Texas State Historical Association Returns to UT

Texas State Historical Association Returns to UT

It was a historic day, in more than one sense. UT president Bill Powers was in the Governor’s Public Reception Room at the state capitol Friday morning, the last class day of his tenure as president. He was waiting for a press conference to begin. Kay Bailey Hutchison, president of the Texas Exes, walked in and immediately gave him a big hug.

The leaders gathered at the capitol weren’t there to give Powers a send-off, though—that won’t happen until this summer—but on Powers’ last class day, he proudly announced the return of the Texas State Historical Association to UT-Austin.

The association, a nonprofit dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Texas’ unique history, was born on the UT campus 118 years ago, when a group of historians, led by Garrison Hall namesake George P. Garrison, decided that a state with such an uncommon lineage should find a way to preserve and celebrate its history. At the organization’s first meeting, held at the capitol, the attendants (including Alcalde namesake and former governor Oran “The Old Alcalde” Roberts) stayed so late into the night that the lights were shut off and a custodian had to bring in old lanterns from the basement. The lantern has served as a symbol of the group ever since.

From that flickering lantern light, the association has since grown to produce some of the most popular and authoritative work on Texas history, including the Handbook of Texas, a weighty tome familiar to anyone who’s ever had to write a Texas history paper, the Texas Almanac, and the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, the oldest continuously published journal in the state. The Handbook itself was launched under the guidance of eminent UT historian Walter Prescott Webb.

Hutchison, LLB ’67, BA ’92, Life Member, Distinguished Alumna, also a member of the association’s board, spoke first. “The Texas State Historical Association is coming home,” she said. “The strength of this association is a key reason that our great Texas heritage is preserved.” She noted that in writing her three books dealing with women leaders, she consulted the pages of the Handbook of Texas on countless occasions.

Along with relocating its offices from the University of North Texas back to UT, the association will endow a $1 million chair in the Department of History, and the faculty member who holds the chair will also serve as the association’s chief historian, overseeing the scholarly integrity of the association’s publications and serving on its board.

“The Texas State Historical Association has been helping Texas better understand itself for well more than a century,” Powers said. “It has been a precious asset to our state.” Saying the association has “shared DNA” with UT, Powers lauded the ability for collaborative historical preservation and research using the wealth of UT’s resources.

“We look forward to a great future,” Powers said, “working hand-in-hand to bring light to the richest history of any state in the nation.”

Photo of Garrsion Hall by Marsha Miller.


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