Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Walter Prescott Webb
CissY STEWART LALE*
I was one of Dr. Walter Prescott Webb's mavericks; a senior journalism
major who somehow managed to accumulate the necessary prerequi-
sites for one of his graduate-level history courses. At the first class, Dr.
Webb studied the class roster and announced: "Those of you who have
completed your masters degrees know what type of paper I expect in
this course." He paused a moment and added: "Good Morning, Miss
He knew my name because I had taken his course on the Great Plains
during the previous summer. Summer classes in Austin always are a
test of survival, but in 1944 only the music building was air conditioned,
and no history courses ever were scheduled for that building. To make it
more tedious, courses were taught six days a week in summer sessions.
One hot Saturday morning Dr. Webb began his lecture and suddenly
wheeled and threw a piece of chalk at the blackboard so hard the chalk
exploded. "I've taught so far up the creek they had to send the hounds
out to find me," he almost yelled at us, "but this is the first time I ever
taught the same students six times a week. Let's go home!"
The outside reading list for the Great Plains ran ten typewritten
pages, but Dr. Webb required that we read only one listing: Willard D.
Johnson's "The High Plains and Their Utilization," Twenty -first Annual
Report of the U.S. Geological Survey. He promised that he would ask no
questions about the content of the report on the final examination, but
one question on our final exam, which counted 25 percent, asked the
color of the binding on Johnson's "High Plains and Their Utilization"
and its location in the library.
I survived Dr. Webb's graduate-level course. At the beginning of the
semester, he called me in for a conference and told me I had little
chance of making better than a C in the course because I was the only
undergraduate in the class and the University of Texas graded on a
"curve." I had the grade points to spare so I stayed and learned more
about researching a story than I ever learned in journalism school. My
assigned research and term paper were on Texas newspapers of the
post-Civil War era. In addition to a term paper, each student was re-
quired to lecture for an hour on his or her subject. After I had given
*Cissy Stewart Lale, author and editor, is a former columnist for the Fort Worth Star-
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 October 1, 2014.