Robert Godwin Photograph Collection
An Inventory of the Collection
Robert Godwin is a photojournalist and professional photographer who has been covering the social and philanthropic scene in Austin, Texas since 1976. He has been self-employed for more than 27 years, working both on retainer and freelance, with a variety of publications in Austin. Godwin has photographed Austin's elite for publications including The Society Diaries, Austin Homes and Gardens, the Austin American-Statesman, and the West Austin News. By 2014 he had recorded more than 20,000 events and amassed almost a half million photographs of Austin's philanthropic citizens, including members of the Austin Country Club, and their charitable activities and events.
Godwin's father served in the United States Air Force and, as a result, Godwin lived all over the world during his formative years before graduating from Radford High School in Bryan, Texas. Upon graduation, he spent two-and-one-half years as a cadet in the Air Force Academy, a career that ended prematurely in 1974 due to a knee injury. After leaving the Academy, he attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in Middle Eastern studies and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1976.
Godwin's career as a photographer began in 1976 with the Austin Citizen, a daily news publication, where he worked as a photojournalist for five years, covering professional and college sports, local news and businesses, philanthropic fund-raisers, and society galas. During his time at the Austin Citizen, Godwin worked with other photographers, whose photographs also appear in the collection (though often unidentified).
After the Austin Citizen shut down in 1981, Godwin established his own company, Robert Godwin Photography. He began working in 1982 on retainer for Austin Homes and Gardens, a local society home interior and landscaping magazine. At the height of his career, he attended more than 600 events a year, including preeminent social and non-profit events such as the Admirals Ball, Symphony League Jewel Ball, Bachelors Ball, and the Helping Hand Ball. A prolific photographer, Godwin achieved a personal record of attending 11 events in one day. From 1987 until 2011, he worked for the West Austin News, a local newspaper published twice monthly, covering school, community, and social events important to West Austin residents.
As of 2014, Godwin resides in Austin with his wife, Michelle, where he continues to photograph and write about Austin's non-profit scene in a freelance capacity, often providing advice on publicity for non-profit organizations. He is also a media consultant for the St. David's Foundation charitable organization. In 2013, Godwin published a book of his work, Austin: The Faces of Philanthropy 1976-2012, a pictorial history covering nearly four decades of Austin's philanthropic scene.
5.8 linear feet (14 boxes) of photographs taken by Robert Godwin (and other photographers) document the social and philanthropic scene in Austin, Texas from 1976 to 1995. The bulk of the photographs were taken by Robert Godwin in his role as a photojournalist for three local publications: the Austin Citizen newspaper, Austin Homes and Gardens magazine, and the West Austin News. The collection consists primarily of 5x7” and 8x10” black-and-white photographs, with a small number of color photographs. Many, but not all, of the photographs are labeled on the back with some type of identifying information, such as the names of people in the photograph, an abbreviated title of the event, or publication markings.
According to notes provided by Godwin in the deed of gift, the 8x10” photographs were shot for the Austin Citizen newspaper and date from 1976 to 1981. Besides Godwin, photographers of the 8x10” photographs include his brother Jay Godwin, Keith Bardin, Judy Psyzenica, Anne Miller, Dee Goldwater, and Craig Stafford, although their names do not always appear on the backs of the photographs. The 5x7” photographs were predominantly taken by Godwin. They date from 1982 to 1995 and were shot for Austin Homes and Gardens magazine and the West Austin News.
The Robert Godwin Photograph Collection captures a microcosm of Austin's elite society, its fun and philanthropic nature, and its newsmakers from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s. Members of the Austin Country Club, the Austin Junior League, the Admirals Club, and the Bachelors Club feature prominently in the collection. In addition to black-tie events, a number of less formal occasions are represented. These less formal photographs feature Austinites having a great deal of fun, including a variety of prints of women in zany hats and others featuring creative costumes. Celebrated sports figures and elected politicians from all levels of government are often the subjects of these photographs. Also depicted, though fewer in number, are lesser known citizens of Austin and the news events that affected their lives, including fires, floods, community gatherings, and local festivals.
Series I consists of the Austin Citizen photographs, which are 8x10” photographs of sports, local news, charity and social organizations and events, businesses, and musicians. Sports images comprise approximately 70 percent of the series. The photographs document high school, collegiate, professional, and local sports. The majority of the sports covered are baseball, basketball, golf, and football, with the latter making up nearly half of the sports images. Teams well represented in the series include the local high schools Anderson (new), Austin, McCallum, Reagan, and Crockett; the University of Texas at Austin and its rivals in the now-defunct Southwest Conference; the Dallas Cowboys; and the San Antonio Spurs. Sports figures pictured in the collection include golfers Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Ben Crenshaw; football coaches and players Fred Akers, David McWilliams, Darrell Royal, Earl Campbell, and Tony Dorsett; and men's and women's basketball coaches and players, including Jody Conradt, Abe Lemons, and Larry Bird. Cheerleaders, team mascots, and fans are also represented. Broomball, bodybuilding, billiards, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, ice skating, automobile racing, roller skating, water sports, tennis, track and field, volleyball, and wrestling are covered to a lesser degree. This series also includes one folder of water damaged photographs of various sports.
