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Leonard Buckner - Class of 1996

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Leonard Harris “L. H.” Buckner was born September 18, 1905, in Pine Hill, Texas, a small farming community fourteen miles east of Henderson. His parents, James Andrew Buckner and Elizabeth Harris Buckner, were a young farming/ranching couple. L. H. grew up on the farm and attended the Pine Hill schools for most of his public school years.

It was there that Mr. Buckner began his musical education, not in regular band classes in school, for there were none, but in after-school and night meetings of 14 or 15 young students. This class was taught by a local couple, Mr. and Mrs. Homer Duran, who happened to be ex-circus musicians. This small group would meet one or two times a week to receive instruction. L. H. started out playing the trumpet, but later changed to trombone.

Mr. Buckner has a distinction not held by many people: he graduated from high school three times. The first was from the tenth grade, which was the highest grade taught at that time. The summer after graduation, the principal, who also was the basketball coach, contacted L. H. and informed him that he had just received notice that Pine Hill schools would add the eleventh grade to the curriculum, and he invited L. H. to return to school, especially if he would play basketball again. L. H. did return, and that spring graduated from high school again. But alas, that summer Texas decided to extend public school education through the twelfth grade to schools which could qualify. Pine Hill did not qualify, so L. H. decided to attend Henderson High School in hopes of finally completing his high school career. He graduated for the third time from Henderson High School in the spring of 1925.

In the fall of 1925, he enrolled in college at Stephen F. Austin State Teacher’s College in Nacogdoches and played in J. T. Cox’s first SFA band. While at SFA, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree with double majors in Music and Geography and achieved minors in both English and History. He continued his post graduate musical education by attending summer sessions at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and Northwestern University where he studied with such notables as Karl King, Frank Simon and Percy Grainger.

Mr. Buckner’s first teaching job was in the small nine teacher school of Laneville, Texas, where his teaching assignments included English, arithmetic, geography and history. By meeting one night a week, he started a band there which was not affiliated with the school. The band was comprised of a few adults and students from Laneville, Cushing and Douglas communities. After three years of teaching in Laneville, he accepted a position in the twelve teacher school of Minden where his teaching assignments included arithmetic, history and Civics as well as music. After teaching there for four years, he applied for a position in the Carlisle school district where he was employed primarily to start a band program.

The Carlisle schools, in the bustling oil field community of Price, had forty-two teachers on their school staff and enough oil field money to finance a good band program. Even today Carlisle boasts being one of the few schools in the state of Texas which still has active oil wells pumping on their campus. Mr. Buckner built that program and Carlisle prided itself as having one of the finest and largest small school bands in the east Texas area.

After ten years of service at Carlisle, Mr. Buckner applied for the position of band director in Henderson, his old alma mater, and one of the larger AAAA schools in east Texas. He got the job, but had to teach for half a day in both school districts because of two war years, 1943 and 1944, no other director was available for the Carlisle district. Carlisle played their football games on Thursday nights and Henderson on Friday nights. With no assistants at all, he was kept quite busy!
In 1945, L. H. became full-time band director in Henderson where he served the seasoned years of his professional career. Mr. Buckner was not only a well-respected band director in east Texas, but was widely called upon to adjudicate band contests throughout the states of Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. He had strong support from the administration and total respect from his students and the community. Many of his former students followed his musical footsteps and became outstanding musicians and band directors.

An article in the October 1952 issue of The School Musician honored Mr. Buckner as one of the ten most outstanding Music Directors in the United States. This honor was but one of many bestowed upon him. He also served as Secretary of the Texas State Music Council, TMEA Band Chairman, and in 1950-51, he served as President of the Texas Music Educators Association. Mr. Buckner also has the distinction of being one of the founders and charter members of the Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Mu.

In later years, Mr. Buckner continued to attend college from time to time in pursuit of a Texas Administrators Certificate. In 1955 he was awarded the position of Principal of Henderson Junior High School where he served the remaining fifteen years of his public school career. He retired in 1970 with 43 years of service in Texas Public Schools.

Mr. Buckner and his wife Josie B. (now deceased) had two children. Sara and her husband, Ed York, live in Austin and have three children and three grandchildren. Robert (Bob) and his wife, Judy, live in Plano and have three children and one grandson. Mr. Buckner, now 90, still resides in Henderson.

So, Mr. Buckner, your journey from a small east Texas farming community to office of the Presidency of the now largest music association in the world has been quite an accomplishment. For this we honor you today. You led the way and proved that it is possible. All we have to do is follow your example.

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