Looking Back on the Bicentennial

In UTA’s University Hall in an office decorated with a silver railroad spike from Smithville, a woman’s bonnet from Ft. Davis, an award-winning Bicentennial poster by Fort Worth’s Jerre Todd and Associates, and a San Antonio parade sign “autographed” by Clark Gable’s Packard touring car, Gene Brownrigg presides over the gradual winding down of the Bicentennial celebration in Texas. As director of the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Texas almost since its beginning in 1971, Mrs. Brownrigg, with a staff of three, is compiling information on just what did happen in connection with the Bicentennial. Information coming in to her office seems to indicate that the Bicentennial was a resounding success.

In the early seventies, leadership at the federal level was squabbling over plans for celebrating the Bicentennial, but under Mrs. Brownrigg’s leadership, Texas was already working to develop projects at the local level. “At the grass-roots level, people could actually set their own priorities,” Mrs. Brownrigg says. “There was no leadership at the federal level so those of us who were in on it early realized we were going to have to do it ourselves.”

Texas projects included a Japanese peace garden in Fredericksburg – planted in cooperation with the people of Japan – a garden for the blind and a greenhouse for the handicapped in Houston, a barrio arts center in San Antonio, and a savings account in Denton to be used in 2076.

In all there were 810 projects throughout the state. Among them were 102 new museums, 146 oral history projects, 387 tree-planting projects, 105 new parks, 14 medical facilities, 85 preservations, 227 restorations, 302 historical publications, 66 cookbooks, 195 flagpoles, 41 gazebos, and 90 time capsules.

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