DALLAS – The Battle for control of the Alamo rages again. It doesn't look like another Texas Revolution is coming, but we can’t rule out a
small-scale civil war.
The latest battle lines were drawn last year, when the Texas Legislature gave control of the state-owned landmark to the Texas General Land Office. That effectively dethroned the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, who had managed the Alamo since 1905.
But the fighting didn’t erupt until this year, when land office bosses decided to allow private parties where alcohol is served after hours at Alamo Hall.
The Daughters, the Sons and even some veterans groups were up in arms about the possible desecration of the hallowed land.
On Friday, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson was forced to call a press conference at the Alamo itself to clarify the “misinformation’’
about the new policy.
“Bizarre, off-the-wall statements” and emails forced him to call the news conference, where he also shot down a rumor about “a beer machine in the chapel,” according to the San Antonio Express News.
A Hearst owned newspaper, the Express News editorial board has publicly sided with Patterson in the hometown dispute.
“The occasional consumption of alcoholic beverages at private events held in Alamo Hall is not going to undermine the sacredness of the Alamo,’’ the paper said in an editorial Tuesday. “No one is planning to turn the Alamo into the next set of ‘The Hangover’ movie franchise.’’
Up here in North Texas, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram chimed in on the brewing statewide controversy.
“Patterson's decision to allow groups renting Alamo Hall to furnish adult beverages is a pragmatic decision. It will likely expand the universe of customers interested in hosting an event…And those rental fees go right back into the maintenance and operation of the Alamo.’’
Editorial writers also noted that “the Daughters haven't always been the best stewards of the beloved Texas landmark, which is what prompted the 2011 Texas Legislature to place operations under the direction of the GLO.’’
Earlier this year, Patterson, who is a former Marine, issued a statement lamenting that the Alamo was “under siege’’ when his office took over. He compared the Alamo to Pearl Harbor and Gettysburg, “places where men died for a cause larger than themselves.’’
“Instead, a now former Alamo PR person recently allowed the Alamo to be used as a backdrop for a national TV cooking competition in which Pee Wee Herman remarked that he would always associate The Alamo with "chicken," Patterson said, according to the statement on the Land Office website. “This is unacceptable.’’
The new policy is set to take effect by July 31.
Land Office officials stress that the new rules apply only to Alamo Hall, which is at the rear of the 4.2 acre Alamo complex. More importantly to some, it is outside the footprint of the 1836 Alamo compound where the famous battle claimed lives.
That doesn’t ease the minds of those who say it’s an affront. But defenders of Patterson’s policy speculate that even Alamo BFFs David Crockett and Jim Bowie may have partaken of liquor when Mexican General Santa Anna and his troops burst into the fortress with a cannon.
That fateful showdown is what draws 2.5 million visitors to the Alamo each year. And the current temperance kerfuffle is good theater, thrown in at no extra charge.
Lori Stahl covers politics and culture in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LoriStahl.