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WEDDLE, ROBERT SAMUEL [BOB]

WEDDLE, ROBERT SAMUEL [BOB] (1921–2015). Robert S. “Bob” Weddle, renowned historian of colonial Texas (see SPANISH TEXAS) and specialist on Spanish Caribbean rim exploration and settlement from Florida to Yucatán, left a legacy of scholarly publications that earned him the well-deserved title of the “Dean of Spanish Colonial Historians.” He was the son of Charles Leonard Weddle, Sr., and Montee Irene (Nelms) Weddle. Born on June 5, 1921, in Fannin County, Texas, Weddle graduated from Bonham High School before enrolling at Texas Tech University, where his education was interrupted by World War II. He entered Officers Training School in Pittsburg, Kansas. There he met his first wife, Avis Williamson, whom he married on October 27, 1943, in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Weddle served as a naval officer in the Pacific Theater before returning to Texas Tech University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Weddle first worked for United Press in Dallas, followed by employment in the information department at Texas A&M University. He later became city editor for the Sherman Democrat. Weddle and his wife then purchased the Menard News, a weekly paper, which they owned for eleven years. While in Menard, Weddle became intrigued by a replica of Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas, erected outside the town in 1936, and the then unknown site and largely unrecorded history of Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá. His research resulted in the publication of the first of more than a dozen books—The San Sabá Mission: Spanish Pivot in Texas (1964). Thereafter, the Weddles sold the Menard News and moved to Austin where Bob accepted a position with the University of Texas Press.

During his seven years in Austin, Weddle published his second and third books: San Juan Bautista: Gateway to Spanish Texas (1968) and Wilderness Manhunt: The Spanish Search for La Salle (1973). Following employment in Austin, the Weddles returned to Bob’s birthplace in Fannin County and settled at “The Ranch,” west of Bonham, where they became well-known breeders of Black Angus cattle. At their residence, Weddle collected an impressive library, learned to read Spanish and French paleography, became co-advisory editor for Spanish Colonial Texas topics in The New Handbook of Texas (1996) and wrote approximately eighty entries for that encyclopedia, authored many journal articles, and published ten more books. To aid research for Spanish Sea: The Gulf of Mexico in North American Discovery, 1500–1685 (1985), he received a two-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which allowed him to spend the first year working in Spanish archives at Seville, Moguer, Madrid, and Simancas. In Madrid, he found the journal of Juan Enríquez Barroto, who had served as pilot for a Spanish expedition in search of La Salle’s Texas colony that entered Matagorda Bay and discovered the remains of the Belle in 1687. Enríquez’s latitude coordinates from celestial navigation and longitude by dead reckoning for the wreck site were so precise that marine archeologist J. Barto Arnold III’s divers in 1995 found one of the Belle’s cannons on their first dive. Weddle thus deserves credit for finding a historical source that greatly aided underwater archeology and contributed importantly to the 2015 exhibit of the Belle’s hull at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. Among Weddle’s monographs, The Wreck of the Belle, the Ruin of La Salle (2001) remains the favorite of many readers. Weddle’s greatest legacy, however, is his recognition as the foremost American scholar on René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle.

Weddle and wife Avis were members of the First United Methodist Church in Bonham. Several years after the passing of Avis in August 2000, Weddle married Peggy Jean Chandler, who preceded him in death in 2008. His honors include: fellow of the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA); the TSHA’s Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Prize for Changing Tides: Twilight and Dawn in the Spanish Sea, 1763–1803 (1995); on orders of King Juan Carlos I of Spain, admission to the Order of Isabel la Católica, the highest honor the Spanish Government can convey on a non-Spaniard in 2001; and the H. G. Dulaney Award in 2009 as an “esteemed author and revered Texas historian.”

Robert S. Weddle died at Texoma Medical Center in Denison, Texas, on October 16, 2015, from lingering effects of a major stroke suffered three weeks prior. He was survived by his son Timothy R. Weddle of Houston, daughter Teresa Galey (Kenneth) of Slidell, Louisiana, and their children. Weddle is buried in the Carson Cemetery at Ector, Texas.
 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Donald E. Chipman, “Robert S. Weddle Memoriam,” “Southwestern Collection,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 119 (January 2016). Light T. Cummins, “Robert S. Weddle Receives the H. G. Dulaney Award,” October 5, 2009, An Historian of Texas (blog) (http://historianoftexas.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2009-01-01T00:00:00-06:00&updated-max=2010-01-01T00:00:00-06:00&max-results=50), accessed December 15, 2015. Herald Democrat (Sherman, Texas), October 18, 2015.

Donald E. Chipman

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Handbook of Texas Online, Donald E. Chipman, "Weddle, Robert Samuel [Bob]," accessed October 20, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwedd.

Uploaded on December 15, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.