Through the Lens of Bill Weaks: An Exhibit at the Southwest Collection

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Each fall, the Southwest Collection installs a new exhibit highlighting one of its unique collections. In the past we’ve shared the history of women at Texas Tech University, women in Texas Music, and a host of other topics from outer space to terrifying tornadoes. This season, it’s time to take a peek “Through the Lens of Bill Weaks.”

1958-JoBethStubblefield f1aLong-time Plainview, Texas photographer Bill Weaks bought his first camera—a 127-film Falcon—when he was a senior at Plainview High School. After selling a few photographs he realized the potential of turning his hobby into a profitable business. Photography quickly became his life’s work.  1971-Cherry Chatham-BESTWhile attending West Texas State College in Canyon, Weaks worked as a stringer for the Amarillo Globe and the Amarillo Times, selling them photographs of campus activities. He also served as a student photographer, earning $40 a month. Later he attended the University of Houston where he earned a Master’s degree in photography. After serving a two-year stint in the Navy, he returned to Plainview and opened Bill Weaks Photography on September 4, 1955. Four months later, the studio already showed a profit through photographing weddings and community events. He produced portraits of many brides who purchased their gowns at Margaret’s specialty shop or Hemphill-Wells department store in Lubbock. These photographs appeared in the Sunday newspaper announcements of their weddings.1982-Jill Rucker1 Weaks headlined numerous seminars around the country and personally trained several young photographers who later pursued their own successful careers. For thirty years, he taught courses for the Professional Photographers of America, and received awards and recognition on a national level. The Southwest Collection is pleased to present this collection for the use of scholars and researchers, so don’t hesitate to contact our Reference Department if you’d like to take a look at his many photographs.

– captions and researched information provided by Dr. David Marshall, oral historian, & Janet Neugebauer, SWC Photograph Archivist

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Just in Time for the Super Bowl!

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This Sunday the National Football League’s Super Bowl XLVII will be broadcast to eager fans throughout the world. Most folks probably won’t be conducting archival research during the game, but if they wanted to (and if the archive was open on a Sunday,) then they might stop by and take a look at some of the interesting things we have at the SWC. In the past we’ve shared info about our college football collections (hyperlink SWC and to NCAA) but today we’re all about our NFL goodies.

Above is something that comes, strangely enough, from our Southwest Conference Records. Created by long-time donor Bo Carter, this list documents the 1977 season of the Denver Broncos. In those days it was more difficult to keep track of the specifics of win/loss records and final scores. Even local newspapers might not provide more than information about only the local team. Carter documented this information for each NFL team from 1976 through 1980.

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Artifacts are a great way to understand a collection. Tangible, physical items that aren’t just printed words on a page can bring the whole collection to life. Take this New Orleans Saints umbrella, found within the 14 box John Mecom, Jr. Papers. Mecom was a Houston, Texas oilman who owned the Saints for 18 years, eventually selling them in May 1985 to current owner Tom Benson. Umbrellas are present at many New Orleans festivities, with a history that is far too long to share here. Suffice to say that the New Orleans Saints fans, and particularly current owner Tom Benson, are never afraid to sport their gold and black umbrellas similar to the one we see here.

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Umbrellas aren’t the only sports artifacts we preserve. Check out this football signed by former NFL defensive back Jerry Gray. A graduate of the University of Texas, Gray went on to play professional football for the L.A. Rams (as you can see from the signature on this ball,) Houston Oilers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers until his retirement in 1993. Gray currently serves as the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. Because he played football at Lubbock Estacado High School (Lubbock is the home of the Southwest Collection, by the way,) he was generous enough to donate some of his materials to us. And so we have an awesome autographed football!

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Printed material and artifacts are not the only way the SWC has been able to preserve the stories of the NFL and its players. Over the past 60 years, historians at Texas Tech have conducted over 6,000 oral history interviews found both here and here (and of course by visiting the SWC, where boxes upon boxes like those seen above await the attention of eager researchers.) Some of the earliest interviews in our holdings date from the late 1940s. One such was conducted with retired running back Duane Thomas. From 1970 to 1974 he toted the rock for the Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers, and Washington Redskins. Much of the interview concerns his thoughts about being an African American professional football player both in the NFL and at West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M) in Canyon, TX.

The documents, artifacts, and recordings shared above represent a small fraction of our football-related materials. Give our Reference Staff a shout and they will help you get your hands on anything else!