J. Waddy Bullion Gardens Grand Opening

A Dedication To Remember

As one of the most admired First Ladies in this country’s history took a guided tour through Goldthwaite’s new botanical gardens, a nearby cluster of schoolgirls strained to catch a glimpse. It’s not every day Laura Bush stops in Goldthwaite, and this was a special day indeed. This was the day Jan Fischer dreamed about.


There was concern a good old Texas gully-washer would dampen the festivities planned for the opening of the new J. Waddy Bullion Gardens, but the rain came and went. As Mayor Mike McMahan said later, “We appreciate the rain.” However, no one particularly minded that on Saturday, October 11, 2014, the weather was fair and cool.

Mills County State Bank President Tommy Head opened the day’s program with some brief remarks, and then local boy scouts “posted the colors,” raising the flags of the United States and Texas behind the podium. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, and Goldthwaite High School senior Dallas Johnston sang “America the Beautiful.”

15370803850_823c962970_oOne of the distinguished guests for the event was Rita Coosewoon, an Elder of the Comanche Nation living in Oklahoma, who led the Lord’s Prayer in her native tongue. Members of Rita Coosewoon’s family were also in attendance, and they took time throughout the day to talk to interested locals and visitors about their culture. Dressed in traditional clothing, they represented their rich history with dignity, a history in which Mills County plays a part.

As Mayor McMahan said during his welcome address, the completion of the Gardens represents the values and work ethic of this area. Jan Fischer worked tirelessly to make the project a reality, and McMahan took time to acknowledge her vision and hard work. Mayor McMahan also thanked Taking Care of Texas — founded by former First Lady Laura Bush — and Warren Blesh for their support.

Mayor McMahan closed his comments by stating how honored the community was to have Laura Bush in attendance, and thanked her for her service to the State of Texas and the United States. Noting that both the former First Lady and Jan Fischer are former teachers, McMahan said “Teachers get things done.”

Following McMahan’s address, Mills County Judge Kirk Fulk took time to thank everyone involved for their “hard work, vision, and dedication.” Fulk also thanked Rita Coosewoon and the other Comanche Nation representatives for their support. After Fulk’s comments, Tommy Head returned to the podium to acknowledge the generosity of the Meadows Foundation, one of the largest contributors to the project.

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The next speaker of the event was Mike McCullough, Goldthwaite native and a Trustee and Director of the Meadows Foundation. McCullough congratulated everyone involved in the Texas Botanical Garden and Native American Interpretive Center project, and presented a bit of background on J. Waddy Bullion, the man for whom the gardens are named. According to McCullough, Mr. Bullion was “always a champion for rural Texas” during his lifetime and his work with the Meadows Foundation. McCullough said that when he is asked where Goldthwaite is, he says “a little east of Eden” Texas, where Mr. Bullion was born.

MikeConawayTommy Head returned to the podium to introduce U.S. Representative Mike Conaway, who then introduced former First Lady Laura Bush. Mrs. Bush opened her address by saying that she had “been watching from afar” as the project progressed, and she thanked Jan Fischer, Tommy Head, and all the volunteers and supporters involved. She noted that the botanical gardens “will celebrate the lives of early native Texans.”

Mrs. Bush was happy to report that the members of the Bush family are doing well, and she was especially glad to mention her new granddaughter, who she hopes to introduce to the beauties of Texas when she’s a bit older. As she closed her remarks, Mrs. Bush said, “By our example, we teach our children how to be good stewards of Texas.” Mrs. Bush then cut the ribbon for the new gardens with a special ceremonial knife as those in attendance applauded in appreciation of her visit.

The remainder of the day’s events consisted of demonstrations, presentations, and activities for the children. Del Barnett served as emcee for the presentations, which included talks by Haverde Warner on medicinal plants; Jan Fischer and Tommy Head on the Legacy Plaza project; Tab Ledbetter on the development of the gardens; archaeologist Margaret Howard on Burned Rock Middens and Bedrock Mortars; archaeologist Dr. Michael Collins on the Gault Project; Terry Fischer on observing and photographing the natural beauties of the area; and City Manager Rob Lindsey on the progress of The Goldthwaite Welcome Center.

Numerous outstanding displays and kids’ activities rounded out the day. Everyone was treated to delicious food when lunchtime arrived, and snacks were available throughout the afternoon.

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As the day wound down, those still remaining got one more affirmation that the event had been a success. Jan Fischer said that several members of Mrs. Bush’s party expressed admiration for the day’s celebration and the community as a whole. Goldthwaite has been transformed by the vision of a dedicated few, and we thank them for their work.

Republished with permission of the Goldthwaite Eagle. By Brian Whitt, Eagle Staff Writer.

For more photos, visit our Flickr album and Taking Care of Texas on Facebook.

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