The Lubbock Tornado, Fifty Years Later

May 11, 2020 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the deadly F5 tornado that devastated Lubbock Texas. Prior to COVID-19 times, the Southwest Collection had planned a symposium entitled “The Lubbock Tornado, Fifty Years Later” that would have explored weather, history, and culture on the South Plains. Two full days of over thirty-five speakers would have discussed initial recovery efforts, art and music born out of the disaster, the history of and research from the National Wind Institute, the memorial gateway project, and reexaminations of the tornado itself.

At this point, most memorial-ization events across the city have been postponed to 2021, including the dedication of the aforementioned memorial gateway project. We have penciled in May 7-8, 2021 for our symposium’s rescheduled date. If this become untenable, we hope at least that our presenters will write up their talks so that we can provide a digital repository. The Southwest Collection’s goal has always been to preserve the history of this milestone Lubbock weather event. Regardless of the end medium or venue, we will continue that mission.

This week and next, in the absence of the symposium, the memorial dedication, and general gatherings to commemorate the lives lost and forever changed by this weather event, we wanted to highlight some of the Southwest Collection holdings that can assist researchers.

First, please check out a previous blog postthat covers many of our holdings, along with a specific write up on the Ted Fujita papers.

Lubbock AJ Photos

Prior to our building shut down in late March, photos from the immediate aftermath of the May 1970 tornado from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal were added to our dspace. Some of these images are black and white versions of images found in the Lubbock Tornado picture book published in June 1970.


Downtown business Fields & Company was hit especially hard by the 1970 Lubbock tornado. “Image 128- Fields Building”


Oral Histories

As might be expected, the Lubbock tornado was a frequent topic of discussion in oral history interviews. This author (our AV Unit Manager) is currently writing a history of the oral history documentary efforts done in the aftermath of the tornado (which was to be presented at the symposium). Abstracts of interviews have been grouped together here:

Many of our recently transcribed interviews also discuss the tornado. Check out our dspace and search for “tornado.” One example is Andy Wilkinson’s 2014 interview with Heenan Johnson, who was part of the disaster committee and city rebuilding efforts.

Image_36_Untitled_image_of_tornado_damage_1970_05_11 - Copy.jpg

Looking out of a downtown building, tangled blinds, and broken windows. “Image 36- Untitled image of tornado damage,”

Other Research and Reports

One thing that our symposium and exhibit sought to highlight was the research efforts that grew out of the Lubbock tornado disaster. The National Wind Institute, for example, began when Texas Tech scientists authored a damage investigation of the tornado (a hard copy is available in our Reading Room). Other reports are available online:

“A Report on the Lubbock Tornado” was produced by the city of Lubbock and presented in October 1970 by Mayor James Granberry

“The Economics of Federal Disaster Relief: Lubbock, Texas, A Case Study” was written in 1972 for the city by Texas Tech College of Business Administration faculty

Also a quick search of our Texas Tech theses and dissertation digital repository can highlight the immense research students have done in the past 50 years in various avenues of wind science, disaster preparedness, engineering, etc.

The city of Lubbock and the National Wind Institute also has more scanned documents and reports.

Finally, we want to mention that on May 18th, PBS’s American Experience will premiere “Mr. Tornado,” a documentary on Ted Fujita. The documentary film crew spent extensive time in our Reading Room, and worked a great deal with our reference staff.


More on Texas Tech and the tornado in next week’s blog post.


“For Rent – no pets-” Found in the AJ photos were many examples of humor that Lubbock citizens exhibited even in the midst of sheer and utter devastation. “Image 70- Ridge Road”



Oral History Remote Access and Update

Full disclosure: the author of these COVID-19 blogs is Dr. Elissa Stroman, the Audio/Visual Unit Manager. And so this week, she wanted to take a moment to explain what her department is doing during our work from home times, as well as provide an expanded explanation of oral history remote accessibility.

Overview of Our Oral Histories

The Southwest Collection’s oral history collection of over 6,500 recordings has traditionally been abstracted only, wherein our staff listens to interviews and generates a list of topics and keywords. Thousands of these abstracts have been placed on our oral history wiki. In 2013, the Audio/Visual department shifted to create full-text transcripts of all new interviews conducted, and since that time, over 1,000 interviews have been transcribed, many of which are available on our dspace.

