Research Ready: December 2012

"Dialogue on Race Relations," Waco Community Race Relations Coalition flyer
The Community Race Relations Coalition (CRRC) began as a series of grassroots dialogues on race in Waco. The First Anniversary Dialogue was held in 2000.

Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. This month we have a few special entries from the Archival Collections and Museums class that worked on an archival processing project with us here at The Texas Collection. (You’ll learn more about that in a guest post by a student in January.) We’re not quite done proofreading all of the students’ finding aids, so there will be a few more finding aids coming from that group. Here’s the scoop for December:

  • BU Records: Adelphian Theological Society, 1889-1916: The Adelphian Theological Society was formed in 1889 by Baylor ministerial students. The records group contains correspondence, financial records, legal documents, and ledgers that reflect how the Society operated. (Archives class)
  • Roberta Lucille Malone Bailey Papers, 1936, undated: This small collection contains two items: a letter written by Pat Neff to William and Ada May congratulating them on 50 years of marriage and a photocopy of a journal entry citing this letter.
  • Raymond E. Biles Collection, 1954-1973: The Biles Collection consists primarily of newspaper clippings covering the educational desegregation era in Texas from 1956-1973. Also included is correspondence to Mr. Biles and other materials relating to his role as an adviser to the Waco Citizen’s Advisory Committee, which was tasked with reviewing local desegregation policies. (Archives class)
  • [Waco] Calvary Baptist Church Records, 1929-1955, undated: Calvary’s church records consist of literary documents created by church members including church publications and a directory. (Archives class)
  • [Waco] Caritas Records, 1965-1988: The [Waco] Caritas Records represents organizational records from the Caritas Catholic charity located in Waco, Texas. The records follow the meetings, programs, and public image of Caritas from its creation in the 1960s through its continued service in the 1980s. (Archives class)
  • James Milton Carroll Papers, 1898-1929: Centered around Carroll’s writings, these documents include manuscripts, proof sheets, sermons, tracts, and other writings.  (Archives class)
  • [Waco] Community Race Relations Coalition Records, 1998-2011: The Waco Community Race Relations Coalition Records consist of correspondence, legal and financial documents, literary productions, photographs, and media documenting the coalition’s efforts to promote racial awareness in the community of Waco, Texas.
  • [Waco] First Baptist Church Collection, 1892-1978, undated: The First Baptist Church of Waco was established on 1851 May 31 by four charter members along with Noah T. Byars, who became their first pastor on June 1. Their records consist of correspondence, literary documents, and financial records. (Archives class)
  • Historic Waco Foundation Records, 1954-2005: The Historic Waco Foundation is a nonprofit institution that was created in 1967 after the merger of three Waco
    foundations: the Heritage Society of Waco, the Society of Historic Preservation, and the Duncan Foundation. These documents consist of correspondence, financial documents, legal documents, literary papers, and oversized materials. (Archives class)
  • Huston-Tillotson University Records, 1930-1935: The Huston-Tillotson University Records consist of correspondence and financial documents from Tillotson College as University President Mary Elizabeth Branch tried to keep the college open during the Great Depression.
  • BU Records: Philomathesian Literary Society, 1859-1951: Established in 1851 while Baylor University was located in Independence, Texas, the Philomathesian Literary Society was the first literary society to be established in Texas. The records include roll books, minutes books, general business records, library records, their constitution, contest records, and records on their fight with the Erisophian Literary Society from 1912-1913. (Archives class)
  • Quanah, Seymour, Dublin, and Rockport Railroad Records. 1836 (copy)-
    1922, undated: The Quanah, Seymour, Dublin and Rockport Railroad Records consist of correspondence, legal documents, financial documents, field notes and maps
    produced by the railroad company and associated small companies in South
    Texas. (Archives class)
Philomathesian vs. Erisophian debate letter, January 10, 1913
In this letter from J.W. Thomas to R.E. Dudley, Thomas refers to recent “squabbles” between the Philomathesian and Erisophian Literary Societies at Baylor. The question of who should debate first at the 1913 match apparently caused much controversy…and occasional name-calling.

