Tandragee journalist and author Billy Kennedy was in East Tennessee last weekend to mark the career of iconic 18th century American statesman Sam Houston.
A 200,000-dollar bronze statue of Sam Houston, the only person to be Governor of two American states - Tennessee and Texas - was unveiled at Maryville, where Houston grew up.
Recognising Houston’s career as a soldier, politican and statesman, Billy Kennedy told a VIP reception in Maryville: “In my opinion, Sam Houston was the greatest American never to become President. His dominant influence in Texas in the Lone Star State becoming a State of the American Union in 1845 was far-reaching.
“Sam wrested Texas from Mexican control in 1836 after the fall of David Crockett and others at The Alamo, defeating the Mexican president General Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto.
“From a Northern Ireland perspective, we are very proud that Sam came of Ulster family roots,” said News Letter journalist Kennedy at a reception for VIP guests.
Billy, a frequent visitor to East Tennessee, has written 11 books on 18th century Ulster-Scots migration to America.
The Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor Thomas Hogg also travelled to East Tennessee for the ceremonies and he recognised the seminal role of so many of Ulster-Scots or Scots-Irish lineage in the development of the United States of America.
The DUP Mayor called for much greater contact between the Ulster-Scots community in Northern Ireland with those from a similar diaspora in the United States.
Mayor Hogg said the Houston family connection can be traced back to the rural area outside Ballynure; “a small village within our borough in the east of Co Antrim”.
The Houstons were an enterprising and industrious Plantation farming family from lowland Scotland who moved to Ulster in the early 17th century.
“It was Sam Houston’s Presbyterian grandfather John Houston who emigrated to America (to Lexington in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia), leaving the port of Larne for Philadelphia in 1740,” said Thomas Hogg.
Sam Houston spent his early years in Maryville, Blount county in East Tennessee, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and he was a teacher at the local school.
“Today we salute the memory of Sam Houston and honour his outstanding legacy to Tennessee, Texas and the United States, and indeed the contribution the Houston clan made back in Ulster,” added Mayor Hogg.
The Mayor of Maryville Tom Taylor led the welcomes and he was joined by the United States Republican Congressman for Tennessee John J. Duncan and United States Republican Senator for Tennessee Lamar Alexander.
Direct family members of the Houston clan from Tennessee, Texas and Colorado were among those also welcomed.