On this day in 1976, Victor Alessandro died in San Antonio. The day was also his sixty-first birthday. The Waco native had become conductor of the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra in 1951, after the death of Max Reiter in 1950. The next year he also assumed leadership of the San Antonio Symphony Society's Grand Opera Festival. Alessandro was noted for performances of Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss, Brahms, and Beethoven. He introduced works by Bruckner, Mahler, and Berg to San Antonio audiences before they became fashionable elsewhere. He conducted memorable performances of Elektra, Salome, Nabucco, Boris Godunov, Susannah, Die Meistersinger, and the standard operas of Verdi and Puccini. In building the San Antonio orchestra he was an exacting, often irascible taskmaster of high musical standards. Alessandro received honorary doctorates from the Eastman School of Music and Southern Methodist University and the Alice M. Ditson Award for service to American music. Recordings of his work include Claude Debussy's Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, light accompaniments, Vivaldi and Rodrigo guitar concertos, and works by Richard Strauss and John Corigliano. With his health declining, Alessandro retired in 1976.
On this day in 1837, pioneer Cumberland Presbyterian ministers Sumner Bacon, Amos Roark, and Mitchell Smith began the Texas Presbytery at Bacon's home. Bacon, born in Massachusetts in 1790, traveled as a young man to Arkansas, where he was converted at a Cumberland revival meeting and decided to become a minister. Because he lacked even a basic grasp of grammar and spelling, the Cumberland Presbytery of Arkansas asked him to spend two years improving his education before applying for a license to preach, but he went instead to Texas as a freelance itinerant evangelist in 1829. Since Catholicism was the legally required religion of the territory, Bacon did his preaching surreptitiously. In 1833, the American Bible Society commissioned Bacon as its first regular agent in Texas. In the summer of 1836 he organized the first Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Texas near San Augustine. Due to poor health, Bacon's leadership in church activities diminished after 1837, although he did serve as the first moderator of the Cumberland Synod of Texas in 1843. He died in 1844. Although Bacon was not the first Protestant to preach in Texas, evidence indicates that he was the first resident Protestant evangelist to maintain a continuous ministry in the new territory.
On this day in 1968, Local 456 of the Upholsterers International Union called a strike against Austin's Economy Furniture Company, six months after company officials refused to recognize the 252-83 vote by the workers for union representation. At the time Economy was the largest furniture manufacturer in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Mexican Americans, almost a quarter female, comprised 90 percent of the company's 400 workers, many of whom earned only $1.75 an hour, even after more than fifteen years of service. The National Labor Relations Board ruled that Economy must negotiate with the union, but owner Milton T. Smith rejected the board's order, precipitating the strike. Smith appealed the NLRB decision to the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. In January 1971 the court ordered that the NLRB ruling be enforced; two months later, workers voted to end the strike. In June two months of collective bargaining began on a new three-and-a-half-year contract which was formally approved in September.
On this day in 1944, Macario García distinguished himself on the battlefield near Grosshau, Germany, while serving with the Fourth Infantry Division. Though wounded in the shoulder and foot, he singlehandedly assaulted two German machine-gun emplacements and destroyed them, killing six enemy soldiers and capturing four. Only then did he allow himself to be evacuated. For his heroic action he was awarded the Medal of Honor. García was a Mexican native who moved to Texas in 1923 and joined the U.S. Army in 1942. After his wartime service he returned to his home in Sugar Land. In September 1945 he was denied service in a Richmond restaurant because he was Hispanic. Outraged, he fought with the owner until police were called in. García was arrested and charged in the incident. His case immediately became a cause célèbre, symbolizing not only the plight of Hispanic soldiers who returned from the war, but the plight of Mexican Americans. Numerous groups, including the League of United Latin American Citizens, rallied to his aid, and he was acquitted. Garcia died in 1972.