Maline McCalla Papers
An Inventory to the Collection
Austin native Maline McCalla has dedicated much of her life to volunteering for a wide variety of Austin organizations. She was born Mary Ailine Gilbert on August 7th, 1938 in St. David’s Hospital—a hospital co-founded by her grandfather, Dr. Joe Gilbert. In 1960, McCalla graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English literature. While in college, McCalla received summer fellowships to study at the Universities of Chile and Mexico, and after graduation she spent nine months studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. In a 1989 interview with the Austin American-Statesman, McCalla says that these scholarships motivated her to become even more involved in volunteer work. McCalla may also have been inspired by her mother, Ailine Burch Gilbert, who was herself a committed volunteer in the Austin area. After her studies in France, McCalla went back to UT Austin for a master’s degree in Romance Languages, specializing in French. While in graduate school, Maline married Dudley McCalla, a lawyer and fellow Austinite. They were married in the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, a church that Maline’s father, Dr. Joe Thorne Gilbert, helped establish. McCalla graduated from her master’s program at UT Austin in 1963, soon after the birth of her first son, Dudley Junior. During the next five years, Maline had two more children, Joe Gilbert and Andrew Harris; worked as a part-time model; and volunteered for the Junior League and several other local organizations.
Despite her many volunteer activities and busy family life, McCalla was also a dedicated dancer and an artist. A ballet dancer for over sixty years, McCalla performed in supporting roles for the Austin Ballet Theatre through at least age 51. She was a committed activist for the performing arts in Austin, serving on the boards of both the Austin Ballet Theatre and the Paramount Theatre. She also acted as an adviser to the American Company for Deaf Dancers (which become known as the Yacov Sharir group). McCalla’s art became locally recognized during the mid-1960s, when she displayed her paintings on papier-mâché screens at the Laguna Gloria Fiesta and the Austin’s Women’s Club. Later, her hand-painted tiles adorned the kitchen of Lady Bird Johnson’s Austin home, and her drawings enlivened the pages of her sister-in-law’s cookbook published in 2001. Although very little of her art is represented in this collection, a few doodles and handwritten notes hint at McCalla’s artistic abilities and personality.
Following her first volunteer work at the city level for the Library Commission, McCalla and Patrick J. Nugent were appointed co-chairpersons of the Austin Bicentennial Commission in 1973, where they were in charge of planning a series of activities throughout the Bicentennial year to commemorate the nation’s milestone birthday. After the success of these celebrations, McCalla was asked to help plan the observance of the Texas Sesquicentennial in 1986. She served on the Austin Sesquicentennial Commission, which oversaw all aspects of the yearlong celebration, and was appointed the chairman of the March 2nd Celebration Committee, which organized a week of festivities commemorating the independence of Texas. For the City of Austin’s Sesquicentennial in 1989, McCalla and former Mayor Frank Cooksey were appointed as co-chairs of the Austin 150 Commission and coordinated the year’s festivities.
In addition to her work for the performing arts and civic celebrations, McCalla volunteered for a number of organizations not represented in this collection. For example, McCalla was a board member or advisor for the Zachary Scott Theatre Center, the Elisabet Ney Museum, the Laguna Gloria Art Museum, the Natural Science Center, the National Wildflower Research Center, and the Gorilla Fund (in California). McCalla also served on numerous committees at UT Austin, including various fine arts committees and the University Centennial Commission.
In recognition of McCalla’s extraordinary amount of volunteer work, the Austin Board of Realtors selected her as Austin’s "Most Worthy Citizen of 1989." McCalla’s volunteer efforts have continued over the years—in 2010, for example, she coordinated the 50th reunion of her undergraduate class at UT Austin.
The Maline McCalla Papers (2 linear feet) span the years 1973 - 1989, with the majority of the materials dating from 1973 - 1976 and 1985 - 1989. The bulk of the collection relates to McCalla’s volunteer work as a self-described "-ennial specialist," including her leadership in Austin’s celebrations of the American Bicentennial, the Texas Sesquicentennial, and the Austin Sesquicentennial. Comprised of correspondence, meetings agendas and minutes, committee lists, planning documents, legal and financial records, printed materials (including event programs and calendars, and newspaper and magazine clippings), photographs, and commemorative memorabilia such as stamps and buttons, the papers document the various commissions that were established for the city’s Bicentennial and Sesquicentennial celebrations, performances at the Austin Ballet Theatre, and the re-opening of the Paramount Theatre in 1980.
The Bicentennial series (1973-1977, undated; (1 linear foot) documents McCalla’s involvement as co-chairperson of the Austin Bicentennial Commission as well as her participation in the three committees overseen by the Commission, represented by the Heritage ’76, Festival USA, and Horizons ’76. The Heritage committee subseries discusses the celebration of America’s past, while the Festival USA subseries concerns the coordination of a series of celebrations throughout the bicentennial year. The Horizons committee subseries pertains to the preservation of waterways and the building of creek side trail systems as "Austin’s gift to the nation." While the Horizons ’76, Heritage ’76, and Festival USA subseries contain distinctive information about each separate committee, there is some overlap within the overall series, which was maintained to preserve original order. For instance, documents relating to the Horizons committee appear throughout the Bicentennial series, not only in the folder labeled "Horizons Committee." Additionally, two folders under the Festival USA subseries — "Freedom Train" and "Guatemala"— were created to combine materials from two or more original folders in order to highlight content that is easily disambiguated from the material pertinent to other subjects.
