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Sheriff to read historic letter during ceremony at Alamo

Profile image for By Megan Gray / Staff Writer
By Megan Gray / Staff Writer

Texas history buffs know of the “Victory or Death” letter. The letter, written in 1836 by William Barrett Travis, who was pleading for help during the battle at the Alamo, will be publicly read for the first time by one of his distant relatives, Denton County Sheriff Will Travis, during a ceremony later this month.

Travis is a fifth-generation great-nephew of the commander of the Texian rebels.

“It is my honor to represent my family, but more than that, I am extremely honored and humbled to represent Denton County at this historic event that brought us our statehood,” Travis said upon receiving a letter requesting his presence at the Alamo.

Jerry Patterson, commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, sent the Denton County resident a request earlier this month to read what some describe as the letter “defining true patriotism,” after learning of his connection to the late commander.

This will be the first time it has been at the Alamo since it left with a courier on horseback under the cover of darkness during the famous 13-day siege in 1836, according to the land office.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be inspired by this patriotic letter at the Shrine of Texas Liberty itself,” Patterson wrote in an e-mail.

The event, which will display the letter for the first time in 177 years, will take place at 4 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Alamo in San Antonio.

Travis, who just celebrated his 50th birthday, will be attending with his girlfriend and older brother, John.

Travis said since he wasn’t a direct descendent, but rather a fifth-generation nephew, he wasn’t aware of his family connection to the commander until 1985.

An honor guard will carry the letter inside, where it will be placed inside a custom-built, shatterproof glass display, allowing visitors to see both sides of the fragile document.

As a prelude to the viewing of the letter, visitors can tour an exhibit detailing Commander Travis’ life and the Texas Revolution through historic documents and artifacts from the vaults of the Texas General Land Office and the Alamo, according to a news release issued by the Texas General Land Office.

In connection with the celebrations, a Facebook photo contest sponsored by the Texas General Land Office Save Texas History program was recently opened.

Entrants will submit original photography that captures the essence of the “Travis Letter” by illustrating the meaning of courage, duty, loyalty and valor. Photographs must be in digital format and include a caption. Deadline is midnight Feb. 21. One grand-prize winner will receive travel and accommodations donated by Southwest Airlines and the Emily Morgan by Doubletree Hilton.

For more information, visit the “Travis Letter Facebook Page” on Facebook or

The exhibit will run from Feb. 23 through March 7.

In Texas, many of the volunteers stirred by Travis’ letter formed the core of the army Sam Houston led to victory over Santa Anna on April 21, 1836. With his defeat, the Republic of Texas was born, the Texas General Land Office stated.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is