Holman Lilienstern is celebrating his 100th birthday with a party hosted by the city that loves him.
Holman is one of Texas City’s crown jewels.
I talked with him a bit about how he managed this momentous achievement. But much of the information which follows was borrowed from the text of a video interview done in May 2012, when we were all getting ready to celebrate the city’s centennial.
Holman was born and raised in Mount Pleasant, went to Texas A&M, studied law and returned to his birthplace to practice law.
He went into the Army in 1941 and because of his ROTC training became a second lieutenant. He intended to stay for a tour of duty that would put him back in civilian life right after Christmas. Then Pearl Harbor happened and he spent the next five years in the Army. His Army job kept him behind the lines, he said, and that’s what saved his life.
He landed in France 30 days after D-Day, helping to set up command posts along the way as the troops liberated their way through Belgium and Holland and France. After the war, he came back to Mount Pleasant.
He ran for office, became city attorney. His friend Dean Nugent also ran and was elected district attorney. They both decided to take a look at Texas City, which was reeling from the 1947 disaster and badly in need of many things, including lawyers.
He said, “Texas City was a very wonderful place for me and my family.” They began life at Third Avenue Villas, and then built a house in Sunset Terrace. “My wife became the home economics teacher here right away,” he added.
Holman said that was a rather happy time for him, though many people were grieving because they had lost people in the disaster.
He said Texas City was vastly under built at that time, with no houses that were not occupied and only one road in and out of town. “But we had a bunch of churches, “he said. “We always had churches.”
He was appointed city attorney in 1948 and believes the city was always lucky because of the big tax base, thanks to local industries.
He was also serving as attorney for the school district during the time a lawsuit was brought to desegregate the schools. He represented the schools in a defamation suit in federal court — a suit way out of his experience — and finally won. “That did me a world of good and gave me a lot of confidence,” he said.
Another of his biggest successes was the annexation of Moses Lake, which was done for the mineral rights after oil was discovered there.
One big loss, which he doesn’t really regret, is the failure of the city to acquire a copper plant. After much wooing by city, state and national officials, Mitsubishi decided not to build.
How did he get to this wonderful age?
“I get exercise and have a diet that keeps me from getting fat. I believe in a happy medium. I have good genes.
“And, mostly, I have had a whole lot of luck.”
Cathy Gillentine is a columnist for the Daily News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.