Since its original printing in 1952, the publication of the Handbook of Texas has been made possible through the support of its users. As an independent nonprofit, TSHA relies on your contributions to close the funding gap for the online Handbook and keep it a freely accessible resource for users worldwide. Please make a donation today to preserve the most comprehensive encyclopedic resource on Texas history. Donate Today »


David G. McComb

FRANTZ, JOE BERTRAM (1917–1993). Joe B. Frantz, historian, adopted son of Ezra A. and Mary (Buckley) Frantz, was born in Dallas, Texas, on January 16, 1917. He grew up in Weatherford, graduated from Weatherford High School in 1934, attended Weatherford College for two years, transferred to the University of Texas, and graduated in 1938 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He completed a master's degree in history in 1940 at the University of Texas and worked as archivist and acting director of the San Jacinto Museum before joining the United States Navy in 1943. Lieutenant Frantz served in the South Pacific as a communications officer in eight major engagements during World War II and then returned to the University of Texas as a teaching fellow. In 1948 he finished Ph.D. work under the direction of Walter Prescott Webb. His dissertation, published as Gail Borden, Dairyman to a Nation by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1951, won the Texas Institute of Letters prize. Hired by the history department at the University of Texas as an assistant professor in 1949, Frantz became an associate professor in 1953 and full professor in 1959. With Julian E. Choate as a coauthor, his The American Cowboy: The Myth and the Reality, published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1955, established his reputation as an historian of the American West. This was followed in 1961 with 6,000 Miles of Fence: Life on the XIT Ranch of Texas, written with Cordelia Sloan Duke. Meanwhile, Frantz became noted as an outstanding teacher and speaker. He served as chair of the history department, 1959–65, became director of the Texas State Historical Association and editor of the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 1966–77, and was honored as the first holder of the Walter Prescott Webb Chair of History and Ideas at the University of Texas, 1977–80. He retired as professor emeritus in 1986. During his tenure at the University of Texas he wrote thirteen books and supervised more than fifty graduate students. He also worked as the director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Oral History Project, 1967–74, which produced 1,000 oral history interviews to supplement the collection of materials at the Johnson presidential library. Frantz served, in addition, as president of various organizations-Phi Alpha Theta, the international honor society for history, 1962–64; Southwestern Social Science Association, 1963–64; Texas Institute of Letters, 1967–69; Southern Historical Association, 1977–78; and Western History Association, 1978–79. Following his retirement from the University of Texas Frantz taught at Corpus Christi State University as Turnbull Professor in History until 1993. There he continued oral history work, facilitated the quincentennial voyage of the Columbian replica ships, and finished in 1988 a final book, Lure of the Land: Texas County Maps and the History of Settlement, written with Mike Cox. The book won awards from the Texas Historical Commission and from the Sons of the Republic of Texas. Two daughters were born in his marriage to Helen Andrews Boswell of Weatherford, 1939–79. During the next decade he was married twice. In 1990 he married Betsy Chadderdon of Houston. Frantz was a strong Democrat with a preference for the Methodist Church. He died on November 13, 1993, in Houston.

W. Eugene Hollon, "Remembering Joe Frantz," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 97 (January 1994). David G. McComb, "In Memory of Joe B. Frantz," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 97 (January 1994).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, David G. McComb, "FRANTZ, JOE BERTRAM," accessed July 20, 2019,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox