2011-07-21 / Front Page

Lee County Makes National News

Over the past two weeks, the CNN Express bus was seen in and around Giddings, prompting area citizens to wonder what news was so big that CNN would want to spend that much time in our tiny county. Then, last Friday, the story aired on CNN.com.

Thom Patterson, a reporter for CNN, interviewed Lee County Judge Paul Fischer, business owners Gerald Birkelbach, Lucy Liu, Joel Lopez and Fred Jones, as well as Lee County rancher Scot Mitchell, to get a feel of what it’s like to live in an area that, according to the 2010 Census, is a microcosm of the United States. They call it their Defining America project.

Patterson’s story starts, “ At 5 a.m. in this tiny town an hour’s drive east of Austin, Texas, Gerald Birkelbach is already at work, lugging hickory wood from an old pickup truck into his nearly 70- year-old barbecue joint.”

“ All along the restaurant’s smoke- stained walls hang mementos collected over the decades, including an heirloom sausage stuffer, an engraved butcher’s saw, photos of celebrities and a classic Texas lone star.”

“ This bearded, 56- year- old meat-meister ignites a flame inside the kitchen firebox and carefully places precious pieces of chicken, pork and beef into a classic Texas barbecue pit. A few hours later, scores of folks from all around will be lined up outside Birkelbach’s City Meat Market. It seems like everyone in Lee County is there: Asian, African- American, Hispanic and white families, all waiting to enjoy a Texas delicacy.”

Texan as this place is, it’s American, too: On paper, at least, Lee County is a microcosm of the United States. Its racial and ethnic makeup is statistically more representative of the nation as a whole than almost any other county in the United States, according to CNN.com’s analysis of 2010 Census data.”

“CNN compared percentages of the 2010 Census’ racial and ethnic groups in each county with the nation as a whole, then ranked the counties by how closely they matched. Consider the numbers: The entire United States is 64% white, 12% African-American, 16% Hispanic and 5% Asian, 0.7% American Indian, 0.2% Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. About 0.2% checked the Census box for “other,” and 2% said they’re two or more races. In Lee County, 65% are white, 11% African-American, 22% Hispanic, 0.3% Asian. 0.3% American Indian, 0.1% are Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. About 0.4% identified as “other” and 1.2% said they were two or more races.”

What’s really interesting is that nine of the top 10 counties most racially, ethnically similar to the United States are in Texas. Here’s the list:

1. Brazos County, Texas

2. Lee County, Texas

3. Seminole County, Florida

4. Galveston County, Texas

5. Colorado County, Texas

6. Wilbarger County, Texas

7. Austin County, Texas

8. Ellis County, Texas

9. Milam County, Texas

10. Williamson County, Texas

To enjoy Patterson’s whole story on Lee County and to read the interviews he did with some of our local residents, go to http:/ /www.cnn.com/2011/US/07/15/ lee.county.texas/index.html.

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