The Texas tradition of providing her senior veterans a place of comfort and peace in return for their service dates back to 1886, when the Texas Confederate Home was established along the 1600 block of West Sixth Street in Austin. Public donations bought the 26 acres and paid for the operations until 1891, when the state took over.
James Monroe Cole
By 1929, according to The Handbook of Texas, 312 Confederate War veterans remained at the home. In 1943, there were only six. And in 1954, 108-year-old Thomas Riddle, the last veteran, died at the home.
From 1954 to 1963, veterans from the Spanish-American War and World War I, as well as their spouses, were well-cared for at the Texas Confederate Home. But in 1963, the remaining residents were transferred to the Kerrville State Hospital and the Texas Confederate Home closed its doors forever.
For the next three decades, Texas didn't provide any long-term care alternatives to her veterans.
By the 1990s, Texas' lack of a veterans home had become an embarrassment. The state woefully lagged behind others participating in the Department of Veterans Affairs State Veterans Home program. This program grants up to 65 percent of the construction costs to states that agree to build and operate skilled nursing homes for veterans.
Veterans took the issue to Austin. Former Travis County Veterans Service Officer Bill McLemore was the vice president of the Coalition of Statewide Veterans Organizations at the time. Texas veterans knew Texas Land Commissioner Garry Mauro and state Senator Jerry Patterson would be key to building veterans homes in Texas.
As Land Commissioner, Mauro was chairman of the Texas Veterans Land Board, which had the financial clout and wherewithal to both build and operate the homes. Patterson, a retired Marine and longtime veterans advocate, had just been appointed by lieutenant governor Bob Bullock as the first chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Military Installation committee.
Patterson was also the great-grandson of Confederate veteran James Monroe Cole, a resident of the original Confederate Veterans Home in Austin. Cole, who served in the Company K of Buford's Brigade in the Tennessee Army, moved to Texas and settled down in Nacogdoches to farm and raise a family. In 1919, the 76-year-old Cole was admitted to the Texas Confederate Home, where he died a year later of old age.
In 1997, the 75th Texas Legislature was focused on education spending. Lieutenant Governor Bullock had decreed that no bill with a fiscal note would pass. Because Patterson's Senate Bill 1060 carried a small fiscal note due to initial construction costs, the bill stalled. Collin County representative David Counts carried the companion legislation in the House.
|In 1997, Senator Patterson discusses S.B. 1060 with Senator Rodney Ellis in front of photo of old Confederate Veterans Home|
With state support secured, the VA approved funding to build an unprecedented four veterans homes in Texas, an unprecedented building boom for any state's veterans homes program. This in part due to Jim Nier, then-commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who convinced VA secretary Jesse Brown that Texas wanted four.
Mauro asked David Gloier, executive secretary for the Veterans Land Board, to lead the way. Gloier became the architect for the program and took on the task and all its challenges with enthusiasm.
Following an intensive, statewide search process for host communities, construction on the first two veterans homes began in late 1998. The homes in Temple and Floresville began admissions in December 2000. The homes in Big Spring and Bonham began accepting residents in March and June, 2001, respectively. McAllen opened in July 2005 and El Paso opened in August 2005. The VLB's seventh facility, Amarillo, opened in May 2007. Texas' eighth new state of the art home in Tyler was dedicated in November 2011 and opened in early 2012.