Jose Antonio Navarro was a member of the landed gentry from San Antonio who was captured in 1842 by an old school chum, Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. As Navarro had been a father of Texas independence, Santa Anna was overjoyed with his catch. Navarro was taken to Mexico City and tried for treason. He was found guilty, and was ordered executed.
However, he was promised that his life would be spared and he would get a prominent government job if he renounced Texas. But Navarro, replied, “I have sworn to be a good Texan, and that I will not forswear. I will die for that which I firmly believe, for I know it is just and right. One life is a small price for a cause so great. As I fought, so shall I be willing to die. I will never forsake Texas and her cause. I am her son.”
So wonderful a statement of personal pride, so much courage displayed and so widely quoted that the last part of it (“I will never forswear Texas and her cause. I am her son.”) is literally chiseled into stone — the lobby wall of the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum in Austin.
But the quote is also wrong, so made up, so flowery as to come from a bad movie. In Dallas recently I ran into Dr. James E. Crisp, noted author and an expert on all things Texas who discovered the inside skinny. According to Crisp, who was also quoted by Kent Biffle in the Dallas Morning News, the Navarro message was totally made up by Daniel James Kubiak (1938-98) of Rockdale in Milam County. Kubiak was an 11-term state legislator, high-school math teacher and football coach who created the quote in Ten Tall Texans. The statement was picked up in another book, often quoted (including by me) and ended up on the museum wall. A spokesman at the Bullock museum said they know about the mistake, but “you can’t just plaster over it and carve something else.” Donations for the job are welcomed.
This story shows again much of Texas’ history is too good to be true. Take the old story that Texas, having been a nation, can leave the U.S. any time we wish because that right is part of the Texas Annexation Treaty.Gov. Rick Perry has alluded to that. Even in “Travels with Charley” John Steinbeck writes, “Texas is the only state that came into the Union by treaty. It retains the right to secede at will.” Wrong. We didn’t get married by treaty, but by joint resolution. We even tried to leave once, with devastating results. See: “War, Civil.”
Here’s another: “By federal law, Texas is the only state in the U.S. that can fly its flag at the same height as the U.S. flag.” Not true. But we do have a much-ignored law that says all trains going in or through the state have to display the Texas flag. On the other hand, Texas really can divide itself into as many as five different states. The division also creates a problem with what your children recite every school day: “I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible.” The students should recite, “one and divisible up to four times.”
We entered the Union with the stipulation that we would keep all our public lands, including six leagues out into the Gulf, and we did. Why should anyone care? Because a few generations later oil was found under some of that land and water. The royalties go to educate our school children. There is another myth, or at least a misconception, in other states that the official state song is “The Eyes of Texas.” It certainly should be, but it’s the almost unsingable “Texas, Our Texas.”
Here’s a good myth to mull, if it is a myth. Did Travis draw a line in the sand with his sword at the Alamo, asking those who wanted to stay to step over? Indeed, the term “drawing a line in the sand” has become part of our national vocabulary. The biggest Texas myth is: How did Davy die? Was he killed fighting or captured and executed? One version is the truth and the other is clearly a myth. The nice thing about Texas history is that some of it is true and the rest should be.
Ashby’s myth is email@example.com