A Guide to the James Frank Dobie Papers, 1923-2008
J. Frank Dobie, historian, teacher, author, and folklorist, was born on September 26, 1888 on a ranch in Live Oak County, Texas, the son of Richard J. and Ella (Byler) Dobie. In 1910, he graduated with a B. A. degree from Southwestern University in Georgetown. He began teaching shortly thereafter in Alpine, Texas, and working summers as a newspaper reporter. After receiving a master's degree from Columbia University, Dobie joined the University of Texas faculty and the Texas Folklore Society in 1914. Dobie and writer Bertha McKee were married in 1916. He interrupted his work at the University for two years during World War I and then again in 1920 to manage his uncle Jim Dobie's ranch. In 1919, Dobie began writing articles for the Southwest Review (then known as the Texas Review). Dobie's first book, A Vaquero of the Brush Country, was published in 1929. This book was followed two years later by Coronado's Children (1931), and then On the Open Range (1931), Tales of the Mustang (1936), The Flavor of Texas (1936), Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver (1939), The Longhorns (1941), Guide to Life and Literature of the Southwest (1942), and Tongues of the Monte (1947).
Dobie was also a vocal member of the Advisory Board of Texas Historians, which reported regularly to the Commission of Control for the Texas Centennial Celebrations. These celebrations were characterized by a strong interest in Texas history, and accordingly marking and preserving sites of historical significance. The Advisory Board made specific recommendations with accompanying budget outlines to the Commission. The recommendations included erecting new markers for the graves of notable individuals in Texas history, making corrections to inscriptions on existing Texas monuments, the relocation of the remains of Texas heroes to the Texas State Cemetery, and creation of new monuments to mark the sites of important historical events. Dobie himself was outspoken in his criticism of the state of existing monuments. During this time, he corresponded with historian and Advisory Board chairman Louis Wiltz Kemp, as well as famous sculptors Gutzon Borglum, Pompeo Coppini, and Bonnie MacLeary. Dobie was also active in the Centennial Celebrations themselves and was even offered a seat on the Speakers' Platform at the Dallas festivities.
In 1939, Dobie began his syndicated newspaper column "My Texas." After a leave of absence from the University of Texas during World War II, Dobie became embroiled in a fierce debate with the University of Texas board of regents over the firing of President Homer P. Rainey in November 1944. Dobie requested a continuation of his leave of absence in 1947, but was refused and dismissed from the UT faculty, thereby ending his teaching career. Dobie remained in the Austin area and devoted all his time to writing and anthologizing. Publication of The Voice of the Coyote (1949), The Ben Lilly Legend (1950), The Mustangs (1952), Tales of Old Time Texas (1955), Up the Trail from Texas (1955), I'll Tell You a Tale (1960), and Cow People (1964) occurred during this time. President Lyndon Johnson awarded him the Medal of Freedom on September 14, 1964, and Dobie died on September 18, 1964.
The collection primarily documents J. Frank Dobie's activity as a member of the Advisory Board of Texas Historians, and contain correspondence, notes, maps, articles, and reports made to the Commission of Control for the Texas Centennial Celebrations. Along with Dobie's research into native Texas history and folklore, the centennial celebrations and the selection of monuments are the central focus of the papers. Notable correspondents include sculptors Gutzon Borglum, Pompeo Coppini, and Bonnie MacLeary, as well as historian and fellow Advisory Board member Louis Wiltz Kemp. In addition, there is a small amount of correspondence written to Dobie's wife Bertha. A large series of notes and correspondence, organized alphabetically by county, contains information on the history and foundation of several Texas counties, detailed recommendations for monuments, and proposed renovations to sites of historical significance. Later additions to the collection include assorted writings by Dobie and newspaper and magazine clippings documenting his life, writings, death, and legacy.
James Frank Dobie Papers, 1923-2008, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
Revised by Shelley Rowland, October 2008, March 2009; Laurel Rozema, October 2009.
Detailed Description of the Papers