Robert Crawford Cotner, history professor, son of Thomas Ewing and Nina Dot (Crawford) Cotner, was born at Cleveland, Ohio, on November 1, 1906. He earned his B.A. from Baylor University (1928), his M.A. from Brown University (1929), and his Ph.D. from Harvard University (1959). Before beginning his career at the University of Texas in 1940, he was associated with Midland High School (1929–31), Henderson State College in Arkansas (1931–35), and Stetson University in Florida (1935–40). He taught social and urban history at the University of Texas from 1940 until his retirement in 1977, moving from instructor (1940), to assistant professor (1949), associate professor (1960), professor (1969), and professor emeritus. He was a visiting professor at the University of Virginia in the summer of 1957 and at the University of Kentucky in the summer of 1965.
Cotner's scholarly contributions were many. Of most enduring value were his publications on Texas governor James Stephen Hogg. In 1951 he edited Hogg's papers to produce Addresses and State Papers of James S. Hogg, and in 1959 his James Stephen Hogg: A Biography, considered the standard work on Hogg, was published. The book won the Summerfield G. Roberts Award of the Sons of the Republic of Texas and an award from the American Association for State and Local History. Governor Price Daniel, Sr., gave a reception at the Governor's Mansion on June 8, 1959, to launch the biography of Hogg, and Cotner displayed in his office a photograph of Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson presenting a copy of the biography to President John F. Kennedy. Cotner also edited some ten books and wrote numerous chapters in books, articles, and book reviews in scholarly journals. In 1960 he was named a fellow of the Texas State Historical Association. He was a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and at different times president of the East Texas Historical Association and the West Texas Historical Association.
In addition, he served on the membership committees of the Western Historical Association, Southern Historical Association, and Southwestern Social Science Association; on the program committees of the Organization of American Historians and the East Texas Historical Association; on the executive committee of the Southern Historical Association; on the board of directors of the East Texas Historical Association; and as book review editor for the Southwestern Historical Quarterly and the West Texas Historical Association Year Book. In 1979 the East Texas Historical Association honored him with the Ralph W. Steen Service Award, and in 1957 the Texas Heritage Foundation awarded him its National Medal for his contributions to scholarship. As a teacher he developed innovative history courses and had an important influence on several generations of students. Cotner died at his home in Austin on September 23, 1980. He was a Baptist. He was survived by his wife Elizabeth (Breihan), a son, a daughter, and a grandchild.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Norman D. Brown,
“Cotner, Robert Crawford,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 26, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
December 1, 1994
Most Recent Revision Date:
June 23, 2020