Acknowledgements: (Important contributor to this entry was Charles W. Macune Jr., PhD, Professor Emeritus of History, California State University, Northridge. Professor Macune served for over 40 years as an inspirational teacher, and leader of the faculty, a chairman of the Department of History, and a generous and understanding colleague with everyone. Sadly Professor Macune died May 7, 2015. His photo is ar right.
Many of the photos of Lena Secrest came from Thad Box, professor emeritus in the Quinney College of Natural Resources at Utah State University, he served as dean of the college from 1970 to 1990.)
Charles William Macune, was born July 21, 1912, in Wortham, Freestone County Texas, to Dennis and Lena Secrest Macune.
His father, born 1885 in Ad Hall near Cameron in Milam County, TX, was a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Charles’ mother,
Lena Harper Secrest (1887–1937), born in Georgetown, was a 1908 graduate of Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX. Dennis and Lena had married that year. Dennis had graduated from Southwestern, the previous year. Following their marriage, they left immediately for Vanderbilt U. for special training for foreign mission field. Their senior photos fromSouthwestern's yearbooks, Sou'wester, are shown here.
Charles was born in the parsonage of his grandparents. His parents had recently returned from Mexico where they were involved in mission work from 1908–1912. Reluctantly, they returned because of the violence associated with the Pascual Orozco’s revolt of February–May 1912 in Chihuahua against the newly-elected President Francisco Madero. Following a battle between Pancho Villa and Orozco, Thomas Fountain, a New Mexican, a U. S. citizen and one of Villa’s irregulars, was arrested, courtmartialed and shot, despite the protest of the U. S. Consul. Though Orozco apologized, the Ambassador to Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson, requested U. S. troops be sent to protect U. S. citizens. At this point, Charles‘ parents decided to move to his parents’ home in Central Texas two weeks before the birth of Charles.
Charles was named for his grandfather, Dr. Charles W. Macune, at right, Farmers Alliance organizer and administrator, newspaper editor, lawyer, physician and minister. For a complete account of Charles’ grandfather’s remarkable life, see the article written below by Charles W. Macune Jr. (Charles’ son) and Bruce Palmer for Handbook of Texas Online. His grandfather’s willingness to explore new opportunities and his management skills were passed on to Charles and helps us to understand his success as scientist, engineer and entrepreneur.
One of four children, Charles attended school in Marfa, TX. It was there that he lost an eye in an accident. He never let this hold him back. His son, Charles Jr., said. "He never talked of the accident or made excuses."
Following the adoption of the new revolutionary Constitution of 1917 in Mexico, Charles’ family decided it was safe to return. Picture at right was taken in Marfa, TX in 1919 as the family prepared to leave for service along the border. They will live in Eagle Pass, and Dennis will continually cross the border to work in Piedras Negras for six months. (stated in 1919 passport application.) Left to Right: Dennis (father), Charles, Lena (mother), Dr. Charles W. Macune (grandfather), Virginia (sister in white), Lenita (sister in hat) and Sarah (grandmother). In 1923, however, revolution again erupted and forced the family to return to Texas where Dennis served a variety of churches until his death in 1987. Charles’ mother, Lena, died in 1937 and is buried beside Dennis in Georgetown.
Charles graduated from the University of Texas with a BA in physics in 1934. His father had requested an appointment as a minister at Hyde Park Methodist Church so Charles could commute to school to reduce the cost of his education. Though an outstanding student and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Depression prevented Charles from attending graduate school or finding an industrial position. He decided to teach math, science and direct band in high school. From 1934 to 1938, he taught at Edison High in San Antonio. It was there in 1937 that he met and married his wife, Evelyn June Robinson.
Charles and Evelyn June Robinson Macune.
Four more years (1938–1942) were spent teaching at Longview High School in Longview, TX. During the summers, he attended the Vandercook College of Music in Chicago to broaden his qualifications for his teaching job. Charles played trumpet in the Longhorn Band while at the University of Texas. (Note: Charles taught his sons: Charles to play trumpet, Ray the trombone, and daughters: Betty, the clarinet, and Julie, the piano.)
