Sunday, March 28, 2010

Remembering Hugh F. Rankin

It was an honor for me to participate in a special session at the annual meeting of the Louisiana Historical Association held this weekend in Lafayette. The purpose of the session was to honor individuals from earlier eras of the association's history who had an impact on that organization. Phil Cook from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston spoke about his former colleague Garnie McGinty, who was important to Louisiana history. Virginia Gould spoke about Kimberly S. Hanger, who taught at the University of Tulsa. Hanger, who passed away prematurely several years ago, also had a significant impact on the development of Gulf Coast history.
It was my pleasure to talk about the career of Hugh F. Rankin, who served as Professor of History at Tulane University from 1957 until his retirement in 1983. His background was thoroughly southern. He was born in Arlington County, Virginia on June 17, 1913 while his father was serving in the military. He came from old southern stock. He always enjoyed recalling that his grandmother, Molly Wade Rankin, had stood by the side of the road as a five year old girl during the Civil War and threw rocks at Sherman’s army as it marched past. He grew up and graduated from high school in Reidsville, North Carolina. After service in World War II, he graduated from Elton College and went to graduate school at the University of North Carolina, where he received a Ph.D. During his many long years at Tulane, he directed the dissertations of just over two dozen Ph.D. students. I sometimes have wondered where Dr. Rankin found the time to accomplish the prodigious amount of research that resulted in seventeen books and several dozen scholarly articles, along with hundreds of book reviews, essays, and smaller written pieces. His best known book, of course, will always remain "Rebels and Redcoats," which he co-wrote with George F. Scheer. Hugh Rankin will long be remembered by all those who know and love southern history.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Remembering Liz Carpenter, 1920-2010

Yesterday marked the passing of Liz Carpenter, one of the most distinguished and accomplished women in Texas. In addition to her many contributions advancing the cause of women in the nation, especially in the area of journalism, she was a firm friend to Texas history. The Texas State Historical Association memorialized her by naming an annual book award in her honor. It is presented each year to the author who is judged to have written the best book dealing with the history of women in the state. Liz Carpenter was born in Salado, Texas on September 1, 1920. She grew up in Austin, where she graduated from high school before attending the University of Texas, where she majored in journalism and wrote for the “Daily Texan.” She thereafter became a pioneer female Texas journalist and, during World War II, began covering events in Washington, D.C. for the Austin newspaper. She and her husband Leslie Carpenter launched the Carpenter News Service several years later as she continued to report on events in the nation’s capital for the next two decades. In 1960, she joined the campaign staff of Lyndon B. Johnson when he ran for Vice President, eventually becoming a close friend and confidant of the entire Johnson family. With the Kennedy-Johnson victory, she became the executive assistant for Vice President Johnson. On the fateful day of November 22, 1963, it was Liz Carpenter who wrote the moving, short message that President Johnson delivered to the world upon arriving back at Andrews Air Force Base from Dallas. She became press secretary to Lady Bird during the Johnson Administration and played a significant role in many public events of that era. Starting in the late 1960s, she embarked upon a successful and significant career as an activist who advanced the cause of women’s rights. She was a founder of the National Women’s Caucus and worked hard for the passage of the ill-fated Equal Rights Amendment. The Texas State Historical Association established the Liz Carpenter Award in 1992 at the bequest of Ellen Clarke Temple to encourage publication of scholarly research on the history of women in Texas. This TSHA award honors Carpenter for her commitment to the pursuit of the history of women in Texas and for a lifetime of achievements that qualify her as a maker of that history.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Historic Waco Foundation Talk

