Hudspeth, Frances B. Hellums (1907–1972)

By: Lamar Lentz

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Frances B. Hellums Hudspeth, museum administrator, curator, and librarian, was born on November 4, 1907, in Hico, Texas, the daughter of William E. and B. (Morgan) Hellums. While growing up she lived in several Texas cities, but by 1924 the family had settled in Austin. Frances Hellums graduated from Austin High School and subsequently taught in the high schools of Lamesa and Rising Star. She received a B.A. degree with honors from the University of Texas in 1933 and taught science in the Austin public schools from 1930 to 1939. She married Jack Chever Hudspeth on June 1, 1934. She began her association with the University of Texas in 1940 as an attendance clerk and continued as statistical clerk, administrative secretary, and executive assistant in the office of the dean of arts and sciences. During most of her university career she worked closely with Harry H. Ransom and served in his succession of offices. Ransom referred to her appreciatively as "the Colonel." In 1958 she began her official association with the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center and the publication of the Texas Quarterly, of which she was managing editor from 1958 until her death. She handled a vast range of responsibilities for the growing Humanities Research Center, working on acquisitions with donors, estates, and dealers, and on the housing, sorting, and exhibiting of collections at a time when the HRC did not have a permanent home.

Hudspeth's wide experience helped her to bring her talents and energy to bear on her most important project, the task of putting together a central repository for the HRC. She and Ransom had unique insights into the needs of the center and on a daily basis attended to the work of architects, engineers, builders, furnishers, and staff members in every phase of construction. With Ransom she shared a remarkable knowledge not only of the holdings of the HRC in its formative years but of the many special collections such as the Cora Maud O'neal collection of French decorative arts, the library and study from the home of John Foster Dulles, and the Willoughby-Blake silver collection. She and Ransom planned the HRC building to house collections in rare books and manuscripts, theater arts, photography, and the history of science, as well as reading rooms, study rooms, a conservation lab, offices, and carrels for graduate students. Frances Hudspeth had a special interest in the first two floors, which house the James A. Michener Collection of Twentieth Century American Paintings. She was working on this part of the center at the time of her death in an Austin hospital on January 29, 1972. She was a self-effacing woman who shunned credit for her work. She lived a life of devotion to her family, the university, and books. She is buried beside the grave of her mother in Hico, Texas.

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Carl John Eckhardt, One Hundred Faithful to the University of Texas at Austin (197-?). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


  • Museums, Libraries, and Archives
  • Museums
  • Museum Administrators, Curators, and Directors
  • Women
  • Archivists
  • Librarians

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

Lamar Lentz, “Hudspeth, Frances B. Hellums,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 26, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995

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