In Memory of Kenneth B. Ragsdale
Kenneth B. Ragsdale, Ph.D.
September 3, 2017–June 17, 2015
With sadness, TSHA has learned of the passing of Kenneth B. Ragsdale, Ph.D., who served on staff from 1966 through 1977. He impacted TSHA projects and programs deeply and profoundly during his years with the organization. His influence, first as a staff member and later as the Director of Educational Services, is still felt and admired as he pioneered or expanded many TSHA programs and services.
The Riding Line newsletter that Dr. Ragsdale initiated in 1966, designed, and edited for ten years remains a benefit of membership. The Chisholm Trail Railcar Traveling Exhibit he designed in 1967 for the Centennial of the Chisholm Trail, the exhibit’s eventual travel to Japan, and its award from the American Association of State and Local History remain a legend.
In 1969 as Director of Educational Services, he took a dwindling Junior Historians program of 69 chapters down a "long road back." Traveling thousands of miles throughout the state each year, Dr. Ragsdale expanded the program to 139 chapters and 4,500 members by 1977. He credited part of that success to his development of History Awareness Workshops for teachers, an outgrowth of the sponsors’ breakfast at Junior Historians Annual Meetings. Additionally, he revamped the journal of the Junior Historians and renamed it the Texas Historian, and also instituted a regular newsletter, The Roadrunner. The journal, newsletter, and workshops remain vital TSHA publications and programs.
In addition to his work with younger students, Dr. Ragsdale proposed a collegiate program named for Walter P. Webb. Any college student interested in Texas history could join and the Walter Prescott Webb Historical Society grew to 21 chapters under Dr. Ragsdale’s guidance.
Dr. Ragsdale’s legacy to TSHA was wide and deep, but most of all, lasting.
A memorial celebrating his life will be held on July 11th, 1:30–3:30 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, 4001 Speedway, Austin, Texas. He is survived by his wife of 72 years, Janet Dittlinger Ragsdale, his daughter, Keith Ellen Ragsdale, and his son, Jeffrey Ragsdale.
When Dr. Ragsdale retired from TSHA in 1977, his many friends established a fund named in his honor to support awards given to Junior Historians in the History Fair competition at their Annual Meeting. Appropriately, the awards are for historical research presented in the form of exhibits, thus celebrating Dr. Ragsdale’s Railcar Traveling Exhibit and his success in expanding the Junior Historians program. His family has agreed that those wishing to honor Dr. Ragsdale and his contributions to Texas history are invited to donate to the fund. All gifts given in his memory will be placed in the Kenneth B. Ragsdale Fund.
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