Last night I delivered the annual spring lecture at the Historic Waco Foundation. This organization is committed to historical preservation in Waco. It maintains a group of restored historic structures including the Earle-Napier-Kinnard House, the Fort House, and the McCulloch house. It also sponsors in the spring the Barnes Course on Decorative Arts that provides weekly classes and activities dealing with historic preservation and material culture. My talk was hosted by Dr. Watson Arnold and Mr. Don Davis. (at right, Watson Arnold, me, and Don Davis.) Mr. Davis, an architect, is the executive director of the Historic Waco Foundation. Dr. Arnold, a native of Waco and a resident of Fort Worth, in a physician and also a Ph.D. in history. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Texas State Historical Association and was recently elected as the Second Vice President of that Association. My talk dealt with the Stephen F. Austin family and its plantations. Most of my remarks centered on the history of the family at Peach Point Plantation, where his sister Emily and her family lived during the antebellum era. I also surveyed some of the other Austin family plantations that were located along the lower Brazos River, including Bolivar which was owned by Stephen F. Austin’s cousin Henry Austin. Two of Austin’s nephews, Moses Austin Bryan and William Joel Bryan, also operated cotton plantations along the river. It was my main point that from the very beginning, cotton plantations became the major economic enterprise of lower Brazos river, quickly moving upstream as planters sought ever more fertile land for this crop. Stephen F. Austin encouraged these activities and actively encouraged planters to immigrate to the region during the 1820s and 1830s.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"History Ahead: Stories Beyond the Texas Roadside Markers"

Co-authors Dan K. Utley and Cynthia J. Beeman
Award-winning Texas historians Dan K. Utley and Cynthia J. Beeman have just written an interesting and fun book entitled "History Ahead: Stores Beyond the Texas Roadside Markers." Texas has over 13,000 historical markers throughout the state, most of them placed there by the Texas Historical Commission and it predecessors, starting in the 1930s with the Texas Centennial Commission. There are, of course, a number of books, pamphlets, and web sites that provide much information about these markers and the historical events, people, and occurrences that they chronicle.

Utley and Beeman, who probably each know as much about Texas historical markers as anyone else in the Lone Star State, have gone behind the scenes and told the full stories associated with some nineteen or so of the more interesting, colorful markers. These include forays into history associated with Charles Lindbergh, Will Rogers, The Big Bopper, and jazz great Charlie Christian, along with the not-so-famous Elmer "Lumpy" Kleb, Don Pedro Jaramillo, and Carl Morene, the "music man of Schulenburg." These unusual or noteworthy people, along with dozens of other memorable individuals, shine through the pages of this fascinating book, making for a most rewarding reading experience.

Utley and Beeman highlight the humor, pathos, joy, sorrow, and very human stories behind the roadside history of Texas. As well, various sidebars and additional short notices provide very entertaining glimpses of other famous and interesting markers.

This is a must-read book. "Don't leave home without it!

"History Ahead" is published by the Texas A&M University Press.

Monday, March 8, 2010

"Come Home to the TSHA"

TSHA President Walter Buenger delivers his presidential address
The Texas State Historical Association met in Dallas this past Thursday through Saturday in what proved to be one of the best, well-attended, and enthusiastic meetings ever. Almost 800 people, all of them committed to the cause of Texas history, attended almost four dozen panels, speeches, dinners, and roundtables.

The meeting had a number of highlights, including a reception at the corporate offices of Crow Holding, housed in the elegantly restored Old Parkland Hospital near Revercheron Park in Dallas. At this affair, officers of the association presented a special award to Dr. Gretchen Bataille, the President of the University of North Texas who is leaving that position. (above at left)

The business meeting proved particularly important because Professor Gregg Cantrell, chair of the Association’s Finance Committee, confirmed that the TSHA is moving into a new era of financial stability. A report by Development Committee Chair J. P. Bryan noted the tremendous advances that have been made in the Association’s fundraising efforts during the past year. The total number of members belonging to the Association has more than doubled in recent years under the leadership of Dr. Watson Arnold and his Membership Committee.

Books for the Auction
One highlight of the proceedings was the auction of rare books, art, and other Texas collectables. Professor Walter Buenger’s address as the President of the Association provided a cogent and thorough overview of Texas historiography and gave an overview of the various communities that compose the state’s historical community.

It is clear that the Texas State Historical Association has greatly profited from its move to the campus of the University of North Texas. It might be said that the unofficial motto of its recent meeting might have been “Come Home to the TSHA!”
For the TSHA Web Site, Click Here

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Austin College History featured at Texas State Historical Association book exhibits

Light Cummins, Kristie Kelly, Jay Dew

Above, I am presenting a copy of the book "Austin College" to Jay Dew, a former student of mine and an Austin College alumnus. After graduating from Austin College, Jay received an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma. Jay is currently an Acquisitions Editor for the University of Oklahoma Press. Looking on is Kristie Kelly, publisher. This book was featured in the Arcadia Publishing Company display at the Texas State Historical Association in Dallas, held from March 4 until March 6.
Arcadia Publishing is the nation's premier publisher of local and regional history books. Largely thanks to the work of Kristie Kelly and her associates, a growing number of histories are being published about Texas towns, counties, colleges, universities, and various geographical locations throughout the state. Click Here for the Arcadia Publishing web page.
A group of history students at Austin College recently researched and wrote this pictorial history of Austin College. They were members of a college history class that I taught. I served as the editor of the book, along with college archivist Justin Banks. This volume highlights the 160 year history of Austin College.

