EDITORIAL: Reminder: Why we’re proud of Port Arthur

Published 12:07 am Saturday, June 22, 2019

Ragan Gennusa’s induction into the Museum of the Gulf Coast Hall of Fame for Notable People this week was about more than honoring one artist, deserving though he is.

Gennusa’s Western wildlife art was gorgeous and on full display at the museum Thursday night, where he took his place among other Gulf Coast people — principally from Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana — who’ve made a lasting mark on our area and beyond.

He’s a rare combination of athletic talent — a football starter for legendary coaches Clarence “Buckshot” Underwood at Thomas Jefferson High and later Darrell Royal at Texas — and artistic brilliance. He referred to himself as a “dummy” as an underclassman — but “a good one” — during Texas Longhorn practices, but he was no dummy with a brush in his hand. We’ve seen proof.

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Better yet for the 120 family, friends, former teammates and admirers, Gennusa was engaging, unassuming and typically fun. It was a joyous occasion.

That’s why museum inductions are treasured moments in Port Arthur. They provide opportunities to honor individual achievement but also to celebrate how the wellspring of talent in Port Arthur and environs lifts up the world.

Gennusa, a former Texas State Artist whose work is collected and shown around the U.S., fits comfortably with the host of other notables he has joined. The weeks and days leading up to his induction were hectic, as he chose and prepared work to show in the gallery. Even the moments leading up to the ceremony were action-packed, as he greeted those who joined the celebration.

It was when he sat down on the front row, in the still of the ceremony’s introductory moments, that the full weight of the honor pressed on him.

“It really doesn’t hit you, until you sit down,” he said. “It was incredibly impressive.”

That was when Gennusa joined “notables” like Staff Sgt. Lucien Adams, who won the Medal of Honor; Jack Brooks, for 42 years our congressman; Maj. Gen. Harold E. “Tom” Collins, the first American to fly a Soviet MiG; Evelyn Keyes, the actress who played Scarlett O’Hara’s sister in “Gone with the Wind”; abstract impressionist Robert Rauschenberg, internationally acclaimed artist.

Enshrined in the museum, Gennusa joined others like Janis Joplin and Clifton Chenier, George Jones and Tex Ritter, “Bum” Phillips and Babe Didrikson Zaharias.

All of them walked our streets, breathed our air and lived our lives in some fashion. They dreamed big and stayed on task enough to make a permanent impression on us, either at home or in the wider world. They showed us their talent and courage, inspired us with their work, and provided eternal testimony that calling Port Arthur and the Gulf Coast home holds its own, inherent value.

It’s incredibly impressive.