THC Awards Leaders in Historic Preservation

AUSTIN, Texas– The Texas Historical Commission’s (THC) recent Real Places 2020 conference brought together hundreds of individuals and organizations dedicated to protecting and preserving Texas’ historic places and the stories they tell. During the conference, the agency honored nine worthy recipients for accomplishments and exemplary leadership in the preservation of Texas’ heritage.

The Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation was presented to the Apollo Mission Control Center Restoration Team from Houston. The Historical Preservation Officer at Johnson Space Center, Sandra Tetley, spearheaded a fundraiser that raised over $5 million for the restoration. The re-opening of the Apollo Mission Control Center garnered international media coverage and high praise as one of Texas’ most important historical places was restored to its former glory. 

The Ruth Lester Lifetime Achievement Award went to Betty Bueche, Director of Bexar Heritage & Parks Department. Betty was the first female Park Superintendent with Texas Parks and Wildlife, founding director of Los Compadres, and thrived in private practice before joining Bexar County, where she has directed the largest facility construction and renovation program in the county’s history.

Kate Johnson of Hays County Historical Commission received the John Ben Shepperd County Historical Commission Leadership Award for her extensive work with Hays County. Kate has spearheaded major projects for the county, including restoration of the Kyle Railroad Depot and Heritage Center, the 1884 Hays County Jail, the Katherine Ann Porter Literacy Center, and more.

Sylvia Navarro Tillotson received the George Christian Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award for her dedication to preserving Jose Navarro’s legacy. As the great, great, great granddaughter of Jose Navarro, she has been at the root of many accomplishments and expanded many educational programs, including advocating support for Casa Navarro as a National Historic Landmark.

The John L. Nau, III Award for Excellence in Museums was presented to Charles Hagood of Kimble County Historical Museum. The museum was created to save the former Kimble County Hospital from demolition, and it engaged the local community and managed to complete a renovation of the building’s interior, finish the museum space, and construct a new roof. It also features a well-told gallery explaining the county’s history, as well as a dedicated research space.

 Alvin Lynn received the Curtis D. Tunnell Lifetime Achievement Award in Archeology. Alvin has been protecting Texas history throughout his entire life, and after he retired from teaching in Dumas, Texas in 1994, he committed his personal time to research and volunteering for the local county and regional museums in the Panhandle.

The Anice B. Read Award of Excellence in Community Heritage Development was presented to San Antonio Missions World Heritage Designation Partners. The San Antonio Missions is the only site in Texas with a World Heritage Site designation, and it required a nine-years and a lot of team work to establish the prestigious title.

The Award of Excellence in Preserving History went to the University of North Texas Libraries for their collection titled “Texas Borderlands Newspaper Collection.” The collection spans from 1859 to 1997 and represents nearly 83,000 pages of historic newspapers, detailing lives of the pioneers who settled in rural areas along the Texas border. Collections are imperative for us and future generations to understand where we came from.

The Award of Excellence in Media Achievement was presented to Patricia K. Benoit, for her many accomplishments as a reporter. As a weekly columnist for the Killeen Daily Herald and the Temple Daily Telegram, Patricia highlighted diverse topics, ranging from traveling museum exhibits to the connection between Bell County history and national events.

The 2020 Texas Courthouse Stewardship Award—designed to recognize counties that have established good stewardship practice to maintain their courthouses in restored condition—was presented to Grimes County for their collaboration while the courthouse recovered from the damage left by Hurricane Harvey.

The THC’s Real Places 2020 was presented by the Friends of the THC and title sponsor Phoenix 1 Restoration and Construction, along with many other sponsors and partners. Featured speakers included chef and food writer, Adan Medrano; American Alliance of Museums’ Elizabeth Merrit; architect and preservation enthusiast, Vincent Michael; culinary historian and James Beard Award-Winning Author, Michael W. Twitty; writer and former PBS show host, Bob Yapp; and the writer of the “Big Wonderful Thing,” Stephen Harrigan.

For photos of the award winners, go to