2018 - 2019 Oral histories

Mary Arnold spent her youth in Dallas and shares stories of her University of Texas years, followed by her contributions to Austin civic efforts—integration, Lions Municipal Golf Course, and the environment. She provides insight to help others shape the city as she has since the 1960s.

 

Sinclair Black, an expert in urban design, architecture, and community advocacy projects, began his longtime teaching at UT in 1967 and has received recognitions for his work in private practice (member of the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows, Director Emeritus of Congress for New Urbanism Central Texas, winner of CNU Athena Medal in 2008, and Texas Society of Architects Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016).

 

The Late Roberta Reed Crenshaw, interviewed in the 1980s, talks about her civic contributions: a founder of the Austin Environmental Council and Texas Nature Conservancy, helped beautify the city through her work on the Austin Parks Board and as a member of the National Recreation and Parks Association; as a donator of parkland; and as a founder of numerous cultural organizations including Ballet Austin, Preservation Austin, Austin History Center, Symphony Orchestra Society and Women’s Symphony League, Laguna Gloria, and Umlauf Sculpture Garden.  

 

Travis Eckert talks about life growing up in Hyde Park in the 1930s through 1950s and shares humorous stories of the simpler life then; playing baseball at UT and professionally with the Chicago Cubs; his own successful insurance business; and distinctions (the oldest living member of First Methodist Church, key member of Young Men’s Business League Sunshine Camp and Sunshine Foundation).

Ted Lee Eubanks shares his family history dating from their time in McKinney, Texas during the Civil War, through his birth in Plano, Texas; his University of Houston studies and writing for the Daily Cougar; his interpretive work in Austin including work on the first state birding trails with Texas Parks and Wildlife; and working worldwide through his company, Fermata.

 

David B. Gracy II, Ph.D., expressively recalls his boyhood interest in history and his relative, George Littlefield, who became the subject of his latest work. He talks about his career as a nationally-known archivist in Georgia, as the state archivist of Texas, and professor of Archival Enterprise at UT, with stories from his work on the Southern Labor Archives, Texas State Library and Archives, and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas archives. 

Russell Gregory grew up in West Austin in the 1940s and talks about his musical family, his UT years (possibly the only UT Cowboy to major in sacred music), his involvement in Christian Ashram over the decades, and his careers as an organist and a vocalist while working his day job at Prudential Insurance. During the taping, Gregory sings a cappella as Tevye in an excerpt from the musical Fiddler on the Roof.

Keith Harrell comes from a family with deep roots in Austin & Round Rock. He tells of how his Harrell, Simms, and Landfere ancestors helped shape the area. Harrell talks about growing up in the family’s moving and storage business, interactions he had with the tech companies who moved to Austin, and his role in establishing the Eanes Independent School District and Westlake High School.

Thomas M. (Tom) Hatfield, Ph.D., is an academic, lecturer, writer, and historian who became the first president of Austin Community College, nurturing it into a regional community college, until becoming the UT Dean of Continuing Education and founder of popular lifelong learning programs and tours of World War II battlefields. ** Second Session

 

Nick Kralj vividly describes his “wide open” hometown of Galveston in the 1940s and ‘50s; his entry into the Austin political scene while at UT in the 1960s (friendship with Frank Erwin and working for Governor Connally and Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes); his work as proprietor of The Quorum Club and Nick’s (where Texas politicians socialized in the 1970s and ‘80s); his view of the gambling world; and his current work as lobbyist and consultant with Kralj Consulting, Inc.

La Lotería Mural Artists Felipe "Flip" Garza & Oscar Cortez, longtime artists and leaders in La Lotería Mural Artists, discuss how the East Austin mural by the same name, originally painted in the 1980s, was painted over by SXSW music festival officials. As one of the original artists of the mural, Garza teamed up with Cortez and others to restore it in 2016, securing its valued place in the Austin economic and cultural landscape.

Hans Mark, Ph.D. & Marion Mark, Ph.D., came to Austin as adults. Hans fled Nazi-controlled Germany and Austria to the U.S. where he became Secretary of the Air Force, Deputy Administrator at NASA, and UT System Chancellor. Meanwhile Marion, originally born in Hayward, California, became a curriculum specialist, working in education for fifty-one years. The couple retired in West Austin’s Tarrytown. They share their lively memories of Austin and life in the UT System Bauer House. 

Jose Agustin Martinez, M.D., escaped with his parents and siblings from Castro’s Cuba in 1960 and enjoyed an idyllic childhood in Houston, college life at UT and UT medical schools, and family life and medical practice in Austin as an ophthalmologist at Austin Retina. 

