Webb, Walter Prescott, 1888-1963Variant names
Walter Prescott Webb (April 3, 1888 in Panola County, Texas – March 8, 1963 near Austin, Texas) was an American historian noted for his groundbreaking work on the American West. As president of the Texas State Historical Association, he launched the project that produced the Handbook of Texas. He is also noted for his early criticism of the water usage patterns in the region. In 2012, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
Webb was raised on his family farm in Carthage in rural Panola County, Texas. After graduating from Ranger High School in Ranger in Eastland County, he earned a teaching certificate and taught at several Texas schools. He eventually attended the University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1915 at the age of twenty-seven. He worked as bookkeeper in San Marcos and optometrist's assistant in San Antonio, then in 1918 he was invited to join the history faculty at the University of Texas. He wrote his Master of Arts thesis on the Texas Rangers in 1920 and was encouraged to pursue his PhD. After a year of study at the University of Chicago, he returned to Austin, where he began a historical work on the West. The result of this work was The Great Plains, published in 1931, hailed as great breakthrough in the interpretation of the history of the region, and declared the outstanding contribution to American history since World War I by the Social Science Research Council in 1939. He was awarded his PhD for his work on The Great Plains in 1932, the year after its publication.
In 1939–1946 he served as president of the Texas State Historical Association. During his tenure as president, he launched a project to produce an encyclopedia of Texas, which was subsequently published in 1952 as the Handbook of Texas. The world wide web version of the work is a popular Internet reference tool on the state. In all, Webb wrote or edited more than 20 books. One of them, The Texas Rangers (1935) was considered the definitive study of the legendary Texas Rangers and its Captain Bill McDonald.
In 1958 Webb served as president of the American Historical Association.
Webb was killed in an automobile accident near Austin. He was interred at Texas State Cemetery in Austin on the proclamation of then Governor John B. Connally, Jr. At the time of his death he was working on a television series on American civilization under a grant from the Ford Foundation.
In his honor the University of Texas established the Walter Prescott Webb Chair of History and Ideas. The position is currently held by Philippa Levine. Webb Middle School in Austin, Texas is also named after him.
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|Ranches and ranching|
|Literature, Texan and Southwestern|
|Crime and criminals|
|Teachers and teaching|
|Frontier and pioneer life|
|Conservation of natural resources|
|History--Study and teaching|
|Politics and politicians|
|Indians of North America|
|Roads and highways|