Dr. Lila Rakoczy

Project Director, No Man's Land

Dr. Lila Rakoczy is the Military Sites Program Coordinator for the Texas Historical Commission. A native of Huntsville, Texas, she has a BA (History) from King’s College London, and an MA (Historical Archaeology) and PhD (Archaeology) from the University of York. For six years she worked in the museum and heritage sector in Britain, engaging with the community and working with the public to identify, record, and understand the historical artifacts and buildings in their midst. After returning to the U.S. she spent three years as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Sam Houston State University where she taught history at graduate and undergraduate level. At SHSU she worked closely with local museums and stakeholders and developed student-led, community-based projects focused on African American history in Walker County. Her interests in power, identity, and the intersection between military and civilian worlds led to the goal of identifying the over 30,000 African American Texans who served in the First World War. In addition, this work seeks to document the experiences of those from East Texas and counter an academic narrative that marginalizes the wartime role of Southern African Americans. Dr. Rakoczy has already presented papers on her preliminary results at national and international conferences. She plans on submitting a manuscript on this subject to Texas A&M University Press in 2017.

Dr. Perky Beisel

Associate Professor of History and Co-Director of the Public History Program, Stephen F. Austin State University

Perky Beisel received her doctorate from Middle Tennessee State University and is an Associate Professor of History and Co-Director of the Public History Program at Stephen F. Austin State University. She has been a board member of the Texas Oral History Association since 2011 and has an extensive background in public history projects that focus on East Texas. These include digitization and oral history initiatives with the East Texas Research Center, Angelina and Houston County Historical Commissions, African American Education Archives and History Program at the African American Museum in Dallas, Heritage Center of Cherokee County, city of Nacogdoches, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Dr. Beisel has presented numerous papers at national and regional conferences on issues related to cemetery preservation, rural and agricultural history, East Texas, and the importance of collaborating with community stakeholders.

Dr. Marilyn Byrd

Assistant Professor of Human Relations, University of Oklahoma

Dr. Marilyn Y. Byrd is Assistant Professor of Human Relations, The University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma. Dr. Byrd earned a BBA and MBA from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, and Ph.D. in Human Resource Development from Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas. She is a former administrator for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Records & Classification Department. Dr. Byrd is a member of the Academy of Human Resource Development where she serves on the Board of Directors and is co-chairperson of the Workforce Diversity & Inclusion Special Interest Group. She is an associate editor for Advances in Developing Human Resources, one of the Academy’s four academic journals. Among Dr. Byrd’s publications are two textbooks: Diversity in the Workforce: Current Issues and Emerging Trends (Byrd & Scott, 2014) and Managing Human Resource Development Programs (Hughes & Byrd, 2015). In her home community of Huntsville, Dr. Byrd is chairperson of the Southend Cemetery Association where she is actively involved in improving and preserving this historical and cultural landmark in Walker County. She also can claim several Walker County World War I veterans as family members.

Dr. J. Ross Dancy

Assistant Professor of History, Sam Houston State University

J. Ross Dancy is an Assistant Professor of Military History at Sam Houston State University, and author of The Myth of the Press Gang. He received his doctorate in history from the University of Oxford, where his research examined British naval manning at the end of the eighteenth century. He also holds a BA in history from Appalachian State University, and an MA in Naval History from the University of Exeter. In addition to his teaching duties at SHSU, he is a member of the Montgomery County Historical Commission (MCHC), where he chairs the World War One committee. The MCHC is currently using local and oral histories to write a book about First World War veterans from Montgomery County, Texas, and how their experiences shaped the county afterwards; Dr. Dancy’s graduate research students are playing an integral role in this project. Prior to coming to East Texas, Dancy served as a U.S. Marine for four years and was deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and throughout the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Dr. Ron Goodwin

