By CHERIL VERNON
W.L. Broughton has seen a lot of changes in the last century in Palestine. He can remember when the streets in Palestine were made of dirt, riding beside his father in a buckboard wagon down those streets many times. Spring Street (called Front Street then) was lined with saloons, bordellos and an opera house.
The Palestine resident celebrated his 102nd birthday Thursday surrounded by family and friends. He was born Jan. 10, 1911 to Walter and Viola Broughton in Palestine.
Broughton can remember seeing the second oil well set up in Kilgore, watching the first automobile arrive in Palestine and witnessing the first airplane to fly over the town.
He has even witnessed historical events.
Broughton delivered laundry while working for Sunshine Laundry in Palestine to the infamous Bonnie and Clyde, who several days later robbed the local bank.
“I was here when Bonnie and Clyde came to Palestine. They got them a room and robbed Robinson State Bank in Palestine. That was a long time ago,” Broughton said during his birthday celebration at Dogwood Trails Assisted Living.
Broughton also worked for two companies building highways, putting down steel forms for roads. In fact, he worked on the first paved road between Palestine and Elkhart.
But Broughton is a railroad man at heart. He was hired by Missouri Pacific Railroad in 1940 and worked as an engineer on the old steam engines for many years. He retired in 1975.
“I was a railroader for 35 years,” Broughton said proudly.
He is a Shriner and a past master of the Palestine Masonic Lodge. He was a member of the Texas Top Guns, Texas Regulators and Palestine Rangers Company A re-enactor groups where he used the nickname “Cactus Jack.”
Family and friends recall that he would herd cattle from Nacogdoches to the Dallas-Fort Worth area “before they fenced us all in.”
He cut horses all his life, riding his last horse at age 98.
Fellow re-enactors jokingly call him a “well-seasoned cowboy.”
Broughton has resided at Dogwood Trails Assisted Living only a few years and is still in pretty good health, family members say.
He was married for 78 years to his wife, Ola Belle Broughton, who passed away at the age of 97. He and his wife had three children: Roy Clark Broughton, who passed away; Beverly Broughton, who resides with her husband, Donald Lively, at Hilltop Lakes near Normangee; and Davey Hunter Broughton, who currently resides with his wife, Bev, near Talladega, Ala.
“It’s been a pretty good lifetime for me,” Broughton said. “It feels good to still be here.”
When asked what his secret to longevity is, Broughton joked while squinting his eyes. “Being as mean as you can — no, really, just doing what you have to do.”
Anyone that would like to send Broughton a birthday card in honor of his achievement can send it to: Dogwood Trails Assisted Living, Attn: W.L. Broughton, 1625 W. Spring St., Palestine, Texas, 75803.