The Walker County Historical Commission, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, and the Sam Houston Statue and Visitors Center announce the 35th Annual Texas Independence Day and General Sam Houston’s Birthday Celebration in Huntsville on Wednesday, March 2, 2016.
Festivities get under way on March 2 with a coffee and reception from 9:15 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. at the Gibbs-Powell House Walker County Museum, 1228 11th Street. Around 10:15 a.m. the traditional march to Sam Houston’s gravesite at Oakwood Cemetery will assemble at Austin Hall, located on the campus of Sam Houston State University, and proceed to Sam Houston’s grave along University Avenue led by the SHSU ROTC and students.
A special ceremony will take place at 11:00 a.m. to honor General Sam Houston at his gravesite in Oakwood Cemetery, Sam Houston Memorial Drive and 9th Street. This year’s featured speaker is Denton Florian, Executive Director of the Sam Houston Project. He is a native Texan and graduate of both The University of Texas at Austin and Texas State University. In addition to his work in the private and nonprofit sectors in operations, team building and organization change, he has pursued his lifelong interest in early American history. He organized and led the team that produced the celebrated documentary, Sam Houston, which won five EMMY Awards. The film, the website, and the assets represent the largest collection of digital information on Sam Houston’s life that has ever been assembled. From this background of research, he will speak on “Why Sam Houston Matters.”
During the gravesite ceremony there will be the “Baptized Texan Ceremony.” This tradition will continue as a way for non-Native Texans to burnish their Lone Star credentials by being “baptized” as a Texan at Sam Houston’s gravesite on Texas Independence Day.
Immediately following the ceremony is a buffet luncheon at 12:30 p.m. at the Gibbs Conference Hall, Katy & E. Don Walker, Sr. Education Center, 1402 19th Street. Then the day will culminate at 2:00 p.m. at the Sam Houston Statue and Visitors Center with a “Toast to Texas” and Birthday Cake and a special commemorative award.
The tradition of celebrating March 2 in Huntsville stems back to 1889 when students from the Sam Houston Normal Institute would march to General Sam Houston’s grave. “This annual event continued for almost a century until 1971. It was almost always done by the student body at Sam Houston. Several times the Governor would come—a big celebration in 1936, again in 1986 for the 150th of Texas, and another big event in 1993 for the 200th of General Sam Houston’s birthday. It has grown over the years, and many of the descendants of General and Margaret L. Houston attend each year. It is always a fun day, as well as observing a great day in Texas!” said James Patton with the Walker County Historical Commission. In 1981, the Walker County Historical Commission began sponsoring March 2 events through a program called “Texas Heritage Days.” For the last few years, students from Sam Houston State University, with the help of the ROTC and History Department, have continued the tradition of marching to Sam’s grave.