Faces of TSHA

Academic Spotlight

Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell

Randolph B. "Mike" CampbellTSHA has been honored to have the scholarship, leadership, and talents of Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell for several decades. Mike has served as TSHA Chief Historian since 2008, responsible for the Association’s scholarly mission and providing academic oversight to its programs. He is the Regents’ Professor of history at the University of North Texas, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1966.

In 2013 Mike became the inaugural Lone Star Chair in Texas History, having been named Lone Star Professor in 2011 after completion of the first phase of creation of the chair. Establishing the chair was a project of TSHA and UNT collaboration as part of their affiliation. The Lone Star Chair also was charged to serve as Chief Historian.

As Chief Historian, Mike is editor of the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, works with the Managing Editor of the Handbook of Texas, and is chair of the Publications Committee, recommending to the Board any publications to be undertaken by TSHA. Additionally, he oversees content of the Annual Meeting program, working with the Program Committee in the selection process.

Named a TSHA Fellow in 1985 to honor his academic scholarship, Mike has also earned numerous TSHA awards for his writing. He received the Carroll Award for the best article in the Quarterly in 1970 and 1989, and was awarded the Tullis Prize in 1989 for the best book on Texas history for An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821–1865. In 2010 Mike received TSHA’s prestigioius Bryan Leadership in Education Award to honor the outstanding educator in Texas history.

In turn, Mike served as TSHA Board President in 1993-1994 and has continually taken leadership roles with the Board and on numerous committees through his decades of involvement.

Mike was born and raised in Virginia and earned his B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. in history at the University of Virginia. After completing his doctorate on early-19th-century American history, he joined the faculty of UNT. His expertise includes 19th-century Texas history, especially slavery in Texas and Reconstruction, and also the early national period of U.S. history from 1769 to 1848. In the course of his research, Mike has written, edited, or co-authored eleven books, including Gone to Texas: A History of the Lone Star State, which won the 2004 Award of Merit from the Philosophical Society of Texas, and An Empire for Slavery, published in 1989 and still in print. A prolific writer, his articles appear in noted journals throughout the country.

TSHA has been most fortunate that Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell was "gone to Texas" in 1966.

Gregg Cantrell

image of Gregg CantrellGregg Cantrell most recently showed his strong commitment to TSHA as he raced for miles across Texas as a member of TeamTSHA in the 28-hour Texas Independence Relay to support the Handbook of Texas.

He has a particular affinity for the Handbook, serving on the Handbook Advisory Committee for a second term. Through the years, Gregg has participated in or chaired a wide variety of TSHA Committees. They include various Committees for academic programs such as Education, the Carroll Award, and the Annual Meeting Program, and also those for administrative functions like Finance, Audit, and Personnel.

As a member of the TSHA Board of Directors for 10 of the past 11 years and the 2013-2014 TSHA President, Gregg has brought a rare understanding of the balance of producing quality academic programs with fiscal responsibility.

A native of West Texas, Gregg earned all three of his degrees at Texas A&M University and has taught at several colleges and universities. Currently, he holds the Erma and Ralph Lowe Chair in Texas History at Texas Christian University, where he takes particular pleasure in working with graduate students. A regular contributor to TSHA’s Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Gregg is the co-author of a college-level textbook, co-edited an anthology on history and collective memory in Texas, and published a number of scholarly articles and essays. In all, he has written five books and is in the final stages of a book on the Texas Populist Party. A Fellow of the Association since 2008, he exemplifies a distinctive aptitude for historical investigation through his published work.

Discover much more about Gregg Cantrell and his contributions to the TSHA mission on his website. He has figuratively and literally shown that he will go the extra mile for TSHA.

Caroline Crimm

Caroline Castillo Crimm, professor, historian, community activist, and award-winning author, has spent her career educating audiences about inspirational historical figures. She is always ready to serve her community—Texas, TSHA, Sam Houston State University, her students, and those interested in Texas history.

Born in Mexico City, Mexico, she completed her B.A. at the University of Miami and her M.A. at Texas Tech University before earning her Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin. She taught at Sam Houston State University from 1992–2010, after which she received Professor Emeritus status. Caroline was awarded numerous teaching awards, including TSHA's Bryan Leadership in Education Award. She was named a TSHA Fellow in 2005 in recognition of her extensive research in Texas, Latino, and Southwest history showcased in her numerous publications. Among her many books is the award-winning De Leon: A Tejano Family History (2004), a ground-breaking study of Latino empowerment.

