was to go to San Antonio and stand on the street corner at the Gunter Hotel and ask himself how many of the passing crowd had ever heard of Walter Webb, and how many knew of the University of Texas and had any interest in it. Seeing himself in proper perspective made it possible for him to be courageous and unafraid. A short time before his controversial article in Harper’s Magazine appeared, he and two friends were together in El Paso. Both of these friends warned him that if that article was published he would lose every friend he ever had. He was silent for a few moments, and then answered: “I can’t help it. I’ll have to publish it.” He had a conscience about helping students who were in need of help. Applicants for help were never asked about their grades. This was his way of trying to pay the debt he owed to William E. Hinds, the man who had made possible his early college education. A man came into Dr. Webb’s office one day for financial assistance. Another faculty member came in a short time after the visitor for help had left. The faculty member inquired if Dr. Webb had had a caller and if he gave him anything. Dr. Webb replied that he had let the man have $100. The faculty member retorted: “That fellow is a professional bum; he has gotten money from a number of men, is leaving the city and is down at the railway station now.” Dr. Webb jumped up and said: “I’ll get that guy.” He rushed down to the station and boarded the train and found his man. Later in the day the faculty member saw Dr. Webb and asked him what had happened when he confronted the man. Dr. Webb answered: “You know, that fellow was so -open and above board about the whole matter, I let him have another $100.” Dr. Webb always liked a consummate artist, even though he be a crook and a scoundrel. Beneath his occasional bluntness and gruffness there was a fine sensitivity. He could even become deeply sentimental. The Friday Mountain camp had meant much to him: he could cry while giving expres sion to his great concern for the preservation of the grass there. He was asked one time if he had ever done anything that he looked back to with regret. The answer came in the affirmative. He had been visiting Houghton Mifflin in Boston, and he was given a copy of Walter Millis’ The Road to War to look over. The jacket on the book was vivid red. He went out into a park to sit down and laid the book on the bench beside him. Two little Italian children, a girl about nine years old and her little brother about five, came by. They were poor and dirty. The little boy was attracted by the book, and as he edged up to the bench and was reaching his hand out to it, Dr. Webb reached out and pulled it away. As he did so, the little girl very calmly said to her brother, “Don’t touch the book, it’s too nice for you.” There was no resentment and no complaining by the little sister, just a statement of fact. “It’s too nice for you.” Dr. Webb said: “I would give anything to be able to live that over, and not to move the book away. It has bothered me for years.” 77 Webb My Teacher Wilson Hudson On March 2, 1963, Walter Prescott Webb wrote this on one of the end leaves of Washington Wife: “To my friend from away back.” Our friendship began in 1925 and lasted until the fatal automobile accident on March 8. Through all the phases of his career he was the samestraightforward, cheerful, and companionable. He was always ready for a chat or a cup of coffee, no matter how busy he was. It was my good fortune to take History 9 as a freshman under Webb and Duncalf, who has also left us. They took turns in lecturing to about one hundred and fifty students in the big auditorium of the old Law Building. On Fridays we were divided into quiz sections, and Webb happened to be my quizmaster. He lectured from notes, with the corners of his mouth turned down as if he were not particularly enjoying what he was doing. It has been my impression that he did not care to speak before large groups of people, nor did he like to get very far from written copy. He had the information and he knew how to impart the maximum in fifty minutes; he did not consider himself an entertainer and he made no use of attention-catching tricks or gadgets. In the Friday quiz sessions he would give us a short discussion question and then make us talk about the week’s work. He dealt in ideas and drew us out. In taking notes on the Monday and Wednesday lectures and making summaries of collateral reading, I wrote much more than in freshman English and learned a great deal more about writing. Wilson Hudson is associate professor of English at the University of Texas. 8 The. Texas Observer One of the books on the collateral list was Ellen Semple’s Influences of Geographic Environment, which Webb later told me he had placed there himself. In the first week of school I dipped into this book and experienced a strong intellectual thrill. The first sentence was loaded with implications: “Man is a product of the earth’s surface.” In a wide-ranging discussion Semple showed that men’s way of life, laws, myths, mental attitudes, and even their bodies vary according to their geographical situation. To someone who had not gone very far beyond the dogma that man is a special creation of the deity formed in his image to do his will, this was illuminating and liberative. In Semple’s book I was being introduced to what was a basic element in Webb’s approach to history: environment comes first and strongly influences human institutions. This, I learned years afterwards, was the orientation of Lindley Miller Keasbey, Webb’s teacher at the university. As the shadow of the library crept up the side of the old Main Building, I sat reading. I was late for supper that night. I took no more courses in history but continued to see Webb from time to time. I became a page in the library, and he was a frequent visitor to the stacks. When he began to work on The Great Plains he went at such a pace that he could not come for the books he needed but would leave a list to .be gathered together and brought to his office. He paid another page, who came at seven in the morning, to bring the books to him. He was so immersed in study and writing that he seemed to be in a daze; the unifying idea for The Great Plains had come to him so forcehilly that he had set aside The Texas Rangers and was working at a white heat. He practically lived in his office. A graduate student who had seen some of Webb’s manuscript made this comment on his style: “He’s no Macaulay, but he gets there in his homely way.” Today we give thanks that he didn’t take Macaulay for a model. No small part of the merit of The Great Plains is its directness, simplicity, and clarity of expression. In freshman English, which he took at the university, Webb had not fared well under the, instruction of a man who wanted his students to write like Charles Lamb. As a writer Webb totally eclipsed this instructor, who in a long life of composing little articles never faced a task of any magnitude or produced a single book. When The Great Plains appeared in an inexpensive edition, at my suggestion it was made one of several optional texts in freshman English. I have taught it repeatedly as a model of historical writing, first at the University of Chicago. It has a clear-cut pair of basic terms, land and people, and it is beautifully organized. T IS WELL KNOWN that Webb befriended many students and even lent money to them without looking up their grades. Once he gave me some muchneeded help. On the eve of graduation day in May of 1930, when I was to receive an M.A. in English, I was walking along Congress avenue. As I approached Sixth street I heard someone call to me from a car stopped in the middle of the street. I went out and found Dr. Webb \(as we always addressed him even before he had “You’re getting your master’s degree tomorrow, aren’t you?” he asked.
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