The West Texas Historical Association was organized at the Taylor County Courthouse in Abilene, Texas, on April 19, 1924. The organization was first proposed by Royston Campbell Crane, Sr., a Sweetwater lawyer, a former resident of Abilene, and the son of William Carey Crane, a historian of note and for several years president of Baylor University. The call for the organizational meeting was signed by Crane and six residents of Abilene-R. N. Richardson of Simmons College (now Hardin-Simmons University), William C. Holden of McMurry College, L. G. Kennamer of Abilene Christian College, J. M. Radford, Laura J. D. Scarborough, and B. E. Glammery. Other strong supporters of the movement included Mrs. J. McAlister Stevenson, John R. Hutto, Carl C. Rister, Fred Cockrell, James W. Hunt, president of McMurry College, and Jefferson D. Sandefer, president of Simmons College. Membership increased from twenty-four in 1924 to approximately 400, including 127 libraries, in 1983. The purpose of the organization, as stated in the call and in the preface of its first official journal, was to promote the investigation, study, and preservation of the history of West Texas. Officers named at the initial meeting included Crane, president, Richardson, secretary, and Scarborough, treasurer; members of the publication committee were Crane, Rister, Holden, Kennamer, and Richardson. In 1929 the association applied for and received from the state of Texas a charter of incorporation for fifty years.
The association held its first annual program meeting in Cisco on April 18, 1925, and soon thereafter published the first volume of the West Texas Historical Association Year Book. This volume, only eighty pages, contained three scholarly articles and reprints of several historical documents. By 1983 the items in the fifty-nine Year Books published by the association numbered 502 scholarly and semischolarly articles, 90 memoirs, recollections, and documents, and 51 miscellaneous pieces, including approximately 30 entitled "History in West Texas." Although all papers presented at the annual meetings and published in the Year Book relate to West Texas, the subject matter has been expanded from primarily Indians, military activities, and early settlers to a wide variety of subjects, including women, ethnic minorities, the environment, transportation, contemporary politics, law enforcement, education, music, entertainment, and architectural structures. Beginning in 1928, 1930, and 1954, respectively, the Year Book has contained a book review section, an index, and the auditor's annual report. The volumes of the Year Book provide an invaluable source of information about West Texas.
The organization has never attempted to define the geographic bounds of West Texas, but it has maintained its headquarters on the campus of Hardin-Simmons University, and twenty-two of its annual meetings have been in Abilene. The geographic range of other annual meetings has extended from Weatherford west to Monahans and from Brady north to Lubbock. The association has had relatively few officers. R. C. Crane served as president for twenty-four years. By 1984 twenty-three others had served in that capacity. In 1975 the president's term of office was limited to one year. In addition to Richardson, secretaries have been Rister, Emmet M. Landers, John R. Hutto, Madge M. Landers Grba, and B. W. Aston. Except for the three-year tenure of Rister, Richardson has been the director and editor, but in 1979 most of that work was assumed by Aston and Kenneth Jacobs.