The “Commission” folder in the Bicentennial series contains several documents describing the goals and activities of each committee and the Commission as a whole. In addition to her work with these committees, McCalla corresponded frequently with Beverly Sheffield (head of the City of Austin’s Office of Bicentennial Affairs) and other groups planning bicentennial celebrations. This series illustrates the amount of planning the city of Austin, McCalla, other chairpersons, and members dedicated to the Austin Bicentennial Celebration. Additionally, the community-wide recognition of the Bicentennial and McCalla’s role as co-chairperson of the Commission is evidenced by the number of invitations McCalla received to commemorative ceremonies around town. The "West Austin Neighborhood Celebrations" folder differs from the others in that it contains materials addressing McCalla as a resident of a particular Austin community, not as a chairperson of the Commission or a committee member. The "Retail" folder under the Austin Bicentennial Commission subseries is also rather unique, as it contains samples of official commemorative items sent to McCalla so that she could decide which items the Commission should sell to finance Austin’s Bicentennial celebrations.
The 150 Commission series (1987-1989, undated; .5 linear feet) documents McCalla’s activities as co-chairperson of the commission that coordinated Austin’s Sesquicentennial celebration. Meeting agendas and minutes, newspaper clippings and more illustrate the number of financial and logistical issues the city of Austin considered in planning the Sesquicentennial, including the Music and Arts Festival, a competition called "Lights Across the Lake" (wherein designers submitted their lighting plans for the Congress Avenue Bridge), and the Tour of Texas cycling race. Also included is correspondence with other Austin organizations hosting sesquicentennial events sanctioned by the Commission, as well as documents about the Commission’s finances.
The Texas Sesquicentennial series (1983-1986, undated; .25 linear feet) sheds light on McCalla’s membership of the general commission celebrating the independence of Texas and the success of its revolution in 1836, and her role as chairman of the March 2nd Celebration Committee. Consisting mostly of correspondence, programs, and items related to meetings, this series demonstrates how the state-wide celebration was organized and implemented with the help of citizens like McCalla. The materials relating to McCalla’s chairing of the March 2nd Celebration Committee can be found in the folder with that same title, which describe plans for a week-long celebration of Texas’ Declaration of Independence. The papers relating to McCalla’s involvement with the City of Austin Sesquicentennial Commission are less in-depth than those pertaining to her work on the March 2nd Celebration, and consist mainly of materials from packets distributed to all of the commissioners.
The final series, Performing Arts (1977-1986, undated; .25 linear feet), highlights McCalla’s other volunteer activities and interests, such as her support of and engagement in dance and theater. Materials from the “Austin Ballet and Dance Theatre” folder record McCalla’s roles as dancer, trustee, and donor. Items from the “Paramount Theatre” folder document the planning that culminated in the theater’s renovation and subsequent re-opening in 1980. The collection includes two ceramic tiles accompanied by a note from McCalla explaining that she "made [the tiles] for all cast members in the '2nd' first opening of the Paramount." The tiles are one of only a few examples of McCalla’s artwork in the collection.
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Maline McCalla Papers (AR.1991.012). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1972/006
Donation Date: November, 15 1990
The Maline McCalla Papers came to the AHC in a loosely organized original order and received a minimal amount of initial processing by a staff member. Series and subseries were designed to reflect this original order; as discussed in the scope and content note, a few groups of materials were reorganized within the series to better reflect specific subject matter.
Final Processing and Finding Aid By/Date: Bethany Anderson, Meg Eastwood, and Zoe Marquardt 05/03/2011. Encoded by Zoe Marquardt/2011.
Other Finding Aids
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection. Series and folders that reflect activities in which McCalla was most involved are listed first. The following original folder titles were preserved: Commission; Awards; Retail; Publicity and Correspondence; Budget and Funds; Horizons Committee (originally "Horizons"); Festival Committee (originally "Festival"); Heritage Committee (originally "Heritage"); West Austin Neighborhood Celebrations (originally " Neighborhoods"); Kick-off; Other events, projects, and dates historic; Other projects; Legal; Finance Commission; Newspaper clippings; Lights on the Lake; Austin Choral Union; Tour of Texas; Austin Ballet and Dance Theatre; and Paramount Theatre. Only one folder was completely renamed—the " March 2nd Celebration Committee" was originally entitled "City of Austin Sesquicentennial Commission," but we chose to assign a more specific folder title since the handwriting indicated that the original folder title had not been assigned by McCalla. Folder titles were created for unlabeled folders, groups of loose items, and the two folders created for subject specific material, " Freedom Train" and "Guatemala."