Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Texan Died Today

Texas is a strange place. You have to be a little crazy to live here.

When Smith Barney transferred me to Dallas years ago, I spent the first six months in a daze. I'd never seen anything like it. People brushed tarantulas aside the way I was accustomed to shooing flies away. Almost every homeowner I met owned a gun or at least knew how to handle a gun. The stores weren't open on Sundays because, of course, you needed to be in church on the Sabbath and not shopping.

The first time I was asked "are you saved?" I was offended that anyone would ask such a personal question. When I moved into the house where I now live, the first three neighbors who came over to introduce themselves wanted to know if I was a Christian.

The Texas State Fair (which opens this week) is a really big deal. Every year, there is a life-sized sculpture done in BUTTER at the Fair. Last year it was Elvis. This year it will be Marilyn Monroe.

Texans are serious about being Texans. A common sight is a bumper sticker that reads: "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could."

Yes, Texans are different. They believe in God. They're intensely proud of their state. And they are some of the kindest, most generous people in the world.

I say all this because a Texan died today.

John Byron Nelson, Jr. was 94 when he passed away on a porch chair at his ranch in Roanoke. You may never have heard of him. He has been out of the spotlight for many, many years.

Byron Nelson was a golfer--one of the greatest in the world. In a relatively brief PGA career, from 1935 to 1946, he established a record that has not yet been broken. In 1945, he won 18 tournaments, including a record 11 in a row. He retired the following year at the age of 34 to become a rancher in Roanoke, Texas, where he remained until he died.

Mr. Nelson was married twice. His first marriage to Louise lasted fifty years until her death in 1985. He and his second wife, Peggy, were married for almost twenty years at the time of his death.

Mr. Nelson was a true Texas gentleman: a Christian who loved his God, his country and his state. People who knew him said he never had an unkind word for anyone. He once said, "I don't know a lot, but I know a little about golf, I can make a good stew and I know how to be a decent man." It was his reputation as the complete gentleman that earned him the nickname "Lord Byron."

From 1968 until the present, Lord Byron was active in raising money for the Salesmanship Club's children's charities, primarily through the Byron Nelson Championship, the only PGA tour stop named for a professional golfer. He helped to raise over $90 million dollars for children. The tournament is expected to hit $100 million dollars by next year.

A Texan died today. But, in the words of a song about some Texans at a mission in San Antonio, "There's no cause for tears. He will be remembered for a million Texas years."

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