Jesús Francisco de la Tej: Texas' first official historian is from NJ





Some might envision the state's first official historian being a rugged fellow with facial hair, talking with a Texas drawl and wearing a Stetson.

But history isn't about stereotypes, and the first Texas state historian is a Cuban-born professor who was reared in New Jersey.

Jesús Francisco de la Teja has a long name, but goes by Frank, and calls himself a Yankee.

"I tell people, it's OK, because there was a guy from New Jersey (defender Robert E. Cochran) at the Alamo," he said.

De la Teja, history department chairman at Texas State University in San Marcos and author of numerous books and essays, has a 19-page curriculum vitae. Yet it's one thing, an infatuation with Texas history, that led to his appointment by Gov. Rick Perry as the first state historian.

His love of the Lone Star State began in 1981. He went to the University of Texas in Austin to study Latin American history for his doctorate. He came to Texas expecting a semi-arid desert, but found a state with a rich diversity of land and people.

Working as a research assistant for author James Michener brought his passion to life. In Michener, he saw a burning curiosity to learn and a skill at bringing history down to earth.

Now, as one of at least 700 members of the Texas State Historical Association in San Antonio for its annual three-day meeting, he'll be installed as president of the 110-year-old nonprofit organization.

Larry McNeill, the outgoing president, lobbied the Legislature to create a state historian's position as an unpaid advocate and consultant. ...


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