Physics Department Picnic 1934. Charles W. Macune, front row, third from right end with tie and no coat.
For complete identification click here.
World War II led to a demand for those trained in science and technology. Charles became "Chief Computer" with National Geophysical Company for one year. In this position, he was concerned with the reduction of seismic oscillographic data to contour map presentations of earth structures as used in petroleum exploration. He traveled throughout East Texas oil fields and Southwest Arkansas. In 1943, he become a testeEngineer for Convair, General Dynamics in Ft. Worth. His work there involved environmental testing of electronic systems for military aircraft, B-24, B-32 and B-36 bombers.
As the war drew to a close, Macune, Al J. Kolar (a coworker) and two other engineers formed a company, Westronics. Macune served as president. He described the company’s history, “The first few years were spent in "job shopping" for anything, for anybody in any quantity, in the field of electronics. This scramble for business brought in revenue from such varied design and manufacturing projects as oil well logging equipment for service companies, electric harness assemblies for military communications, ground-support test equipment for aircraft, teletype subassemblies, and automatic controls for plastic molding machines.
The recorder and indicator family of products was begun in 1955 and rapidly absorbed the full company efforts, phasing out the job shop activities.
In 1951, Charles published Delta Log, A Differential Temperature Logging Method, in the Journal of Petroleum Technology, October, 1951.
The original location in 1946 was a little shop space on the mezzanine of Crown Machine and Tool Company on West Lancaster Street near Farrington Field in Ft. Worth. After the big flood in l949, Westronics moved to high ground in the present location, acquiring an old neighborhood grocery store building with 2000 square feet of space. This property has been expanded progressively with six additions and purchase of adjacent lots to the present 17,500 square feet. Employment has varied from five in 1950 to 125 recently during a peak high volume contract. The annual payroll of about $700,000.00 represents that much fresh money pumped into the Fort Worth economy, since most sales are made out-of-city and out-of-state.
All of the stockholders are employees, and there has never been any stock sold to outside investors. The $1500.00 paid in by the original incorporators is all the capital raised by sale of stock, and the remainder of the company‘s growth has come from earnings. Since the Company is closely held, financial statements are not made public and significant financial matters are kept confidential.
Products are sold largely through manufacturers representatives, both domestic and foreign. Advertising is done principally in technical trade journals; and products are exhibited in National and Regional ISA Shows and Regional IEEE Shows.
Customers are principally large companies, institutions and agencies in widely-dispersed industries and activities, such as: Monsanto, DuPont, Westinghouse, General Electric, General Motors, Xerox, Bechtel, Ebasco, Foster Wheeler, Mobil, Shell Development, Dowell, Dow Chemical, Welex, Southern California Edison, Wisconsin Electric, General Atomic, Johnson Service, Powers Regulator, Robertshaw, General Dynamics, McDonnell, Boeing, NASA, U.S. Public Health, Department of Commerce and most of the major universities in the U.S. and Canada.
In the local area, Westronics products are in use by Texas Electric Service Company, Dallas Power and Light, General Dynamics, Bell Helicopter, LTV, Pepsi Cola, the Federal Building, The Western Company, University of Texas (Arlington), Mobil Research, Atlantic Refining, Alcon Laboratories, TCIC, Collins Radio and Sun Oil Company.
The biggest concentration of Westronics' instruments is found in control rooms of power generating utilities, petrochemical plants, aircraft test areas, and firing control rooms at space agencies. The digital indicators and miniature strip chart recorders were perfectly timed for sales to NASA and the space industry where miniaturization of precision instruments for contracted space were in high demand. Over 600 channels of recording are installed at various complexes at Cape Kennedy, most of them to be used with the Saturn V Apollo Moon Shot Program.
Normally about 80% of sales go to industrial customers and the remaining 20% to government agencies.
Westronics has been able to grow and compete successfully with the old line, well-established companies by (1) constantly developing new products and new versions of older products which competitors do not offer, and (2) being willing to design and supply the "specials" which every customer seems to want and which the large companies refuse to supply.