A member of TSHA's Board of Directors from 2007 through 2012, Caroline has also devoted much time serving on eight TSHA Committees. Through the years, her participation has included work with several awards committees that select recipients of TSHA Awards and Fellowships, the program committee that determines the sessions to be accepted for TSHA's Annual Meeting, and the Fellows committee to select historians to be honored for their scholarship.

Perhaps her most far-reaching service has been on the Education Committee that guides TSHA Education Programs that impact nearly 180,000 students and teachers across the state. In addition, as a sponor of the SHSU Chapter of TSHA's Webb Society, she has encouraged countless college-level historians to actively engage in researching and writing about Texas history.

With her expertise in Latin American and Texas history, she provides gripping and motivating discussions of historical characters. Lately she has focused on General Bernardo de Gálvez, recently named Honorary U.S. Citizen, only the eighth person to be so honored. She discussed Gálvez in November for TSHA's Texas Talks, an interactive distance-learning program. Caroline returns for the December Texas Talks as she shares her knowledge of the contrasting cultures of two South Texas women. Learn more about Caroline on her website.

As Caroline Crimm inspires her audiences with stories about history and people in Texas, she commands great respect for her own indefatigable commitment to her community and TSHA.

Light Townsend Cummins

Light Townsend Cummins holds the Guy M. Bryan Chair of American History at Austin College in Sherman.

He served as the State Historian of Texas from 2009 to 2012, having been recommended by both TSHA and the Texas Historical Commission. During his tenure, Light spoke to dozens of groups across the Lone Star State and beyond. In 2014, TSHA published On History’s Trail: Speeches and Essays of the Texas State Historian, 2009-2012. The book chronicles many of the presentations he gave across Texas.

With a wide smile, Light claims he has visited every town in Texas "big enough to have a stoplight, and some that haven't." Even before his appointment as State Historian, he traveled the state as he researched topics for his numerous books and articles. Often joining him was his wife, Victoria Cummins, Ph.D., who is also a professor of history at Austin College.

A Texan since the age of two months, Light grew up in San Antonio. His family has lived in the Lone Star State for nearly 200 years and he recalls relatives who participated in cattle drives. During the summers he spent on Texas ranches, he learned to ride a horse and handle cattle.

A former Fulbright scholar, Dr. Cummins received his bachelor’s degree from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) and his doctorate degree in history from Tulane University. He has taught Texas History for more than thirty years at Austin College and was appointed by Governor Ann Richards to serve on the Stephen F. Austin Bicentennial Commission. In 1994, he was awarded the Premio de España y America by King Carlos I of Spain for his scholarly research dealing with the history of Spain and the United States.

Having shown by his published work a special aptitude for historical investigation, Light was selected as a TSHA Fellow in 1993. In 2006, he was named a Minnie Stevens Piper Professor to recognize his superior teaching at the college level. The following year, he received the Alumni Achievement Award from Texas State University-San Marcos, and in 2011, he was honored by the university's College of Liberal Arts with its Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. In recognition for his many literary achievements, Light was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters.

Light has written or edited numerous books and articles on the history of Texas, Louisiana, and the Southwestern United States. He has twice won TSHA’s Liz Carpenter Award as his books, Allie Victoria Tennant and the Visual Arts in Dallas and Emily Austin of Texas 1795-1851 were deemed the best scholarly books on the history of women and Texas for 2016 and 2009, respectively.

Deeply involved with TSHA for decades, Light has served two terms on the Board of Directors and enthusiastically attends the Annual Meetings. Attendees of the 2011 Annual Meeting in El Paso may recall the uproarious live auction he led with fellow master of ceremonies, Lonn Taylor. There, Light proved that a serious, respected historian can have an entertaining sense of humor.

TSHA is most fortunate that Light Townsend Cummins—the preeminent historian, professor, and writer—furthers TSHA’s mission to foster the understanding of the rich and unique history of Texas through his actions, leadership, and writing.

