Curry, Arthur Ray (1889–1966)

By: Sheila Gail Winship Davis

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: September 9, 2020

Arthur Ray Curry, librarian and state supervisor of the WPA Statewide Library Project, son of James Silas and Ella Annie (Ray) Curry, was born on March 21, 1889, in Cleburne, Texas. He attended public schools in Cleburne and graduated from Southwestern Christian College (later Southland University) in 1909. He attended the University of Texas in 1910–11 and taught in public schools in 1911–12 and at Abilene Christian College in 1912–13. In 1916 he received his B.A. degree from the University of Texas. After graduation he taught at Abilene Christian College, Greenville High School, and Allen Academy in Bryan. He entered the University of Illinois in 1919 and graduated in 1921 with a bachelor of library science degree.

From 1923 to 1925, after working in the library of the University of Oklahoma for two years, Curry served as secretary of the Public Library Commission of Indiana. He then returned to Texas, where he was hired by E. M. Waits, president of Texas Christian University, as librarian of the new Mary Couts Burnett Library. He served as librarian from 1925 until 1933, when he, along with a number of other professors, was dismissed due to financial problems at the university. In 1934 Curry was hired as librarian of the Rosenberg Library in Galveston, a position he held until 1936.

He was appointed state supervisor of the WPA Statewide Library Project in 1937. In that position he was responsible for founding hundreds of school and public libraries, providing assistance in operating bookmobile services, granting some of the first library services to Blacks, and purchasing many books (7,000 volumes between 1938 and 1940 alone, and double that number before the project's completion). In addition he gave public speeches promoting support for his work and contributed articles to News Notes (later the Texas Library Journal). He resigned his post in 1941, when the project was declining as the country turned its attention to war.

From 1942 to 1947 Curry worked at the Tyler district office as a field-worker for the State Department of Public Welfare (now the Texas Department of Human Services). In 1947 he took the position of reference librarian at Sam Houston State Teachers College in Huntsville, where he also taught. He worked at the college until his retirement in 1959, then moved to Corpus Christi.

Curry was a life member of the American Library Association. He served as treasurer and later vice president of the Texas Library Association and as treasurer of the Southwest Library Association. He belonged to the Oklahoma and Indiana state library associations, and while working in Galveston he belonged to the Rotary Club and the Open Forum. His interest in poetry was lifelong, and he was a member of a poetry or literary society wherever he lived. In his youth he joined the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) at the urging of his mother, and his religious views were not wholly accepted at Abilene Christian College. In later years his religion was not oriented to a church. He and Marguerite Lewis were married on May 28, 1924, in Indianapolis, Indiana. They had two children. Curry died on October 30, 1966, in Corpus Christi.

Sheila Winship, Arthur Ray Curry (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1966).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Sheila Gail Winship Davis, “Curry, Arthur Ray,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
September 9, 2020