Fifty years ago UNT’s Oral History Program began capturing the stories of the “man on the street” in their own words, giving voice to those that are often neglected by history because they are less likely to leave a written record. The program is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout 2015 by posting audio clips and photos highlighting important portions of the collection. The goal of the program is to “preserve, through recorded interviews, the memoirs of Texans who have been eyewitnesses to or participants in historic events,” and to make transcripts of these oral interviews available to scholars and the general public.
It all began in 1964 when H.W. Decamp called the first organizational meeting, with the intention of preserving the recollections of Texas politicians and business leaders. By 1968 the leadership was taken over by Dr. Ronald E. Marcello, a History professor, who started expanding beyond the original scope, to include those who served in World War II, New Deal projects participants, and memoirs of Holocaust survivors. Dr. Todd Moye, another UNT History professor, took over in 2005 and continued to expand the scope of the collection.
In 2015 the collection includes more than 1,800 oral histories consisting of 150,000 pages of transcribed oral interviews not just from the original areas, but expanding to include local African American, entrepreneurial, LGBTQ, women’s, and community history. Some of the highlights in the collection include:
- Interviews with Sarah T. Hughes who served as a federal district judge in 1961 and swore in Lyndon Johnson after the Kennedy assassination. Listen to Hughes’ recollections of swearing in President Johnson and other sound bites.
- Interviews with Senator Barbara Jordan, who served as the first African–American member of the Texas Legislature since Reconstruction in 1883.
- Interviews with Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics as she discussed many topics including her business philosophy and the role of women in her company.
- Interviews with Denton Quakertown residents about their forced removal to the southeast part of town.
- The recollections of Joe Atkins, the African American man who’s action brought about the desegregation of UNT in 1956. Listen to sound bites of Atkins’ interview, including an intimidating visit from the Texas Rangers.
- LGBTQ interviews, including those of Cece Cox, the CEO of the Dallas Resource Center and an advocate in the LGBTQ community for more than 30 years.
- Interviews with men who served in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a project of the New Deal under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
- World War II reminiscences, including those of Charles Lindberg, a WWII marine veteran, who shared his memories of his service in the Pacific Theater and how the war has been remembered. Listen to Lindberg’s memory of the amphibious landing at Iwo Jima.
The oral histories are available to scholars, students, genealogists and anyone with an interest in history. For more information on the Oral History Program and information on what interviews are available visit the Oral History Program page.
— Lisa Brown
[Fred Moore School Classroom], Photograph, [1961…1962]; (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth388199/ : accessed September 11, 2015), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNTOHP, [No City Listed], Texas.
McCann, Connie Ford. [Connie McCann’s CCC Tent Crew 1933], Photograph, ca. 1933-1934; (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth121772/ : accessed July 06, 2015), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections, Denton, Texas.
[Photograph of Quakertown Residents]. The Portal to Texas History.http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth388189/. Accessed September 11, 2015.
McCann, Connie Ford. [Group photograph for CCC camp members], Photograph, ca. 1933-1934; (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth121793/ : accessed July 06, 2015), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; UNT Libraries Special Collections, Denton, Texas.
Stoughton, Cecil. [Lyndon B. Johnson taking oath of office from Sarah T. Hughes], Photograph, November 22, 1963; (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc177458/ : accessed July 29, 2015), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections, Denton, Texas.