In Memoriam: Kent Keeth and Tom Charlton (From the 2019 ITS & Libraries Magazine)

Since 2018, the Libraries and ITS saw the passing of two influential members of the Baylor family, each of whom played an important role in the history of the University Libraries. Kent Keeth, longtime director of The Texas Collection (1973-2003) passed away at age 79, and Dr. Thomas Charlton, founding director of the Institute for Oral History, passed away at age 82. Both Keeth and Charlton guided their respective areas into new and influential positions in the world of scholarly resources and the preservation of personal histories, respectively, and the University Libraries and ITS join together in celebrating their lives in this brief tribute.
Keeth greatly expanded the holdings of The Texas Collection by widening its collecting focus to include not only historic archival holdings and artifacts but also contemporary materials like cookbooks and postcards. He was also the author of a popular series of articles on Baylor’s history, and he and his wife, Lucy, helped establish the Sanger Heights Neighborhood Association.
Charlton was, as his IOH colleagues stated in an online tribute, a “giant in the oral history profession.” He oversaw the Institute’s growth from a small program to a nationally-recognized Institute. His zeal for collecting the stories of those who witnessed and made history was unmatched, and the resulting collection of oral memoirs – most of which are now available in digital form as part of the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections – have shaped scholars’ understanding and knowledge about events local, regional, and national. 
Today, The Texas Collection is the preeminent repository of all things Texana, and the Institute for Oral History – in addition to being a leading light in the field – has become a valued part of the University Libraries organization. Simply put, the current makeup of the University Libraries would be much different, and less rich, were it not for the contributions of these two men, who are greatly missed by their many friends and colleagues.

This story originally appeared in the 2019 Baylor University ITS & Libraries Magazine. To join our mailing list for future editions, email us at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *