transylvania Univ. in Kentucky, served (1814-20) in the Missouri territorial legislature, and was studying law in New Orleans when his father died. Stephen took up the plans to colonize Texas and on a journey there (1821) selected the area between the Brazos and Colorado rivers. In January, 1822, he planted the first legal settlement of Anglo-Americans in Texas. He later went to Mexico City to have his grant cleared and confirmed by the newly independent Mexican government. Austin's settlements, with the towns of San Felipe de Austin and Brazoria, prospered. Other American colonists poured in. As friction developed over the years with the Mexican government, Austin opposed illegal efforts at Texan independence. He was sent in 1833 to Mexico City to present the settlers' grievances, to ask that Texas be separated from Coahuila, and to get the Mexican immigration law modified. He was accused of treason and imprisoned. On his return to Texas in 1835 he opposed the government of Santa Anna and so forwarded the Texas Revolution. He was sent as one of the commissioners (1835-36) of the provisional government to obtain aid in the United States, was defeated (1836) by Samuel Houston for the presidency of Texas, and served briefly until his death as secretary of state.
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Dwight David Eisenhower
1890-1969: Thirty-fourth U.S. president; born in Denison, Texas. After graduating from West Point in 1915, he undertook further military studies and became a fast-rising staff officer in Washington, D.C.; from 1935--39 he was an assistant to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines. As World War II progressed, he continued to rise in rank and responsibilities and was assigned to command the allied forces during their invasions of North Africa, Sicily, and Italy (1942--43). His talent for both strategic planning and staff coordination led him (December 1943) to be named supreme commander of the allied invasion of Normandy and he directed the campaign from D-Day (June 6, 1944) to the surrender of Germany (May 1945). After commanding the U.S. occupation forces in Germany, he returned to the U.S.A. to serve as army chief of staff (1946--48) before retiring from active duty. He served as president of Columbia University (1948--50) and head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (1951--52) before the Republicans drafted him as their presidential candidate in 1952; under the motto "I like Ike," he won by a landslide over Adlai Stevenson and did the same in 1956. His record as president was mixed, but in the years following, his low-profile approach came to seem more attractive. He established a truce in the floundering Korean War in 1953, but still maintained American presence as the main bar to communist expansionism; with the "Eisenhower doctrine" he promised aid to Middle Eastern nations resisting communism; in 1956 he sent troops to restore order in racially troubled Little Rock, Ark. At the same time, he did little to restrain the Cold War machinations of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles or the red-scare.
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Lyndon B. Johnson
1908-73: Thirty-sixth U.S. president; born near Stonewall, Texas. Son of schoolteachers, he taught school briefly after graduating from Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Southwest Texas State University) (1930), then gravitated to Democratic politics. After serving as President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administrator of the National Youth Administration in Texas, he went on to the U.S. House of Representatives (1937--49) and was quickly marked by his strong support of New Deal programs. A member of the Naval Reserve, he enlisted for active duty within hours after Pearl Harbor--the first Congressman to do so; he served in the Pacific until President Roosevelt ordered all Congressmen back to their elective office in July 1942. He won a narrow race for the U.S. Senate (1948) and served two terms (1949--61). As Democratic whip and then majority leader (1955--61)--and as the consummate arm-twisting deal-maker--he helped pass some of the most progressive social legislation of the century, including the civil rights acts of 1957 and 1960. Elected John F. Kennedy's vice-president in 1960, he became president on Kennedy's assassination in November 1963; in 1964 he was returned to office by a landslide. He proclaimed a "Great Society" program to fight poverty and racism, achieving passage of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965), plus a slate of social-welfare programs including Medicare. At the same time, he led the U.S.A. into an increasingly bloody and unpopular war in Vietnam. Declining support from his own high-level appointees and increasing divisiveness around the country led to his decision not to run in 1968. He retired to his Texas ranch and to writing his memoirs. Larger than life in his public behavior but more than vulgar in his private speech, sensitive to the plight of many less-fortunate Americans but insecure in his dealings with the Eastern Democratic Establishment, he ended as something of a tragic figure because of his overreaching ways.
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Chester Nimitz
1885-1966: Naval officer; born in Fredericksburg, Texas. He supervised the construction of the navy's first diesel ship engine (1913--16). He was chief of staff to the commander of the Atlantic fleet submarine division in World War I. He was chief of the Bureau of Navigation (1939--41) and became commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet after Pearl Harbor (1941). In 1942 he was named commander of all land, sea, and air forces in the Pacific. He refused to attack until U.S. forces were fully ready, in spite of pressure from Congress and the newspapers. He developed much of the strategy of "island hopping" while leading the fleet to many victories. He signed for the U.S.A. at the Japanese surrender ceremonies, which took place aboard his flagship, the USS Missouri, in 1945. He served as chief of naval operations after the war (1945-47).
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Audie Murphy
1924-71: Soldier, actor; born near Kingston, Texas. The most decorated American soldier of World War II, he won the Congressional Medal of Honor during the fighting in the Colmar Pocket, Germany, in 1945. He appeared in the war adventure films Beyond Glory (1948) and To Hell and Back (1948).
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