by James Surls
From the Cabinet Oak Tree on the grounds of the LBJ Ranch
Given to The Friends of Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park by James Surls for The Cabinet Oak Project
Mr. Surls has deep respect for the legacy of Lyndon B. Johnson and for the meaning of the Cabinet Oak to LBJ personally and to his legacy. He shared his thoughts with us on the day we took delivery of History Walk and we're sharing this rough but remarkable video with you.
Mr. Surls has written the following personal reflection on the meaning of trees – to him, to us, and to this moment.
For the LBJ and Lady Bird Home Place
When I was a little boy growing up in and around the Texas woodlands, I breathed deep the nature of my surroundings, from green grass, creek beds and well water, I moved through underbrush and trees growing from seedlings to saplings then going on to be the canopy spreading out above me. But throughout all of the categories and ways of grouping trees, none stand alone like the "Shade Tree", that big full and voluptuous beauty giving its relief from the radiant heat of the Texas Sun. These trees took on a mythical position in the minds of the inhabitants that traversed their ground. They stood in glory, through it all, the blistering heat, the freezing cold, yet offering years of comforting shade to the reality of deep conversations going on under their winged limbs, so it was put in the hands of those who "History Walked" their way beneath and under and gathered and engaged in dialog that was to change the world. I am not a little boy any more, but rather someone who has lived through the times under the shade tree, I know and understand the reverence bestowed upon and held by the long arms of the big oak in the front yard of the place where life was lived. The shade tree was as much a part of the gravitational force as was the living room, the kitchen and the porch. For me to be able to step into that as a historical reality brings honor to my stock and trade, to have the remnants and remains of a limb from such a tree brings me to a point of psychological and historical responsibility, to honor times past as well as to give rise to the Now of our time. To hold such a piece of wood in my hand and then form it into a symbol with and of meaning and content, then returning its own to the world at large, is a true honor.
- James Surls -
The Friends of LBJ National Historical Park is seeking a donor to acquire History Walk
Mr. Surls has donated History Walk to the Friends. Proceeds from the sale of this historic work will be used to assist in restoration of the Texas White House and to create an Artist-in-Residence Program at the park.
It is the wish of Mr. Surls that the donor who acquires History Walk will in turn loan it to the National Park Service for public exhibition at the LBJ National Historical Park. Grateful recognition will be provided to the donor within the exhibit.