News Letter journalist and author Billy Kennedy is in East Tennessee this weekend for celebrations marking the career of iconic American statesman Sam Houston.
On this trip, Billy will be joined by the DUP Mayor of Antrim/Newtownabbey Councillor Thomas Hogg, whose council region is where the Houston family lived when they moved from Scotland in the 17th century before making the trek to America in the mid-1700s
A bronze statue of the celebrated Governor of Texas and Tennessee, costing $100,000, will be unveiled in Maryville town centre on Saturday, identifying Sam and his family’s link with the East Tennessee region..
Civic leaders will be among several hundred invited guests at the ceremonies, including US Senators and Congress members and Mr Hogg and Mr Kennedy will speak and bring greetings from Northern Ireland..
Billy Kennedy’s 11 books have chronicled the 18th century migration of Ulster-Scots families like the Houston family to America. He said: “It’s quite an honour and privilege to be invited to join in these ceremonies. In my opinion, Sam Houston was the greatest American never to become president and his Ulster-Scots roots are well documented.”
Sam Houston is the only American to be governor of two states – Tennessee and Texas.
Taking part in the Maryville celebrations will be Sam Houston’s great-great grand-daughter Madge Roberts and Mac Woodward, mayor of Huntsville, Texas, where Houston spent his last years.
Sam’s roots to the Scots-Irish (Ulster-Scots) diaspora will be highlighted and a high official of the Cherokee Nation will speak of Sam’s Cherokee citizenship as a young man.
The Houston clan came from lowland Scotland to settle in east Co Antrim in the mid-1660s, around Ballyboley/Ballynure/Ballybracken.
Sam Houston’s ancestor John Houston emigrated to America in 1740 and the family settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia at Timber Ridge outside Lexington where they founded the local Presbyterian Church. The family moved to East Tennessee in 1807.
The Texas city of Houston (population 2.5million) is named in Sam Houston’s honour.