As Westronics gained experience in instrument manufacturing, it began doing more of the various processes in plant rather than relying on the limited number of subcontractors in this area. This was found to be necessary in order to maintain consistent quality, dependable delivery, and to provide fast-moving response to design and model change. As a result of the "do it yourself" philosophy, the processes now done in plant are: punching, forming, electro-plating, anodizing, painting, and engraving of sheet metal parts, milling, turning of machine parts on automatic screw machines, gear hobbing, injection plastic molding, tool and die making, spot welding and heliarc welding, photo processing and application of silk screens, photo-etching of printed circuit boards, precision resistor winding, automatic wave soldering of PC boards, and offset printing of all operation handbooks, sales literature, and business forms.
A sister company to Westronics was formed in 1950---Worth Well Surveys, Inc. It is a completely separate company, with home office nearby at 3621 McCart Street, and is a wire line company in the oil well logging business. Its controlling stockholders are the same as those who control Westronics. Most of Worth Well‘s operations and employees are in West Texas around Midland and Odessa, but their well-equipped machine shop in Fort Worth is the supply source of all machined parts, gears, and plastic molded parts for Westronics instruments. Westronics sells recorders and other apparatus to Worth Well Surveys for their logging trucks and also benefits considerably by having a source of machine parts completely responsive to its needs in both quality and delivery.”
In 1967, Austin conglomerate Tracor bought Westronics. Macune refused to sell the company to anyone but Texans. Richard N. Lane, a founder and president of Tracor, had earned a BA 1940 and MA 1941 in physics from the University of Texas at Austin, Macune's alma mater. Picture at right shows Kolar (L) and Macune (R) announcing the sale of Westronics.
Macune continued to manage Westronics until 1972, when the urge to be his own boss caused him and Al Kolar to form his third company, Kodata. This company manufactured electronic measuring systems for huge tanks, containing grain, oil and other bulk products.
Until 1974, Macune and Kolar kept their second company, Worth Well Surveys, a wire line service company in oil well logging in Odessa, with its machine shop in Fort Worth. They later sold the company to Reddig Associates of Midland.
Macune was a member of the IEEE and served as Chair of the Fort Worth Section of the Institute of Radio Engineers. He also was a past president of Phi Beta Kappa Association of Ft. Worth. He was a member of the University United Methodist Church and University Kiwanis Club. He served on the Long Range Planning Committee of the Wesley Home in Georgetown. He was responsible for developing an additional nursing facility.
Macune held a patent on recording instrumentation and another patent on oil well logging apparatus.
Charles died April 11, 1981 in Fort Worth, Texas after a day’s work at Kodata, Inc. Surviving him were his wife, June Macune; two sons, Charles W. Macune Jr. of Thousand Oaks, CalIf., and Wiley Ray Macune of Lake Jackson; two daughters, Betty Macune Eltelman of Abilene and Julie Ann Macune of Fort Worth; a brother, Dennis Macune, a sister, Mrs. Robert Russell, both of San Antonio and eight grandchildren.
Picture at right are Charles and Evelyn June Robinson Macune, 1979 Ft. Worth, TX.
(Sources for above include Fort Worth Star Telegram, April 12, 1981, p26A, and “The Westronics Story”, company document, ca. 1967, and an obituary of Rev. Dennis Macune written by Charles W. Macune, Sr. for the “1974 Official Journal, Southwest Texas Conference, The United Methodist Church,” 1974, pp. 199-200)
Charles William Macune Photo and Document Album
Biography of Charles William Macune, grandfather of Dr. Charles W. Macune.
