West Texas Historical Association

By: Ernest Wallace

Revised by: Rebecca Matthews

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: May 12, 2022

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 This volume, only eighty pages, contained three scholarly articles and reprints of several historical documents.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," which provide a valuable bibliography of contemporary journal articles and books related to the area’s history. 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, ranch history, the environment, transportation, contemporary politics, law enforcement, education, music, entertainment, and architectural structures. The Year Book has contained a book review section since 1928 and an index since 1930. To acknowledge and encourage high-quality articles, the Mrs. Percy Jones Award was established in 1972 and has been given each year for the best article in the annual publication. The name of the Year Book was changed to the West Texas Historical Review in 2014, though the focus remained unchanged. The volumes of the Year Book and Review provide an invaluable source of information about West Texas.

The organization has never attempted to define the geographic bounds of West Texas, but the geographic range of annual meetings has extended from Fort Worth west to Monahans and from Alpine north to Amarillo. The Association maintained its headquarters on the campus of Hardin-Simmons University until it moved to the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University in 1996. With the move, the association maintained its commitment to encourage both the professional and non-professional historian to participate, serve, and publish with the group. During this time, the association began publishing its newsletter, The Cyclone twice a year. Though it started small, The Cyclone, first published in 1992, grew to include short original articles and condensed reprints of early Year Book articles along with association news. Editors have been JoDee Kite Dryerson (1992-1997), David Murrah (1998-1999), and Jim and Becky Matthews (1999-2014). After a short hiatus when there was no official editor Jim Matthews took up the job again in 2017. In addition to the Jones Award, association awards include the Paul H. Carlson Best Student Essay Award (first awarded in 1995), given to a student paper presented at the annual conference; the Rupert N. Richardson Award (1996) for the best non-fiction book; the Elmer Kelton Award (2000) for the best creative work on West Texas; the R. C. Crane Heritage Service Award (2013) for outstanding preservation work by a nonprofit organization. The Fellows program, adopted in 2008, recognizes members who have made a significant contribution to scholarship and/or to the association. The organization also periodically offers student scholarships and grants.

The association had relatively few officers in its early years. R. C. Crane served as president for twenty-four years. By 2022 sixty others had served in that capacity, fourteen of whom were women. 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 was the director and editor until his death in 1988, although in 1979 most of that work was assumed by Aston and Kenneth Jacobs. After Aston’s retirement in 1998, Paul Carlson served as interim director for a year until Tai Kreidler took the office in 1999, with Lynn Whitfield joining him as Associate Director in 2014. Year Book and Review Editors have been Paul Carlson (1996-2002), Monte Monroe (2003-2014), Robert G. Weaver (2015-2019) and Elissa Stroman (2020-).

Rupert N. Richardson, "Our First Fifty Years," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 50 (1974). Ernest Wallace, "The West Texas Historical Association," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 59 (1983). West Texas Historical Association Files, Department of History, Hardin-Simmons University.

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

Ernest Wallace Revised by Rebecca Matthews, “West Texas Historical Association,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/west-texas-historical-association.

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May 12, 2022