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Sam Houston State University Archives Collection - The Big Thicket

Sam Houston State University

Sound | 1970s

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  •  The disappearing heritage of Southeast Texas 
  •  Part One: The Forests 
  •  Dogs in the bogs 
  •  “Anything will move if kicked in the face.” 
  •  Part Two: The Flowers 
  •  Varied species of fungi 
  •  Part Three: The Water 
  •  Part Four: Civilization? 
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This educational film produced by the Sam Houston State University Departments of Biology and Drama follows botanist and professor Claude McLeod as he describes the flora and fauna of the Big Thicket in Southeast Texas. Hosting 10 distinct ecosystems, the area boasts some of the richest biodiversity in North America.
Described as one of the most biodiverse areas in the world outside of the tropics, the Big Thicket is a heavily forested area occupying much of Hardin, Liberty, Tyler, San Jacinto, and Polk Counties in Southeast Texas. The region fosters a wide variety of vegetation and wildlife, including at least eight different kinds of plant communities and around 350 species of birds.
Until the 1880s, the economic history of the thicket primarily consisted of subsistence farms, with inhabitants running hogs and cattle and hunting small game. In the 1880s, however, the lumber industry began opening up more land for farming and grazing. And in 1901, the Sour Lake oil field ushered in a period of frantic activity. 
By the 1920s, concern began to rise regarding the natural devastation of the lumber and oil industries. And in 1927, R.E. Jackson formed the East Texas Big Thicket Association to initiate formal efforts at saving the area. While the organization gained support during the 1930s, the need for timber during World War II caused the movement to fall into neglect. Conservation efforts resurfaced during the early 1960s with the establishment of the Big Thicket Association. Led by Lance Rosier and Dempsie Henley, the organization pushed to give Big Thicket national-park status. In 1974, Congress passed such a bill, written by Charles Wilson and Bob Eckhardt, establishing an 84,550-acre Big Thicket National Preserve. In 1981, the area was also designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
Sam Houston Normal Institute or School was created by an act of the Texas Legislature in 1879 "to elevate the standard of education throughout the State, by giving thorough instruction and special training to our present and future teachers". It became the first Normal Institute west of the Mississippi River and began shaping education in Texas for generations.
Sam Houston Normal College became a member of the American Association of Teachers Colleges in 1922. In 1923 the curriculum to prepare teachers for elementary schools was expanded to prepare teachers at all levels in the public schools and Sam Houston Normal Institute became Sam Houston State Teachers College. In 1938 the Sam Houston Catalog was altered to reflect a broader horizon and an expanding concept of its educational mission. Courses contributing to the preparation of those students who wished to enter the professions such as dentistry, medicine and law were offered as pre-professional courses. In 1965 the word "Teachers" was dropped from the name of the institution and in 1969 the institution became Sam Houston State University.
The College of Education at SHSU strives to elevate the standard of education throughout the State and the Nation achieving national accreditation as an NCATE accredited institution since 1954.
For more than 130 years, Sam Houston State University has been preparing students for meaningful lives of achievement. Its motto, "The measure of a Life is its Service," echoes across SHSU's six colleges and beyond campus through student research, creative endeavors, service learning, volunteering and more.
From the university's website.