Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. is not a name that most people would associate with the State of Texas, but he had Texas roots. Walter, Jr. was born November 4, 1916 to Dr. Walter L. and Helen Lena Fritsche Cronkite in Missouri. The surname Cronkite is thought to be derived from a similar sounding Dutch name. However, traditional genealogical sources show that this particular Cronkite family had resided in the United States as far back as the middle 1600s with similar spelling, though for a time it was spelled “Cronkhite,” with an h after the k. Dr. Cronkite was a dentist like his own father had been. The family moved to Houston, Texas when Walter, Jr. was ten years old when Dr. Cronkite had accepted an offer to teach at a local dental school.
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The Higginbotham family founded a chain of what became hardware stores a decade and a half after the Civil War. When the business matured, they had locations in many towns across Texas. Hardware stores and lumber yards with Higginbotham in the name were common in Texas.
Mildred Ella Didrikson was born June 26, 1911 to Ole and Hannah Marie Olsen Didriksen in Port Arthur, Texas. Her father was a carpenter in the maritime industry. When she was three years old, the family moved to Beaumont, Texas where she went to public school. She was a gifted athlete and excelled at about every sport she participated in. She picked up her nickname “Babe” (after Babe Ruth, the baseball star) after slugging five home runs in a baseball game, though her mother said her nickname had been “Baby” earlier on. She adopted the spelling Didrikson when she was an adult.
(Image credit: ancestry.com)
(Image credit: wacohistory.org)
Captain Clinton Thomas Peoples was born August 25, 1910 in Bridgeport, Wise County, Texas to William Thomas and Susie May Johnson Baugh Peoples. In Bridgeport, his parents ran a cafe and candy store. The family later moved to the King Ranch where his father managed a section of the ranch. He attended high school in Conroe where they were living at the time.
William Rufus Shafter was a Union officer in the Civil War. Born in 1835 in Michigan, he was in seminary at the outset of the Civil War and enlisted in the Union Army. About thirty years after the end of the Civil War, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for meritorious service pertaining to an incident on May 31, 1862. Shafter had been a lieutenant involved in bridge construction near Fair Oaks, Virginia when the Union forces were engaged by Confederate troops. Shafter left the bridge and took about twenty-two men to counter the Confederate attack. All but four of his troops were killed and he received a flesh wound and possibly other wounds. However, Shafter stayed on the field, concealing his wounds. In a later battle, he was captured by the Confederates and served three months in a prison camp in 1864 before being released. He was then assigned to the 17th United States Colored Infantry, which appears to be his command when the war ended. Shafter had been elevated to the rank of brevet brigadier general.
Herbert Lee Kokernot, Sr. was born in 1867 to Levi Moses and Sarah Littlefield Kokernot. Levi had been born in 1836 in Louisiana and lived most of his adult life in Gonzales County where he was a cattle rancher. Levi had first married the former Sarah E. Littlefield with whom he had a number of children including Herbert Lee. Sarah died in 1878 at around the age of thirty. He later married Hulda Jane Carnes. Hulda had also been born in Louisiana and lived most of her life in the Gonzales area with Levi and her family.
Dr. Junius Mottley was born in Virginia in 1812 to John P. and Mary Williams Elmore Mottley. His ancestors came to Virginia from England in the 1600s. Dr. Mottley received his medical education at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. Transylvania was founded in 1780, was the first university in Kentucky and is still operating. A number of early Texans have ties to Transylvania. After completing his studies, he studied with a practicing physician in Kentucky by the name of Dr. Charles Hay. Shortly after leaving Kentucky, Mottley moved to Texas in 1835. He joined the Texas Army and served as Post Surgeon at Goliad. Mottley was serving in that capacity in early 1836 when he was appointed as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Washington County. Accordingly, he was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence.