Transcript of Walter Prescott Webb

This is Texas Originals. From Humanities Texas, for the advancement of heritage, culture, and education.

Walter Prescott Webb remains one of Texas's most significant and influential scholars.

Born in 1888, Webb grew up in Stephens County. In 1904, an Atlanta literary magazine published a letter written by a young Webb asking how he could become a writer. Remarkably, a New Yorker named William E. Hinds read the letter and became Webb's benefactor, sending him books, money, and encouragement. With Hinds's support, Webb entered The University of Texas in 1909, where he eventually received a doctorate.

Webb taught at his alma mater throughout his career. He served as director of the Texas State Historical Association and spearheaded the creation of The Handbook of Texas, the definitive encyclopedia of the state's history. In 1958, he served as president of the American Historical Association.

As a scholar, Webb made his name with The Great Plains, his 1931 study that shows how the distinctive climate and geography of the American West shaped the region's history. In 1950, a survey of historians identified the book as the single most important work in U.S. history written since the turn of the century.

Webb died in 1963. In a memorial, J. Frank Dobie described him as "the most powerful thinker I have ever known." "Most historians deal with the past as the past," said Dobie. "Webb dealt with it as a guide to the future."

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