For more information about the book, click here.
For purchase information, click here.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Liz Carpenter Award, 2010

Elizabeth Hayes Turner, Light Cummins, Hal Smith (l. to r.)

It was my honor today to have received the Liz Carpenter Award for my recent book "Emily Austin of Texas, 1795-1985." This book was published by the TCU Press in conjunction with the Center for Texas History at Texas Christian University. It is part of the Texas Biography Series edited by Gregg Cantrell, underwritten by the Houston Endowment.

The Liz Carpenter Award is given annually for the best scholarly book on the history of women in Texas published during the calendar year. The Award was established in 1992 by an anonymous donor who is committed to the publication of scholarly research on the history of women and Texas. The award honors Liz Carpenter, a sixth-generation Texan, for her commitment to the pursuit of the history of women in Texas and for a lifetime of achievements that qualify her as a maker of that history. It is presented at the Annual Meeting of the Texas State Historical Association.

A renowned Texas Journalist, Liz Carpenter began covering the White House and Congress for the "Austin American-Statesman" in 1942, reporting on presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy. Carpenter joined the staff of Lyndon B. Johnson in his campaign for Vice President in 1961 and traveled on his foreign missions as a press spokeswoman.

After his election, she became the first woman executive assistant to the vice-president. Mrs. Carpenter was in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 at the time of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was she who wrote the famous short speech that LBJ uttered from the tarmac upon returning from Dallas that fateful day. During LBJ's presidency, she became press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson. Liz Carpenter currently lives in Austin, Texas

Monday, March 1, 2010

East Texas and West Texas Historical Associations in Joint Meeting

Tai Kreidler, West Texas Director (l.) and Scott Sosebee, East Texas director (r.)

A notable historical event occurred last week in Fort Worth when two of Texas’s most venerable historical associations met in joint session. The West Texas Historical Association held its meeting in conjunction with the East Texas Historical Association, starting on Thursday, February 25 and ending on Saturday, February 27. Tai Kreidler, executive director of the West Texas Historical Association, and Scott Sosebee, executive director of the East Texas Historical Association, worked very hard in tandem to insure that the meeting was a success. It was most certainly a success in every way.

Several hundred historians from across the Southwest gathered to participate in almost forty historical sessions, along with banquets, mixers, and a tour of the Fort Worth Stockyards. A highlight of the meeting occurred on Friday night when historian Dan Utley (at left) narrated a tongue-in-cheek survey of Texas music, with musical accompaniment provided by the Band of Renown (below,) composed of Archie McDonald, Anne Jordan, L. Patrick Hughes, and Donaly Brice (left to right.) The several hundred folks in attendance enjoyed the sing along, which included Governor Pappy O’Daniel’s favorite song “Beautiful, Beautiful Texas.”

The Band of Renown
My wife Vicki and I participated in a session on the New Deal, along with Kathy Flynn of the National New Deal Preservation Association; Keith Volanto of Collin College; Bob Brinkman of the Texas Historical Commission; Lisa Jackson of the Pan Handle Plains Historical Museum; and George Cooper of Lone Star College. This session attracted a large audience. As panelists, we surveyed a wide range of New Deal programs that have left their impact on Texas, including the Civilian Conservation Corps, the historical marker program, various arts projects, and enduring examples of architecture.
A highlight of the meeting occurred at the Saturday luncheon banquet, with West Texas Historical President Tiffany M. Fink of Hardin Simmons University presiding. This event featured awards given to various member of the West Texas Association. It concluded with a succinct and very cogent survey of the history of women in West Texas by Dr. Fink entitled: "West Texas Women: Defining Freedom Beyond the Hundredth Meridian."

Web Site of the East Texas Historical Association. Click Here

Web site of the West Texas Historical Association. Click Here