An Independence Commencement: How Baylor&#x27s Earliest Graduates Celebrated

Baylor University Commencement party invitation, 1859
One of The Texas Collection’s earliest records of Baylor Commencement, dated 1859. The “managers” of the party, the Erisophians and Philomathesians, were prominent (and often rival) literary societies that began when Baylor was in Independence.

We introduced Margaret Hall Hicks, a Baylor alumna from the 1870s, this summer in our “Looking Back at Baylor: Simple Pleasures in Independence” post. We encourage you to read it for a view of Christmas celebrations in Baylor’s early years. Pretty different from Christmas on 5th Street, but as Hicks said, they enjoyed their Yuletide festivities “to the fullest.”

Now we look to Hicks’ remembrances of Independence again as another Baylor Commencement approaches. December’s commencement isn’t nearly as large as the spring celebration, but every graduation is an exciting day for the Baylor family. But what did Commencement look like back in Independence? For starters, people came from all over Texas, the celebrations lasted a week, and included the examination period. (Students spoke recitations that essentially were their final exams. Hey, class of 2012—aren’t you glad you didn’t have oral examinations for all of your classes?)

Baylor University Commencement invitation, 1888
The invitation hails the 1888 ceremony as Baylor’s 42nd commencement, but Baylor actually did not graduate any students until 1854, when the Board of Trustees voted to award Stephen Decatur Rowe his degree. This invitation is a good example of the deteriorating effects of tape on paper.

Hicks’ memoir, Memories of Ancestors, tells us that in 1866, “Commencement Week was the gala time of the whole year. People from all over the state made their plans to attend the Commencement of the two Baylor schools, and the little town of Independence was taxed to its utmost, both the hotels and private homes, to care for the great number of visitors.”

Of course, in Baylor’s early years, the university’s students all hailed from Texas (although many students’ families probably hadn’t been in the state for very long). But people came from all over the state to attend the fine university. That was a feat by itself, considering the small size of the school and the large size of Texas!

Baylor University Commencement in Carroll Chapel and Library, 1920s
Commencement was held in Carroll Chapel before the building burnt in 1922. This might have been one of the last graduation ceremonies hosted in what is now simply Carroll Library (and the home of The Texas Collection).

“Relatives of the students felt it a duty as well as a pleasure to attend Commencement exercises in the schools in which their children were pupils. So we had all kinds of visitors for this season. Very fashionable people from Galveston and Houston, moderately dressed people from the small towns and the country around Independence, and pioneer people with their primitive styles from the northern part of the State. Of course, we found much delight in seeing and mingling with all of these people. Many of them stayed in the rooms with us, and we thought it no hardship to sleep three or four in a bed or on a pallet on the floor that the visitors might have our beds.”

In addition to the public examinations, students held debates and gave speeches. Every night of Commencement Week, there was some kind of program, with the younger Baylor primary school students participating as well as the university students. Baylor University and Baylor Female College took turns hosting the “entertainments,” which culminated with a “grand Senior Concert.” On the last night of Commencement Week, the faculty and students of Baylor University hosted a party for the faculty and students of Baylor Female College.

Baylor University Commencement, 1966
Judge Baylor watches over the soon-to-be graduates of 1966 as they process into Waco Hall.

This “crowning event of the season” was held in the Burleson Domicile, which was President Rufus C. Burleson’s home and a dormitory for male students. The octagonal shape of the building created nooks that were perfect for courting on the third floor veranda, as Hicks tells us: “The veranda was furnished with chairs and benches, dimly lighted, just the place to fill young heads with thoughts of love and romance. Many of the young men and maidens, knowing this would be the last meeting of the happy school days, plighted their troth, which resulted in the future marriages of some of the best people of our state.” Well, that sounds familiar—plenty of marriage proposals still happen on or around Commencement day at Baylor! And we like to think that the best people in the state (and the world!) come here.

Students (and their families) come to Baylor Commencement from all over the world now, and the official Commencement ceremonies don’t span a week anymore. But the thrill of sending new Baylor graduates out to “fling the green and gold afar” hasn’t changed since Baylor graduated its first student in 1854. Congratulations, class of 2012!