In 2013, this blog featured a three-part overview of our oral history holdings, discussing the collection generally, our shift to transcripts, and the various recording formats of our interviews. Since those blogs were published, in Fall 2018, the A/V department completed digitizing all SWC oral history interviews in our holdings. This was especially advantageous in COVID-19 times, because mp3 copies of the entire collection can be backed up to a portable hard drive and easily worked on remotely.

Working from Home and Expanding Operation

In early March 2020, as the Southwest Collection realized that remote work was a matter of “when” not “if,” the A/V department began making arrangements for remote oral history transcription work. We recognized early that transcription was a task any employee could take with them, whether or not they had an internet connection. It is also work that can be soothing—the act of transcribing allows transcribers to focus on the interview at hand and tune everything else out. But more importantly, our researchers frequently ask for transcripts from older interviews, and we have been unable to keep up with the demands—until now. Because of all this, the Texas Tech libraries administration realized this opportunity and made this a priority project of our building: let’s see how many transcripts can be created in this time.

Typically, the A/V department consists of three or four part-time student transcribers and one staff member editor. In the days leading up to the Texas Tech campus shutting down, more and more USB drives with mp3s were disseminated, as were links to a shared onedrive folder. At last count, almost thirty Texas Tech library and SWC employees have been assigned to remote oral history transcription work (whether it be their only assigned task or just an extra project). The interviews prioritized for remote transcription work are interview series with release forms, under-represented voice projects, important themes/collections from the SWC’s holdings, and some of the earliest oral history recordings in our collection that document pioneers of the South Plains region.

What This Means for Our Researchers

The first thing researchers will notice is a wave of new transcripts put onto our dspace. Our department had a backlog of hundreds of transcripts that needed final edits and uploading. We now have the staff and time to do that. These transcripts are more recent interview series and projects that were transcribed by our students over the last few years. We also plan to expand our oral history wiki, which at this time only has about half of our interviews represented.

The interviews that are being transcribed remotely will not go on dspace immediately. They will still need to go through our editing queue, which takes time. Further, many of these older interviews have release restrictions that means they are only available in-house. But in the long term, it is notable that while we transcribed 1,000 interviews in about seven years, we have over 2,500 interviews queued to be transcribed during this quarantine time. Consequently, potentially in the post-COVID-19 world, over half of the Southwest Collection’s oral history collection will be transcribed (and with potential for more to be done if there’s time and people needing more work).

Oral History dspace page

Our oral history transcripts can be found on the SWC’s digital repository: , scroll down to “oral history interviews.”

Accessing Oral Histories Online NOW

Many people ask about accessing our oral histories online, right now, today, from home. Here is the short response:

  • No audio is available to stream or listen to online.
  • In “normal” times, we can provide audio copies of interviews to family members ONLY. However, because our building is closed, we cannot fulfill patron requests for physical media at this time. We can put your request on file and fulfill it when we are back in the office.
  • If you are working on an immediate research project, we highly suggest you look to our dspace transcripts first, as that will provide you full-text versions of our interviews that you can cite directly.
  • If you are planning a future research trip, then look to our wiki for other interviews and research topics that may only be available for listening in our Reading Room.
  • If you find a particular interview you are interested in that does not have a transcript, feel free to contact us, and we can look into release restrictions. If the interview is from the 1990s onward, there is a good chance that its transcript can be placed online. You can make a request for it to be transcribed, and it will be prioritized it in our transcription queue. I anticipate that it will take about six weeks to get the transcript onto dspace.
  • See previous blogs for more information generally about digital holdings and our policies during our COVID-19 closure.

Keep your eyes on our dspace and wiki sites in the upcoming weeks/months, as we continue to expand our digital holdings of our oral histories.

Screenshot 2020-04-13 14.11.09

Our oral history wiki will also be expanded while we are working from home. The site contains general information and abstracts of our interviews.

Newspapers of the 1920s


Did you know that the Southwest Collection has over 130,000 newspapers available among our digital collections? This massive collection represents several years of digitizing newspapers from throughout West Texas and, in some cases, volumes from other parts of the United States. Many of the earliest volumes date from January 1920, so we’ve dug into issues from that month to share with you their very urgent news.

Our first paper is The Ranger Times, above, which chronicled the community of Ranger, Texas, in Eastland County. This issue comes from New Years Day, 1920, when Cuban sugar was on everyone’s mind, with a little Soviet Russia and Dallas murder thrown in.


