On this day in 1864, a skirmish between Confederate and Union forces was fought at Las Rusias, a colonia located one mile north of the Rio Grande in southwest Cameron County. Confederate officer Refugio Benavides of Laredo led a company and joined John Salmon (Rip) Ford to overrun Union forces. Ford, a colonel of the Second Texas Cavalry who engaged in border operations protecting Confederate-Mexican trade, praised Benavides for his gallant conduct during the battle. Las Rusias had also been the site of a skirmish on April 25, 1846, when Mexican troops ambushed an American patrol; the shedding of “American blood upon American soil” sparked the Mexican War.
On this day in 1999, the San Antonio Spurs captured their first National Basketball Association championship by winning game five of the NBA finals against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden. Led by the “Twin Towers” of center David Robinson and forward Tim Duncan, the Spurs became the first of the former ABA (American Basketball Association) teams to win an NBA title. Duncan was named the most valuable player of the series. The Spurs had racked up a 37-13 record in the 1998-99 regular season, which was shortened due to a labor dispute. The city of San Antonio honored the team with a parade on the San Antonio River and ensuing rally at the Alamodome. In 2003 the Spurs battled the New Jersey Nets, another former ABA team, and clinched their second world championship in San Antonio at the team’s new facility, the SBC Center. Once again Duncan was named MVP.
On this day in 1961, Ma Ferguson, the first woman governor of Texas, died of heart failure. Miriam Amanda Ferguson was born in Bell County in 1875. She married James Edward Ferguson in 1899 and served as first lady of Texas while he was governor from 1915 to 1917. After his impeachment, Miriam entered the race for the Texas governorship. She won an August run-off and the November general election, thus becoming the second woman governor in United States history. Political strife and controversy characterized her first administration. Mrs. Ferguson pardoned an average of 100 convicts a month, and she and "Pa" were accused of accepting bribes. Controversy helped Dan Moody defeat her in 1926. Ma ran again unsuccessfully in 1930, and in 1932 she narrowly won the Democratic nomination, then defeated the Republican nominee. Her second term as governor was much less controversial than her first; nonetheless, the Fergusons temporarily retired from politics in 1934. Ma Ferguson did declare for governor once again in 1940, alleging that she could not resist a "popular draft" for the nomination, but failed to unseat incumbent W. Lee O'Daniel. After her husband's death in 1944, Miriam Ferguson retired to private life in Austin.
On this day in 1876, George Armstrong Custer and some 265 men of the Seventh U.S. Cavalry were annihilated on the Little Big Horn River. Custer had a Texas history. After an outstanding career in the Union Army during the Civil War, he had been assigned to duty in Texas as part of Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's effort to prevent Confederate retrenchment in Mexico under the emperor Maximilian. During five months in Hempstead and Austin, he alienated many in his command by strict enforcement of regulations prohibiting foraging and other army predations, while winning the gratitude of many Texans. On the other hand, he also recommended that the army retain control of Texas until the government was "satisfied that a loyal sentiment prevails in at least a majority of the inhabitants." Custer's wife, Elizabeth (Bacon), included in her memoir Tenting on the Plains (1887) a charming account of their stay in Texas. Custer's headquarters building in Austin, the Blind Asylum, located on the "Little Campus" of the University of Texas, has been restored.