Walter Prescott Webb Historical Society


By: David De Boe

Type: General Entry

Published: August 1, 1995

Updated: November 13, 2020


The Walter Prescott Webb Historical Society, the Texas State Historical Association's educational program for college students, was first proposed by Joe B. Frantz when he became director of the TSHA in April 1966. The establishment of the first two chapters, however, did not occur until October of 1973. A group of faculty and students from several Texas colleges and universities met at Baylor University in October of 1973 and created a state-wide nexus of college and university history organizations. Under the leadership of Kenneth Ragsdale, Director of Educational Services for TSHA and hosted by Tom Charlton of the Baylor Department of History, the meeting had as its stated purpose the development of goals and priorities for the organization. Named for Walter Prescott Webb, a director of the TSHA and the founder of the Junior Historians of Texas, the society is open to any undergraduate student-regardless of academic major-who has an interest in Texas history, particularly in local community history. In 1974 the C. M. Caldwell Memorial Endowment Fund was set up to reward outstanding student writing and chapter achievements. The Caldwell Awards are distributed during the society's annual meeting, which is held in the spring in conjunction with the Texas State Historical Association's Annual Meeting. In recent years a student-sponsor conference is also held each fall. Each year a student representing the junior division (less than 60 credit hours) and another representing the senior division are chosen to present their award winning work. Under the leadership of Ragsdale the number of chapters grew to twenty-one. Participation expanded to include schools in most areas of Texas including affiliates at Tarrant County Junior College-Northeast, Austin College, Abilene Christian University, Sul Ross University, Lee College, University of Houston-Downtown, San Jacinto College-North, Central, and South, Lamar University, University of Texas at Tyler, and East Texas Baptist University.

Following the retirement of Kenneth Ragsdale, David DeBoe began his tenure as Director of Educational Services. One of DeBoe’s early contributions to the Webb Society program was the institution of Touchstone, the TSHA’s journal of undergraduate research. The journal, original proposed at the 1973 conference, began as a cooperative venture between the Association and East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) through its Center of American Studies Education. Sheridan Nichols served as editor with Gwin Morris of ETBU as Managing Editor and David DeBoe for TSHA as Associate Editor. The first issue offered nine articles by students representing East Texas Baptist University, University of Texas at Tyler, Wayland Baptist University, San Jacinto College-North, and Lee College. Since 1982 society members have had the opportunity to publish their research in Touchstone, the society's annual publication. In 1991 the magazine changed its format and expanded its content to include articles on pedagogy written by college professors, who also sponsor Webb Society chapters, and other articles of interest to the non-professional historian.  In Touchstone’s first twenty-four volumes, over one hundred-seventy student authored articles were published. In 1995 the magazine had a subscription list of 200. Thirty chapters had been chartered by 1995.

Through published research and historical activism, Webb Society members have added to the body of historical knowledge on Texas and the Southwest while encouraging an awareness of history through their varied activities and projects. Thousands of students and college/university faculty have been inspired to continue their interest in history and the preservation of the heritage of Texas.

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

David De Boe, “Walter Prescott Webb Historical Society,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/walter-prescott-webb-historical-society.

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August 1, 1995
November 13, 2020