The Spearman Reporter was first published in 1919 when the newspaper was transferred from the neighboring town of Hansford, Texas. The newspaper typically covered events in Hansford County and Spearman, although it also threw in some news from the surrounding region. January 9, 1920’s was no exception. All that being said, the best part of old newspapers are usually the ads. Check out that Edison Diamond Disc!


The Gorman Progress was the weekly newspaper for Gorman, Texas, in Eastland County. The newspaper saw publication from 1901 to 2014. These pages date from its earliest printings. Our biggest regret is that because this copy was damaged before we received it, we now can’t quite figure out what’s going on the cartoon on the lower left.


Ozona, Texas, and Crockett County saw their lives chronicled in The Ozona Stockman. The newspaper dates back to the late-1800s when it was titled the Ozona Kicker. It bore the names Courier and the Ozona Enterprise as well before obtaining its current title in 1914. And this New Years Day issue is decidedly local, focusing on farming and livestock, local deaths, and…a boy who shot off his hand?!


Lubbock, Texas, home of the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University, has a small-town neighbor named Slaton, and in that town a newspaper has been published for over 100 years: The Slaton Slatonite. Its weekly volumes in the early 20th century were almost always the same as in this January 2, 1920, issue. Unique among many of our other papers, the Slatonite was heavily advertiser focused on its front page.


The Eldorado Success is the newspaper for the community of Eldorado in Schleicher County, Texas. Founded in 1901, it was previously known as the Eldorado Paper, the Success without the town’s name, and the Schleicher County Leader-Success. It’s still in publication today, albeit with features a little more concise than January 2, 1920’s Memorial Sermon by Reverend S. G. Dunn.


Ah, Hall County, Texas, home of The Memphis Democrat. A small, quiet place, whose newspaper first graced the local storefront on July 8, 1908. It was replaced by the Hall County Herald. Its front pages are often the most matter-of-fact among our collections, eschewing numerous ads to focus on the important events of the day. Such as why not to drink hair tonic and toilet water (spoiler: 3 in 4 chance of dying).


Finally, one of our favorite papers: The Cross Plains Review. Published in Cross Plains, Texas, for the people of Cross Plains and Callahan County, the Review might be most notable for publishing the stories of Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian. None of that is present in the January 9, 1920, issue here, sadly, instead featuring the more mundane day-to-day items of local folks.




Another Year, Another Cowboys’ Christmas Ball!

It’s that time of year: the ol’ holiday season, and that means that folks from the Southwest Collection will be headed south to Anson, Texas, for the annual Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball. Down in Jones County, roughly 25 miles northwest of Abilene, the event has been held almost-annually since the first grand ball thrown at Anson’s Star Hotel in 1885. That night, attendee William Lawrence “Larry” Chittenden was inspired to compose his poem, “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball,” promptly published in Anson’s Texas Western and, subsequently, in Chittenden’s Ranch Verses of 1893. “Born in the idle hours on a Texas ranch” where he lived for almost two decades seven miles outside of Anson, the poem is still a hallmark of the event today.


The poem was dedicated “To the Ranchmen of Texas.” It captures the spirit of the occasion, with its “togged out gorgeous” hotel festooned with candles, mistletoe, and “shawls” (which many have interpreted as blankets placed at the windows to insulate the hotel better). Lead by “Windy Billy,” who sang and called the dances, the crowded Star Hotel saw a very “lively gaited sworray” that evening in 1885. Chittenden even describes the original instrumentation: bass viol, fiddle, guitar, and tambourine.

that livelygaitedsworray

Though the hotel would be lost to a fire in 1890, Chittenden’s poem immortalized the spirit of a cowboy Christmas celebration for generations to come. Many folklorists reprinted his words through the years (including John Lomax first in his Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads in 1910. Lomax eventually attended the Ball in 1939). Even to this day we see the Chittenden’s poem in pop culture. Anson, Texas, would see some Christmas celebrations similar to the ball held irregularly in the early 20th century, but it wasn’t until 1934 that the Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball was reborn.

