Dr. A — Travelin’ Man

Dr. Armstrong was an inveterate traveler who went to Europe 30+ times. His first trip to Italy occurred in June 1909. During that first trip he met Robert Wiedeman Barrett (Pen) Browning, the poets’ only offspring and stayed three days with him in Asolo. Pen had purchased the property, a derelict house and tower, that his father had tried to buy toward the end of his life. Pen had the house and tower rebuilt and spent the last years of his own life living there.

Over the years, Dr. Armstrong, in addition to visiting Europe many times, visited South Africa, Greece, the Netherlands, India, Germany, Japan, China, Gibraltar, South America and other countries. His travels filled his life with rich memories — of the torch-bearers lighting their torch at Mt. Olympus and racing to the amphitheater in Berlin to begin the Olympic games; of the Wagnerian Festival; of opera in St. Mark’s Square; of Michelangelo’s David in Florence; of the Sistine Chapel in Rome; of the Taj Mahal at sunrise and Gibraltar at sunset; of a moving mass in St. Peter’s; of the unforgettable Oberammergau Passion Play; of Goethe’s home at Weimar; of the vault of Liszt at Bayreuth; of the colossal Christ of the Andes overlooking two countries; of the great Victoria Falls of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe); of lions on the Serengeti and thousands of hippopotamuses on the White Nile.

Dr. and Mrs. Armstrong founded Armstrong Educational Tours in 1912, the year Dr. A. came to Baylor as English Department Head. Due to his dedication to Robert, his works, and his love of traveling, it was natural for him to begin taking groups in the summer to follow in the footsteps of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning — in England, France and Italy, especially. Mrs. Armstrong managed the tour company from offices in France and Waco and issued the publication Armstrong Travel Courier. Approximately four thousand people took the carefully organized Armstrong Tours in a period of twenty years. Former President Brooks of Baylor once introduced his peripatetic English department head as ” the man who makes his living directing a travel bureau so that he can afford to be a college professor.”

In addition to meeting such famous people as Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. A. made it a point to visit missionary friends in Japan, China, India, Africa and South America, many of whom he corresponded with for many years. He also made an effort to contact his former students in those and other countries. One of his favorite memories was of the former student who rode a motorcycle one thousand miles each way from Curitiba to Sao Paulo to visit with his beloved professor.

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