Southwestern Historical Quarterly
The Excitement of Dr. Webb
I am, I think, gathering up the loose ends of a long,
exciting, and disorderly life....
Walter Prescott Webb's
last Annual Report to the
University of Texas administration
"I suspect we have a rather exciting year ahead of us," he wrote in
July of '62 from the University of Alaska, where he was reluctantly
completing a teaching contract. He was lonely for the warmth of his
beloved Texas and for the company of his new bride (whose doctor had
forbidden the long flight from Austin), and he was fussing at the cost of
living there and of "having to buy back my laundry every week." He
admitted, though, that it was an exciting country, peopled with men
whose average age was twenty-three and where the women were in
great minority. Before that year was out, Walter Prescott Webb would
indeed have lived the part of it that was left to him with excitement,
and much happiness, and with a forward-looking, optimistic "Let's see
what's over the next hill" eagerness that characterized his life and
learning, his teaching and writing.
He began many things late in life, and up until that March night in
'63 when he died in a horrible crash outside of Austin, he had never
held the thought that he would not always be thinking up new ideas,
beginning new projects, meeting new people. His tragic death brought
an end to a legend in the Department of History at the University of
Texas, but it ended that legend at a point where his personal happiness
and sense of achievement had reached their peak, after long years of
hard work and frustration, of "doing without," of building success on
success as the years marked his progression from farm boy to scholar to
man of the world.
As his secretary in the last years of his life, I was privileged to be in
and out of Garrison Hall lo2 at the University of Texas, where the
door and the man inside were almost always open and welcoming to
ideas and people. The discussions that went on in there resulted in en-
couragement and intrigue and plans for today and tomorrow and to-
*Eileen Guarino was Walter Prescott Webb's secretary at the University of Texas at Austin.
i Quoted in "Documents and Mminutes of the General Faculty. Report of the Special Walter
Prescott Webb Memorial Resolution Committee," Nov. 19, 1963, p. 8230, Walter Prescott Webb
Biographical File (Eugene C. Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas, Austin).
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 May 4, 2016.