Staff Reports

The Honorable Lyndon L. Olson Jr., former U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Sweden and current chairman of the Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, will be the speaker at the annual fall meeting of the T. Whitfield Davidson Foundation on Sept. 21.

The meeting will take place at 11 a.m. at the Josephine Davidson Memorial Chapel in the pine clad woods near Harleton, a part of one of the most unique events in Harrison County.

Following Olson’s appearance, all those in attendance are invited to remain and enjoy a complimentary catered lunch on the chapel grounds.

About Olson

A Waco native, Olson was appointed by President William J. Clinton as U.S. Ambassador from 1997 to 2001. King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden presented Olson with the Swedish-American of the Year Award in 2002.

Following his return to the U.S., Olson served as a senior advisor to the chairman of Citigroup in New York.

Prior to his appointment as ambassador, he was Chairman and CEO of Travelers Insurance Holdings in New York City. Preceding that time, he served as president of the National Group Corp. and as CEO of its National Group Insurance Companies.

In addition, Olson served as chairman and as a member of the Texas State Board of Insurance (1979-1987) and was president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners from 1982-1983.

A former member of the Texas House of Representatives (1973-1979), Olson has demonstrated a long commitment to a host of civic, political, cultural and philanthropic organizations throughout the state of Texas and the nation.

He is a man whose speaking and leadership skills will be both inviting and compelling.

About the Chapel

On a country road between Harleton and Gilmer, the Josephine Davidson Memorial Chapel was constructed to honor the mother of one of Harrison County’s most outstanding jurists and political figures.

Self-educated, Judge T. Whitfield Davidson “read law” then passed the Texas Bar Exam, served as city attorney in Marshall, and was a state senator and lieutenant governor in Texas.

Davidson ran for governor of Texas in 1924 on a platform attacking the Ku Klux Klan, which was then attempting to take over many state offices.

Though he failed to win the governor’s seat, he was appointed a Federal District Judge by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and continued his battle against vigilante justice until he was in his 90s.

Childless, in 1955 Davidson decided to use his wealth to honor his mother by building a stone chapel in her name on the farm where he was born. He intended it to last forever, he said, and was buried there in 1974, two years shy of his 100th birthday.

When he established the Davidson Foundation, he gave its trustees two tasks — to maintain the chapel and to host two public gatherings each year.

One gathering was to be in the fall (third Saturday in September), where someone “learned in the Constitution and laws of the land” would speak. The other, in the spring (third Saturday in May), was to be a celebration of “the faith of our fathers.”

Reflecting, perhaps, on his own memories of arduous trips to town from the country, Davidson made sure the guests at each gathering would be fed before they left the grounds.


To reach the chapel from Marshall, travel north on Texas 154 to Harleton, turn onto Farm-to-Market Road 450 North and follow it northward (toward Ore City) until it meets the Davidson Road (a TXDOT sign marks the turn), then turn left from FM 450 onto Davidson Road and follow it until it intersects the entrance to the chapel property, which is marked with a sign for the entrance.

From Gilmer, take Texas 154 south to Harleton and follow the same directions. From Longview, take Alpine Road (FM 2208) to Harleton and then follow the same instructions.

The Foundation’s trustees invite the public to enjoy this unique East Texas tradition in one of our area’s most picturesque settings.