“History surrounding Norman Porter, Sr., a historian”

‘4th segment’


Norman Porter, Sr. with Barbara Westbrook, during Atascosa County Commissioners’ Court meeting on December 8, 2014. Norman is introducing Barbara, new Chairperson of Atascosa County Historical Commission, upon his retirement.

Norman Porter, Sr. with Barbara Westbrook, during Atascosa County Commissioners’ Court meeting on December 8, 2014. Norman is introducing Barbara, new Chairperson of Atascosa County Historical Commission, upon his retirement.

In this fourth segment about the life of Norman Porter, Sr. , “clips” include “just watch where you walk”, “mockingbirds hopping from headstone to headstone after the grasshoppers”, “Model T runs over Norman, he was unharmed”, and “I’m going to have lunch with my bride!”

Speaking of Norman Porter, Sr., “I learned so much from this man, basically from talking to him several times a week for 10 years. He never got tired of talking about the history of our county, said Barbara Westbrook, “It was known by all, including Norman, that when he spoke in public, he would go a little long, because he would think of great side stories. These stories were the best!”

Barbara Westbrook became Chairperson of the Atascosa County Historical Commission on December 8, 2014. She was appointed by Commissioners’ Court upon Porter’s retirement.

Westbrook said, “About my favorite story came from the dedication of a small cemetery that was restored on the Jacob Ranch, near Poteet. Over time, the Russell family cemetery had been destroyed and fragments of old headstones had been found. Dr. Jacob wanted to make it right. Daryl Hickey had the names put onto large pieces of sandstone and built a nice pipe fence with a cross around the spot they thought had been the original cemetery. I asked Pastor Joe Berkley, from Poteet Methodist Church to come bless the cemetery. He had recently moved to the area from Florida, I believe.

“He stood next to Norman and commented that he never in his wildest dreams thought he would ever find himself blessing a cemetery in the middle of a Texas cow pasture. Norman without missing a beat said, “just watch where you step”. It was a pretty good day.

“I will also say that being at different events with Norman, at least one man would come up to him, shake his hand and say, ‘Mr. Porter you were my Junior High principal. You whipped me one time, but I’m sure I deserved it’. All of them seemed to respect him, and held no resentment towards him. It was a different time.

“Another thing. Norman knew a lot about many things, not just county history. A couple of years ago I went to the Porter house to help Norman with the annual report to the Texas Historical Commission. We finished the online report, and got to talking about pecan trees. I left there with a pretty good understanding of how to graft pecan trees! He was a good teacher.”

Norman Porter, Sr. passed away on October 8, 2015.

Westbrook said, “I met Norman Porter in 2006 while he was still writing his book. He discovered that there was a descendant of Sheriff G.W.M. Duck around (me) and was looking for a picture from the book. Dorothy Manning, Jourdanton Librarian, set up a meeting for us. I told him I did have a picture, that I would burn it to a disk and that he had my permission to use it. I liked him from the start – I think he reminded me of my dad’s family. Maybe it was that layed back Pleasanton attitude! As we talked about my great great grandfather, I came to realize that he knew as much about him as I did. I’ll never forget that he said, ‘you seem pretty interested in county history’. I told him I was and the next thing I knew I was sitting in a County Historical Commission meeting. He had roped me in!

“He was my mentor. When I told him that, he would say he didn’t know what a mentor was. He mentored many.”

Continuing, “Another thing that’s interesting, I guess because we had interests in common, we began to notice that we had sort of a psychic connection. I would tell Norman about an idea I had and he would say, ‘you know I just read something about that!’ or he would tell me about someone he read about, and I would say, ‘I just found that person’s grave!’ It happened quite frequently. One of us would say, ‘that’s spooky’.”

Westbrook said, “Norman was president of the Pleasanton City Cemetery Association a long time and used to do the mowing himself. I think he had all the headstones memorized. He knew something about every family, especially in the old part, or in “Sandy Hill” as he called it. He said, when he mowed, he stirred up grasshoppers and that there were mockingbirds that would follow him, hopping from headstone to headstone after the grasshoppers. I think he liked that.

“Norman told us that one time when he was a small boy, he was with his mother and they were on Main Street in Pleasanton. He stepped out in front of a model T ( I think it was a model T). He said the car had no brakes and ran right over him. He said the car wasn’t able to stop until it got to the corner. His mother took him to a doctor, but he was fine. Can you imagine, right there on Main Street.

“He told me several times about the deep elongated ruts along the side of the road that goes from Rossville to Somerset. He said that way back when they were creating roads, that one was so sandy they had to dig out some base material to put on the road to make it usable. He said it was all in the County Commissioners’ Court minutes, and he was right. He had a good eye for little things that most of us miss.

“I remember his saying that he just didn’t see the attraction to fictional western books because the real stories were more exciting. I have to agree.

He loved to plan events and especially when there was really good involvement from our appointees and the community as a whole. He especially liked it when there were kids involved. I think he really loved kids and they loved him. I know he loved to read to his great grandchildren.

“In fact, one of my favorite things about Norman was how close he was to his family. After a meeting he would say, ‘I’m going to have lunch with my bride!’ Iris was clearly the love of his life. He had his priorities in order. I liked hearing about the regular luncheons with his brothers and sisters. He usually did the cooking, I think.”

Westbrook continued, “He was a fantastic cook! The Porter’s hosted the Atascosa County Historical Commission Christmas party each year and Norman would treat us to five or six different homemade soups, regular cornbread and his famous hot water cornbread. It was all delicious. Iris was always a gracious hostess. We all felt so welcome and comfortable there, and loved the way the house was decorated for Christmas. Norman would say that he was going to take out the 12 boxes of Christmas decorations, but then the next time he would say there were 15 boxes or 20 boxes. The story changed every time he said it.”

Norman Porter, Sr. was an inspiration to everyone he met.


Barbara Westbrook, Chairperson, Atascosa County Historical Commission.

Barbara Westbrook, Chairperson, Atascosa County Historical Commission.

Norman ‘clowning around’ with the silly hat during Longhorn Museum Society Dinner.

Norman ‘clowning around’ with the silly hat during Longhorn Museum Society Dinner.

Norman narrating history reenactment in Pleasanton River Park, March, 2012. It was really “his day”! He enjoyed the event!

Norman narrating history reenactment in Pleasanton River Park, March, 2012. It was really “his day”! He enjoyed the event!

Norman and Iris celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary at the Pleasanton Church of Christ in 2014.

Norman and Iris celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary at the Pleasanton Church of Christ in 2014.

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