Approximately fifteen percent of the photographs in Series I document local news events, including photographs of disasters such as fires, floods, and vehicle accidents; community events such as dog shows and tours of the Texas Capitol; inclement weather; and holidays such as the 4th of July. Included in this subseries are photos of the arrest and indictment of Texas Supreme Court Justice Donald B. Yarbrough in 1977; and the 1979 press conference following the return of the “Killer Bees” to the Texas Capitol, a saga in Texas legislative history involving the disappearance of 12 Democratic legislators to kill a vote on a bill regarding changes to the Texas primary system.
Approximately ten percent of Series I is comprised of photographs highlighting philanthropic and social events, commercial photography, and live music. The photos of philanthropic events document charitable organizations such as Meals on Wheels, Seton Hospital, the YWCA, United Way, St. Vincent de Paul, and the Salvation Army. The photographs of social events include the Gustav Likan show at the Wagner Gallery, Headliners Club, sorority events, and fashion shows.
The commercial photographs subseries includes advertisements for clothing companies such as Jack and Jill, and highlights local businesses such as Capital National Bank, Barbara Lynn Dance Studio, the Driskill Hotel, and restaurants such as Tokyo Steak House, Texas Land and Cattle Co., Peddlers, and the Texas Chili Parlor. A small number of live music photographs at the end of Series I includes a 1977 image of Willie Nelson and several images of the Friendship Band from Round Rock, Texas.
Series II consists primarily of 5x7" black-and-white photographs taken for Austin Homes and Gardens and the West Austin News. The photographs serve, in part, to document the fashions worn by Austin's elite from the early 1980s until the mid-1990s. Adult and children's fashions are depicted in both the Charity and Social Organization and Events subseries and the Commercial and Advertising subseries. The photographs also document some of the television and radio personalities of the time, including Cactus Pryor, Neal Spelce, Dave Jarrett, Hugh Lewis, Dick Ellis, and Penny Reeves-Goff.
The photographs in this series provide a glimpse into Austin's political scene during the era. Scattered throughout the series are photographs of Austin mayors Carole Keeton McClellan and Ron Mullen; city council members Lowell Lebermann, Michael "Max" Nofziger, Sally Shipman, and Charles Urdy; and state and national politicians, including J. J. “Jake” Pickle, Gonzalo Barrientos, Lena Guerrero, and Lloyd Doggett. Of some note are the photographs of Ann Richards, whose terms as Travis County Commissioner, State Treasurer, and Governor of Texas fell either partially or wholly within the time period covered by this series and are each represented. Former Texas governors and their spouses John and Nellie Connally, Bill and Rita Clements, and Mark and Lynda Gale White; and former State Comptroller and Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock all appear in one or more photographs, as do Lady Bird Johnson and her White House press secretary, journalist and feminist Liz Carpenter.
More than 80 percent of the photographs in Series II document Austin citizens at social events and fund-raisers for Austin's charitable organizations. Such events include fashion shows benefiting the Austin Symphony and Laguna Gloria Art Museum, the Admirals Club and Junior Helping Hand debutante balls, benefits for public radio station KLRU, the Center for Battered Women, the Arthritis Foundation, Austin Lyric Opera, and the Paramount Theater. Also depicted are social affairs hosted by the Austin Country Club, and events sponsored by Rotary Club, the Settlement Club, and the Heritage Society of Austin.
The remaining photographs (less than 20 percent of the series) consist of commercial and advertising images, photographs of homes and gardens, sports, local news, and musical events. Included also are photographs of several weddings. The commercial and advertising subseries includes photographs taken to advertise for clothing companies such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Koslow's, St. Thomas, Dillard's, Charles Edwin, Personally Yours, Scarbrough's, Baby Bonjour, and Lou's Boutique. Other photographs detail the interiors and exteriors of locally featured society homes, while the local news photographs include images of local politicians and political events, flora and fauna in Zilker Park, notices of local theater productions at the Live Oak Theatre, fires, community parades, and business openings. The few photographs of sporting events include images from football and baseball games, and the music photographs highlight live music events with musicians such as country music singer/songwriter Larry Gatlin.
With his donation, Godwin provided a key to some of the abbreviations he used to identify the photographs in this collection. He provided further assistance with identification during several in-person meetings in 2015. Abbreviations that could not be fully identified were indicated with quotation marks in the folder titles.
Restrictions on Access
Open to all users.
Restrictions on Use
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
The collection was a donation from Robert Godwin to the Austin History Center.
Robert Godwin Photograph Collection (AR.1996.022). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1996/055
Donation Date: July 17 and 24, 1996
Final processing and finding aid by Allegra Geller and Frances Rickard/December 2014. Revisions by Frances Rickard/December 2015.
Detailed Description of the Collection