GILMER — Baylor University President Ken Starr, the one-time independent counsel whose investigation led to the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton, stressed the importance of serving others in an address to the 74th annual East Texas Yamboree luncheon here Thursday.
An estimated 325 to 350 people attended the “All-Service Club Luncheon” at the Gilmer High School gymnasium, luncheon chairwoman Mari Jo Holloway said. It was held on the second day of the Yamboree festival’s four-day run.
Quoting the late Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give,” Starr told the gathering that “We need to encourage ... giving back to the community.”
“By Churchill’s standards, you’ve got a lot to be thankful for” in Upshur County, the speaker asserted, saying, “I love the spirit of the (Yamboree) celebration.”
Saying LeTourneau “has left us this legacy of servant leadership,” Starr recounted how the businessman built “an empire and his name became synonymous with moving the earth.” However, after his son died, LeTourneau realized he had been working hard, but “working hard for the wrong things,” Starr said.
So LeTourneau became a giver who donated “90 percent of his income to philanthropic causes and to the church” while building the Longview university that is “a monument to that spirit of service,” Starr declared.
Starr also alluded to a decades-old Bill Withers song, Lean on Me. As Texas wrestles with economic uncertainty, drought and wildfires, the speaker told the assemblage, “You show that the spirit lifted up in 1972—‘Lean on Me’— endures.”
He also noted that the Yamboree’s founding in 1935 during The Great Depression spoke of “the human spirit” inasmuch as those organizing it had determined “we’re gonna have a celebration even though there’s a depression underway.” Starr termed the festival, which honors the yam that was once a major Upshur County crop, “an annual celebration of God’s bounty of the harvest.”
Before Starr spoke, Upshur County schoolchildren who won the Yamboree’s essay and poetry contests were recognized by retired longtime educator W.E. (Bill) Taylor, former band director of Gilmer and Harmony high schools.
Winners in Division A (grades 4-5) were Brianna Burns of Union Hill in the essay contest and Emily Williamson of New Diana in the poetry division.
Division B (grades 6-8) winners were Cyleigh Parker of Harmony, essay; and Katy Brooks of Ore City, poetry.
Winning Division C (grades 9-12) were Alyssa Arrington of Gilmer, essay; and Brittanie Coppedge of New Diana, poetry.
Also recognized was Shelby Laastad of Harmony High School, who won a contest to design a T-shirt for the Yamboree-related “Tater Trot” contest.
The Yamboree continues today with an 11 a.m. school/youth parade on and near the downtown square. Some of today’s other events include an 8:30 p.m. street dance downtown and a 4 p.m. gospel music concert at the Gilmer Civic Center.
Harmony High School senior Drew Danielle Henson-Hill was crowned “Queen Yam” of the festival in two performances of the annual coronation Wednesday night and Thursday evening.
Saturday’s highlights include the 11 a.m. Queen’s Parade, a 1 p.m. school band marching fiesta contest at Buckeye Stadium, and the 8 p.m. Barn Dance at the Trinity Street Gym, among numerous other events.