By Clinton Machann
Before retiring as a professor of English at Texas A&M University in 2017, my principal academic interest was in the field of nineteenth-century British literature and culture, but my interest in the history of Czech – primarily Moravian – immigration to Texas and the Czech-Moravian community there is longstanding. It goes back to the days of my professional training in English literary studies. In fact, I had just completed my PhD in English at the University of Texas at Austin in the 1970s when I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to visit what was then Communist Czechoslovakia. Although unimpressed with Communist ideology and institutions in my journeys to the “old country” in 1976 and 1977, I did become fascinated by the possibility of studying the origins of the Czech-Moravian heritage of Texas, and I organized a symposium that was held in Temple, Texas in 1976. Temple is, among other things, the home of the Texas Czech fraternal organization SPJST (Slovanská podporující jednota státu Texas). Included in the symposium papers that were collected and published in 1979 was Robert Janak’s groundbreaking “Tombstone Inscriptions as a Source of Geographic Origins,” (1) which led to his own expanded work on that topic and which serves as one of the sources for Eva Eckert’s Stones on the Prairie: Acculturation in America (2). Also included were other essays which are related to the study of Czech-Moravian heritage in Texas: Rev. Alois J. Morkovsky, “The Church and the Czechs in Texas,” and Richard Michalek, “The Ambivalence of Ethnoreligion.” Another symposium relevant to the preservation of Czech-Moravian culture in Texas was entitled “Czech Music in Texas: A Sesquicentennial Symposium” (1986) and once again there was a published collection of papers, including one by Josef Škvorecký (3).