In 1934 an Anson schoolteacher and local folklorist named Leonora Barrett helped stage the first re-enactment of the 1885 ball. People from Anson and surrounding communities gathered in the school gymnasium for the event. Barrett insisted that the reincarnation of the ball retained the original dances, music, and customs of the first ball. This tradition, which includes men removing their hats on the dance floor and women only allowed to wear skirts, is kept to the present day.

leonora barrett frank reeves

Barrett, along with Hybernia Grace (another local historian), meticulously researched the conditions surrounding the original ball and worked diligently to preserve as much local history as possible. For example, suggested by Mrs. Ophelia Keen nee Rhodes, whose father owned the Star Hotel in the 1880s, wrote a letter to Barrett that was then published in the Anson newspaper Western Enterprise of December 19, 1935. In it, Keen remembers wedding at an early Ball. As a result, each a newly-wed couple leads the Ball’s opening grand march. Several other dances follow, including the Paul Jones, the Virginia Reel, a polka, Schottische, two step, waltz, and ‘put your little foot’.

Image 0003.B+W

Soon after its rebirth, the Ball began to gain attention. It was part 1936’s Texas Centennial. In 1938 Anson residents danced on the lawn of the White House during the National Folk Festival. Soon after, it expanded from one night to three, including a parade of historic vehicles (although that tradition has since passed.) Because of the Ball’s continued success, Barrett helped to copyright the reenactment and created a board of directors, who are now known as the Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball Association. Pioneer Hall, its current residence, was built in 1940 and was designated a historic site (and the Ball a historic event) by the Texas Historical Commission in 2010.

From the 1940s up until the 1990s, few records exist of the ball. We know it was a successful event based on newspaper articles, as well as the few surviving photographs, film reels, and one amazing ledger housed at the Southwest Collection. Started by Leonora Barrett in 1934 on the occasion of the first re-enactment, the ledger details yearly guests, hosts, radio broadcasts, leaders of the grand march, and a myriad of other facts. The Ball kept the ledger updated until 1994, ensuring that future scholars can appreciate this unbroken tradition.


The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball was reborn in a sense in the early 1990s when Michael Martin Murphey began performing in Anson as the annual headliner. In 2010 Murphey began donating his materials to the Southwest Collection’s Crossroads Music Archive. At this time he also put the archive in touch with the Ball’s organizers. As a result, in 2014 Texas Tech professor emeritus Paul Carlson published Dancin’ in Anson, a definitive account of the Ball’s rich history.


Though the music has been electrified and grown beyond four instruments, and historical dress is not required, attending the ball is still a festive step back into an older tradition. Each year, the ball is held on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday prior to Christmas. This year’s ball will be held December 17th, 18th, and 19th. Michael Martin Murphey will be performing on the first evening. For information on tickets, times, and directions, visit the Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball website.

by Elissa Stroman

The Last Stop in West Texas for “Prijedor: Lives from the Bosnian Genocide” Exhibit – Midland College in Midland, TX

prijedor 2

Back in October the SWC hosted the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission’s (THGC) thirty-four panel, Prijedor: Lives from the Bosnian Genocide” exhibit, and it was well received by its visitors. In mid-January it was installed at Midland College’s McCormick Gallery in Midland, Texas, where it will run through the end of February. We feel that this unique exhibit deserves one more mention by us to encourage interested folks to hurry over to Midland and check it out.

In the words of the THGC: “Genocides begin when intolerant and hateful individuals dehumanize others in a society by putting them into separate and unequal classes and deliberately harming them. According to the Genocide Watch organization, genocides and mass murders led to the killing of more than 170 million people, more than the sum of the deaths in all 20th and 21st century wars combined.” Prijedor was put together to educate the public about genocide through the story of the Bosnian city of Prijedor, where between 1992 and 1995 acts of genocide were committed. The exhibit “honors both the memory of the lives lost in the Prijedor genocide and the experiences of the survivors whose stories are told within the 34 panel series.”

prijedor 1

Why is Midland hosting the exhibit? Much like the SWC, the McCormick Gallery has made it their mission is to exhibit, collect, and preserve history, in this case through the medium of art. The Prijedor exhibit aligns closely with those goals, and represents an opportunity to tell a story that for many has been forgotten in the decades since it occurred.


