Spotlight: Dr. Joseph Chance


Dr. Joseph E. “Joe” Chance, retired professor of mathematics at the University of Texas - Pan American, serves as an Academic Tutor with the Texas Graduate Center. Dr. Chance conducted weekend tutorials for Calculus I students participating in the Harvard Math for Teaching Graduate Program.

Dr. Chance is a fifth generation Texan whose great-great-grandfather fought for Texas independence at San Jacinto and whose great-grandfather fought for Texas independence at Shiloh. He is the author of 10 books, numerous articles and essays, and the newspaper column, “History by Chance,” that appeared in The Valley Morning Star, of Harlingen, Texas. The latest book, The Best of History by Chance, is a compilation of some of his favorite columns and essays. These range in interest from a study of the cowboy ballad “Sam Bass” to a history of Texas’ greatest football team. You are sure to find something you like in the pages of this book.

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“The Best of History, by Chance” is an entertaining collection of stories that were so acclaimed by readers that many requested the stories be reprinted. Dr. Joseph E. Chance is an author of several published books on history, newspaper columns and essays. A fifth generation Texan, Dr. Chance was raised in Austin before making the Valley his home. Now a resident of Edinburg, Dr. Chance is married with three daughters. His published works include “My Life in the Old Army: The Reminiscences of Abner Doubleday,” “Murder in Mathis” and his most recent book, “The Best of History by Chance.”

When Dr. Chance is not writing, are likely to see him driving around the RGV in his Chevy S10 pickup, gaining inspiration for the plot of his next book. Between the years 2000 and 2002, a weekly column appeared in The Star, “History by Chance,” written by Dr. Joseph E. Chance. The title of the column was inspired by a favorite high school teacher. The teacher attended football games and was amused by the announcer’s play-by-play comment, “Tackle by Chance.” She thought it added a probabilistic flavor to the game. Dr. Chance’s column was aptly named considering the unorthodox writings of the author. While dealing primarily with Rio Grande Valley (Valley) history, it was not restricted to that topic. The subjects included an analysis of the famous cowboy song “The Ballad of Sam Bass,” sung by cowboys herding longhorn cattle from South Texas to the Canadian border. Also included are Dr. Chance’s thoughts on women, including those from Afghanistan to the lovely ladies of South Texas and Northern Mexico. The author displays the tender heart of a poet as he declaims the virtues of the women.

During his research for several of his books and articles, Dr. Chance came upon interesting tidbits of history that were often buried within the pages of musty tomes. He felt these historical tidbits deserved to be resurrected for the pleasure and education of contemporary readers. An intriguing story is included about the wartime experiences of Sam Houston, Jr., who over the protests of his famous father, shouldered his musket and marched off to do his part in the struggle for Southern Independence. A special feature of this collection is the series “Rogues of the Rio Grande,” which highlights several of the villains that came to settle on the border.

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