Professor of African American History in the American West
I graduated from Luther College in 1962, took history from Oien, Evanson, and my mentor, Earl Leland. I thoroughly enjoyed my two years at Luther, met many fine friends—a cadre of us, including Terry Sorem, referred to ourselves, somewhat egotistically I suppose, as “The Magnificent Seven.” I then earned a master’s degree from Eastern New Mexico University, where I studied under Richard Cole’s father, Dr. Martin L. Cole. A couple of years later, I followed Dr. Cole to Texas Lutheran College where he served as president and I taught history for a year. I earned a Ph.D. in history, 1968, from Texas Tech University.
I spent a quarter century at California State University Hayward as a specialist in African American history, then about a decade as arts and sciences dean at Sul Ross State University in Alpine Texas. I was pleased to receive Luther’s Distinguished Service Award, presented by John Christianson, in the early nineties. I have published twenty nine books, generally in my major field of interest, black history in the west. I retired in 2003, and spend my time traveling to meetings and writing.
This spring I received the Liz Carpenter Award for Best Book on Women’s History, given by the Texas State Historical Association, my second such--the title of the book, with Merline Pitre, was Southern Black Women in the Modern Civil Rights Movement. I also, with Robert Mallouf, earned the Rupert Richardson Award for Best Book on West Texas History, title was Big Bend’s Ancient and Modern Past. I just received a second favorable reader’s report on my next book, Anti-Black Violence in Twentieth Century Texas. One question asked of myself, and a few others who were fortunate enough to follow such a path, and I admit I have never had very good answers for, is “what is a white dude (or honky) like you doing in black history.”
I can only say that going South from Iowa and Minnesota (Luther College) was a different experience. One of the first things I noticed were the public restrooms—one for men, one for women, and one for colored, or whatever term was in vogue at that location. It was also a time of considerable civil rights activity, and I took courses, not on black history—there were none then-- but with faculty from Ohio State, Wisconsin etc. who were concerned about civil rights and taught new, for then, ideas about slavery, the Confederacy, and race relations. I soaked it up, wrote a dissertation on blacks in Texas, and became a specialist in black history. I received a very good start from Luther College, thoroughly enjoyed my career as a history professor, and still spend time every day writing and reading about black history in the West, and sometimes a little broader.