The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 342
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
sertation. Curiously, however, I never took a class from Joe, so, strictly speaking,
I was never really his student.
David McComb was Joe's student. He wrote his dissertation under Joe, worked
for him on the LBJ Oral History Project, and even made his son his mentor's
namesake. They were very close. Under the circumstances, one might reasonably
expect this brief biography to be something of a panegyric or, at the least, a rose-
mary. It is neither. There is no denying it is a sentimental piece, but there is
nothing maudlin in the sentiment. If it's a tribute, it's one that does not flinch
from showing Joe's many sides. Here one finds the wise, good, optimistic,
shrewd, and kindly man; but here also is the sometimes careless, exasperating,
foolish, even presumptuous fellow whose occasional lack of judgment dealt him
a series of body blows, some self-inflicted. The judicious McComb praises when
praise is due and speaks plainly when it is not.
Joe was a social creature, and his friends were legion; even his enemies had to
admit they liked him. But if Joe made almost everyone his friend, his unfortu-
nate choice of foes was as unnerving as it was spectacular. Typically the opposi-
tion came from the strong and powerful. His own insouciance and broad view of
life often caused him to misread the otherwise fairly unmistakable intentions of
those who were determined to pursue a goal quite different from his own. Nev-
ertheless, he continued his quixotic ambitions in defiance of the opinion of
those who could bring him down. In the early stages and even later, he seemed
oblivious to his own professional mortality, but in the end he was the model of
an unambiguous mortal, a living protagonist in the Thomas Hardy tradition.
When the final blow landed, he hardly knew what hit him.
As nothing else, it signaled Joe's decline. Stripped of his former influence, his
stardom remained only for those who saw so much more in the man than did
his detractors. It must be added that he continued, typically, with grace under
pressure in a new role. His life ended in paradox. He achieved unquestioned
fame, perhaps even glory, but his triumphs, as impressive as they were, fell short
of what could have been an even greater fulfillment. Today, he lies with the gi-
ants of Texas history at Republic Hill in the State Cemetery, a man who deserves
to be remembered for his accomplishments, his abilities, his friendships, and his
There is more in this book. Divided into two parts, the latter portion contains
selected readings from three disparate works by Joe. They are as varied as the
man's personality. One is a tale of the Frantz family's pet rabbit torn apart by a
pack of dogs allowed to run loose in his neighborhood by irresponsible owners.
The second is a tribute to Joe's fellow stalwart, the crotchety but amiable and ad-
mirable Richard T. Fleming, a splendid paladin for impossible causes who did
not suffer fools gladly. The last piece is Joe's presidential address to the South-
ern Historical Association in which he attempts to explain his understanding of
Lyndon B. Johnson and describes his own role as the head of the Oral History
Project in which he and his staff conducted some 1,2oo taped interviews. Mc-
Comb chose these readings well.
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/394/: accessed June 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.