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Panola College professor appointed Texas State Historian

By Sherry Koonce skoonce@news-journal.com
Aug. 25, 2012 at 10 p.m.


Longtime history professor and renowned non-fiction writer Bill O'Neal has been named Texas State Historian, a job that will carry him across the state as ambassador of what he described the "richest and most colorful history" among all the 50 U.S. states.

O'Neal, 70, of Carthage, was appointed to the position by Texas Governor Rick Perry, who administered an oath of office at the state capitol in Austin on Wednesday.

"I am thrilled to be named to this position," O'Neal said. "It's not a paying job, it is an honorary position, but as it turns out, a very busy one."

As state historian, O'Neal is responsible for enhancing Texans' knowledge of the state's history and heritage; encouraging the teaching of Texas history in public schools; conducting lectures, and consulting with government officials on matters relating to the promotion of state history.

Though he was appointed by the governor, O'Neal was recommended to the position by members of Texas Historical Commission and the Texas State Historical Association.

O'Neal has taught Texas history for 42 years at the high school and Panola College. Though he no longer actively teaches, he will keep an office at the college while serving as historian.

O'Neal recently completed his 40th book, and said he isnow working on his 41st.

His latest, "Lampasas 1855-1895, Biography of a Texas Frontier Town," will be available to the public in about a month, he said.

O'Neal said he became captivated by Texas History when he was a little boy.

"My great-grandfather trailed cattle up the Chisolm Trail in the 1870s - he was a drover - so I have that in my background," O'Neal said.

His grandmother came to Texas in a wagon train in 1881.

About half of O'Neal's books involve Texas history. Other subjects include homes of the governor of Texas, country singers and baseball. He also authored children's books.

Kent Calder, executive director of the Texas State Historical Association, said O'Neal's background as an instructor and a public speaker made him an excellent choice.

"He has academic credentials, but can speak to the public about the importance of keeping Texas history alive in public schools," Calder said.

O'Neal is a member of the Texas State Historical Association, West Texas Historical Association, Western Writers of America, the Wild West History Association Advisory Board, Society for American Baseball Research, and a fellow and past president of the East Texas Historical Association.

He is also a board member of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.

O'Neal has appeared in numerous television documentaries airing on Turner Network Television, The History Channel, and the Discovery Channel.

He is the third person to serve in the state historian position. Previous historians were Frank Delateja and Light Cummins

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