Richardson, Rupert Norval (1891–1988)

By: Mark Odintz

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1996

Updated: May 3, 2019

Rupert N. Richardson, historian and educator, was born on April 28, 1891, on Sandy Creek near Caddo, Texas, the son of Willis Baker and Nannie (Coon) Richardson. He graduated from Simmons College (now Hardin-Simmons University) in 1912 with a B.A. and received a B.S. from the University of Chicago in 1914. In 1915 he married Pauline Mays; they had one son. Richardson served as principal of Cisco High School in 1915–16 and Sweetwater High School in 1916–17 before becoming a professor of history at Simmons College in 1917. During World War I he served briefly as a second lieutenant in the army. He did his graduate work in history at the University of Texas, receiving an M.A. in 1922 and a Ph.D. in 1928. He was associated with Hardin-Simmons University until his death, serving as dean of students in 1926, vice president in 1928, acting president in 1943–45, and president in 1945. As president he oversaw the school's dramatic expansion following World War II, with increased enrollments and a number of new buildings. He became president emeritus in 1953, when he returned to the history department. Even after his retirement he continued to teach courses and supervise student theses as a professor emeritus.

Richardson was a preeminent and prolific Texas and Western historian. Among his many scholarly publications were The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement (1933), The Greater Southwest (1934, coauthored with Carl Coke Rister), Adventuring with a Purpose (1952), The Frontier of Northwest Texas (1963), Colonel Edward M. House: The Texas Years (1964), and Caddo, Texas: The Biography of a Community (1966). He also wrote Famous Are Thy Halls: Hardin-Simmons University As I Have Known It (1964). His history textbook Texas: The Lone Star State (1943) eventually went through five editions. While its emphasis on nineteenth-century Texas and its attitudes towards certain topics, such as Reconstruction, became increasingly dated, it was the leading college textbook on the subject well into the 1980s. Richardson helped found the West Texas Historical Association in 1924 and served as an editor of the West Texas Historical Association Year Book from its inception until his death. He was active in many professional organizations. An important figure in the state historical marker program, he was a member of the Texas State Historical Survey Committee (now the Texas Historical Commission) from 1953 to 1967, serving as president from 1961 to 1963 and receiving the Ruth Lester Award in 1972 for his efforts in historical preservation. He was a fellow of the Texas State Historical Association and served as president in 1969–70. He also served as president of the Southwestern Social Science Association, the Texas Philosophical Society , and the Texas Council of Church Related Colleges and Universities. He was a Mason and a district governor of the Lions Club and was active in Baptist affairs. Richardson died in Abilene on April 14, 1988.

Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Southwestern Collection, January 1989. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Education
  • Educators
  • Social Sciences

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

Mark Odintz, “Richardson, Rupert Norval,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1996
May 3, 2019