Assistant Professor of History, Prairie View A&M University

Ron Goodwin received his undergraduate degree from Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, Texas, while serving on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. After his honorable discharge, he completed graduate degrees from Texas Southern University (TSU) in Urban Transportation Planning (MS) and US History (MA), as well as a PhD in Urban Planning and Environmental Policy. His research focuses on urban history, the impacts of planning decisions on neighborhood development, and the historical development of Texas’ black community as seen through the Texas Slave Narratives. State House Press has contracted to publish his manuscript tentatively titled “I’s Ready to God.” Goodwin recently published an article titled “Control after Dark: Slave Owners and their Control of Slaves’ Intimate Relationships OR Who’s your Daddy?” in the Journal of Texas History and Culture. He is also a contributing writer to the on-line magazine, Suite 101.com, and co-authored a chapter in The Seventh Star of the Confederacy (edited by Kenneth W. Howell) entitled “On the Edge of First Freedoms: Black Texans and the Civil War.” Goodwin has also presented papers and/or participated in panel discussions at the following conferences: the National Association of African American Studies, Texas State Historical Association, the Southern Historical Association, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, and the East Texas Historical Association.

Dr. Karlos Hill

Associate Professor of History, Oklahoma State University

Dr. Karlos K. Hill is an Associate Professor of African and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma and was the Founding Director of the Distinguished African American History Month Lecture Series at Texas Tech University. He also serves on the President’s Gender Equity Council as Chair of Engagement. He received his PhD in History from the University of Illinois in 2009. Dr. Hill’s primary research interests include the history of lynching and racial violence in America and the anti-lynching movement. His book Beyond the Rope: The Impact of Lynching on Black Culture and Memory was published by Cambridge University Press in 2016. He is completing a second book entitled The Murder of Emmett Till: A Graphic History to be published by Oxford University Press in 2017. Dr. Hill has also written articles and reviews that have appeared in the Journal of African American HistoryThe Journal of Southern HistoryReviews in American History, and Choice. He is a Louisiana native and currently lives in Oklahoma with his wife Jennie Hill and two-year old twins Nye and Nia Hill.

Jim Hodgson

Executive Director, Fort Worth Aviation Museum (Texas WWI Centennial Commission Coordinator)

Jim Hodgson is Executive Director of the Fort Worth Aviation Museum and one of the main organizers for the Texas World War I Centennial Commission, where he coordinates statewide efforts to document and disseminate the names of World War I veterans. Originally from Chicago, he graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering degree in 1971.  He earned his Naval Aviator Wings with the Marine Corps in 1972 and his Masters in Management in 1976 from Webster University. In 1978 he left active service for a career in commercial aviation with Continental Airlines. Hodgson retired from Continental Airlines in April of 2013, having 28,000 hours of flight time under his belt. In 1997 he was instrumental in the founding of the OV-10 Bronco Association, Inc., a 501(c)(3) not for profit corporation for the purpose of establishing an aviation museum in Fort Worth.  Today the Bronco Association operates both the Forward Air Controller’s Museum and Fort Worth Aviation Museum. The primary story of the museum is the impact of aviation on the lives, economy, and culture of North Texas since 1911.  As well as indoor displays, it maintains a growing collection of war birds now totaling twenty-six aircraft. In addition to his duties at the Fort Worth Aviation Museum, Hodgson also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the OV-10 Bronco Association, Inc., as commissioner on the Tarrant County Historical Commission, and on the board of the International Air and space Museum Association. He has been married to his wife Donna since 1974 and lives in Grapevine, Texas.

Angela Holder

Professor of American History, Houston Community College

Angela L. Holder is a Professor of American History at Houston Community College. She is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she completed her undergraduate studies at Louisiana State University and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Science. After working in retail management for a few years, she returned to Baton Rouge to attend grad school at Southern University, earning a Master of Arts-Social Science (History, Political Science, and Sociology). Since 1987 she has been researching the Camp Logan Mutiny/Houston Riot of 1917, the high point of which was locating the burial place of her great-uncle, Jesse (Ball) Moore, which had remained a family mystery for the seventy years following his execution. After teaching at Southern University, Alcorn State University, and Grambling State University, she went to graduate school at the University of Houston and received a Master of Arts in History. During this time, she taught at Texas Southern University, Prairie View A&M University, and Houston Community College. Professor Holder resumed research on Camp Logan and was asked to create an exhibit for the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in 2001. As curator of the exhibit she has seen it grow tremendously, most recently with the inclusion of the award-winning documentary, "Mutiny on the Bayou." She is currently working on a book about Camp Logan and considers herself a passionate advocate for African American servicemen of the World War I era.