Jesús F. de la Teja

The celebrated Texas historian Jesús F. "Frank" de la Teja is not from Texas; he was born in Cuba and raised in New Jersey. He earned both his bachelor’s degree in political science and his master’s degree in Latin American history from Seton Hall University. When he came to Texas to earn his doctorate in colonial Latin American history from The University of Texas at Austin, his love affair with Texas history began. An instructor recommended de la Teja as a researcher for novelist James Michener, who was then writing Texas. He worked for Michener for more than two years. "In that time I had to learn a lot of Texas history," de la Teja stated. "That led me to write my dissertation on Spanish San Antonio. Before I finished writing it, I became an archivist at the Texas General Land Office. There, I dealt with Texas history on a daily basis and my fascination with the subject was cemented. I've been doing Texas history ever since."

De la Teja was the Jerome H. and Catherine E. Supple Professor of Southwestern Studies, Regents’ Professor of History, and Director of the Center for the Study of the Southwest at Texas State University-San Marcos until his retirement in August 2017. In February 2018, he agreed to lead TSHA, where he serves as the Association’s CEO.

Over many years, de la Teja has given generously of his time and considerable talents for TSHA programs, projects, and publications. He served as TSHA President in 2007-2008 while simultaneously serving as the inaugural Texas State Historian (2007-2009). For seventeen years, July 1997 to April 2014, de la Teja was the book review editor of the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, responsible for hundreds of reviews of scholarly books on Texas and the Southwest. He has also contributed research articles to the Quarterly, most notably "Why Urbano and María Trinidad Can’t Get Married: Social Relations in Late Colonial San Antonio," which was his presidential address in 2008. De la Teja often advises on TSHA projects, most recently with the Handbook of Tejano History, a Handbook of Texas project. Perhaps one of his greatest legacies is shared with his wife, Magdalena H. de la Teja, Ph.D. Together they have established the Catarino and Evangelina Hernández Research Fellowship to support further research in Latino history in Texas. The Fellowship is named in honor of Dr. Magdalena de la Teja's parents, emigrants from Mexico who became U.S. citizens.

Named a TSHA Fellow in 2001, de la Teja has demonstrated remarkable abilities in research and knowledge as he has published extensively on Spanish, Mexican, and Republic-era Texas. He participated on the content development team for the Bullock Texas State History Museum. In addition, he is a recipient of the Americanism Medal from the Daughters of the American Revolution, a Fellow of the Texas Catholic Historical Society, and a member of the Philosophical Society of Texas and the Texas Institute of Letters.

Always eager to use new ways to promote Texas history, de la Teja delivered TSHA's inaugural Texas Talks, an interactive distance-learning program. He welcomed the opportunity to share his knowledge of Texas history. We are grateful Frank de la Teja fell in love with Texas and has chosen to share his expertise with TSHA, the state of Texas, and beyond.

Lynn Denton

For the majority of her career, Lynn Denton has been actively involved in Texas history. She may have even gotten it under her fingernails as she studied archeology at Texas Tech University and received her B.A. in Archeological Studies and her Ph.D. in Anthropology from The University of Texas at Austin. Yet, interpreting Texas history in its many forms has been the main focus of her career as she built on the foundations of her M.A. in Museum Studies from Texas Tech University.

Initially, Lynn focused on bringing greater understanding to Texas's natural and cultural history during her leadership at the Texas Memorial Museum, where she eventually became the Museum's Assistant Director and Public Programs Director. Her many talents were recognized and she was recruited to be the Bullock Texas State History Museum's inaugural director. For three years, she worked as part of a small team to plan the innovative, state-of-the-art Museum, literally from the ground up. Lynn then directed the Bullock Texas State History Museum from its opening in 2000 until 2008, wisely guiding it to earn numerous awards and recognition, and wide admiration from the public and museum professionals.

Lynn's expertise in developing public history programs now has the potential for an even wider audience as she directs the graduate Public History Program and the Center for Texas Public History at Texas State University. Her passion for creating innovative programs inspires the next generation of those who will tell the myriad stories we learn in museums, exhibits, and public programs. TSHA's interactive, online program, Texas Talks, launched in September 2015, is planned and administered by a former student who earned her M.A. from Texas State under Lynn's guidance. The breadth of Lynn's influence will be far-reaching.

