The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989 Page: 30
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
they take themselves more seriously than God intends. Why not give
them an afternoon of fun during which they could indulge their lust
for books, visit with their compadres, and enrich the Association, all at
the same time? Although no poll has ever been taken, I feel sure that
more than a few people attend the annual meeting because they don't
want to miss the camaraderie of the auction. And there are those collec-
tors, like Fred Cotten, who don't want their collections to wind up in
institutions but want them to be collected piecemeal again so that a new
collector can enjoy himself as much as Cotten, who claimed-inaccu-
rately-that he never paid more than fifty cents for any item in his study.
In this somewhat personal, affectionate memoir of one of the men
who figured most prominently in my life, I have purposely passed over
some of Webb's accomplishments, such as his role in persuading the
state of Texas and the government of the United States to set aside
what has since become Big Bend National Park; his work abroad; and
his honors from his fellow professionals. Instead, I have wanted to
share only a portion of my memories of a man who took time to look
out the window with his feet up, who published only when he had
something to say, a person without guile or pretension or side.
Barbara W. Tuchman, the highly commercial popular historian,
wrote of Webb twenty-one years ago, commending him for criticizing
"the notion imposed by scientific histor[ians] that 'the real scholar must
choose the truth [over beauty] and somehow it is better if it is made so
ugly that nobody could doubt its virginity.""4
Or as Dobie, who admired Webb more than Webb admired him,
though each liked the other inordinately, wrote, "I have regarded
thinkers as something almost curious. Walter Webb is the most power-
ful thinker I have known. .. he, more than anybody else I know,
wrings meanings out of facts. He is the very opposite of the quiz-kid
experts and the know-how factotums." 15
Or to use a now-hackneyed phrase associated with Lyndon Johnson
but uttered earlier by Dobie, "Walter Webb will do to ride the river with
until the water all dries up." 1
11 New York Tzmes, Jan. 1, 1967.
15 Webb, An Honest Preface, 4o.
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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/m1/57/: accessed August 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.