Michael Hurd

Director of the Texas Institute for the Preservation of History and Culture (Prairie View A&M University)

Michael Hurd is a historian and author who was born in Texarkana, Texas, but grew up in Houston, where he graduated from Evan E. Worthing High School in 1967. He is director for the Texas Institute for the Preservation of History and Culture at Prairie View A&M University. He is also managing editor for the Texas Black History Preservation Project which is documenting almost 500 years of black history in Texas as an online encyclopedia. He served eight years in the U.S. Air Force as a medic, including one year (1971) at Phu Cat Air Base, Vietnam. He was honorably discharged in May 1976 with the Air Force Commendation Medal. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin (Journalism) and has worked as a sports writer at the Houston Post, the Austin American-Statesman, USA Today (a member of the founding staff), and Yahoo Sports. He has authored two books, including Black College Football, 1892-1992, the only book that comprehensively documents the legacies of football programs at historically Black colleges. For more than a decade, he served as a member of the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court for Divisional Players, the group that selects small college players to the College Football Hall of Fame, and he currently serves on the selection committee for the Black College Football Hall of Fame. He is a board member for the Writer's League of Texas, and his current book project is a history of high school football programs at the all-black schools in Texas – the Prairie View Interscholastic League – before integration (1920-1970). He has several family members who served in World War I.

Paul J. Matthews

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Buffalo Soldiers National Museum

Paul J. Matthews is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in Houston, Texas. A graduate of Prairie View A&M University and a former captain in the U.S. Army’s Medical Service Corp, he received a Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and Combat Medical Badge in the Republic of Vietnam in 1969 and then went on to become executive business manager and director of military affairs for Merck & Co., Inc. During his career at Merck, Matthews pursed his interest in the exploits of the Buffalo Soldiers. Thirty years later, Matthews had enough artifacts to start a museum. His donations make up sixty percent of the collection in the only museum in America to chronicle the entire African American military experience, from the Revolutionary War to the Persian Gulf War. The museum also recognizes the military contributions of African American women, such as Harriet Tubman. In 2003, Matthews received the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans’ Braintrust Award for his "exemplary national and community service on behalf of this country’s African American veterans." Additional awards include the 2005 NAACP Community Service Award, 2006 National Educational Association’s Carter G. Woodson Award, 2008 YMCA Houston Minority Achievers Award, 2008 National Women of Achievement Shining Star Award, 2008 Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge George Washington Honor Medal, and 2009 Houston Frontiers Club 21st Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major Award.

Dr. Bernadette Pruitt

Associate Professor of History, Sam Houston State University

Detroit, Michigan, native Bernadette Pruitt is associate professor of history at Sam Houston State University, where she has been a member of the Department of History since 1996. The first African American woman to earn a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in History at the University of Houston, she obtained her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Texas Southern University. Her monograph, The Other Great Migration: The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2013), examines Black internal migration and community building in what ultimately becomes the fourth largest city in the United States. Pruitt’s book is one of the first scholarly attempts to address the Great Migrations to a southern city. Her second book-length project will examine the origins of Houston’s postwar Black community in the late nineteenth century following the demise of slavery. She has received several awards and fellowships, including the 2014 Ottis Lock Superb Book Award with the East Texas Historical Association, University of Illinois at Chicago African American Studies Department postdoctoral fellowship, Huggins-Quarles Award with the Organization of American Historians, University of Houston African American Studies Dissertation Fellowship, and the Fred White Jr. and Mary M. Hughes Research Fellowships in Texas History with the Texas State Historical Association.