MACUNE, CHARLES WILLIAM (1851–1940). Charles William Macune, leader of the Texas and National Farmers' Alliances, was born on May 20, 1851, at Kenosha, Wisconsin, the third child and only son of William and Almira S. (McAfee) Macune. His father, a blacksmith and minister, was evidently a native of Saratoga County, New York. His mother came from the Ontario village of Bertie. The family moved to the Iowa frontier in 1843. They then lived in northwest Illinois until 1852, when Charles's father was lured by the prospects of the California gold fields, where he died of cholera. Charles Macune was thus reared by his widowed mother in Freeport, Illinois, where he acquired limited public-school education. At the age of ten he went to work for a nearby German farmer. In 1866, at the age of fifteen, he began employment as an apprentice in a pharmacy, the first step toward his later profession as a physician. In 1869, he went to California, where he worked as a ranch hand. By the fall of 1870, however, he was in Kansas working with a circus. By the summer of 1871, he had moved to North Texas, where he spent several years as a cattle drover between Fort Worth and Mineral Wells. By the spring of 1874, Macune had moved to Burnet, where he briefly supported himself painting houses. Between September 1874 and the spring of 1875, he made his initial venture into journalism as editor of the Burnet Bulletin, a Democratic weekly newspaper. He called himself a Jeffersonian Democrat and was a vigorous critic of radical Reconstruction. In June 1875 he was elected secretary of the county Democratic party executive committee. In September 1875, he married Sallie Vickrey, the Kentucky-born daughter of a Salado, Texas stonemason engaged in building the Burnet County Courthouse. Six children were born of this marriage. After a brief attempt in 1875, to manage a hotel in Georgetown, Macune moved to San Saba and reportedly continued painting houses while he studied medicine with a local physician. By 1878, he was in Junction City, where in 1879 he was certified by a state medical examiner to practice medicine. He worked for several months as a doctor in Junction City, then in Fredericksburg, before finally setting up his practice in 1881 in Cameron. There he invested in town and nearby farm properties, including a farm at Ad Hall, where he and his family lived. Another man, however, operated the farm. In the summer of 1886, Macune and local physician Thomas A. Pope purchased the Cameron Herald.
Macune had also become a charter member of the local chapter, formed sometime in the spring of 1886, of the state Farmers' Alliance. He was promptly named one of the county organization's three delegates to the annual state convention in Cleburne in August 1886. Ther, he was elected chairman of the state executive committee. At that tumultuous gathering, the delegates split over a series of resolutions demanding radical economic reforms by the state and national governments. As acting president, Macune sought to stave off division of the order with a two-pronged program, which he offered at a special conference he summoned in Waco in January 1887. He proposed to expand the level of cooperative activity within the alliance and to expand the state Farmers' Alliance across the whole South with a new national organization, the National Farmers' Alliance and Cooperative Union.
The cooperative efforts of the Texas Farmers' Alliance grew out of alliance farmers' efforts to get better prices for their cotton and escape the burden of the crop-lien system, a mechanism for financing the cotton crop with crop mortgages. It produced a capital-starved South in the years after the Civil War and drove millions of southern farmers, black and white, into severe poverty and loss of land. The difficulty local alliance stores had in defeating the concentrated opposition of local merchants and banks, as well as the savings promised to the farmers by large-scale cooperative purchasing and sales, underlay Macune's plans for the Farmers' Alliance Exchange of Texas. The exchange, with Macune as business manager, opened in September 1887 with very little capital in a building donated by the city of Dallas. The first year of the exchange's operation demonstrated that the benefits of statewide cooperation could not reach most lien-harassed farmers without some adjustment. In November 1888, the Texas Farmers' Alliance announced the "joint note" plan, developed primarily by Macune. This plan called for more prosperous farmers to take mortgages on the crops of their less prosperous neighbors, including tenants and sharecroppers. It failed when Texas and regional bankers refused to take the notes as collateral on loans, although these institutions had been doing the same thing with merchants for years. Despite an effort to raise the money within the Texas alliance in the summer of 1889, by the early fall of that year the Farmers' Alliance Exchange of Texas had collapsed. Inspired, nonetheless, by this precedent, exchanges were established by alliances in other southern states.
The other half of Macune's 1887 proposal succeeded enormously. The National Farmers' Alliance and Cooperative Union spread rapidly across the South and into the West between 1887 and 1889 and claimed 1,200,000 members by the summer of 1890. Macune served as president until the alliance convention at St. Louis in December 1889. In March of 1889, with $10,000 borrowed from wealthy Texas alliance man R. J. Sledge, Macune established the National Economist in Washington, D.C., and opened the Alliance Publishing Company to go with it. The National Economist became the official voice of the National Farmers' Alliance and Cooperative Union, which at St. Louis in December 1889 was renamed the National Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union.
