Chet Garner finds next project at Williamson County Courthouse
Chet Garner is taking a detour off the beaten path, but he’s not on a hunt for BBQ. He’s ready to sink his teeth into history. In conjunction with the Williamson Museum and the Moody Museum in Taylor, Chet is making a thirty-minute historical documentary about Williamson County prosecutor Dan Moody, who took on the Ku Klux Klan in a series of high-profile trials in 1923 and 1924. His victories against the Klan are part of county lore.
“This is something very different from The Daytripper,” Chet says. He hopes this documentary will be a launch pad for a new pilot series about Texas history. “I’m real excited about it. Texas doesn’t have anything like this now, so it would be really special to tell these stories about Texas.”
Chet wants the series to have “this hallowed ground” feel: “When we take history and teach it from the place where that event really happened, when we tie it to dirt or to a building, there’s a gravitas that happens.” Using the example of the Dan Moody trial and the Georgetown courtroom, he says, “You walk into that courtroom and you feel it. And when you hear that story in that courtroom, it makes it much more meaningful.”
Chet couldn’t have filmed the Georgetown episode for his award-winning PBS show The Daytripper without including the courthouse and the story of the Dan Moody and the Klan, “but on The Daytripper we’re limited to two to three minutes of segment and that’s all we have time for.”
Chet wanted to see a more complete telling of the Dan Moody story. While discussing the idea with his Daytripper co-producer, Todd White, and Williamson Museum’s executive director, Mickie Ross, Chet learned they wanted it, too. “So I said, ‘Let’s make it happen.’”
Funding came from the Williamson Museum and the Moody Museum. Susan Komandosky, chair of the Moody Museum Advisory Board, says, “We are sharing the financing of the documentary with the Williamson Museum because we believe that it will help to make many more people aware of the impact this Taylor native had on the history of our state and nation.”
Staff members at the Williamson and Moody Museums struggle daily with the challenge of bringing history to life and making past events relevant and real to others. Chet believes museums can reach a broader audience with video. “There’s something about a good story that resonates with everyone,” he says, “and so hopefully that’s what this story will do in its visual form.”
Chet wants to tell stories of Texans who exhibited the highest values and integrity. Dan Moody is one of them. His story is one Williamson County, its residents, the state of Texas, and anyone in the South can be proud of. “[The Dan Moody] trial is right up there with the big ones,” Chet says, “and it’s a story that’s highly under-told. . . . Dan Moody’s a Texas hero. We need to do a better job of remembering him.”
The weekend of September 21st the Williamson Museum will have a full weekend of activities to celebrate the premiere of the documentary. For more information about the documentary and these activities, contact Mickie Ross at the Williamson Museum at 512-943-1670. Updates about the documentary will also be available at www.williamsonmuseum.org, www.moodymuseum.com, and www.thedaytripper.com.