The State of Texas has formally assumed control of the Alamo, placing the day-to-day management of the historic site in San Antonio under the Texas General Land Office (GLO). The GLO will now solicit proposals for a new management company to assume those duties later this year. Previously, the Alamo had been managed by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT), the volunteer organization that was responsible for securing the funds to preserve the Alamo in 1905. A law passed in 2011 transferred control to the GLO.
The GLO and DRT issued a joint statement on Thursday, vowing to work together to preserve the Alamo for future generations of Texans.
Breitbart Texas also interviewed Becky Dinnin, a member of the GLO staff who has been appointed as the new Director of the Alamo, and she reaffirmed the GLO’s commitment to protect the Alamo, and emphasized that the DRT would always have an “honored place” at the Alamo.
“They will always be in a place of honor here at the Alamo; that will never change,” said Dinnin. “They are the reason that we have the Alamo…that doesn’t go unnoticed in Texas history and will never be forgotten.”
The Alamo was the location for a critical battle during the Texas Revolution, where Mexican President General Antonio López de Santa Anna killed all of the Texian defenders after a thirteen day siege from February 23 to March 6, 1836. Santa Anna’s slaughter of the the Texians, along with the words of William B. Travis’ famous “Victory or Death” letter dated on the second day of the siege, inspired new recruits to join the Texian Army. Less than two months later, on April 21, 1836 at the Battle of San Jacinto, Santa Anna and the Mexican Army were defeated, winning independence for Texas.
In the late 1800s, the Alamo was falling into disrepair and at risk of being demolished for new development. The DRT helped raise the funds needed to purchase the site, both through private fundraising and lobbying the Texas Legislature for funding.
As the decades passed, however, the challenges of managing the Alamo were increasing for the DRT, an all-volunteer organization. An investigation by then-Attorney General Greg Abbott in 2011 found numerous problems with both financial management and conservation efforts needed to preserve the centuries-old building and priceless historic artifacts. One major concern, according to a report by the San Antonio Express-News, was that the DRT had not been able to sustain adequate capital fundraising needed for operations and preservation. Legislators were also outraged when the DRT attempted to trademark the phrase “The Alamo.”
The DRT objected to the AG’s report, but ultimately the Texas Legislature passed a bill in 2011, that Governor Rick Perry signed into law, that removed the DRT as the caretakers of the Alamo, transferring that control to the GLO. The DRT filed suit to block the transfer of power, but was not successful, and ended up entering into an eighteen month contract with the GLO, to continue operations at the Alamo but now under GLO’s oversight.
The GLO continued to find ongoing issues with the DRT’s management of the Alamo, and pursuant to the terms of the contract, terminated the DRT’s role in managing the site. In mentioning this, Dinnin again pointed out the all-volunteer makeup of the DRT, and the significant challenges they faced raising sufficient funds to operate and preserve the historic site.
There were also additional pressures related to the substantial donation of Alamo and Texas artifacts by the singer Phil Collins; his donation to the State of Texas stipulated that a museum and visitor center facility would be built to showcase those artifacts, with proper preservation and security methods. The agreement with Collins has a seven year deadline, Dinnin told Breitbart Texas, and they are already six months into it. Even before the Collins donation, she continued, the Alamo had a large number of important artifacts that were hidden away in storage due to a lack of secure space to display them.
Moving forward, the GLO has reorganized the Alamo Endowment, to launch a multi-million dollar capital campaign to raise funds to build the museum and visitor center, create a strategic plan for long term management and conservation, and ensure there are adequate funds to maintain all necessary operations and educational programs. In his role as GLO Commissioner, Bush also serves as the Chairman of the Alamo Endowment, and recruited six of Texas’ top philanthropists to serve on the Board: Ramona Bass, James D. Dannenbaum, Red McCombs, Lew Moorman, William Eugene Powell, and Welcome W. Wilson, Jr.
Dinnin told Breitbart Texas that the GLO will be posting a request for proposals from management companies within the next few business days. In the meantime, the GLO is working on a long term strategic plan and is expecting to handle the day-to-day management of the Alamo for about four months. The GLO had received a grant to pay for research into conservation issues at the Alamo, and recently received its first report from researchers at Texas A&M University, said Dinnin. Additional research work is pending with teams at several other Texas universities, and Dinnin said they plan to finalize this research in April or May, and formulate a master plan for preserving the Alamo’s famous façade and other parts of the stone structure.
“The Alamo still belongs to the people of Texas,” said Dinnin, saying several times that the GLO would have “very strict oversight over anything that happens at the Alamo.” When a new management company is eventually selected, they will report directly to Dinnin and the GLO, and “will not make any decisions without oversight, very strict oversight, from our office.” According to Dinnin, that oversight would include the same level of transparency and financial and human resources reporting required by state agencies.
Dinnin again sought to highlight the positive aspects of this transition for the Alamo’s management. “It’s important that people understand that this was a very honest and a truly joint statement that came out yesterday,” she said, calling it a “new chapter” in the relationship between the GLO and DRT, which has admittedly been less amicable in the past.
Dinnin also told Breitbart Texas that she took issue with news reports that portrayed this transition as “hostile” or “taking away power” from the DRT, mentioning at least one report that characterized it as a “divorce.”
“It’s not as controversial as some of the past things that have happened,” she said. While the final details for the DRT’s role have yet to be completely resolved, Dinnin said that she was confident that any remaining issues would be able to be respectfully resolved, and that she expected the transition to be a “smooth” and “positive” one for both the GLO and the DRT, as well as honoring the importance of the Alamo for the people of Texas.
“The DRT will always be honored and will always be revered for saving the Alamo.” said Dinnin.
Joint Statement by GLO Commissioner and DRT on “evolving role at the Alamo”:
Commissioner George P. Bush:
Without the early intervention of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, we would not be able to celebrate the Shrine of Texas Liberty today. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas will always have a special place of honor at the Alamo and have graciously worked with the GLO and the State of Texas in honoring and preserving the Alamo.
The Alamo has always had the same owner – the people of Texas. And so to meet the ever-increasing operational needs of the Alamo, the GLO has determined to change its day to day management from the DRT and move in a new direction. Together we will create a bigger, brighter future for this Texas shrine.
DRT President General McCaffrey:
Since 1891, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas have maintained a proud legacy of perpetuating the memory and spirit of the early pioneers who fought for and preserved the independence of Texas. It is this passion for our state’s rich history that inspired our members in the early 1900’s to recognize the importance of saving and preserving the Alamo for future generations.
While we regret our changing role in its daily management, it does not diminish our unending passion for the preservation of the Shrine of Texas Liberty, and we look forward to maintaining our library collection as a historical resource for all Texans to enjoy.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.