Mike Visconage

Texas WWI Centennial Commission Coordinator

Mike Visconage currently serves as a volunteer for the National World War I Centennial Commission and is an organizer of the Texas WWI centennial commemoration. He has a diverse background in military operations, business, and military history. In private industry Visconage has held leadership positions in healthcare, franchising, and construction for over 20 years. Visconage served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps on active duty and in the reserves in a variety of leadership and staff positions in the U.S., Asia, and Europe. His operational assignments included command of elite Force Reconnaissance, Division Reconnaissance, and ANGLICO organizations. Selected for special duty at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., he also served as a White House Military Social Aide and on the 1989 Presidential Armed Forces Inaugural Committee. As a reserve officer, he was mobilized and served two tours of duty in Iraq. Other assignments included cross-training as Public Affairs Officer, duty in operations (G-3 Marine Forces Pacific) and in strategic planning (G-5 U.S. Africa Command). His personal decorations include the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal. Colonel Visconage retired from the Marine Corps Reserve in 2012 with over 30 years of service. As a military historian, Visconage was the Command Historian for multi-national forces in Iraq during the surge of U.S. forces in 2007-08, overseeing joint-service military history detachments and documenting the surge. In 2003 he was the historian for Marine aviation during the initial invasion of Iraq: collecting key documents, taking photographs and conducting over 200 oral history interviews. From 2005-07 he led the Marine Corps’ Field History Detachment. Visconage also worked for the Marine Corps Museum & History Division where his research was published as a monograph. He was later awarded a research grant by the Marine Corps Historical Foundation to document recruitment poster art, coordinating with the National Archives, Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution, Department of Defense Photographic Center, and the U.S. Naval Academy Museum to access and photograph their collections. Visconage is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park (cum laude) and holds an MBA from Webster University (with honors; Graduate Student of the Year). He is the author of over thirty professional articles and a book on U.S. Marine Corps aviation in the Iraq War. Visconage resides in San Antonio with his wife, Pamela Parker-Visconage.

Dr. Marcia Walker-McWilliams

Dr. Marcia Walker-McWilliams received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois where she double majored in Social Policy and African American Studies. While at Northwestern, the historian’s craft called to her and she decided to pursue a PhD in history, which she received from the University of Chicago in 2012. Her research and teaching interests include African American labor and women’s history, the intersections of race, class and gender in social justice movements, and the African diaspora. Dr. Walker-McWilliams frequently utilizes oral history and digital historical methods in her work. Her first book, a biography of labor leader, feminist, civil rights activist and Christian minister, Reverend Addie Wyatt, is under contract with the University of Illinois Press. In 2013, she served as guest curator for a year-long exhibit on the life of Rev. Addie Wyatt at the Chicago Public Library’s Carter G. Woodson Branch, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature. Dr. Walker-McWilliams has a background in public history, having worked extensively with archival institutions and community based history projects.

Dr. Richard Watkins

Dr. Richard K. Watkins is a native of Huntsville, Texas, and can count several Walker County World War I and II veterans in his family tree. Carrying on the tradition, he served as a combat helicopter pilot in Vietnam and received a Purple Heart Medal and Air Medal with eight-oak leaf clusters after his helicopter was shot down during the Tet Offensive; for a brief period he was listed as missing in action. Watkins earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from Prairie View A&M University, an MBA from Texas Southern University, and his Doctorate of Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. A retired senior warden with the Texas Prison System, he serves on numerous boards and councils and is currently the Criminal Justice Committee Chair and Executive Board Member for the Texas State Conference of the NAACP. He has a special passion for service to veterans and the youth; he and his wife, Dr. Helen Watkins, are co-founders of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church’s Veteran’s Support and Assistance Ministry. Currently, Watkins and his wife own and operate a consulting firm along with a working ranch and actively assist with arranging oral history interviews within Walker County’s African American communities.

Dr. Ross Wilson

Senior Lecturer in Modern History and Public Heritage, University of Chichester (UK)

Ross J. Wilson is Senior Lecturer in Modern History and Public Heritage at the University of Chichester (UK). He has written on the experience, representation, and memory of the First World War in Britain and the United States. His wider research focuses on issues of museum, media, and heritage representations in the modern era. This work has been published in the books Representing Enslavement and Abolition in Museums (Routledge, 2011), Landscapes of the Western Front (Routledge, 2012), Cultural Heritage of the Great War in Britain (Ashgate, 2013), New York and the First World War: Making an American City (Ashgate, 2014) and The Language of the Past (Bloomsbury, 2016).

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Advisory Committee