Looking Back at Baylor: The Good Ship “Baylor Victory”

This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in June 1979, then was reprinted in Looking Back at Baylor (1985), a collection of Keeth and Harry Marsh’s historical columns for the Line. Blogging about Texas periodically features selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.

We dedicate this post to the military men and women who serve our country and to the memory of those who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

S.S. Baylor Victory publicity photo
You can just make out the “Victory” on the left and “Baylor” on the right of this photo, taken at the shipyard before launching.

Early in 1945 Baylor President Pat M. Neff received an unexpected communication from the United States Maritime Commission. This letter informed him that a new ship, then under construction in a shipyard near Los Angeles, would be named in honor of Baylor University. It would be one of the “Victory” series of merchant vessels, intended to provide “muscle behind the fists of the armed services,” and was designed for use in either war or peace. According to early information, its date of launching would be “on or about March 1, 1945.”

Neff soon wrote to inquire whether Baylor University might have a part in the launching of its namesake vessel. Informed that a representative of the university would be permitted to make a brief address during the christening ceremonies, Neff arranged for Los Angeles District Judge Minor L. Moore, a Baylor graduate of 1900 who had been an outstanding student orator, to participate in the program. He also raised a hundred dollars for the purchase of a library of about forty volumes for use by the ship’s crew.

Baylor Lariat article about the launch of the S.S. Baylor Victory
“In the year of grace when the whole world is convulsed by the totality of war, when the vicious are allied with the enemies of freedom, the naval arm of our government should christen a fighting ship with the name of Baylor,” Moore declared, according to this March 9 article in the Baylor Lariat.

When the schedule of the launching became known, Judge Moore wrote wryly to President Neff of his discovery that “the limit of the speech to be made by the representative of Baylor is one and a half minutes.” Neff, amused by the strictures which this limitation would impose upon his old friend’s easy flow of words, replied with some tongue-in-cheek advice: “Now, Minor, you need not feel that you must use all of this time unless the inspiration of the occasion just compels you to do so. The early morning air will be so invigorating that I feel sure as you stand on the deck of this ship bearing the Baylor name and look out onto the great Pacific, you will have inspiration to occupy nearly all of your minute and a half.”

As matters developed, the date of the launching was moved from March 1 to March 6, and the time, which was regulated by the occurrence of high tide, was set for 1:20 a.m. A participant later described the scene in a letter to President Neff: “The night was very dark; but time and time we were almost awed by the myriad of lights which illuminated the different war plants and ship yards. The display was far more breathtaking than the lighting of any great fair or centennial. Some of the buildings of Standard Oil rose like domes of light or spread into a cascading shower of individual lights which reminded one of some dream or fairyland. Our passes cleared heavily policed gates and doors…Then we went to the dock for the launching. Flood lights brilliantly illuminated…the ship which loomed so far up, up above us that we had to look very high up with heads way back to see all of her: yet, we were aware that by comparison she was a small ship.”

Despite the inconvenience and lateness of the hour, Baylor was represented at the launching by a total of about a dozen and a half graduates and friends, one of whom carried in her arms a plush teddy bear with a green and gold ribbon around its neck. Judge Moore delivered his address of 185 well-chosen words, ending with the valedictory, “All hail, Baylor Victory!” Then, as the ship’s sponsor christened the vessel with a bottle of champagne, the S.S. Baylor Victory glided into the water of the Pacific Ocean and began her naval career.

S.S. Baylor Victory was launched only a few months before the Allies celebrated V-E Day. We assume the ship was used in the last months of World War II; we know it went to Korea. We believe it may have become part of a shipping company’s fleet after that.

S.S. Baylor Victory, photo and model
The top photo is the ship; the bottom one also is labeled “Baylor Victory,” but the model doesn’t look the same as the real ship. What do you think? (Updated: We’ve been informed that the upper image is indeed a Victory ship, while the lower is a tanker. We’re not sure why the images were put together, though–that’s still a mystery!)