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J. Evetts Haley Sr. to Receive WTAMU Distinguished Alumnus Award

May 30, 2013

COPY BY: Rana McDonald, 806-651-2129, rmcdonald@wtamu.edu

J. Evetts Haley Sr. to Receive WTAMU Distinguished Alumnus Award

Third and final article in a series on WTAMU’s 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award recipients

CANYON, Texas—He was a rancher, historian and author with a passion for history, and J. Evett Haley Sr. spent a lifetime collecting information that would have disappeared forever without his diligence to detail. The stacks of materials and numerous books he wrote, collected and archived through the years have provided a major resource for generations of students on the history of Texas and the American West and earned him posthumous recognition as the recipieJ. Evetts Haley Sr.nt of a 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award at West Texas A&M University.

Each year the WTAMU Alumni Association presents its Distinguished Alumnus Award to successful WTAMU graduates who contribute time and support to the University and to humanitarian causes. Haley (posthumous) is one of three recipients who will be recognized June 8 at the University’s 50th annual Phoenix Banquet.

Although Haley died in 1995 at the age of 94, numerous friends and colleagues wrote letters of nomination for the posthumous award in recognition of his impact on the collection, preservation and writing of the history of Texas. 

“Mr. Haley’s true legacy to later generations of Texans will be revealed by his efforts at preserving and securing history,” J. P. “Pat” McDaniel, director of the Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library and J. Evetts Haley History Center in Midland, said. “Efforts that have left his handprints on four Texas institutions—Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the Barker History Center at the University of Texas at Austin, the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech and the Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library—offer today’s researchers of history an enormous amount of material. His role in securing and preserving the unique and engaging history of Texas and especially West Texas cannot be overstated.”

Haley graduated from West Texas State Teacher College in 1925 and was the first graduate to ever deliver a commencement address at the college. As a student, he was very involved on campus, serving as editor of Le Mirage and as business manager of The Prairie. He was a member of the student council, president of both his senior and sophomore classes, a member of the football team and voted Wittiest Man in the 1924 yearbook. And as a student under history professors Dr. L.F. Sheffy and Hattie Anderson, Haley developed a deep interest in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society (PPHS) and a respect for the importance of preserving the history of the Panhandle region.

That interest paid off. After graduation, PPHS hired Haley as its first field secretary. During his tenure, he collected specimens and documents that have made Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum (PPHM) one of the most important archives and material culture collections in the world.

“Mr. Haley’s two years as PPHS field secretary created the foundation and backbone of the Museum’s collection, recognized worldwide today,” Michael Grauer, associate director for curatorial affairs/curator of art at PPHM, said. “Moreover Mr. Haley’s push for a publication on the Society’s collection resulted in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Review, one of the earliest and most well-respected historical journals in the United States, and his pleas for a museum building started the ball rolling for what PPHM is today.”

When Haley wasn’t traveling across the state interviewing pioneers and collecting artifacts, he was writing. The prolific author wrote numerous articles for newspapers, magazines and journals as well as more than 20 books about the American West. He is probably best known for his book Charles Goodnight Cowman and Plainsman which is still in print today and considered one of the best works ever produced on the Texas cattle industry. He also is the recipient of many awards, including induction into the Hall of Great Westerners at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History and investiture as a Knight of San Jacinto by the Sons of the Republic of Texas.

Montie Gooden, board chairman of the Armstrong County Museum, said it best.

“J. Evetts Haley captured an era.”

And it’s an era that has been captured forever for generations to come.

Haley and fellow award recipients Cody Myers and Ed Wright will be honored at the June 8 Phoenix Banquet during the University’s Summer Alumni Reunion (wtamu.edu/reunion). Reservations for the banquet are $40 per person. For more information or to make reservations, call 806-651-2311.        



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Matthew M. Day
on 6.2.2013

This is an award that is LONG overdue for Mr. Haley. Because of the work that he did in helping to grow the collections now housed at the PPHM, among others, young historians like me can build on that research and offer fresh alternatives to the traditional narrative that could once pass peer review at the American Historical Review. Let's also remember that Haley had the luxury of a number of the cattlemen still being alive when he wrote, something I'm certainly not afforded in 2013. Still, Haley took advantage of this limited window of opportunity to interview and write about Charles Goodnight. Listen, I don't condone his relations (if you can call them that) with the African American community. I do think he would have been at least suspended in today's WTAMU. At the same time, as mentioned, I do think this award is long overdue.