Schreiner University has billed itself as a place that aims to be an institution that is “uniquely Texan,” and with the addition of a new visiting professor that claim is pretty solid.
In fact, the credentials are about as solid as they get for Richard Bruce Winders, who is one of the foremost experts on the Alamo and the conflicts along the border between the United States and Mexico. For 23 years, Winders was a historian and curator at the iconic Alamo, and he has written extensively about the battle that shaped Texas’ future.
Winders is coming to Kerrville to help Donald Frazier shape The Texas Center at Schreiner, and to help develop curriculum on the history of the state. Frazier, himself a noted Texas history expert about the state’s role in the Civil War, has been friends and colleagues for years and the two cemented that friendship helping singer Phil Collins write a book cataloging his immense collection of Alamo-related artifacts.
The two were guests on Wednesday’s KDT Live, with both men sharing their passion for the complex story that is Texas.
“This is the guy who understands how Texas and Mexico and the United States all come together right there in San Antonio,” Frazier said of Winders, who has also written about the Mexican-American War of 1846, which proved to be a pivotal moment in the United States’ westward expansion.
“It shocks people sometimes, when you say it, that Texas was part of Mexico,” Winders said. “If you don’t understand that part of history, and you don’t factor it in, you get sort of stopped by the border and the history of Texas stops at the Rio Grande River and the history of Mexico ends at the Rio Grande. There are periods where that border is not there. Even after (the border) is established, those relationships get carried on. At one point the road between San Antonio and Saltillo was widely travelled, because Saltillo was the capital of what was then the twin state of Coahuilla and Texas leading up to the Texas Revolution. One of the things I tried to do at the Alamo was not say we have to tell the Mexican side, but we have to tell an entire story that includes Mexican history because it’s part of Texas history.”
And that’s just one part of the Texas story — it’s a broad conversation.
“At The Texas Center, we’re trying to wrangle all of these stories,” said Frazier, adding that the Texas Center includes publishing and travel companies all focused on highlighting the state’s unique history.
“Texas is a complicated story,” Frazier said. “Trying to reduce it to a bumper sticker is unfair.”
That’s when Winders jumps in and says: “Which Texas are you talking about?”
“There are all interesting stories and they’re all related together,” Winders said. “Exposing people to different ideas to what Texas is different to somebody else. There are different Texas stories, but it all comes back to the Alamo.”
It was the Alamo that brought them together with Collins who wanted to write a book about his deep interest in the history of the famed battle. Like so many growing up in the 1950s, Collins watched Disney’s portrayal of Davey Crockett and his last stand at the Alamo in a television series starring Fess Parker. In 1960, John Wayne took on the iconic role of Crockett for the blockbuster movie about the battle.
Winders said for the baby boomer generation, the pop culture references to the desperate fight at the Alamo was the “Star Wars” for that group of people growing up. It had a huge influence, including on Collins.
“The Alamo is such a universal story that it doesn’t matter if you’re not in the United States, like Phil Collins or if you’re in Japan,” Winders said.
Through the years, the two men helped Collins with the work, but Frazier makes it clear that the singer had complete command of the work, because he understands the material on a scholarly level.
“His interest was infectious,” Winders said of Collins. “There’s more to him. That’s what I found.”
Winders earned his doctorate from Texas Christian University in 1994. His published works include Mr. Polk’s Army: The American Military Experience in the Mexican War (1997), Crisis in the Southwest: the United States Mexico and the Struggle over Texas (2002), Sacrificed at the Alamo: Tragedy and Triumph in the Texas Revolution (2004), and Panting for Glory: The Mississippi Rifles in the Mexican War (2017).