Reflections of the Past


(Please be aware this post was written in 2004 and published at that time in the Houston Chronicle (Houston, Texas) newspaper. Some of the news in this post, therefore,  may not be current. Current and future posts on this blog may revisit and update news on this and other posts on this blog. If you have questions and/or suggestions, please send Mic a note using the comment page -Don’t forget to use the orange “subscribe” button to receive new posts-Thanks, Mic)

This week’s period of national mourning for former President Reagan made me think about some of my own presidential related life experiences.

As a teenager I lived in Virginia across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. In 1961 I witnessed the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. When Kennedy was assassinated I was able to view his flag draped coffin as it lay reposed in state in the Capitol rotunda. When General Douglas MacArthur died a few years later I was fortunate to view his open casket as it laid in state in the Capitol rotunda.

The Kennedy funeral impressed me greatly. Nearly every head of state in the world or their designated representative participated in the funeral procession. Each of these people passed in front of me as I watched from the parade route curb.

When Lyndon Johnson was inaugurated I, again, was present watching from the crowd. Later I attended Southwest Texas, Johnson’s alma mater, and was a student there when he died. I was able to go to the LBJ Ranch and view the funeral.

While speaking of presidential connections a man several years ago asked me to shake his hand. When I complied, he informed me I had just shaken the hand that had shaken the hand of a hand that had shaken Lincoln’s hand. After years of reflecting it is a rather bizarre feeling thinking how I somehow virtually shook Lincoln’s hand.


Alberta Stewart Martin, age 97, the last widow of a Civil War soldier died Memorial Day at a nursing home in Enterprise, Alabama. She will be interred today at New Ebenezer Baptist Church six miles west of Elba, Alabama with an 1860’s style funeral.

Martin was born in 1906. At the age of 18 she married Howard Farrow who died in an automobile accident in 1926 leaving her with a young son and no money. In December 1927, at age 21, she met and married her neighbor William Jasper Martin, aged 81. They had a son the following year.

William Jasper Martin received a Confederate pension from the State of Alabama beginning in 1921 for his services in Company K of the 4th Alabama Infantry. He died in July 1931. Two months later Martin’s widow married his grandson, Charlie Martin. The younger Martin died in 1983.

In 1997 Alberta Martin was granted a Confederate Widow’s pension based on her former husband, William Jasper Martin’s, Confederate military service.

In recent years Martin gained notoriety as one of the oldest living Civil War widows. She was celebrated and treated as a matriarch by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. She was a living link to the past. Her death comes nearly 140 years after the end of the Civil War.

As late as 1997 there were three surviving Civil War widows Daisy Anderson, Gertrude Janeway and Alberta Martin. Daisy Anderson, whose husband was a runaway slave who joined the Union army, died in 1998 at the age of 97. Janeway, the last surviving Union widow, died at her home in Tennessee in January 2003.


Well known genealogical author, lecturer and video producer, Robert Burns, age 60, was found dead in his home in Seguin Tuesday June 2. Because he was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and sent farewell notices to his friends, his death is expected to be classified an apparent suicide.

In the 1990’s Burns produced an informative how-to genealogical video hosted by himself. The video, Out of Your Tree! Crazy About Genealogy, was laced throughout with his zaney sense of humor. Students in my classes or local seminars during that time will likely remember the video. In addition Burns penned an article on James Fannin in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly and articles on his families in other genealogical periodicals.

Burns is best known to the general public as the art director of the 70’s horror cult movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He maintained a website with many references to his accomplishments at .


The 8th Annual Angelina College Summer Genealogy Conference will be held at Angelina College in Lufkin on Thursday, Friday and Saturday July 22-24.

The three day conference will feature several well known speakers including Trevia Wooster Beverly, Emily Croom, John Sellers, Pat Gordon, , Halli Wren Johnson, Don Raney, Robert de Bernardinis and Bev Odom

Lecture topics will include becoming a professional genealogist, publishing, research in libraries and Family History Centers; African American, Texas, American, Louisiana and British records and research.

For more information on the speakers, classes and registration fees visit the conference website at , email or call 936-633-5206.

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