The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989

J. Frank Dobie and Walter Prescott Webb

Professor Webb Visits Ozona, October, 1939
W. EUGENE HOLLON*
Texas had so few writers in the 1930s with anything approaching na-
tional reputations that those who had written a book or two were con-
sidered celebrities. Perhaps the two best-known scholarly authors in the
state at the time were J. Frank Dobie, professor of English at the Uni-
versity of Texas, and Walter Prescott Webb, professor of history. I first
had classes with each during the summers of 1936 and 1937. My rela-
tions with Professor Webb were further enhanced when we chanced
upon one another in England in 1938, where he was lecturing at the
University of London and I had just returned from a tour of prewar
Europe.
At the end of summer school in 1939 I prevailed upon him to visit
the West Texas town of Ozona, where I served as principal of the junior
high school. By that time he had taken over as director of the Texas
State Historical Association and was anxious to revitalize its member-
ship and also to encourage the organization of Junior Historian so-
cieties in local high schools. Texas had just gone through an orgy of
celebrations commemorating the centennial of its independence from
Mexico. Moreover, Ozonians supported an active Crockett County
Historical Society and were delighted to attract a speaker of Webb's
reputation.
Ozona lay in the heart of the Texas sheep country and was the seat of
one of the state's largest and most thinly populated counties. The Anglo
population numbered approximately 1,200oo, while the Mexican Ameri-
cans were at least twice as numerous. The separate races might as well
have lived on different continents as far as intercourse between them
existed. The town boasted of more millionaires per capita than any
"city" in the United States. Some twenty wealthy ranchers lived in
$300,000 mansions in the silk-stocking area of town, while the Mexican
Americans were concentrated in tin and tar-paper hovels about a mile
away and "across the draw." In the late 1930s they had no schools be-
yond the seventh grade, no electricity or running water, and a very
high rate of infant mortality. Only one child in two lived beyond the
age of five.
The local ranching families were only two generations removed from
the frontier. They were fiercely independent and militantly opposed to
*W. Eugene Hollon, a former professor of history at the University of Oklahoma and the
University of Toledo, lives in Santa Fe.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101212/. Accessed April 26, 2015.