Working as a muralist in the late 1980s, Carolyn Boyd traveled to the cliffs and rock shelters flanking the Pecos River near Del Rio to see the area’s famous Native American paintings, which date back 4,000 years.
One of only 12 people who has ever walked on the moon, former astronaut and Apollo Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean now creates artwork reflecting that experience from his home studio in Houston.
As president and CEO of the African American Museum in Dallas, Harry Robinson Jr. has turned his keen interest in history into a passion for preserving the story of African Americans in Texas.
Several years after the death of Texas literary legend J. Frank Dobie in 1964, aspiring writer and photographer Bill Wittliff and his wife, Sally, purchased Dobie’s desk—and with it, 30 boxes of archives that would form the nucleus of today’s Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State University in San Marcos.
Don’t eat this,” says cookbook author, culinary tour guide, and teacher Dorothy Huang, laughing as she shows a dried red pepper to her cooking class in Austin. Several of the people gathered around the double cooktop, where at least four burners flame at once, nod knowingly as she drops several of the peppers into a hot wok.
Frederick “Fritz” Hanselmann holds many titles with the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University in San Marcos, among them Chief Underwater Archaeologist and Diving Program Director. But his real passion is finding out what lies under Spring Lake, which is a state archeological landmark, critical habitat for endangered species, and the literal and physical heart of the Center.
You can take the movie star out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the movie star. Actress Margo Martindale still likes to hang out in her East Texas hometown of Jacksonville. “It is hard to stay away,” she says. “My very favorite place there is Lake Jacksonville. I grew up on that lake.”
A common thread runs among this year’s group of Extraordinary Texans: Each of them has pursued a dream, and each has tapped various sources of inspiration and creativity—including the great state of Texas itself. We hope these dreamers and doers will inspire you to dream big and to live as an extraordinary Texan yourself.
Tourism in the mountain west got a boost in 1930 with the opening of two nearly identical sister hotels designed by famed El Paso architect Henry C. Trost. Hotel Paisano in Marfa and Hotel El Capitan in Van Horn embodied elegant Spanish baroque style for decades. In the 1950s, the Paisano even housed actors James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson during the filming of the now-classic movie Giant. By the early 2000s, though, the Paisano lay abandoned, and El Capitan was a bank. Then native West Texans Joe and Lanna Duncan bought the venerable lodgings and spent years restoring them. Today the Paisano boasts 41 well-appointed rooms, and El Capitan 38. Both offer stylish restaurants, bars, and gift boutiques. For the Duncans, it was déjà vu all over again.
Tom Perini grew up in Abilene in the ’50s, but spent weekends on his family’s ranch 15 miles south at Buffalo Gap. He loved cowboying—being outside, working with cattle, and cooking for the hands. Perini was so good at cooking steaks that other ranchers, including Watt Matthews of the famous Lambshead Ranch in Albany, asked him to cater their shindigs. Matthews even steered Perini’s career from raising beef to cooking it. In 1983, Tom Perini turned the ranch’s hay barn, at the end of a long dirt road, into the rustic Perini Ranch Steakhouse.
Most families start with a love story, but not many start like Lareatha Clay’s. Two centuries ago, in Kentucky and Tennessee, her great-great-great-grandparents, Jim and Winnie, were born into slavery. They ended up on a Mississippi plantation and fell in love. When a Texas farmer bought Winnie and the two were separated, Jim ran away to find her, trekking 400 miles under cover of night. After weeks of searching, he found her at a spring gathering water. Winnie convinced her owner to buy Jim, and after Emancipation Jim and Winnie Shankle became prominent landowners in the Newton County freedman’s town of Shankleville.
At age 86, Mary Kemp takes the long view about bluebonnets and history. For more than 30 years she has cultivated both on 220 acres in Mt. Nebo Valley south of Weatherford. Amid 20 acres of bluebonnets, she and her late husband, V. Kemp Jr., created a frontier village featuring a dozen replica structures anchored by the 1856 Thomas J. Shaw log cabin. Since 1980, period-dressed volunteers have welcomed thousands of visitors each spring to the Shaw-Kemp Open House.