The Rest of the Best: The 10 Most Awesome People Buried in Houston
4. Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins (1912 - 1982)
Buried: Forest Park Cemetery
Hopkins grew up surrounded by the blues, and thanks to a chance meeting at a church picnic with Blind Lemon Jefferson he managed to become a legendary bluesman whose like isn't seen in the world anymore. Based in the Third Ward, he caught the attention of Aladdin Records, and went to Los Angeles to record the first of what some estimate to be as many as 1,000 original songs. He still holds the record for more blues albums recorded than any other musician in the history of the genre, and is arguably the most influential popular guitarist of all time. Yet he never really wanted to be anywhere other than at home in Houston, and that's where he lays to this day.
3. Jack Yates (1828 -
Antioch Missionary Baptist Church 1997 1897)
Buried: College Park Cemetery
John Henry Yates was born a slave in 1828, but fate dealt him a better hand when his mother was tasked with caring for the children of their recently diseased mistress, who subsequently taught Jack to read and write despite the illegality of such an action. He would go out in the dead of night and read his Bible by the light of a burning pine knot. After emancipation, Yates brought his family to Houston where he was ordained as a Baptist preacher and began a tireless quest to minister to the souls of Houston's African-Americans as well as ensuring their educations. Organizations founded by him exist to this day, and in 1991 Queen Elizabeth II visited the church he built and served as first pastor of, Antioch Missionary Baptist.
2. Paul Neal "Red" Adair (1915 - 2004)
Buried: Forest Park Cemetery
When it comes to measuring badassedness, having John Wayne play a character inspired by you is almost impossible to beat. Adair was a legend in the field of fighting fires that no one else could fight. Oil wells and natural gas wells were his specialty, and he traveled all over the world like a flameproof gunslinger, even battling the oil field fires in Kuwait set by the retreating Iraqi army in the First Gulf War. His role in extinguishing a brutal blaze in the Sahara in 1962 (Nicknamed "The Devil's Cigarette Lighter) was the basis of the film Hellfighters, starring John Wayne as Adair stand-in Chance Buckman. Adair served as a consultant on the movie.
1. Sarah Emma Edmonds (1841 - 1898)
Sarah Edmonds as "Franklin Thompson"
Buried: Washington Cemetery
You will not find bigger balls than the ones Sarah Edmonds pretended to have in the Civil War. Inspired by Fanny Campbell, the Female Pirate Captain, Edmonds figured the best way for a woman to get into adventure in the 19th century was to pretend to be a boy as a her literary hero did. She was right. Enlisting as "Franklin Flint Thompson" she served as a male field nurse in the 2nd Michigan Infantry without ever blowing her cover, and was lauded by her fellow soldiers for her dedication and bravery in battle.
When Confederate forces in Richmond discovered a Union spy and executed him, along with killing her friend James Vessey in an ambush, Edmonds got metal and decided to aim for the spy post herself. She ended up sneaking into enemy territory after using silver nitrate to disguise herself as a black man (Because her life wasn't improbable enough as it was) and even as an Irish peddler woman just for the sheer ironic hell of it. Her work netted tons of helpful intelligence until she quit service in the wake of malaria.
Ha ha, no. After she got better she re-enlisted again as a nurse under her real name working at a Washington D.C. hospital. Then she retired again, wrote a bestselling book about her life that is still in print today, moved to La Porte, and became the only woman to successfully win a pension from the U.S. government for battle services rendered in the conflict. Truly, the most badass person buried in Houston so far.