AUSTIN, TEXAS — In honor of Black History Month, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Buffalo Soldiers program celebrated its 25th anniversary with a founder’s event and exhibit unveiling today at the TPWD headquarters building in Austin.
Speakers at the event included Senator Royce West, Buffalo Soldiers program founders Kenneth Pollard and Tad Gose, and TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith. Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner Oliver Bell and former TPW Commissioner Bill Jones were also in attendance.
“The Buffalo Soldiers program has been a part of TPWD and Texas State Parks for 25 years and celebrating this monumental anniversary is a great way to kick off Black History Month,” said Rodney Franklin, Director of Texas State Parks. “Texas heritage includes all of us. Sharing the story of African American heroes and heritage through a rich military history is a source of pride for all Texans, and TPWD is honored to celebrate the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers during today’s event.”
The new plaque and exhibit unveiled today honors the founders of the Buffalo Soldiers program with a display of items used during some of the first outreach events at schools and communities. The exhibit will be on display and open to the public at the TPWD headquarters building in Austin for a year before moving to the Buffalo Soldier Museum in Houston.
“The unveiling of the Founders Memorial plaque is a significant moment for the Buffalo Soldiers program,” said Franklin. “It pays tribute to the hard-working staff and volunteers that dedicated countless hours, weeks and years bringing part of Texas History and African American history to life. It will forever serve as an homage to the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers program and its founders.”
The Buffalo Soldiers were the first free unit of professional African American soldiers in the U.S. military who served on the western frontier from 1866 to 1948 building roads, telegraphs and forts. Today, the TPWD Buffalo Soldiers program educates school students and park visitors about the original soldiers and encourages outdoor skills and recreation.
With almost 15 years with TPWD, Pollard has established partnerships with numerous history organizations and Buffalo Soldier groups continuing their support of the program today. He’s also spearheaded major victories for the program, such as working with state legislators to establish July as the official Buffalo Soldier’s Month in Texas.
Gose began his almost 35-year career with TPWD at Lake Arrowhead State Park in 1978. Considered one of the founders of the Buffalo Soldier program, his largest event at the park drew more than 4,000 visitors. One of his most challenging assignments during his tenure was as a staff member on the Huff Wagon train journey. Along with more than 100 Texas youth, Gose and others rode hundreds of miles from El Paso to Houston on horse drawn wagons to bring the stories of the early frontier to life.
For more information about the Buffalo Soldiers program, visit the TPWD website.