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Texas farm workers begin 420-mile march to Austin
February 26, 1977

On this day in 1977, members and supporters of the Texas Farm Workers Union set out on a 420-mile march from San Juan, Texas, to Austin to lobby for passage of a state law granting fieldworkers the right to vote on union representation. TFWU had faced an uphill battle since its founding two years before. Its leader, Antonio Orendain, had worked for the rival United Farm Workers, but had grown frustrated with what he perceived as UFW's lack of enthusiasm for organizing Texas workers. Growers in the Rio Grande valley opposed unionization and claimed that the union did not represent a majority of their employees. In addition, TFWU could not count on the support of the AFL-CIO, which was officially allied with UFW. TFWU carried out nonviolent strikes in the Valley and pressed the farmworker cause in the media. The marchers reached the Capitol on April 2, but the legislation died in subcommittee. Though TFWU, which ceased to exist in the 1980s, did not achieve its goal of winning collective-bargaining rights for farmworkers in Texas, it did force public attention on the substandard conditions under which farmworkers lived.

Clint and Jeff Smith captured by Indians
February 26, 1871

On this day in 1871, brothers Clint and Jeff Smith, ten and eight years old respectively, were captured by Lipans and Comanches while herding sheep near their family's home on Cibolo Creek between San Antonio and Boerne. After an initial rescue effort failed, their father, Capt. Henry Smith, and Capt. John W. Sansom, a cousin, assembled a large body of Texas Rangers and local militia, who, along with a posse led by Capt. Charles Schreiner, pursued the Indians from near Kendalia to Fort Concho in West Texas. The rescue attempt was futile, however, and Clint and Jeff were not returned to their family for another five years. J. Marvin Hunter told the tale of their captivity, laced with predictable adventures, a few inconsistencies, and the names of many prominent chiefs, including Geronimo, in a book entitled The Boy Captives. Hunter interviewed the brothers in their sixties, after they had long enjoyed their fame as "frontier" celebrities and performers of the Old West. Clint died in 1932 and Jeff in 1940.

Black activist seeks admission to segregated university
February 26, 1946

On this day in 1946, black activist Heman Sweatt, accompanied by a delegation from the NAACP, met with University of Texas president Theophilus S. Painter and other university officials to present a formal request for admission to the UT law school. The legal case resulting from this request, Sweatt v. Painter, was a landmark civil-rights decision, one of several that struck down the doctrine of "separate but equal" educational facilities. Sweatt finally registered at the University of Texas law school on September 19, 1950.