For seven years, Jim and Gloria Austin have done their best to edit American history.
The married couple started the National Cowboys of Color Museum and Hall of Fame in 2001 in Fort Worth, and last year they got photographic proof that their labor of love is making such an impact.
“We were contacted by Macmillan publishing, who is a major textbook maker, and they took pictures inside and outside the museum to put on the cover of some of their social studies books,” said Gloria, the museum’s executive director. “We’re eagerly awaiting our copy of the book.”
That book will represent the growth of what started as a simple education lesson.
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Jim moved to Fort Worth while working with American Express. But when they asked him to move to New York, he decided he liked Cowtown more than his job.
In 1996, after Jim and Gloria married, the Austins learned something that surprised and inspired them.
“We discovered that about 80 percent of the cowboys weren’t of Caucasian descent,” Jim said. “After this education, we decided that there needed to some way to teach people about this. So many people didn’t know what those cowboys of color did in formulating the frontier during the years between about 1875 and 1910. That’s why it’s so important to teach everybody about this.”
This education has been their top goal since Jim and Gloria founded the museum. And they’ve found that there are plenty of people who want to learn.
Seven new members will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Thursday. The ceremony and banquet will be at the Fort Worth Club, beginning with a reception at 6 p.m. The 13th annual rodeo is at 7 p.m. Saturday at Will Rogers Coliseum.
Over the past seven years, the museum has gained so much acclaim that Gloria said she never doubted the eventual success of the nonprofit organization.
“The truth always has a way of coming out,” Gloria said. “When you look at the best museums in the world, they got started a long time ago. We’re very young compared to them. But they had to start somewhere.”
Now, what started as a cultural museum in Fort Worth is now drawing international attention. Gloria said two Dutch journalists recently visited the museum. She said they were doing a special project and were in search of the real America.
They came to the right place. Soon enough, though, the Austins hope researchers will be able to crack open a high school history book and be able to read all about that 80 percent of cowboys who’d somehow slipped to the back of the American subconscious.
“We invite different schools and classes here and bring history lessons to life. Sometimes colleges even come from different states,” Gloria said. “Social studies teachers have really embraced this. It’s been exciting to help rewrite history books.”
Lance McIlvain of Arlington, along with partner Ross Hill (Alabama), placed fourth in last weekend’s Miller Lite Bull BlowOut bullfighting event. McIlvain and Hill were defending their title at the North Texas Fair and Rodeo in Denton.
The Bull BlowOut was part of the Professional Bull Fighters’ tour. The PBF’s Daisy tour stops in Fort Worth Sept. 5-7.