|Special Collections Division
the University of Texas
at Arlington Libraries
Vol. XV I* No. 2 * Fall 2002
A.C. Greene, often called the "dean of Texas letters," died at his home in Salado, Texas, on April 5, 2002. He was the author of more than two-dozen books, hundreds of articles, and the individual to whom news and other media organizations turned for quotes about, and analysis of, the Texas experience. He was seventy-eight. A.C. and UTA had a long history together. In the 1970s, the library's Special Collections acquired a small portion of his personal papers. This acquisition proved to be the first in a series of accessions that would bring the bulk of his papers to UTA. What follows are two reminiscences about A.C.: the first by Gerald Saxon Associate Director of Libraries t UTA ad a close friend of A.C. for more than twenty years, and the second by Chris Ohan, the individual who process A.C.'s papers at UTA and developed a close relationship with the Texas author and Judy, his wife.
A. C. Greene always used to say that he was raised in a library. His maternal grandmother, Maude Cole, was head librarian at the Carnegie Library in Abilene, Texas, when he was growing up, and she often took care of him while she was at work. At a young age, A. C. found the library a place of adventure and escape. He often talked (and wrote) about quiet summer afternoons in the reference room in the basement of the library, and his rummaging around among old newspapers, atlases, and books left an indelible mark on him.
I guess it was appropriate that I first met A. C. in a library--the old Central Dallas Public Library at 1954 Commerce Street. It was 1980 and I was then oral historian for Dallas Public and working in the Texas/Dallas History Division. I had read many of A. C.’s books about Dallas and was a bit awestruck when he came to the reference desk for some assistance. We struck up a conversation and immediately I realized how much a character he was. I can’t recall what he was looking for that day, but I do remember that I came away from this first meeting knowing that he was a West Texas original—a man with a flair for the dramatic, an ability to tell a story, and a penchant for self-promotion.
I worked for Dallas Public for six years, and A. C.’s and my paths crossed many times in that period. I got to know both him and his wife Betty and visited with them at their house fairly often. He regaled me with stories of his life—a life rather hard to categorize. He talked about growing up in Abilene, his parents and grandparents, his service in WWII, his life as a newspaper columnist and later editorial page editor, his owning a bookstore, driving a Coke truck in Dallas, graduate studies at UT-Austin and spending a year at J. Frank Dobie’s Paisano Ranch to write A Personal Country, and on and on. I also had the pleasure to interview A. C. a number of times, both for oral history purposes and for cable television. He always remembered incidents in his life in detail—minute detail—and he could answer questions in easily digestible sound-bites.
I left Dallas Public for UT-Arlington in 1986, and in many ways A. C. followed. As head of UTA’s Special Collections Division, I found that A. C. and UTA already had a relationship. In fact, UTA had acquired a small cache of his personal papers in the late-1970s. Knowing his importance to Texas letters as a lightening rod for discussion and even criticism, I approached A. C. about the possibility of UTA acquiring ALL of his personal papers. A. C. shared my desire to see his papers preserved and relished the idea that researchers would have access to them for generations to come. As a writer and historian, he knew that his legacy would only be preserved if his writings, correspondence, diaries, photos, manuscripts and whatnot were housed in an archives and made available for everyone to study and use. His second wife, Judy, heartily agreed.
With this in mind, UTA acquired the bulk of the A. C. Greene Papers in 1993 and 1998, and these papers have been processed and are available for use, thanks largely to the support of the A. H. Belo Foundation. The papers are housed in more than eighty boxes and take up forty-four feet of shelves. It seems A. C. was not only a prolific author, but he was also an inveterate collector and a dedicated letter-writer and diary keeper. The finding aid for his papers is on the UTA Libraries’ website and can be found at: http://libraries.uta.edu/SpecColl/findaids/AR409.htm
A. C. was working on placing the remaining portion of his collection at UTA shortly before his death. In fact, he called me to his home in Salado two weeks before he died, where we discussed his desire to make sure the balance of his papers come to Arlington so that his collection can be complete. While we may have lost A. C. and that unmistakable West Texas swagger he had, we have not lost his voice—it lives on in his books, newspaper columns, oral interviews, magazine articles, and personal papers. We will never forget you A. C.
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