ORAL HISTORY PROJECTS
Lee-Buckner School Oral History Project
The Lee-Buckner School Oral History Project (2018-2019) was initiated and is being funded by the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County, Tennessee. Lee-Buckner School was one of approximately 375 Rosenwald schools built in Tennessee. More than 3,500 Rosenwald schools were built across the South between 1917 and 1932. The schools for African Americans were built as a result of a partnership between American educator, author, and advisor to presidents, Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald, CEO of Sears, Roebuck, and Company.
Nannie B. Hairston Oral History Project
Nannie Berger Hairston (1921-2017) was a local civil rights icon and a community leader who lived in Christiansburg, Virginia. Born in 1921 to a father who worked in the coalfields of West Virginia, she moved to Virginia in 1953 with her husband John. The Hairstons quickly established themselves as leaders in the local community. Ms. Hairston held numerous positions, including treasurer, in the local branch of the NAACP and continued to be an active member until her death. For a term of six years, she served on the board of the Virginia State Conference NAACP. Beyond the official offices, Hairston worked as a tireless advocate for employment opportunities for local African American women, opened her home to children in need, and hosted students from Virginia Tech when African Americans could not live on campus.
"Cotton to Silk" Oral History Project
“Cotton to Silk": Oral Histories of African American Workers on the Norfolk & Western Railroad, was an oral history project carried out in 2013 and resulted in the book, African American Railroad Workers of Roanoke: Oral Histories of the Norfolk & Western (History Press, 2014). The project was originated by the African-American N&W Heritage Celebration Group, which consists of retired and currently employed African American railroad workers who worked for the Norfolk & Western Railway Company or who continue to work for Norfolk Southern Corporation. The project was funded in part by the Historical Society of Western Virginia and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. The purpose of the project was to record and share the experiences of African Americans who worked on the railroad in the Roanoke Valley during the last century. The impetus for the idea was the exhibit that has become a permanent installation at the Virginia Museum of Transportation (VMT), “African American Heritage on the Norfolk & Western 1930-1970.”
University of Virginia Oral History Project
Shortly after moving to Virginia, I contracted with the History Associates, a historical research company, to conduct interviews with four recently retired administrators at the University of Virginia. The project originated from the university and was funded by the university. During the course of the academic year of 2011-2012 I interviewed former president John Casteen, former executive vice president and chief operating officer Leonard Sandridge, former special assistant to the president Gordon Burris, and former secretary to the Board of Visitors and university protocol and history officer Alexander G. “Sandy” Gilliam Jr. The edited, approved interviews are available at the University of Virginia’s Library and online.
Ada Anderson Oral History Collection
I conducted 15 life review interviews with Ada Collins Anderson, a civil rights pioneer and community leader in Austin, Texas, between 1991 and 2003. These interviews reside at the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas as part of the Ada Anderson Oral History Collection.
Frank C. Erwin Oral History Project
In the mid-1990s (1993-1998), I directed the Frank C. Erwin Oral History Project.
I developed and supervised every aspect of this history project on the life of Frank Erwin, controversial chairman of the University of Texas Board of Regents (1966-1971) and Democratic Party leader. The project created for the first time a large archive of materials and oral interviews. My role as director included visualizing the scope of the project; hiring and
supervising a staff of nine, including archivists, transcribers, researchers, and narrative consultants; creating a master list of oral history interviews; conducting and editing those interviews, and producing chapter background material from which the biography will be written. The project interviewed close to 200 individuals, among them Erwin's friends and colleagues—many powerful state and national figures—in addition to radical students who vocally opposed him. I conducted more than 100 of these interviews, which included Lady Bird Johnson, Ralph Yarborough, Barbara Jordan, George Christian, Ann Richards, Frances Farenthold, and John Silber. The project interviews and archives were recently donated to the Briscoe Center for American History and you can access information about the collection here.
Tarlton Law Library Oral History Series
For more than a decade (1996-2009) I contracted with the University of Texas School of Law to conduct oral history interviews with alumni and faculty. Published oral histories in the Tarlton Law Library Oral History Series: Hans W. Baade, Lino A. Graglia, Joseph D. Jamail Jr., Corwin W. Johnson, J. Leon Lebowitz, James W. McCartney, Oscar H. Mauzy, Harry M. Reasoner, Russell J. Weintraub, and Guy Wellborn. I was honored with an award for best publication by the American Association of Law Librarians in 2006, for my interview with Harry Reasoner.
NASA/Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center Oral History Project
In the summer of 1997, I was fortunate enough to coordinate the NASA/Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center Oral History Project Summer Program in Houston. I developed the overall structure of the program and coordinated the research efforts of a staff of five summer graduate student interns, as well as coordinated with the various entities associated with the project—the oral history executive board, Signal Corporation, the library research liaison and other center
historians. The summer staff began collecting an archive of research materials, completed 10 biographical profiles of interview candidates, and began the task of creating a database from which to track the interview candidates by mission, job title, and other pertinent information. Seven interviews were conducted with astronauts, technicians, and engineers who had been involved with the space program. I interviewed astronauts John Glenn and Edgar D. Mitchell. You can access the interviews here. In addition, the summer program produced project guidebooks on research, video technology, and oral history, as well as a project scope and prospectus and a cohesive plan for conducting the NASA oral history project in the future. I feel very gratified in that the Johnson Space Center Oral History Project has gone on to add more than 1,000 interviews.
Texas Bar Foundation Oral History Interviews
For the better part of a decade (1998-2004) I contracted with the Texas Bar Foundation to conduct oral history interviews with the winners of the Outstanding Fifty Year Lawyer Award. Interviews include: Daniel C. Arnold, Morris Atlas, Judge Charles Barrow, Louis Bedford, Judge Lucius D. Bunton, Judge Carlos Cadena, Warlick Carr, Judge Solomon Casseb Jr., Judge Barbara Culver Clack, Charlye O. Farris, Charles O. Galvin, Judge Reynaldo G. Garza, Gibson Gayle, William B. Hilgers, Judge John L. Hill Jr., Vester Hughes Jr., Joseph D. Jamail Jr., Orrin Johnson, Franklin Jones, Jr., Joseph McKnight, Dean Angus S. McSwain, Wales H. Madden, Judge Eldon Mahon, J. Harris Morgan, George Pletcher, Louise Raggio, Judge Thomas M. Reavley, Joe Reynolds, Judge Mary Lou Robinson, Judge Barefoot Sanders, Charles Saunders, Travis Shelton, Cullen Smith, J. Burleson Smith, and Judge Mary Pearl Williams. The collection resides at the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.
Veterans History Project
In the early 2000s, I led oral history workshops throughout Texas and the South and conducted interviews for the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress and the American Folklife Center. Interviews include: James Warren David, Michael A. Hood, Ben F. Love, and Vance W. Torbert, Jr. See the book Mr. Torbert and I produced here.