Lynn ably led TSHA as Board President from 2015 to 2016, having served on the Board since 2012, and on numerous TSHA Committees through the years. Her presidential address on the efforts to establish a state museum, given at the 2016 TSHA Annual Meeting, will appear in the October 2016 issue of the Southwestern Historical Quarterly.

A native Texan, Lynn grew up in Lubbock, as her warm West Texas accent affirms. TSHA, and indeed all of Texas, can be glad Lynn Denton's heart and talents have remained in Texas, anchored in conveying its history.

Andrés Tijerina

Andrés Tijerina, Ph.D., a native of Ozona, earned his B.A. degree from Texas A&M University, M.A. from Texas Tech University, and Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. Following teaching stints at Texas Tech, UT Austin, UT San Antonio, and Texas A&M-Kingsville, Tijerina joined the faculty of Austin Community College and serves with distinction as Professor of History at the Pinnacle Campus.

He and Emilio Zamora, Ph.D., co-directed TSHA's Handbook of Tejano History, the culmination of a two-year effort involving dozens of researchers, educators, students, and Texas history enthusiasts committed to capturing and sharing Tejano contributions to Texas life and culture. The Handbook of Texas spin-off contains more than 1,200 entries, including 300 new entries, detailing the critical influence of Tejanos on the Lone Star State.

Tijerina is the author of Tejanos and Texas Under the Mexican Flag and Tejano Empire: Life on the South Texas Ranchos. He edited Andrés Saenz's Early Tejano Ranching in Duval County and co-edited Elena Zamora O'Shea's novel entitled El Mesquite. TSHA and other organizations such as the Sons of the Republic of Texas and the Texas Historical Commission have officially recognized the significance of his works with TSHA's Kate Broocks Bates Award, and Presidio La Bahía Award and the T. R. Fehrenbach Award.

In 1997, Tijerina was named a TSHA Fellow in recognition of his outstanding research, extensive writing, and the numerous quality presentations he gives to historians throughout the state. His writings have appeared as chapters, articles, and book reviews in journals ranging from TSHA's Southwestern Historical Quarterly to the American Historical Review.

We are grateful that Andrés Tijerina chose to focus his considerable talents on the history of his home state and particularly on Tejano history. Our libraries, conferences, and other media have a fuller story because of his work.

Donor Spotlight

J. P. Bryan

J. P. Bryan and his family have had years of involvement with TSHA and the history of Texas. He was first introduced to TSHA by formerDirector, H. Bailey Carroll, for whom J. P. served as a grader while attending The University of Texas at Austin in pursuit of his law degree. His uncle, Guy M. Bryan was a founder and Secretary and served on theBoard of Directors from 1897–1901. J. P. was President from 1982–83 and his father was President from 1965–1967.

Over the years, J. P. has raised more funds for TSHA than anyone in its history. Because he and his wife, Mary Jon, believe so strongly in supporting the teaching of Texas history, they sponsor the annual Bryan Leadership in Education Award. Just this year, the Award has been expanded to honor two educators in Texas history: one at the middle school or high school level and one at a college or university. The Award includes two prizes of $5,000 each, the largest of all TSHA awards. In 2006, J. P. served as Gala Chairman for the event that raised $525,000 for TSHA. He raised pledges of $750,000 to fund the Lone Star Chair in Texas History, to which he and Mary Jon are also contributors. Most recently, J. P. was instrumental in the production of the fundraiser, "Dinner and Dialogue," with Tommy Lee Jones and Bill Wittliff held last winter in Houston.

Generous with his talents, two TSHA books, Julian Onderdonk in New York: The Lost Years, The Lost Paintings and the award-winning At the Heart of Texas: 100 Years of the Texas State Historical Association, 1897-1997 have introductions penned by J. P. To honor his scholarship in Texas history, J. P. has been a TSHA Fellow since his election in 2012. After serving on the Board of Directors for years and in recognition of his continued involvement on numerous TSHA Committees, J. P. was named a Lifetime Board Member, one of three to receive the honor. TSHA will continue to benefit from his knowledge and expertise.

Fortunately for TSHA, passion for Texas history and for our organization run strongly in the Bryan family. That passion is manifest in the actions of J. P. Bryan as he provides the means to fulfill our mission in bringing Texas history to everyone.

