The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989 Page: 75
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J. Frank Dobze and Walter Prescott Webb
Webb was not quite prepared for the spontaneous outburst, even
though he knew that some of his ideas were controversial. Neverthe-
less, he handled the situation with tact and good humor.
The next speakers wanted the professor to "tell us what is going to
happen in Europe and how long will this war last." Webb responded as
anyone who knew him would expect. "I am an historian and not a
prophet," he said. "You might as well ask me what each person in this
room is going to do tomorrow. I am sorry but I do not know what is
going to happen in Europe any more than you do." The answer ob-
viously did not satisfy the crowd, who wanted him to say that Hitler
could not possibly win and that God would not let the war last more
than six months. The next question came from my good friend Eugene
Slater, a local minister and future Methodist bishop. Although the Bap-
tist and Church of Christ members were far more numerous than the
Methodists, Reverend Slater was looked up to by practically the entire
His question was as follows: "Professor Webb, don't you think that it
is the role of the church to bring Hitler and the war in Europe to an
end?" Webb responded rather bluntly. "No. The church has started
more wars than it has ever been able to stop." Reverend Slater felt that
he had been put down with a loss of face and I sensed that he was very
unhappy about it and that many in the audience were angered by what
they wrongly considered an insult.
The weekly Ozona Stockman came out two days later with a front-
page editorial by the conservative editor denouncing "the so-called dis-
tinguished professor from the University of Texas who dared come out
here and make stupid statements that the frontier was no more." The
next day I overheard a group of ranchers talking about "the red pro-
fessor who did not have enough common sense to put up a straight
fence or repair a windmill." (In the East Texas farm country where I
grew up a similar line went something like "he does not have enough
sense to chop cotton.") Little did the ranchers imagine that Webb had
grown up on a hardscrabble West Texas farm. Moreover, there had not
been a barbwire fence or windmill on the Austin campus since the close
of the frontier.
The worst was yet to come. Reverend Slater devoted his entire ser-
mon the following Sunday to Professor Webb's irreverent remarks
about the church. I respected the minister very much. He and I had
recently been denounced by a Baptist deacon and president of the
school board for organizing a Boy Scout troop and baseball team among
the Mexican Americans, as well as for having spoken at the dedication
of a new community house "across the draw." I also knew that Dr.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989, periodical, 1989; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101212/m1/102/: accessed April 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.