Tag Archive for From the “Lariat” archive

(Digital Collections) A Double Inspiration: The Tragic and Triumphant Lives of Judge Quentin Corley and Frank G. Coleman

As the work to post the audio of the final years of Dr. George W. Truett’s long career continues apace, I was generating a transcript for his sermon of January 3, 1943 when a story caught my attention. Truett uses a fair number of what I privately call his “modern day parables” to help illustrate his points. Often taking the form of inspirational (or, at times, admonishing) tales drawn from his years in the ministry, they tend to recount stories of anonymous people he’s encountered over the years (“a prominent business man,” or “one of the leading citizens of this state” and the like) whose circumstances illustrate a point he’s driving home in the message.

The wording of this particular story was so striking as to seem outlandish; I admit, for a moment I wondered if Dr. Truett was inserting a tale woven from whole cloth just to see if his audience was paying sufficient attention. The transcript of this story will illustrate the basis for my skepticism:

“We’re to make the best of a so-called accident. A man in this city, years ago, had his arms ground off in a mill. But the young fellow, undaunted, fixed him up some steel arms and went on with his studies and his work, diligently, and became one of the most prodigious toilers of our community, and came to a great judgeship and set a great example of fortitude and high behavior, enough to thrill any man capable of being thrilled by heroic behavior.”

“Sweet creamery butter!” I said to myself. “This has all the makings of a direct-to-cable inspirational movie of the week! Gruesome accident? Check! Hardworking young man refuses to give up, stays focused on his goals? Check! Man acquires high position, inspires humanity? Check and check! How is it that I’ve never heard of this man before?”

It turns out that while Dr. Truett may have gotten a (fairly major) detail about the story wrong, the actual story of Quentin Durward Corley was certainly remarkable enough to inspire both Truett’s use of his life story in a sermon and, later, the life of one of Baylor’s most remarkable graduates.

The “Armless Wonder” of Dallas

Corley was born in 1884 in the town of Mexia, Texas, a rough-and-tumble oilfield town about 45 minutes’ drive from Waco. According to this well-written blog post about Corley’s life, he worked as a bookkeeper and stenographer after graduating from high school before striking out for a career in civil engineering.

His life made a major shift in 1905, however, when he fell off of a train in Utica, New York. The accident left him without his entire right arm and the left arm from the elbow down. What could have been a life-ending circumstance instead served as a source of inspiration for Corley, whose amazing life was only just beginning.

Displaying a strength of will – and cleverness – rarely seen in this or any other decade, Corley set about finding a way to overcome his limitations. He invented – and later patented – an artificial limb for his left arm that featured interchangeable elements such as eating implements (a knife), a simple hook and a pincer.

Judge Quentin D. Corley drives his automobile with the aid of his self-designed prosthesis. Courtesy the Library of Congress via Wikipedia.

If all of this seems far-fetched to modern readers accustomed to our medical wizardry springing forth from laboratories, clinical studies and pharmaceutical manufacturers, it is helpful to remember that Corley came of age only a generation or so removed from the end of the most catastrophic conflict in American history: the Civil War, in which thousands of men returned to their homes maimed and scarred, many missing limbs following gruesome battlefield amputations. It is reasonable to assume that during his childhood in Mexia, Corley would have been exposed to such men at least once a year during the annual Confederate reunions held there between 1889-1946. These gatherings of former Rebel soldiers were major events for the city, and it would seem likely that Corley would have seen and even interacted with amputees at these events, so his experience with artificial limbs may have been more frequent than that of an average citizen.

After studying law at the firm of Muse & Allen in Dallas, Corley was elected justice of the peace in 1908 and was rewarded for his work by being elected county judge in 1912. Corley proved himself a capable administrator and arbiter of the law, earning accolades from his voters and the nickname “Armless Wonder,” a shockingly un-PC moniker to modern audiences but no doubt offered in a spirit of respect by those he served in the 1910s.

Corley’s story would be inspiring enough if it stopped at this point, and, in fact, that is probably how Dr. Truett would have known it to end. What he might not have known – despite a relationship with Baylor University that stretched back to the late 1800s and a lifelong closeness with the school – was how Judge Corley’s life would directly impact that of another young man who faced similar challenges and dreamed of similar successes.

“Baylor Students Complain Over Nothing … How Would They Do If They Were Hindered as Frank Coleman?”

Frank G. Coleman was born without arms and only one leg. This fact opens a rather blunt – but no less inspiring – piece in the January 26, 1926 issue of the Baylor Daily Lariat. The reason for the piece is Coleman’s place on the ballot for judge in Bell County, Texas, where he practices law in the city of Temple. Coleman was a 1925 graduate of the Baylor Law School and, by all accounts, led a remarkable life prior to finding himself in the running for county office.