James H. Clement

James H. Clement Jr.James "Jamey" H. Clement Jr. is a sixth-generation descendant of Capt. Richard King, founder of the storied King Ranch. Jamey is now chairman of the board of King Ranch, where he has also served as vice president and treasurer. Having grown up on the Ranch, he only began to realize its uniqueness when he left at an early age for school. He found that everyone knew of King Ranch, which, at 185,000 acres, rivals the state of Rhode Island in size.

Jamey has been a TSHA Board Member since 2012 and has served on the Development and Finance Committees since 2012. He now co-chairs the Development Committee and is the vice chair of the Finance Committee.

King Ranch continues to flourish by embracing diversity, which it has done since the beginning. Under Jamey’s guidance, TSHA is using the same approach for development. Plans for TSHA giving have diversified to include new ideas as well as traditional avenues. Jamey has led efforts to augment donations and sponsorships by Texas and Texas-based businesses along with seeking donations from TSHA members and others with an interest in Texas history.

Setting an example for the types of giving that he promotes, Jamey has made personal gifts to TSHA and has arranged sponsorships for TSHA’s Texas Almanac by King Ranch.

James H. Clement holds a B.A. in Economics from Tulane University and an M.B.A. from The University of Texas at Austin. He resides in Dallas, but returns to King Ranch frequently.

Red McCombs

Red McCombs was born in the West Texas town of Spur. He attended Southwestern University before serving in the U.S. Army in 1946-1947, and then completed his education at The University of Texas at Austin. The red-headed entrepreneur first went into business for himself at the age of ten by selling peanuts to farm workers.

A natural-born salesman, McCombs began selling cars in Corpus Christi at age 22 and opened his first dealership at age 25. Since then he has owned and represented almost every brand of vehicle. At his peak, he owned 62 dealerships. As the founder of the Red McCombs Automotive Group, he claims, "All other products pale in comparison with the desire to have a car." McCombs pioneered the used car business model employed today by most retail auto dealers. An innovator and leader throughout the automobile industry, he is a frequent speaker to industry groups.

His businesses are diversified. Over the years McCombs has owned stakes in some 400 businesses, including co-founding Clear Channel Communications and pro-sports teams the Nuggets, Spurs, and Vikings. These days the San Antonian also breeds longhorn cattle, drills for oil, builds condos, and invests in private companies. McCombs has been inducted into five Halls of Fame. McCombs’ trademark expression is “Expect to Win, Prepare to Win, Execute to Win.”

Giving to others is a way of life for McCombs. Quick to offer help to those in need, his generous concern for others is evident. McCombs has worked in various leadership positions in his community. His family foundation gives more than 300 monetary gifts each year to community, education, and health-oriented charities. His contributions through the years have benefitted numerous TSHA programs. McCombs views such giving not as gifts, but as investments in the future of Texas.

Through all of his wheeling and dealing, however, McCombs says he has signed only one lifetime contract—with his wife of 64 years, Charline. We are grateful this extraordinary Texan made another lifetime commitment—being a generous member of TSHA.

Ellen Clarke Temple

Ellen Clarke Temple of Lufkin, Texas, has been an instrumental force in the forward-thinking that has catapulted TSHA to the forefront of successful regional history organizations.

While TSHA and Annual Meeting attendees appreciate her sponsorship since 2009 of the Women in Texas History Luncheon, her involvement with the Association goes back much further and encompasses many people and projects. Ellen's endowment in 1992 of TSHA's Liz Carpenter Award for Research in the History of Women was anonymous until 2009, when her long-time friend, Frances B. Vick, convinced Ellen to allow Fran to proudly proclaim Ellen as the creator and benefactor of the Award. The Award had been the sole honor bestowed during the Women in Texas History Luncheon during TSHA's Annual Meeting, which has been co-sponsored by Ellen and Fran since 2009. At next year's luncheon, the Ellen C. Temple Research Fellowship in Texas Women's History will be awarded. The Fellowship, made possible by a bequest from Frances Haskell Allmond to Nancy Baker Jones, her granddaughter, was established in 2016 by the Ruthe Winegarten Memorial Foundation for Texas Women's History. It has been named to honor Ellen for her essential role in fostering research in and laying the foundation for the field of Texas women's history.

For the Association's 2011 Annual Meeting, TSHA invited Ellen to relate the story of creating the Liz Carpenter Award. In the telling, Ellen reached back a number of years to the late 1970s and the Texas Women's History Project. She stated that creating the Liz Carpenter Award was part of the effort to sustain the interest and passion for Texas women's history that began with the exhibition Texas Women: A Celebration of History. Noting Liz Carpenter's enthusiasm for the project and the creation of the exhibition, Ellen explained the Award was a way to support all efforts to continue the research and writing of Texas women's history and to honor Liz Carpenter as a maker of Texas history.

Ellen described the encouragement she encountered at TSHA from then-director Tuffly Ellis as she and others sought to have the Handbook of Texas feature more women. She co-authored an entry for the Handbook on the Foundation for Women's Resources. With Ellen's urging and that of others, the Annual Meeting programs began to feature more papers about women in Texas history and TSHA held conferences that featured renowned women historians. Ellen even ensured that the coming generation of historians was rewarded for exemplary research in the history of Texas women. For more than fifteen years she has funded research awards for students: the Minnie Fisher Cunningham Award for Women's History for the Junior Historian Writing Contest and ‎the Jane Y. McCallum Award for the best Texas History Day research projects on women in Texas history.

In 1992, TSHA established the Women in Texas History Luncheon at the Annual Meeting. Nancy Baker Jones, who was director of research with TSHA then, suggested that a prize for research in Texas women's history be awarded at the annual event. Ellen agreed to fund it and asked Liz Carpenter if the award could be named for her. Liz Carpenter agreed and asked Ellen to endow the award, which she did.

The rest, as they say, is history. Since its inception, the Liz Carpenter Award for Research in the History of Women has been bestowed for twenty-four years. The recipients have even included six men. Ellen Temple's encouragement of writers and researchers to focus on the contributions of Texas women has made a profound difference on Texas and TSHA. The Handbook of Texas is fuller and more completely tells Texas history, and the Annual Meetings honor and include contributions by women to Texas history. The Liz Carpenter Award, named for a remarkable Texas woman, is given every year to encourage and celebrate research and writing about Texas women.

This all came about because Ellen Temple worked with TSHA to accomplish these feats that not only advanced women historians and the study of women's contributions to Texas history, but also propelled TSHA to a leadership position in those efforts. Just as "a woman's work is never done," Ellen persists with her big plans and grand ideas. We are honored that they continue to involve Ellen Temple partnering closely with TSHA.

Frances B. Vick

image of Frances B. VickFrances B. Vick of Dallas remains one of TSHA's strongest supporters. A long-time member of the Association, she has generously given of her time, resources, and considerable talents through the years.

Always responsive to TSHA’s fiscal needs, Fran’s history of regular giving includes her three-year Board Member pledge, her annual gifts to the Association, and her sustained support of the Silent Auction through donations and purchases. Annual Meeting attendees know that she has co-sponsored the Women in Texas History Luncheon since 2009. She has inaugurated the Texas Legends program for those benefiting TSHA through planned giving. With the Texas Almanac’s Adopt-a-Town and Adopt-a-County programs, Fran and her adoption gift recipients now "own" many pieces of Texas.

Fran’s generosity extends to giving of her time and talents. She has served on the Board of Directors for many years and as TSHA President 2008-2009. Her vast knowledge of the field of publishing has led to appointments on TSHA Committees for the Texas Almanac and Publications. Named a TSHA Fellow in 2008 to honor her extensive contributions in historical research and published works, she has also served on the Fellows Committee. Her abiding passion for the future of TSHA has led to appointments on the Development, Governance, and Nominating Committees.

The story about how she came to be photographed in the cowboy hat begins to portray her level of commitment to TSHA. Donated for the 2009 Silent Auction, the custom hat needed a model to photograph well for the auction catalogue. TSHA staff asked Fran, then TSHA President, if she would wear the hat for some photographs. Without any hesitation or any questions about what the hat looked like, she agreed and invited staff to her home for the photo shoot.

Fran Vick has always supported TSHA enthusiastically and without hesitation.

William P. Wright Jr.

bill wrightSome residents of the Lone Star State seem to embody more than their share of the qualities that define what it means to be Texan. Their aura swells with a sense of place, love of this land and its history—both natural and human, and a genuine fondness for its inhabitants. With a pervasive friendliness and an innate curiosity, they draw in people and animals through a magnetic grace. William P. Wright Jr. is this sort of Texan.

