West Texas Historical Association

The West Texas Historical Association is an organization of both academics and laypersons dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of the total history of West Texas, loosely defined geographically as all Texas counties and portions of counties located west of Interstate 35.

Formation of the WTHA

Royston Campbell Crane, an attorney from Sweetwater, Texas, the seat of Nolan County, and a son of the historian and former Baylor University president William Carey Crane, first proposed establishment of the association to emphasize studies unique to the large geographic region. On April 19, 1924, the association was chartered at the Taylor County Courthouse in Abilene, Texas. Six Abilene residents were also involved in the founding of the association: Rupert N. Richardson, later president of Baptist-affiliated Hardin-Simmons University from 1943 to 1953; William Curry Holden, then of Methodist-affiliated McMurry University and later first president of the Museum of Texas Tech University in Lubbock; L. G. Kennamer of Abilene Christian University, a Church of Christ institution, and J. M. Radford, Laura J. D. Scarborough, and B. E. Glammery. Other strong supporters of the movement included James W. Hunt and Jefferson D. Sandefer, then the presidents of McMurry and Hardin-Simmons (at the time Simmons College), respectively. From the original 24 members, the organization grew in 60 years to nearly 400, including 127 libraries. In addition to president R. C. Crane, the original officers included Rupert Richardson, secretary, and Laura Scarborough, treasurer. In 1929, the association received a 50-year charter of incorporation from the state.[1]

On April 18, 1925, the association held its first annual meeting in Cisco in Eastland County, located east of Abilene. Thereafter, it published the first volume of the West Texas Historical Association Year Book. Only eighty pages, the publication included three scholarly articles and reprints of several historical documents.[1] The Yearbook was renamed in 2014 (for the 2013 publication material) as the West Texas Historical Review.

Later years

By 1983, by the time of the 59th Year Book, total published items had increased to 502 scholarly or semi-scholarly articles, 90 memoirs or recollections, and 51 miscellaneous items. including approximately 30 under the title "History in West Texas." As explained the historian Ernest Wallace, the original topics of Indians, military matters, and pioneer settlers have expanded over the years to include additional studies: contemporary politics, education, ethnic minorities, women, transportation, the environment, music, entertainment, and architectural structures.[1]

The WTHA Year Book contains a book-review section, an index, and the auditor’s annual report. In 2004, Ashley Armes,[2] a history professor at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas,[3] won the "Outstanding Student Paper Award" for her article on the 1978 open contest for the United States House of Representatives to select a successor to long-term Democrat George Mahon. The two major party contenders were future U.S. President George W. Bush of Midland, the Republican nominee, and then Democrat State Senator Kent Hance of Dimmitt and later the chancellor of Texas Tech. Hance handed Bush his only defeat in five times on general election ballots. The article is entitled "Kent Hance, George W. Bush, and West Texas' 1978 Congressional Election."[4]

In addition to the Year Book, the WTHA publishes The Cyclone, a newsletter issued in February and August, currently edited by James T. "Jim" Matthews, an official of the Boy Scouts of America, and his wife, Becky, of San Antonio.[5]

The organization had been particularly associated with Hardin-Simmons, where twenty-two of the annual meetings were held during the early years of the organization. In 1998, with the retirement of B W Aston, a historian at Hardin-Simmons from the position of WTHA executive director, the association relocated to Texas Tech and became integral to the Southwest Collection there.[6] Annual meetings are usually held in Lubbock once every two or three years. Gatherings have also been held in Midland, Odessa, Monahans, Brady, Weatherford in Parker County west of Fort Worth, and Alpine, home of Sul Ross University. R. C. Crane served as the first president of the organization for twenty-four years, but in 1975, a term limit of one-year was placed on each succeeding president.[1] Past presidents have included rancher Marisue Potts of Motley County and the petroleum businessmen and West Texas historian Travis Roberts of Sanderson in Terrell County and Clayton W. Williams, Sr., of Fort Stockton, father of the 1990 Republican gubernatorial nominee, Clayton W. Williams, Jr.

The 2010 conclave held in Fort Worth on February 25–27, was a rare joint meeting with the East Texas Historical Association, based in Nacogdoches. The 2009 meeting was held at the Radisson Hotel in Lubbock; attendants were given a tour of Ransom Canyon and the Harvey House in Slaton. In the spring of 2008, the association met on the campus of West Texas A&M University in Canyon and tours there included the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum and the Palo Duro Canyon.

The 2013 association meeting, with the theme "Tracking the Trail of History", convened at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls; the 2014 meeting was held in Odessa, with an emphasis on public history. The 2015 meeting is scheduled for Amarillo.

The current executive director of the association is Tai D. Kreidler, a native of Burkburnett, Texas, and the co-director of the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University who holds a PhD from Texas Tech.[7]

Other notable members, officers, contributors

  • Paul H. Carlson, professor emeritus at Texas Tech; specialist on the American West, WTHA fellow, and former editor of the Year Book
  • Patrick Dearen, Midland-based author; winner of 2014 WTHA Elmer Kelton Book Award for his 2012 novel, To Hell and the Pecos
  • J. Frank Dobie (1888–1964), "Progenitor of the Mustang", Vol. 26[5]
  • Joe B. Frantz, "Prospecting in Western History", Vol. 40[5]
  • J. Evetts Haley (1901–1995), best known of the West Texas historians; contributed "Grass Fires of the Southern Plains" (Year Book Vol. 5, 1929)[5]
  • Elmer Kelton (1926–2009), novelist of the American West; "Converting History into Fiction", Vol. 48[5]
  • Herbert H. Lang (1921–2006), Texas A&M University American West professor, "Fort Worth's Role in the Origins of the Helium Industry", Vol. 47, p. 127[5]
  • Bill O'Neal, Texas state historian, prolific western author and retired professor at Panola College in Carthage, Texas; 2014–2015 WTHA president
  • Lou Halsell Rodenberger (1926–2009), WTHA fellow; "West Texas Pioneer Women: The Wilder, Stronger Breed", Vol. 77[5]
  • Jean A. Stuntz, West Texas A&M University department chairperson; former WTHA book review editor, specialist in women's studies
  • Walter Prescott Webb (1888–1963), "Land and Life of the Great Plains", Vol. 4[5]

See also

Texas State Historical Association


  1. "Ernest Wallace, "West Texas Historical Association"". tshaonline.org. Retrieved October 10, 2009.
  2. Ashley Armes is a daughter of Paul Woodson Armes, president of Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas, and a granddaughter of Sybil Leonard Armes, a Texas Baptist author and musician.
  3. "Rate My Professors: Ashley Armes". ratemyprofessors.com. Retrieved October 12, 2009.
  4. Ashley Armes, "Kent Hance, George W. Bush, and West Texas' 1978 Congressional Election", West Texas Historical Association Year Book (2004), Volume 81, p. 113
  5. "West Texas Historical Association Publications". swco.ttu.edu. Retrieved October 10, 2009.
  6. "From the Executive Director" (PDF). swco.ttu.edu. Retrieved October 10, 2009.
  7. "West Texas Historical Association". swco.ttu.edu. Retrieved October 10, 2009.
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