A look into previous coverage of Coleman’s story in the Lariat fills in some of the details. A “Freshman” edition of the Lariat from March 3, 1921 – which was edited by Coleman, incidentally – includes a write-up of his life captioned, “Frank Coleman First Armless Person in Baylor.” It goes on to detail his early life and disposition – “one of the happiest and best-liked fellows around the University,” who apparently gave himself the nickname the “Finless Fish” during his first year – and tells of his first encounter with Judge Corley.

Profile on Coleman from the “Lariat” of March 3, 1921.

Coleman was a user of Corley’s patented prosthetic arms, and in the spring of 1918, Coleman joined him for a tour of government hospitals housing disabled veterans of the First World War. Intended to “[bring] new hope to disabled veterans by showing them how, though maimed[,] they could become useful, happy citizens,” the younger man discovered an interest in becoming a lawyer, perhaps due to Judge Corley’s own story of triumph over adversity. Coleman would enter Baylor Law School and graduate in 1925. He returned to Temple to practice law.

He appears in the pages of the Lariat again in 1926, with a story that details his appearance on the Democratic primary ballot for judge of Bell County. Unfortunately, his presence in the historical record, at least in terms of Internet-accessible materials, seems to end here. I have been unable to find any evidence of the results of the 1926 election or of Coleman’s later life, though I will document any future findings as updates to this post.

Coleman poses with members of the Bell County Club, from the 1922 “Round Up.”

Coleman and his fellow Law Club members, from the 1922 “Round Up.”


The intertwining stories of Dr. Truett, Judge Corley and “Finless Fish” Coleman are an example of the ways in which a single twist of fate – a misstep from a train in Utica, NY – can affect the lives of countless others, even at a distance of more than a century. Corley’s early patents in prosthetics led to advances in the field that would bring us today’s carbon-fiber artificial legs and remarkably realistic prosthetic arms. Coleman’s inspirational story would bring comfort to wounded veterans and encourage his fellow Baylor Bears to greater heights of academic and personal achievement.

And the story of the judge with the “steel arms” told by Dr. Truett to his audience of parishioners on the first Sunday of a new year would be recorded for prosperity on a 16” transcription disc that would find its way to Baylor’s Texas Collection and, eventually, to the world via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections.

(Digital Collections) A Century of Daily Baylor History, Now Online: The “Lariat” Digital Collection

The “Lariat” digital collection spans the entire 20th century and beyond

If you follow us on Facebook, you’ll recall a few weeks ago that I teased some “big news” was forthcoming. Well, the wait is over, and we’re excited to announce that thanks to the efforts of the Digitization Projects Group, The Texas Collection and the office of Student Publications, the entire run of the Baylor University Lariat is now available online via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections.

From the inaugural issue of November 8, 1900 to the present, users around the world can now access every issue of the Lariat from the comfort of their own homes. Issues from 1900 to 2006 are available in our Digital Collections, while issues from 2007-present are available from the Lariat’s website.

You may have seen some media coverage about this collection thanks to articles in the Lariat and the Waco Tribune Herald, but we wanted to give you some more information here, via our blog, about just what went into the creation of this major collection.

Planning and Process

The process began about three years ago with very early, test scans of bound volumes of the Lariat dating back to the early 1900s. We used our Zeutschel planetary scanner to handle the digitizing and found the process of manipulating bound volumes to be slow and cumbersome. With the addition of the Cruse large-format scanner – and permission from The Texas Collection’s director to unbind the volumes – we made much better progress. In fact, a skilled operator could digitize ten issues of the Lariat two pages at a time on the Cruse, a dramatic increase in efficiency that allowed us to complete the digitization of more than 11,000 issues of a newspaper collection in about a year and a half.

This staggering amount of content is the primary reason most universities choose to either avoid digitizing the full run of their campus newspaper or outsource the job to mass digitization companies. We chose to keep the process internal so as to avoid shipping irreplaceable copies of the Lariat off-site, as well as exercising full control of the metadata creation and collection curation process.

As with all of our digital collections, high-resolution preservation copies of the files were created and stored on our preservation server, and access-friendly PDFs of the issues were created and ingested into our CONTENTdm system. “Skeletal” metadata – basics like date, editor name and page count – were added to all items as they were ingested; later additions to the records include listing headlines for each issue, names of Lariat staff members, and the price per issue.

