Cox: Texas Capitol has interesting history

Phil Reynolds/Burnet Bulletin
Author Mike Cox talks to an audience at the Coffee Talk Thursday, March 14, at the Herman Brown Free Library in Burnet. Cox's latest book reveals some little-known facts about the Texas Capitol.

 

 

 

By Phil Reynolds

Burnet Bulletin

If you want to know about the Texas Capitol in Austin, go to the man who wrote the book.

That would be Mike Cox. Literally. Cox was at Thursday’s Coffee Talk at the Herman Brown Free Library in Burnet to talk about his book, “Legends and Lore of the Texas Capitol.”

Though probably best-known for his Texas Rangers volumes (Cox was director of media relations for the Department of Public Safety for years), he’s written 36 nonfiction books about Texas and hundreds of articles and columns for periodicals.

He told the audience he has a personal connection with the building. His first job was as “assistant sergeant at arms” in the state Senate (“the House simply calls them pages,” he said).

Later, as an author, he was at the Texas Book Festival on the Capitol grounds when his young daugher wandered off and Cox spent hours looking for her (she was found beneath a desk).

From this wealth of information, Cox shared some of the things he learned about the Capitol, some of which he included in the book and some of which he learned too late to include.

For instance:

The superintendent of construction lost a finger while helping move one of the massive limestone blocks that forms the building’s interior.

Then-city Marshal Ben Thompson, a gunman, gambler and drinker, scorned a public relations train trip to the limestone quarry in Oak Hill, instead driving out in a buggy. When he returned downtown, Thompson rode around the city firing his pistol in the air.

Granite from the well-known Marble Falls quarry used in the Capitol’s exterior wasn’t taken directly to Austin but was “dressed” in Burnet. Cox said that site is thought to have been near the rail “Y” in Burnet. It deserves a marker, he said.

A marble plaque inscribed with a sentence from the Alamo monument in Austin, “Thermopylae had its messenger of defeat. The Alamo had none,” was reportedly set into a sidewalk in downtown Marble Falls. Nobody seems to know where that site was, Cox said.

As granite blocks were being shipped by rail from Marble Falls to Austin, some fell off rail cars and for years could be seen alongside the rails in Travis County — rail officials counted the cost and labor of retrieval too high. Somebody disagreed: the blocks are now gone.

Cox said he’s now researching a book on the states west of the Mississippi.

For more on the Texas Capitol, the current book is available from Amazon or at many bookstores.

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