Noted Texas Writer and Big Thicket Advocate Howard Peacock Dies in San Antonio

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Noted Texas writer and Big Thicket advocate Howard Peacock dies in San Antonio, by Robert L. Schaadt, Texas Historian and Archivist

BTA Life Member, Howard Peacock

Howard Peacock, age 86, died Sunday afternoon, April 22, at the Metropolitan Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. He was born July 12, 1925.

A Beaumont native and graduate of Beaumont High School, Peacock started his long writing career with the Beaumont Journal after WWII service 1942-1945 in the US Navy in the Philippines. 

Upon returning home, Peacock married Kitty Galiano who preceded him in death.

After several years as a sports and feature writer for the Journal, Howard moved to Houston in 1951 and worked for the Chamber of Commerce, as editor of the Southern Pacific Railroad magazine, the United Fund, director of the Texas Bill of Rights Foundation 1963-1970 that produced ground breaking television shows, “Ideas in Focus”, featuring forums on the Bill of Rights during the Cold War in order to reduce Cold War and political tensions of the times, as program director and writer for the Houston Museum for Natural Science taking groups to the Big Thicket area for hikes, and as the administrator for the University of Houston Law School.

In 1976 Howard Peacock gave up the big city life and moved to Woodville in Tyler County, Texas in the heart of Southeast Texas, to spend his time working to improve the Big Thicket conservation and education.

Peacock always used a typewriter, a 1949 Royal was one of his favorites until he finally replaced it with an IBM Selectric, and as he said: “My pencil and a big chief tablet.” He never did use a computer for his compositions nor utilized email or the Internet.

Growing up in Beaumont, he developed a love of nature and the beauty of the Big Thicket. By the 1960s Howard Peacock was involved in the movement to save the Big Thicket of Southeast Texas that had started in the 1920s.

When Howard was interviewed by the Texas Legacy Project of the Conservation History Association of Texas in 2000, he told Christopher Cook: “And I met some people in the movement that were just my soul buddies. That was in the early 70’s or so. Archer Fullingham, Geraldine Watson and Maxine Johnston, Pete Gunter…a bunch of them. Harold Nicholas, from Saratoga. He was such a great naturalist, a self-taught naturalist. A fine self-taught artist.”

Peacock worked with them and many others including Senator Lloyd Bentsen, Alan Bible, Lorraine Bonney, Congressman Jack Brooks, Congressman and President George Bush, Bill Daniel, Justice William O. Douglas, John Dowdy, Congressman Bob Eckhardt, Edward Fritz, Ray Gill, Dempsie Henley, Erica Krimm, Emmett Lack, Mary Lasswell, Senator John Tower, Dr. Frances Abernathy, Alice Cashen, Arthur Temple, Garland Bridges, Billy Hallmon, Senator Ralph Yarborough, Gov. Price Daniel, and Congressman Charlie Wilson.

Peacock only served one term 1975-1976 as President of the Big Thicket Association, but he was active in every aspect of its work from the BTA’s organization until his death when he was serving as an advisory board member.

Maxine Johnston said: “He was known as Tush Hog, the old rooter of the woods, because he got things done, so many things, great guy in all ways, a true friend to Texas and he loved the beech trees. The Big Thicket Association benefited so much by Howard’s work that it is hard to estimate his contributions.”

From 1974 Peacock wrote about the Big Thicket, Southeast Texas History and folk medicine, writing hundreds of articles for magazines such as Texas Highways, Exxon, and travel guides. His most noted books were: The Big Thicket of Texas: America's Ecological Wonder, 1984 Little Brown and Company; The Nature of Texas: A Feast of Native Beauty from Texas Highways Magazine, forward by Frank T. Lively 1990 by Texas A&M University Press; Nature Lover's Guide to the Big Thicket (W. L. Moody Jr. Natural History Series) forward by Maxine Johnston, 1994, Texas A&M University Press.

In 1996 Peacock gave his archives to the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, a facility of the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

He relocated to San Antonio after his wife’s death and had lived there a number of years.

One of Peacock’s last public appearances was in 2008 as a keynote speaker at the Hardin County Sesquicentennial History Program in Kountze and at the 2008 Big Thicket Association’s Annual Meeting.

In Cook’s interview in 2000, Howard said: “I am trying to forget names of trees and flowers and birds and everything like that. I’ll tell you what I found out. I found out that the names get in the way. When you are looking at a flower and trying to figure the name, you are not enjoying the flower. I am trying to forget all that.” 

No funeral service will be scheduled.

There will be a memorial service in San Antonio, May 12, 1-3 p.m. at Madison Square Presbyterian Church.

The Big Thicket Association will hold their memorial service in the fall.

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