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Dale Evans, born in Uvalde

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(Image credit: gettyimages.com, showing Dale Evans between the actor Jimmy Stewart and Dale’s husband Roy Rogers.)

Dale Evans was born Lucile Smith (later changed to Frances Octavia Smith) on October 31, 1912 in Uvalde, Texas to Walter Hillman Smith and Bettie Sue Coln, according to published genealogy records.  The family later moved to Osceola, Arkansas where she attended high school.  When she was 14, she eloped and married Thomas Frederick Fox with whom she had her first born son, Tom Fox, Jr.  The marriage ended shortly thereafter and two years later, she married August W. Johns.  In 1936, she married Robert Dale Butts, which relationship lasted about nine years.  She had no children from the latter two marriages.  In her early years, she struggled as a single parent and supported herself by working as a secretary, a singer and working in radio in Chicago, Memphis, Dallas and Louisville.  She was given the stage name of Dale Evans by a radio station manager who suggested it because it was easier to pronounce than Frances Octavia Smith.

Dale came to the attention of 20th Century Fox while she was still married to Butts.  The studio liked her and cast her opposite actor Roy Rogers (birth name, Leonard Slye) in the film Home in Oklahoma.  Rogers had two previous marriages which produced two children, Linda and Roy, Jr.  The couple were married on New Year’s Eve in 1947 at the Davis, Oklahoma ranch where the above film was shot.  In contrast to both of their early relationships, their union was a success on screen and in reality, as they were married a total of 51 years when Roy died in 1998.

Home in Oklahoma was not Dale’s first film, by any means, as she had previously been cast as an actor in over twenty-five films and had performed as a singer in several others prior to Home in Oklahoma.  The couple went on to do around thirty-five films together.  They also appeared in numerous television shows including the Gene Autry Show, the long-running Roy Rogers Show, the Dinah Shore Chevy Show, the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show, an episode of the Andy Williams Show and numerous other guest appearances, such as The Muppet Show.

Roy was known as the “King of the Cowboys” and appeared in around 100 films, plus numerous television appearances.  Dale, the “Queen of the West,” had fewer film and television credits but she also became well known.  She appeared comfortable on screen and in personal appearances.

Dale wrote around twenty books and also gave many print and television interviews.  She gave credit to her strong Christian faith which she said brought the couple through personal tragedies such as the death of their only child together, two year old Robin who suffered from Down Syndrome and died in 1952 from complications of the mumps, the death of their adopted Korean daughter Debbie in a bus accident in 1964 during a mission trip to Mexico and the loss of their son Sandy who accidentally choked to death in 1965 while he was stationed in Germany.

They were vocal about their beliefs and supported many religious and humanitarian causes.  Despite Roy’s on-screen persona, his bravado in performing film stunts and the like, he admitted to being shy when talking about personal matters.  Roy quipped that he went to a one room schoolhouse that was an even 100 yards from the local Baptist church.  He said he knew it was 100 yards, because he and his pals had measured it and it was the perfect distance for a foot race.  The couple was not heavy handed or obnoxious about their beliefs, but rather appeared comfortable with them and spoke about their up and down life experiences in a normal, matter-of-fact way.

They made a successful team and in addition to their film and television careers, they recorded over four hundred songs.  Probably the most familiar song associated with them was “Happy Trails,” which Dale wrote in response to Robin’s death in 1952.  It became the couple’s signature song that played during the credits of their television show (link).  An earlier song by the same name was written by Foy Willing for a Republic Pictures film.  Dale’s version uses the first three notes of Willing’s version, but we are unaware of any intellectual property issues regarding the matter.  Dale’s version of Happy Trails has been recorded many times by other artists.  It has become an American standard even to listeners who are not aware of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans as singers or actors.

Roy passed away in 1998 and is interred at Sunset Hills Memorial Park, Apple Valley in San Bernardino, California.  Dale survived Roy by almost three years, passing away in 2001 and is interred at the same location.

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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in biography, history, texas, texas women

 

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Charley Willis, the singing cowboy

The 1940 Kingsport, Tennessee Kingsport Times headline read “For Carefree Fun, Sing Cowboy Ditties” and offered copes of Popular Cowboy Songs in exchange for ten cents in coin.  It led off with “Goodbye, Old Paint” and included several other songs of the era along with the guitar chords for each melody.

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(Image credit: Kinsgsport Times)

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Posted by on July 13, 2017 in biography, black history, history, texas

 

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The Texas Supreme Court Bible

There are two Texas traditions involving state governors and the Bible.  They are referred to as the “Supreme Court Bible” and the “Governor’s Bible.”  The following is the story of the Supreme Court Bible.

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Posted by on July 6, 2017 in governor, history, texas

 

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Governor James V. Allred and the Texas Rangers

The 1935 election of James V. Allred as governor of Texas marked a turning point for the Texas Rangers as a law enforcement organization.  For several decades, the force had not kept up with the growth of crime in the Lone Star State.  There were a few bright spots, however, such as former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer’s 1934 stakeout and ambush of outlaws Bonnie and Clyde.  Although it had the effect of boosting the image of the Rangers that had deteriorated under earlier governors, the crime problems in the state still existed.

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Posted by on June 28, 2017 in governor, history, texas, texas rangers

 

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Bonnie and Clyde Film (1967) versus the historical facts

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(Image credit: IMDB.com)

This summer will mark the 50th anniversary of the release of the feature film Bonnie and Clyde.  It was directed by Arthur Penn (1922-2010), who also directed around two dozen other films including The Missouri Breaks, Night Moves, Little Big Man, Alice’s Restaurant and The Miracle Worker.  Penn had received his start in the early days of television, having been involved with productions in series including The Gulf Playhouse, Goodyear Playhouse, Playhouse 90 and others.

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Posted by on June 22, 2017 in bonnie and clyde, history, outlaws, texas

 

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Juan Cortina, patriot or bandit?

The Cortina Wars is a name given to armed conflicts precipitated by a Mexican rancher named Juan Cortina.  Juan Nepomuceno Cortina was born in 1824 in Tamaulipas, Mexico into a cattle ranching family.  His mother, Trinidad Cortina inherited some property in the late 1820s that was in the general area of what we know as Brownsville and Matamoros, located on both sides of the Rio Grande.  At this time, the Rio Grande geographically divided the two areas, but it was all part of Mexico until after the Mexican-American War, which essentially moved the Mexican border from the Nueces River to the Rio Grande.

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Posted by on June 15, 2017 in biography, hispanic heritage, history, texas

 

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Col. Richard E. Cole, Doolittle Raider

 

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(Image credit: U. S. Air Force.  Cole is on the front row, to Doolittle’s right.)

Just a little more than one month after the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942, details were released to the media about the military action.  The occasion was an award ceremony honoring pilots and crew of the historic attack.  In an Associated Press report out of Washington on May 22, the identity of the leader was revealed to be Brig. Gen. James H. Doolittle.  Coming only a few months after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War II, the raid shook the Japanese belief that the U.S. could not reach them on their own soil.  In addition, it greatly improved the morale in the United States at a time when it was extremely low.

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Posted by on June 8, 2017 in biography, history, texas

 

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