Jean Mather shares her recollections of life in Travis Heights and abroad with husband, architect and professor Bob Mather, and their family. Having earned a master’s degree from Harvard in landscape architecture, Jean broke ground in the field of socially-aware design. Always active in neighborhood design and protection, she co-organized one of the earliest neighborhood associations, South River City Citizens in 1972. 

Wendell W. Mayes Jr. was born on March 2nd, Texas Independence Day, in San Antonio, about a half a mile from the Alamo. He followed in the family broadcasting business, which brought him to Austin as station manager of KNOW in 1970. His career included roles in state and national broadcasting associations. A World War II veteran, Mays currently advocates for veterans and for local, state, national, and international diabetes organizations. 

Anuradha Naimpally was born in Mumbai and raised mainly in Canada, grew to be a modern guru of Indian Classical Dance; performing, teaching, mentoring and collaborating with others at the forefront of dance, cultural, and social causes in Austin since 1989. She recalls the development of Austin Dance India and communicating through dance. 

Vonnye Margaret Rice-Gardner lived at same address on East 7th St. for 71 years and dedicated her life to family, friends, education, and community service, especially ACC, Travis County Historical Commission, and Austin Resource Center for Independent Living. 

 

John Oscar Robinson, a fifth-generation Austinite, was interviewed by his cousin Ann Dolce. He shares special memories of school, family gatherings, and history of his family’s business—the Austin White Lime Company—as well as the products, history, and property acquisitions from many family ranches for limestone quarries. Robinson also discusses his involvement in numerous local and state civic organizations.

 

Robert “Bob” Rutishauser explains how, in 1983, Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation chose Austin to be its home, including insight regarding how MCC functioned  and affected Austin, changing it into the technology center it is today. Rutishauser also talks about his involvement in community projects that help disadvantaged people obtain education and work opportunities. 

Marc Seriff, an Austin native, was a pioneer in the evolution of technology and is best known for his start up that became America Online, as well as being a civic volunteer and ardent supporter of the arts in Austin. He and his wife Carolyn also produce Broadway plays in New York. 

Joe Stewart recounts his entry into the Air Force and his long and distinguished career there in the Air Police, SAC Elite Guard, and Air Force Intelligence. He talks about his contributions in civilian life that followed as an Austin public school teacher and U.S. census supervisor, as well as his service as deacon of the historic Kincheonville Zion Rest Missionary Baptist Church. Stewart also shares a few of his experiences with prejudice and discrimination. 

Harry Swinney, Ph.D., was born in Louisiana and moved with his family to Austin while his father attended Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Harry studied at Rhodes College and he earned a Ph.D. in physics at Johns Hopkins before returning to Austin in 1978 for a career at UT (researching instabilities chaos theory, collective behavior, the study of non-equilibrium systems, such as turbulence, vortices, ocean energy, and much more) as the S.W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chair of Physics and the Director of the Center for Non-Linear Dynamics. 

 

Jo Betsy Lewallen Szebehely grew up in West Austin, graduated from the UT Law School, and had a long career as an officer of the court; first as an Assistant Attorney General from 1967 to 1972; until retiring from the law in 1999. She recalls stories of being married to Victor Szebehely, a renowned astrophysicist and professor at UT, and talks about her life now at Westminster. 

 

Connie Todd descends from Virginia and Tennessee ancestors who sought refuge in Texas from the Civil War and built homes in the oldest section of Travis Heights. She and her brother grew up with history and artifacts that contribute to her fascinating stories of family, schools, fads, styles, friends, social concerns work in academia, volunteer and socially-responsible activities—including her direct involvement in the movie business and living in her family’s historic home on South Congress. 

 

Glenn West talks about his time as Austin Chamber of Commerce president in the late 1980s and 1990s, during which time Austin built a new international airport, a new convention center, and developed the economy that sustains the Austin region today. He also discusses his involvement with UT, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and his work as a community volunteer.  

 

Delano Womack happily reminisces with four old friends about his student leadership at Austin High School, and the football success he enjoyed there and at UT during the 1950s, leading to his induction into the Texas Athletics Hall of Honor and the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame. 

Margaret Wright talks about growing up in East Austin, the social dynamics she experienced and observed, her formal education, and learning to read music and play piano. For more than 50 years she was an educator and entertainer—teaching by day and entertaining by night—singing and playing piano at clubs, restaurants, churches and events. Now retired from teaching, Wright still entertains audiences two evenings a week at the Skylark Club. 


Peck Young started a career in politics as a child pushing campaign cards outside the Piccadilly Cafeteria on Congress Ave. Later, he led the effort to allow students to register and vote in the city in which their university was located, which changed the dynamics of the Austin City Council in the 1970s. He offers rich insight on local politics, starting from the 1960s.