The Collection’s Impact

Digitizing a century’s worth of the campus newspaper was no small undertaking, and the decision to handle the process in-house from start to finish meant a significant investment in infrastructure, hardware and staff time. But none of those potential obstacles were significant enough to deter us from our goal of giving instant access to the wealth of information available in the pages of the Lariat. Now, scholars around the world can delve into the daily details of campus life, social commentary and world events as seen through the eyes of Baylor University’s student reporters.

Keyword searching makes the collection’s entry points as diverse as the English language. The ability to restrict a search to a single point in time – a year, a month, a decade – makes browsing from issue to issue not only manageable but enjoyable. The ability to zoom in on photos and paragraphs of text makes navigation and closer examination a breeze. And of course, access via the Internet makes it possible for everyone to use the collection, not just those with the ability to travel to the Baylor campus.

We look forward to seeing the ways our users dissect, synthesize and utilize the information in the Lariat collection. If you find something fascinating, earthshaking or downright bizarre in the thousands of pages therein, drop us a line at digitalcollectionsinfo@baylor.edu and tell us about it. Who knows? We might even feature your find in a future blog post (with your permission, of course!).

The digital Lariat collection is available at www.baylor.edu/lib/lariats. The Digitization Projects Group, The Texas Collection and Student Publications collaborated to create this collection.

(Digital Collections) Hidden in Plain Sight: The Students of Baylor University, 1920

Photo of Baylor University students taken on Burleson Quadrangle, February 26, 1920
(Click photo to enlarge)

This installment of “Hidden in Plain Sight” features a group photo of Baylor students posed on risers on the Carroll Science Building side of the Burleson Quadrangle. The photographer – P.N. Fry of Kansas City, Missouri – would have been positioned near the Quadrangle side entrance of Carroll Science; this vantage puts portions of Old Main, Georgia Burleson Hall and Carroll Library in the background of this photo.

The students are segregated by gender, with female students and faculty members on the left of the photo and male students and faculty members on the right. One of the first things that jumps out at the viewer is a young man on the front row in the lower right of the frame.

Of the hundreds of students in the photo, he is one of two who managed to sneak in a copy of the day’s Lariat, which he made a specific point of positioning so it would be visible in the finished photo. Enhancing the scan reveals the headline for the issue: “Annual freshman reception will be brilliant affair.” This headline, coupled with the fish in the masthead of the issue led me to the February 26, 1920 issue. This just happened to be a special edition of the Lariat dedicated to the freshmen (alluded to in the masthead fish, as freshmen were called “fish” by upper classmen).

Above-the-fold portion of Lariat issue of February 26, 1920 (visible in panoramic photo)

Seated front and center in the photo is the president of Baylor, Samuel Palmer Brooks.

Brooks served as president from 1902 to 1931 (the year of his death) and is the namesake of Brooks Residential College at Baylor. Among his many notable achievements at the helm were allowing students to vote for the university’s first mascot (won by a bear, of course) and instituting Baylor’s first homecoming celebration.

Another notable Baylor luminary seen in the photo is Frank Allen.

Allen served as registrar for decades and was well-respected by students and faculty alike. In fact, the senior class of 1911 dedicated that year’s issue of the Round-up to Allen as a mark of their esteem for his service to Baylor and her student body.

A note written on the original of this photo indicates it was either owned by or autographed by O.B. Darby. A search of the 1920 Round-up uncovered this page:

Darby is shown in the first position at the top left of the page. A search of the panoramic reveals a student thought to be Darby, shown below first in a larger setting and then under magnification.

If this is indeed Darby, it is interesting to see where he was positioned in the photograph and to know that it was his decision to keep a copy that ultimately led to its digitization and presentation as part of his alma mater’s digital collections.

One last image of note concerns the architecture of Old Main, seen in the background at right.

The windows in this photo are the original configuration of windows found in Old Main. They are four-over-four sash windows, where the lower four panes slide up into the frame to allow air to circulate. A later renovation to the building installed single pane, energy efficient windows visible in current photos like this portion of a desktop wallpaper available from Baylor’s website.

Although the newer windows make good sense from an energy efficiency and modern craftsmanship point of view, some have lamented the change to one of Baylor’s oldest buildings, with one professor likening it to having the same effect as painting modern sunglasses onto the subject of a Renaissance painting.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this closer look at another of the panoramic treasures from the holdings of the Texas Collection. There are dozens of large format photos in the collection, with more being digitized and added online regularly, so be sure and check out http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu for more great photos.

Images enhanced for online presentation. Digitized from the original print housed in the photographic holdings of the Texas Collection. Visit the Texas Collection online at http://www.baylor.edu/lib/texas for more priceless Texana.

