City announces three newest Half Mile of History of markers
Keating Zeppa remembered his father, Joe Zeppa on Thursday, as "a tough, practical businessman who believed in hard work."
Zeppa, 80, talked about his dad, who founded Delta Drilling Company in 1937 in Tyler as he unveiled his father's Half Mile of History marker at the Gallery Main Street.
Joe was born as Giuseppe Zeppa in 1893 on a farm in Northern Italy. Joe Zeppa came to the United States when he was 12 in 1906 and had to drop out of school in the eighth grade. He eventually made his way to East Texas and started his drilling company.
"He was Delta Drilling Company for 44 years and was my father for 42 years," Zeppa told attendees who came to witness the unveiling. Joe Zeppa died in 1975 at his farm outside of Tyler.
"He was happiest when he was able to help someone else -- his many generous acts went unrecognized," the younger Zeppa said.
Sherry Kidd of the Smith County Historical Society told attendees that Joe Zeppa had purchased the four clocks from the 1909 Smith County courthouse before it was demolished, along with the statue from the top of the courthouse dome and some railings from one of the judge's chambers.
"He donated all of that to the Smith County Historical Society," Ms. Kidd said, adding there are plans to install those antique clocks in the soon-to-be built downtown city parking garage.
Joe Zeppa was one of three prominent Tyler historical figures to be honored. The other two were Mattie Jones, a pioneer Tyler teacher and civic worker, and Sarah Newcomb McClendon, a longtime White House reporter who covered presidential politics for 50 years.
Anne Jones was the niece of Ms. McClendon and came to unveil her aunt's marker. Her father, Frank McClendon, was closest in age to her Aunt Sarah, Ms. Jones said. Even though Ms. McClendon, who once wrote for the Tyler Morning Telegraph, covered Washington political news, "It was like she never left Tyler," Ms. Jones said. She added her aunt made annual summer visits to Tyler and that the two enjoyed a close relationship. Ms. McClendon died in 2003 at the age of 92.
Ms. Jones, known for many years as "Miss Mattie," by her students, taught English and public speaking at Tyler High School, according to information provided by the city. She retired in 1936, having completed 41 years as a public high school teacher. She died in 1944 and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
The Half Mile of History is a permanent, outdoor, half-mile loop that surrounds the square in downtown Tyler. Stone plaques are placed in the sidewalk along the Half Mile of History to commemorate significant people, places, or events, according to information received from the city. The goal is to pay tribute to people, places and events that have contributed to the rich history of Tyler and Smith County.