It turned into unofficial “San Antonio Night” at the Bullock Texas State History Museum during its annual Texas Independence Day Dinner.
Both of its History-Making Texan honorees — grocery titan Charles Butt and conjunto king Leonardo “Flaco” Jiménez — are sons of our sister city to the south.
Therefore, most of the quite formally dressed assembly were out-of-town strangers to this columnist. Among the sprinkling of Austinites, the almost universal response to the evening was surprise that the modest H-E-B family leader agreed to accept the honor.
We’re delighted he did.
To no one’s surprise, he did not speak. And his tribute video focused heavily on his philanthropy, including his profound advocacy for public education, including support of anti-voucher groups. Do not forget that Butt has pledged $100 million to built a center on a spectacular piece of West Austin land to train school leaders.
As for Jiménez, his tributes concentrated on the appeal of his music across a wide range of genres. His six decades producing Tejano and conjunto music have made him the definition of a cultural ambassador for our state. Jiménez did give a rambling, but often funny acceptance speech.
Lest we forget, the dinner, which reportedly grossed at least $1 million, supports the Texas State History Museum Foundation, which in turn ensures that the facility, which is undergoing a pointedly successful exhibition makeover, remains afloat.
Every year, the foundation seeks out suggestions for these honors. We provide the definitive list of honorees below so that you can see the patterns of tribute, and just as importantly, who has been left out so far. If you are looking for historical clues, here are some amazing books to read.
2005: President George W. Bush and Barbara Bush; Lady Bird Johnson
2006: Walter Cronkite; Dr. John DeBakey
2007: Gov. William P. Clements and Rita Clements; Herb Kelleher
2008: Gov. Dolph Briscoe; Darrell Royal
2009: Van Cliburn, Gov. Bill Hobby
2010: President George W. Bush and Laura Bush
2011: Barbara Smith Conrad; Gerald Hines
2012: Secretary James Baker III; Ambassador Robert S. Strauss
2013: Eugene F. Krantz; George P. Mitchell
2014: Ruth Collins Altshuler; Ross Perot
2015: Dr. John Mendelsohn; King Ranch
2016: U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison; Bob Schieffer
2017: Earl Campbell; Nolan Ryan
2018: Nancy Ann Hunt and Ray Hunt; Lee Trevino
2019: Charles Butt; Leonardo “Flaco” Jiménez