(Digital Collections) Spring Hats, Julius Caesar and Marriage Proposals: Leap Day Through the Front Pages of the “Lariat”, 1904-1988

Today is February 29th, which of course means it’s Leap Day, the extra day added to the calendar every four years to make up for the fraction of an extra day we experience beyond the standard 24 hours. Over the course of four years, those fractions add up to another full day, so we add it to the end of February, and the world celebrates with news reports of people who only celebrate a birthday every four years.


But a quick review of the front pages of the Baylor “Lariat” dating back to February 29, 1908 show a diverse range of stories penned by Baylor students on Leap Days past. On that day in the early 20th century, it appears Leap Day didn’t even rank a front-page mention, but the ad in the lower corner certainly wouldn’t look out of place today in that it promotes Spring fashions on a date still firmly in winter’s grip.


Fast forward to 1928, where our first mention of leap year is made by an anonymous “Lariat” scribe. They posit the idea that people with Leap Day birthdays only celebrate every four years and “consequently they never do get very old.” Unfortunately for the Bears of 1928, the author notes that there were no students listed with February 29th birthdays.


Bill Donoho, who penned this cheeky review of the tradition of women proposing to men on Leap Day, used the real names of Baylor students to voice fictional (one assumes) opinions on the subject. Reponses range from wholeheartedly embracing the notion to one male’s assertion that only an examination of a woman’s “bank account” would lead to his accepting such a proposition.  A review of the 1940 “Round-Up” reveals photos for three people mentioned in the post: Dorothy Kelly, Mildred Adams, and Joe White, seen below.

1968Kay Wheeler’s report from Leap Day 1968 mentions the women-proposing-to-men trope, but she goes deeper by asking Jack Thornton, Data Processing Director, to run the “student data cards” through his computer to see if any of Baylor’s enrolled students had a February 29th birthday. The shocking answer: no. She ends her piece with a rather deadpan response from Dr. Walter Williams, a professor of math, who noted that “February was the shortest month, it’s the one that got [the extra day].”


In 1984 the review of Leap Day’s history takes a decidedly scientific (and non-humorous) turn, reviewing Julius Caesar’s decree in 46 B.C. to reform the Roman calendar, but then noting that the 365.25 year was “a little [sic] longer than the solar year of 365.2422 days, a difference accounting to 0.0078 of a day per year, or about three days every four centuries.”

Regardless the decade, if you’d like to read more of these Leap Day issues from the 20th century years of the “Lariat”, click on the links below, or head to http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu and click on the Baylor “Lariat” collection to start your search for whatever makes you leap for joy.

View the “Lariat” for the following Leap Days:

February 29th, 1908
February 29th, 1928
February 29th, 1940
February 29th, 1968
February 19th, 1984

Visit the Texas Collection online at http://www.baylor.edu/lib/texas for more priceless Texana. 

(Digital Collections) From the “Lariat” archive, November 28, 1903 edition: “Baylor Takes Thanksgiving Game”

In honor of Baylor’s big win over Texas Tech University on Saturday, here’s a recap of a similar Bears victory from 1903, this time over the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University (TCU).

At the time, TCU was located in Waco in a campus located “over the Heights” from Baylor, as the article put it. This cross-town rivalry provided endless opportunities for the people of Waco to be spectators to events like this football game played during a “Norther,” or seasonal cold front. Baylor won the contest 5-0.

Here in its entirety is the first paragraph from the article; click on the image below to view the full issue in our Baylor “Lariat” Collection.

Baylor Takes Thanksgiving Game

“Before the largest and most enthusiastic crowd of spectators that ever assembled on a foot-ball field in Waco, the Baylor team defeated the boys from over the Heights by a score of 5 to 0. It was an ideal day for foot-ball. A norther was blowing, through not hard enough to interfere with the playing, and yet made it cool enough for fast playing. The people from the city were out in large numbers to see the game, and Baylor does not fail to appreciate their patronage. The special train from Dallas brought the Medical students down and with them a large number of other Dallasites, who were, of course, out to see the game and helped to swell the crowd. The Medicoes were not lacking in college spirit and loyalty to Mother Baylor. They had their yells and could yell them. In this they had the home rooters bested. Seeing that our crowd were getting the worst of it, at one time, they marched in a body in front to the T.C.U. rooters and with a vim, that should teach us a lesson, gave vent to some real college yells that fairly drowned the voices of their opponents. We should profit by their example of organized rooting.”


Visit the Texas Collection online at http://www.baylor.edu/lib/texas for more priceless Texana.