MONDAY UPDATE: The hearing involving a lawsuit against Texas State Historical Association leaders, slated for Monday, has been postponed to May 30.
GALVESTON — How Texas teaches history—indeed, how Texas sees itself—will be in a Galveston County courtroom on Monday.
At issue are the bylaws of the Texas State Historical Association, a nonprofit that publishes the “Handbook of Texas,” as well as academic journals, and holds conferences. The bylaws say there should be a balance on the TSHA board between academics and non-academics. That balance is particularly important in these postmodern times, when those tied to the Ivory Tower are happily deconstructing the history of Texas, of the Texas Revolution, and other key events and figures.
TSTA Executive Director J.P. Bryan has been involved with the TSHA for 63 years—and his family has been involved for well over a century. In 2022, after years of support for the organization—including service as its board president—Bryan came back to a flailing group that desperately needed his help.
Here’s how Michelle Haas of the Texas History Trust explains it:
“The Texas State Historical Association was in the red,” she wrote. “Again. They had a Chief Historian not well-liked by the public whose contract was up and who was overdue for a job evaluation. They had an Executive Director on the way out. They had a board not quite in compliance with the organization’s bylaws. Enter J.P. Bryan, Jr. — Texas history preservationist, collector, philanthropist, founder of the Bryan Museum, retired oilman.”
Bryan bailed out the group financially (not for the first time) and made some key decisions to shore up its workings—entirely within his power as executive director. But that unpopular historian—Walter L. Buenger—and the TSHA’s president, Nancy Baker Jones, weren’t happy. Jones called a board meeting, seeking to fire Bryan or at least limit his powers.
Buenger, as the chief historian of the TSHA, has dismissed the Alamo as “insignificant,” but adds that it has been misused by Texans to “commemorate whiteness.”
Knowing what was likely coming in that hastily called meeting, Bryan filed a lawsuit and won an injunction stopping it. On Friday, Judge Kerry Neves of the 10th District Court will hear the case.
“This fight, at its core, is about equal representation,” Bryan says. “The hearing is on the composition of the board.”
And balance on that board crucial, he adds.
“Non-academics make up about 90% of our membership, and about 99% of our donors,” Bryan notes. “I don’t think that most of our membership wants to support a woke organization, It’s just that simple. We all love Texas and Texas history. We’re not about tearing down statues, we’re about building up Texas.”