Author Debra Winegarten of Austin will be in Killeen on Saturday to present her book, “Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, Philanthropist.”
Sponsored by the Killeen Area Heritage Association, the event will begin at 9:30 a.m. at KAHA’s headquarters, the historic Bethel Primitive Baptist Church building, 400 S. Gray St.
Socializing, with refreshments, will precede Winegarten’s program, which will include a slide show and talk about her eight-year project to research and write the book, published by UT Press and billed as “the first biography of this important woman.”
In late September, the book won Winegarten a gold medal award for biography from the Military Writers Society of America.
Local institutions named for the Killeen native include Oveta Culp Hobby Elementary School and the Oveta Culp Hobby Soldier & Family Readiness Center, both at Fort Hood, and the Oveta Culp Hobby Memorial Library at Central Texas College.
A Texas Historical Commission marker at Killeen’s City Hall recalls her service as the woman who organized and directed the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women’s Army Corps) after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the United States had declared war on that nation.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed her as the first secretary of the Health, Education and Welfare Department (later the Department of Health and Human Services) in 1953.
Hobby, born in 1905, was one of seven children and the second daughter born to lawyer Ike W. Culp and Emma Elizabeth Hoover Culp.
The house where she was born is now located at the intersection of Young and Eighth streets.
A precocious young woman, she often accompanied her father to Austin after he was elected to the House of Representatives of the Texas Legislature.
Having closely observed workings of that body, she was appointed acting parliamentarian before reaching the age of 21 and eventually served in the position for four regular sessions and 11 special sessions under four different Speakers of the House.
While in Austin and during periods working for the Houston Post-Dispatch, she became re-acquainted with the newspaper’s president, former two-term governor and her father’s old friend, William Pettus Hobby. Hobby’s wife had died of a stroke in 1928, and in 1931, the 53-year-old widower and 26-year-old Oveta Culp were married in Temple. In 1932, she gave birth to future Lt. Gov. William “Bill” Pettus Hobby Jr., and in 1937, daughter Jessica was born.
The book, although classified as “juvenile nonfiction” or “written for middle school readers,” includes a wealth of little-known details about the “Little Colonel,” as diminutive Oveta Culp Hobby, first woman to achieve that rank, was nicknamed.
Winegarten’s lengthy research resulted in a seven-page “selected bibliography” plus a helpful glossary to assist young folks of any age who want to know this woman who grew up in a Killeen of some 1,200 residents and achieved international acclaim for her multiple accomplishments — business, military, political.
Fore more information about KAHA’s presentation, call 254-634-7750, 254-699-8289 or 254-699-5916.