The SWC hosted the THGC’s quarterly meeting in late October 2013, whereat we were able to speak with the many individuals who made this exhibit possible. They were passionate about their mission to increase awareness of genocide, and talked at length about their many educational programs and events. Perhaps Chaja Verveer, THGC commissioner and a Holocaust survivor, sums it up best: “Our kids need to be taught to recognize and fight bigotry, to stem hatred and prejudice, and learn about living together, embracing diversity.”


Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission programs include teacher workshops providing guidance in teaching the Holocaust and other genocides, the recording of concentration camp liberator oral histories, and the enhancing of social studies curriculum through requiring the teaching of genocide-related content in school classrooms. For more information regarding Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission programs and Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month (April), please do not hesitate to contact them.

The “Prijedor: Lives from the Bosnian Genocide” exhibit is open to all. College students, middle and high school students, and educators are particularly encouraged to attend. Note also that the University of Texas at Tyler will host the exhibit in March 2014.

– by the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission

Texas Tech University: Then and Now

Will rogers combo pack

(SWC HC-E168) (Texas Tech University)

This Wednesday, January 15th, Texas Tech University (TTU) will be opening its doors for the first class day of the 2014 Spring semester. The Texas Tech University Archives (UA) here at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library is full of items commemorating such events as well as other TTU occasions. Photographs comprise a large portion of their materials; so many, in fact, that UA staff were able to curate an exhibit entitled Texas Tech: Then and Now, which is now on display in the SWC’s Formby Room. Many of its sports-related photographs for this exhibit can also be seen near the main entrance of the United Spirit Arena.

The image above are included in the exhibit. To the left we see former President Dossie Wiggins accepting TTU’s iconic Will Rogers statue in 1950. A gift from the Amon G. Carter Foundation, the statue (actually entitled Riding into the Sunset) is often wrapped in red for sporting events such as the TTU football homecoming game.

admin view combo pack

(SWC HC-C2502) (Texas Tech University)

In 1924, the Texas Technological College (the  name was changed to Texas Tech University in 1969) Administration Building (left) was a lonely sight on the South Plains prairie. That is not the case any longer. As you can see from the photograph on the right (taken from the English and Philosophy building located almost a half-mile southwest of Administration), the campus has expanded into dozens of buildings amounting to the second largest contiguous university campus (1,843 acres) in the United States. The almost uniform use of Spanish Renaissance architecture is one of its highlights.

football combo pack

(SWC HC E355) (Texas Tech University)

What would modern university life be like without sports? Definitely less entertaining for many students on Saturdays during the fall. TTU’s football team is now known as the Red Raiders, but from 1925 to 1936 they were known as the Matadors. The photograph on the left shows the first Matador touchdown in 1925, scored against Montezuma College. The field of play has changed a little bit since then, as the photo of the 60,000-spectator-capacity AT&T stadium shows.

8A-First Faculty Meeting 1925 B&W

(SWC HC-P343)

Photos and documentation about buildings and statues aren’t the only thing the University Archives preserves. Faculty records are important as, as the participants in the first-ever faculty meeting at TTU, pictured above, would no doubt have agreed. They met for the first time on September 15, 1925, to discuss the purposes of the college and make plans for the upcoming year. Although in 1925 TTU clearly wasn’t swarming with faculty members, it currently boasts over 1,100.

14B-Old Computer Lab (U185.6) B&W

(HC- U185.6 Box#2 F11)

Computers factor heavily into the academic life of today’s university. The TTU Library alone currently owns and maintains more than 200 computers for student, faculty, and public use. The university has for decades striven for similar accessibility. Want proof? Check out this photo of students several decades ago enjoying then-state-of-the-art computing technology.

24A-Ransom Walker and Basketball Team

(La Ventana 1926)

Let’s end with a little bit more about sports. This is a photo of Texas Technological College’s men’s basketball team in 1926. At that time, games were played in the Agricultural Pavilion because the campus did not yet have a gym. Ransom Walker, the first captain of both the basketball team and the football team, is seated at center holding the ball. Walker was also the first Matador to play in a post-season all-star football game (the 1929 East-West Shrine Game) and as a running back was the team’s top offensive player in 1927 and 1928.

The Texas Tech Then & Now exhibit will be on display indefinitely at the SWC, and the images in the United Spirit Arena will be up at least through the spring semester. Both are open for free to all interested visitors. Our University Archives has many other items, all of which our Reference Staff are always thrilled to help you find.

–  by Amy Mire, Lynn Whitfield, & Robert Weaver