Category Archives: Texas Legends

Alamo transformation project continues; Land Commissioner weighs in on progress

alamo-750xx4928-2773-0-169Progress continued on two significant archaeological dig sites surrounding the most visited and cherished shrine to Texas independence; the Alamo in San Antonio.

The digs are a critical first step in the transformation of the historical site to help the Lone Star State tell more of the story of the battle for independence beyond the Battle of 1836.

As reported by W. Scott Bailey of the San Antonio Business Journal, there are two active dig sites roughly 25 yards west of the Alamo. Work at one of those sites, immediately west of Alamo Plaza Street, is nearing completion, while the other, closest to the Alamo, is more active.

The Alamo complex is operated by the Texas General Land Office, and, in August, Land Commissioner George P. Bush went to the dig sites to evaluate the progress.

“This is the most visited site in the entire state of Texas,” Bush said. “When I visit with folks throughout the state, the country and the world, they tell me that we need to do a better job. So this is one step, an important step, in a long process.”

During the 2015 Texas legislative session—Bush’s first as Land Commissioner—his efforts surrounding the Alamo centered around directing resources toward the immediate structural integrity needs on the grounds of the historic mission complex. As the end of the year approaches, and the 2017 session is on the horizon, Bush and San Antonio civic leaders have stressed that the state must make the most out of this opportunity to rethink the meaning and layout of the site.

“The rest of the world is watching, so we’ve got to make sure we do this right,” Bush said.

The project emerged from a partnership between the General Land Office, the City of San Antonio and the Alamo Endowment, and is known as “Reimagine the Alamo.”

According to the project website, the purpose is to reimagine the Alamo by creating an interpretation of the site that honors the true footprint, history and significance of the Alamo over its nearly 300-year history, first as a Spanish mission and later as the Cradle of Texas History. The site explains that there has never been a systematic archaeology study of the entire Alamo site to determine, with as much certainty as possible, the location of the walls and other structures. In order to develop a plan with integrity, based on evidence going back to 1724, the master planners agreed that such a study was necessary. The archaeology work, as well as a complete timeline of the history of the site, will inform the decisions made as to where buildings such as a new visitor center and museum are built and the content of educational programming.

To learn more about the project, visit http://reimaginethealamo.org/.

1854_Alamo

Bush makes restoring Alamo a top priority

Last week, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush joined Governor Greg Abbott in welcoming the HISTORY Network and a host of Hollywood stars to the Lone Star State to kick off a fundraising campaign to restore and preserve the iconic Alamo in San Antonio.

The campaign is designed to promote the Alamo Endowment, with the goal of raising resources for structural improvements at the historical mission-turned-fort, and for the construction of a new visitors center to house over 200 artifacts donated by musician Phil Collins, a noted Alamo and Texas history enthusiast.

“The preservation and restoration of the Alamo is one of my top priorities,” Commissioner Bush said. As head of the General Land Office, Commissioner Bush now oversees management of the most visited site in the state, and called upon all Texans to participate in the preservation effort. “Now is the time for all who love history – especially Texas history – to come together to defend this historic monument so that future generations may continue to visit the Alamo and understand what happened on this hallowed ground.

The kickoff of the campaign was in conjunction with the start of HISTORY Network’s new mini-series, “Texas Rising”, which stars the likes of Bill Paxton as General Sam Houston, as well as Brendan Fraser as a Texas Ranger. The series will begin the evening of Monday, May 25 on HISTORY, and will detail the events surrounding the famous battle of 1836.

For more information on the Alamo Endowment, click here.

For information on the HISTORY series, click here.

Former_Texas_Land_Commissioner_Bob_Armstrong

Dipping a chip in memory of a Texas legend

If you’ve dined at a Tex-Mex restaurant, you’ve probably tried Bob Armstrong dip. The warm, melted queso piled high with zesty taco meat and smooth, fresh guacamole is at first blush a kooky , Warholian concoction. But after dipping a salty tortilla chip into the bowl and tasting it, one can’t help but appreciate the culinary delight, and finish off the entire bowl.

Texas recently lost the dish’s namesake, as former Land Commissioner Robert Landis “Bob” Armstrong passed away on March 1. And while most Texans will continue to enjoy the appetizer bearing his name, his legacy and impact on the great state go far beyond the dinner table.

Armstrong served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1963 to 1971 after winning a special election in the fall of 1963. He was supposed to be sworn into office on November 22 of that year, but his swearing in was delayed due to the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Following his service in the legislature, Armstrong ran for Texas Land Commissioner in 1970, and served for 12 years. He was described by many as having a casual, good-humored nature, while also possessing a true passion and determination for conserving public lands and minimizing environmental impact.

During his time as Land Commissioner, his friendly demeanor, coupled with a tight schedule and empty stomach, led him to famously poke his head into the kitchen of Matt’s El Rancho, a local Austin eatery, and ask a then teenage Matt Martinez, Jr. to “whip me up something different”. (Full recount of the history of the Bob Armstrong dip can be found here.) Martinez knew Armstrong well, and went around the kitchen and quickly and happily whipped up the now-famous dip. The dish was born, but Armstrong’s work was not yet finished.

He soon followed his twelve years of service as Land Commissioner with an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor, losing to then-Attorney General Mark White. White would go on to win the gubernatorial election, but appointed his former rival Armstrong to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in 1985. From this post, he encouraged the state to purchase 212,000 of ranch land north of the Big Bend National Park, an acquisition that formed the biggest state park in Texas, the Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Armstrong was remembered by many for being among the earliest public officials to promote protection of Texas’ environmental interests. He also helped increase the state’s revenues from oil and gas production, helping to fund Texas universities and schools.

In 1993, Armstrong continued his public service, having been appointed by then-President Bill Clinton to serve as assistant secretary for land and minerals management at the Department of the Interior in 1993, where he served for five years. At the same time, the famous dip also made it’s way to the nation’s capitol.

Following his service in Washington, Armstrong returned to his native Austin, where he lived with his wife, Linda Aaker, until his passing the first Sunday of March, 2015.