What’s in a Name?
By Stephen Jones
We all go to or pass by places named in the honor of some prominent local figure, but have we really taken the time to ask ourselves who these supposedly important people are? In this article, we will dig into the back stories of these landmarks and their namesakes. First off, we will take a look at Wright Patman Lake.
On August 6, 1893, Wright Patman was born near Hughes Springs, Texas. He later graduated from Hughes Springs High School in 1912 and received his law degree from Cumberland University in 1916.
In the midst of World War I, Patman would enlist in the U. S. Army, which would lead to positions as a first lieutenant and machine gun officer in the Texas Army National Guard.
Patman began his political career in the Texas House of Representatives in 1920, but he made his biggest contributions to the country during his 24 terms in the U. S.House of Representatives. In 1932, Patman sponsored a bill that would have immediately paid World War I veterans, who were ravaged by the Great Depression, a bonus that was supposed to be issued in 1945.
In 1936, Patman co-sponsored the Robinson-Patman Act, which aimed to protect small and independent retailers from losing business to much larger chain retailers by preventing these larger retailers from getting a lower price on goods than their independent counterparts.
In the early days of the Watergate Scandal, Patman led a committee dedicated to finding out the origin of the freshly printed hundred-dollar bills found on the men arrested in the DNC headquarters. After much pressure from the White House and Congressman Gerald R. Ford, the committee was shut down.
Patman would later say, "I predict that the facts will come out, and when they do I am convinced they will reveal why the White House was so anxious to kill the committee's investigation. The public will fully understand why this pressure was mounted."
Patman’s political career ended in 1975, and he would pass away just a year later in Bethesda, Maryland. He was later buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in Texarkana.
Just south of Texarkana, in the town of Atlanta, lies the Mattie Lanier Richey Center, which plays host to many events throughout the year.
Mattie’s family settled in Atlanta during the 1870s, after leaving the Mt. Zion community. Her father served as a Texas Representative in the Texas Legislature from 1915-1917, but Mattie had a mission of her own: she taught in modern day Oklahoma.
While working as a bookkeeper in a Louisiana saw mill, she met her future husband, Thomas Robins (T.R.) Richey, a man with an industrious mind. He brought the Ford Motor Company to Atlanta and became president of Atlanta National Bank and the First National Bank of Atlanta.
Continuing the Richey legacy of serving the community, their third child, Mozelle (Mo) Richey Smith Wilkins, established both a gift shop and a volunteer organization at CHRISTUS St. Michael Hospital-Atlanta, formerly Atlanta Memorial Hospital.
A few miles from the Richey Center lies McNoble Harper Park. McNoble Harper was a highly respected Atlanta educator and coach. He started his teaching career in various segregated schools in the East Texas area, such as Rambo High School, Pruitt Colored High School, and Gethsemane rural school.
He spent most of his time coaching basketball and baseball, which eventually led to positions as the Pruitt Colored High School Athletic Director and the Atlanta Negro Chamber of Commerce Baseball Club President, but his teaching capabilities did not end with sports.
While he was coaching at Pruitt, he was also the vocational agriculture instructor and represented Pruitt at the New Farmers of America National Conference. The NFA was mostly the African-American counterpart of the FFA and was merged with the FFA in 1965.
Harper also dabbled in politics when he represented Cass County at the Texas Democratic Convention in 1968, but his teaching career is where he truly made his mark. He spent the final part of his career teaching at Atlanta ISD.
In Queen City, you will find two schools named after distinguished educators. The first of which is J.K. Hileman Elementary School.
J.K. (Jake) Hileman was born on January 11, 1910, in Turkey Creek, Texas, which was located between Hughes Springs and Avinger. Graduating from the town’s rural school in 1928, he would go on to attend Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) and later transfer to East Texas State Teacher’s College (now Texas A&M University-Commerce), where he would graduate in 1936, majoring in government.
Hileman was a member of the Texas House of Representatives, representing District 2, and a longtime East Texas educator. He started teaching in schools that have long since been incorporated into either the Queen City or Atlanta school systems, such as O’Farrell and Alamance.
After his time as a Texas representative, he served as Queen City ISD’s superintendent from September 1, 1943 to June 30, 1974. As superintendent, he gained much respect from not only his peers, but also from students he helped in his over thirty-year career. Hileman passed away at the age of 73, on August 18, 1983.
Staying in Queen City, the town’s current middle school is named after Morris Upchurch. Upchurch was a longtime member of the Queen City ISD family, spending 33 years as a teacher and principal of both the elementary and middle schools.
When rural schools were incorporated into Queen City’s district in 1948, he served on the first school board, post-incorporation. The highly experienced educator passed away April 25, 1997, at the age of 88.
In the small town of Bloomburg, Texas, they celebrate the notoriety of the infamous outlaw, Cullen Baker. Located less than a ½ mile west of the Arkansas state line, this quiet town boasts a population of slightly over 400, but every November, Bloomburg bustles with activity and commerce.
People from all around the Bloomburg area descend upon the town in search of homemade goods and crafts made by local vendors, live music, bouncy houses and even a parade, with proceeds being donated to the Bloomburg Fire Department.
I have personally been there many times, but as a child, I never really knew who Cullen Baker was, and I was honestly quite surprised there was festival named in his honor when I learned of his story.
Cullen Baker was born in Weakley County, Tennessee, in 1835. Once his family received a land grant from the Texas Congress, they made Cass County, Texas their home. During his time in Cass County, he quickly earned the reputation as a quick-tempered hard drinker.
He seemed to calm down once he married Mary Jane Petty on January 11, 1854, but six months later, he would go on to whip an orphan boy close to death, and the only person who would testify against was shot twice in the legs by Baker himself, who left him to die. After this murder, Baker would flee to an uncle living in Perry County, Arkansas, where his wife would die only 6 years later.
Baker would later flee Perry County for Texas after he murdered a man for protecting his wife from the outlaw. After arriving in Texas, he enlisted in the Confederate Army’s Company G of Morgan’s Regimental Calvary in 1861 and was labeled a deserter just two years later.
In the years following the Civil War, Baker focused on killing freed slaves and agents of the Freedmen’s Bureau; an agency created to help black and white refugees displaced by the Civil War and oversee affairs related to newly freed slaves. He accomplished this through his gang of fellow outlaws, who later disbanded in 1868.
In 1869, Baker’s actions, unsurprisingly, led to his undoing in the East Texas town of Bloomburg, Texas. After the botched hanging of Thomas Orr, whose wife previously rejected Baker’s advances, Orr would ambush Baker with a gang of his own, and Baker may have even been poisoned by Orr’s in-laws.