Charlie Duke ‘53S, our very own Apollo astronaut, moonwalker, and retired U.S. Air Force Brig. General was honored as the 2020 Texan of the Year during the Texas Legislative Conference on September 3, 2020.
A small group of Farragut families and alumni flew courtesy of Ed Deseta ‘65N in his Falcon 2000 aircraft from Florida to Texas, joining local Austin-based Farragut alumnus, Holton Burns ‘85S and two of his children, to be a part of the special celebration. Prior to the event Duke and his wife, Dorothy, hosted the group at their home for an intimate gathering.
A socially distanced event was hosted at the New Braunfels Civic Center to honor Duke’s contributions to the great state of Texas. Duke and Dorothy have been residents of Texas since 1976 and have raised two sons who now have families of their own.
The evening opened with former U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith who introduced Duke.
“Charlie Duke was and is a true American Hero,” Smith said. “He is highly revered for his courage, skills, and teamwork. That he excelled as a test pilot, and an Air Force officer, and as an astronaut is no surprise. If you think about courage, think about Duke in that rocket. When he was lifting off, there was no guarantee that he was going to return.”
The dinner was accompanied by live entertainment from country music singer Randy Rogers who performed his original song “Charlie Duke took Country Music to the Moon.” Rogers, a friend, and neighbor of Duke learned that when he blasted off on the Apollo 16 in 1972 that he took a little piece of home with him in the form of music cassette tapes featuring Merle Haggard, Porter Wagoner, and Dolly Parton.
Duke shared with the group that when he received the call that he was being honored as Texan of the Year he said, “Are you sure? What I really meant, I am not a politician, and I have never been a country star. I flunked out of choir….but being the first astronaut to be named Texan of the Year is very, very special.” Surrounded by long-time friends, neighbors, family, and some of his Farragut family, Duke was overwhelmed with joy and reminiscing about a life well lived in Texas.