Macune's final effort to solve the farmers' credit problem was his subtreasury plan. The plan, written into the alliance platform and amended slightly by the national council meeting at Ocala, Florida, in December 1890, provided for government-owned-and-operated warehouses to store non-perishable agricultural commodities. Farmers depositing commodities could borrow, in United States Treasury notes, up to 80 percent of the market value of their stored crops or their land from the federal government, with a minimal charge for handling and operation. The national government would replace the lien system. Ironically, this plan led to Macune's defeat within the National Farmers' Alliance. The Democrats' refusal to support the subtreasury plan allowed Macune's opponents within the alliance to push the organization closer and closer to independent politics. In February 1892, at the St. Louis convention held to plan for the new People's party, Macune apparently gave in. He supported the new party until late October 1892, when he permitted his associate J. F. Tillman to send out Democratic campaign literature to alliance members. At the December 1892 meeting of the National Farmers' Alliance, Macune lost his bid for the presidency to Henry L. Loucks of the Dakota Farmers' Alliance. In the wake of the revelation of his last-minute switch to the Democratic party and questions about his finances as editor of the National Economist, Macune resigned his position on the national executive committee. The National Economist lost its status as the official organ of the National Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union in February 1893 and folded soon after Macune left the newspaper.
Macune reputedly remained in Washington, DC, as an editor with the Evening Star until 1895, when he moved his family back to Cameron, Texas. There, he founded, edited, and published a twice-weekly newspaper, the News, until it failed after a few months. Simultaneously, in May 1895, he was licensed in Cameron by the district court of the Twentieth Judicial District to practice law in Texas. Around 1896, he opened a law office in Beaumont. After a brief effort to recapture control of the National Farmers' Alliance during a trip to Washington, DC, Macune reportedly returned to Beaumont determined to enter the ministry of the Methodist Church. When his daughter developed tuberculosis, he moved his family, in 1900, back to Central Texas. At Star Mountain, near Goldthwaite, and then at Center, Macune practiced medicine for about a year, waiting for an opening in the ministry. He received his license to preach in June 1901, and in 1902 took his first pastorate at Copperas Cove. For approximately the next sixteen years, Macune served as a supply preacher in a number of small Central Texas communities, including Florence, Rising Star, Thurber, Wortham, Coolidge, and Hillsboro. In 1918, during World War I, he sought appointment as a naval chaplain but was refused permission because of his age. He then turned his attention to foreign mission work, joining in 1919 his youngest son, Rev. Dennis Macune, in Piedras Negras, Mexico. He also worked in Ciudad Acuña, farther up the Rio Grande. In 1920, he wrote a history of the Farmers' Alliance and deposited the manuscript in the University of Texas library. Macune served as pastor of a Methodist church in Miami, Arizona in 1923, before retiring to Fort Worth. In that city he resided until his death on November 3, 1940. He was buried there in Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Dictionary of American Biography. Lawrence Goodwyn, Democratic Promise: The Populist Moment in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976). Robert C. McMath, Jr., Populist Vanguard: A History of the Southern Farmers' Alliance (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975). Charles W. Macune Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Charles W. Macune, Jr., The Wellsprings of a Populist: Dr. C. W. Macune Before 1886, Southwestern Historical Quarterly 90 (October 1986). James C. Malin, The Farmers' Alliance Subtreasury Plan and European Precedents, Mississippi Valley Historical Review 31 (September 1944). W. Scott Morgan, History of the Wheel and Alliance and the Impending Revolution (Fort Scott, Kansas: Rice, 1889). Fred A. Shannon, C. W. Macune and the Farmers' Alliance, Current History 28 (June 1955). Ralph A. Smith, `Macuneism,' or the Farmers of Texas in Business, Journal of Southern History 13 (May 1947).
Written by Bruce Palmer and Charles W. Macune, Jr.