Photographer and author Bill Wright lives in Abilene and Fort Davis with his wife Alice, and their loyal dog, Sam Houston. His passion for telling visual and narrative stories about iconic Texas locations and their inhabitants has led to numerous photographic series and books. His current project, a biography of Maggie Smith, relates the story of the Big Bend pioneer woman. The Abilene Center for Contemporary Arts features an exhibition of his photographs from his book, Authentic Texas.

Bill has served on the TSHA Board of Directors and on many other national and state boards, including the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Texas Commission on the Arts. He is a former board chair for the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin and for the Texas Council for the Humanities—now Humanities Texas. Bill’s numerous professional and civic awards include the Leica Medal of Excellence, Abilene’s Outstanding Citizen award, and the Outstanding West Texan by the West Texas Chamber of Commerce. He is a member and past president of the Philosophical Society of Texas.

Bill’s involvement in the humanities followed a circuitous route. After graduating from Abilene High School and two years at Rice University where he majored in physics, Bill’s trouble passing a class in German that was required for his degree program at Rice led him to enroll at the University of Texas at Austin. He never returned to Rice or physics. In his two years at UT Austin, Bill studied a variety of subjects more far-ranging than a regular curriculum. In those classes, his passion for education and for the humanities took root. Once he emerged from the University with a degree in business and marketing, Bill returned to Abilene where he soon began the first of a series of successful business enterprises. In 1989, he sold his main business interest and embarked on his writing and photography career, while focused on service to education and the humanities.

Because Bill wants his passion for Texas to extend to all who are interested in the state’s history, he has included TSHA in his will. With planned giving, he ensures that the appreciation, understanding, and teaching of the rich and unique history of Texas through research, writing, publication, and educational programs will continue. Bill Wright is a Texas Legend, joining Frances B. Vick and others before them. His far-sightedness has the capacity to inspire others to be the charismatic Texans of tomorrow—those who have learned the lessons of this land and embody its spirit—Texans like Bill Wright.

Staff Spotlight

Brett Derbes

image of Brett Derbes

Brett Derbes is the Managing Editor for the Handbook of Texas, a role he describes as a "hoped-for dream that has come to fruition." Responsible for the 26,000-entry digital project, Brett manages the Handbook, from assigning entries to staff, through edits and revisions, to finalizing them for posting. He also plans for the future of the Handbook, which will include the addition of much more media.

As a new graduate student in history at the University of North Texas, Brett cultivated friendships with the top pool of graduate students. All of them interacted closely with TSHA Chief Historian Randolph "Mike" Campbell, Board Member and TSHA Fellow Richard B. McCaslin, and TSHA Fellow Richard G. Lowe. Brett claimed that as he was admitted into the fold, they helped "fashion him into a historian." He was already well on his way, having earned a B.A. in history at UNT. Tapped by Mike Campbell to assist with the Handbook of Civil War Texas, Brett researched and wrote thirty-three entries in the Handbook.

After completing his M.A. in history at UNT in 2011, Brett earned a full scholarship at Auburn University to pursue his Ph.D. in history. He earned his Ph.D. in 2018 upon completing his dissertation, "Inmates Make War: Convict Labor at State Penitentiaries in the Antebellum and Civil War South, 1796-1865." The chapters examine state penitentiaries in Texas and seven other Confederate states. Of the many projects Brett has undertaken, his work on the Encyclopedia of Alabama and his experience in archival studies have prepared him well for managing the Handbook of Texas. His scholarship, research, and writing have earned a number of awards.

Annual meeting attendees may recall his presentation on W.T. G. Weaver in a session at the 2013 meeting in Fort Worth. Those who missed his presentation there can read the entry he wrote on Weaver in the Handbook of Texas. Brett has also published book reviews in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly.

Music aficiaonados in Dallas and Fort Worth may recognize Brett as the talented drummer in the local band Jack Mystery. He has been drumming since age 11 and participated in marching and symphonic band. Brett and his wife, Kim, suspect their two-year-old son, Alex, will also be a musician.

Brett Derbes will certainly guide the Handbook of Texas well, keeping it always on beat.