World War II: Snapshots of Tyler, Texas

In preparation for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy, UASC staff put together a special World War II exhibit to highlight American experiences across our special collections. The exhibit is currently located on the 2nd floor of the Robert R. Muntz Library at UT Tyler.

The exhibit features materials from the Judge William Steger papers, a manuscript collection documenting the life and career of Judge William M. Steger of Tyler, Texas. Supporting materials include ephemera representing the World War II home front from the Tim Anthony Jackson Collection of Political Memorabilia and rare books from the UASC General Collection.

Preview of World War II Exhibit, February 2014

See the full exhibit in the Robert R. Muntz Library

William Merritt Steger (1920-2006) served as a federal judge over the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas for 35 years. The Steger family moved to Tyler in 1953 after President Eisenhower named Steger the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. In recognition of his many years of service to the community of Tyler, the Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Tyler, Texas was renamed in his honor on Friday, May 9, 2008.

While Judge Steger achieved many accolades during his life, the exhibit highlights his tenure as a combat pilot for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) during the Second World War. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, William Steger left Baylor University to volunteer for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 31st Fighter Group of the 12th Air Force, Steger flew fifty six combat missions in North Africa, Italy, and the Mediterranean between January 1942 and January 1947.  Steger retired from military service in 1947 at the rank of captain, having received the Air Medal and four Oak Leaf Clusters for distinction in combat.

Unique items on exhibit from the Steger papers include a photograph of Lieutenant Steger in Italy with his British Spitfire, photocopies of contemporary newspaper articles featuring Lieutenant Steger, pilot related ephemera owned by Judge Steger, and annotated books from his personal library. The UASC General Collection is represented by a 1943 copy of the official Naval Aviation manual, donated in memory of Dr. D. E. Ezell, a former Professor of Business and chair of the Department of Marketing and Management at UT Tyler. Selections from the Tim Anthony Jackson Collection include Adventures of Captain Marvel: No. 37, a Golden Age comic book advertising war savings stamps, and assorted pins depicting civilian efforts on the home front.

To learn more about the items in this exhibit or the collections they came from, explore our Collections page or visit the University Archives and Special Collections Department (open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.).

To learn more about the larger historical impact of these themes, check out our recommended reading list in the Muntz Library catalog.

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Remembering JFK

On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States was assassinated in Dallas during a motorcade through the city. Kennedy’s assassination shocked the world, devastated millions, and spawned a wide range of conspiracy theories.

Kennedy was in Texas to give speeches and meet with government leaders, in early preparation for his next presidential campaign. In Dallas, the Presidential motorcade was headed to a luncheon with civic leaders—it was a ten mile drive through the city, where Americans cheered and waved as the President, First Lady, Vice President and his wife, and Texas Governor John Connally drove past.

Shortly after noon the President was shot in the neck and head and by 1:00pm, Kennedy was dead. During the hours following his assassination, Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office, becoming President, and police had arrested and charged Lee Harvey Oswald with the fatal shooting of President Kennedy and a patrolman, J.D. Tippit.

In remembrance of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the University Archives and Special Collections Department has created an exhibit, located near the entrance on the second floor of the Robert R. Muntz Library. Selected items from the display can be viewed in the slideshow below.

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The exhibit also features a number of books about President Kennedy, his inauguration, assassination, conspiracies about his death, and the Warren Commission—which created an over 800 page report detailing Kennedy’s assassination. These books can be found in the 3rd floor stacks or Bestseller’s section of the Robert R. Muntz Library. 

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November 22, 2013 · 3:36 pm

Grand Dames of the Press Corps: Sarah McClendon and Helen Thomas


Left, Helen Thomas at work in the White House. Photograph, Bettmann/Corbis. Right, Sarah McClendon in her office.
{Photograph, Ankers/UASC}

It’s hard to avoid comparisons between the two grand dames of the White House Press Corps, Sarah McClendon and Helen Thomas. New York Times described Helen as the “unofficial but undisputed head of the press corps… [whose] blunt question and sharp tone made her a familiar personality” and declared Sarah “the tiny, klaxon-voiced White House reporter who covered, pestered, lectured, and often infuriated presidents”. Each woman was considered a Press Corps institution in her own right. Most importantly, each woman broke down barriers for generations of female journalists.


Sarah McClendon poses a question to LBJ in the White House Press Room. {UASC}

The women cheerfully tolerated comparisons throughout their long careers. As Texas Governor Ann Richards remarked, “they may have been competitors, but they were never rivals… they’re both fierce, dauntless journalists who are going to fight to the ground for every shred of news there is”. Helen was the seventh of nine children born to Lebanese immigrants, while Sarah was the youngest of nine children from a family of Irish-Texans. Each woman outlasted eleven presidents, with Sarah covering every administration from Roosevelt to Clinton and Helen covering Kennedy through Obama in 2010. The two women even died at the same age – 92 – writing and reporting to the very end.

ImageHelen Thomas questions LBJ in the Oval Office, 1968. {Frank Wolfe/LBJ Library, via Reuters}

Helen began her career at UPI in 1943, the same year Sarah McClendon began covering the Pentagon as a WAC reporter. Sarah joined the White House Press Corps in 1944, representing a series of small regional newspapers through her one-woman wire service. Helen joined the Corps in 1961 and went on to become chief correspondent for UPI, the first woman appointed head of a national wire service in the White House Press Corps. Sarah and Helen shared many hardships in the early decades, at a time when women were relegated to the balcony of the National Press Club and barred entirely from many Washington Press Corps events.

The two women joined forces to picket the Gridiron Club in the 1960s, and pressured the Kennedy administration to boycott the White House Correspondents dinner and National Press Club luncheons until women were allowed to attend.

Sarah McClendon’s early White House Correspondents Association card, 1951. {UASC}

Helen and Sarah competed for many firsts and near firsts for women in journalism: Sarah was among the first female members of the White House Press Association, while Helen became its first female president in 1975. Helen served as the first female member of the Washington Press Corps club, known as the Gridiron Club.

Helen and Sarah joined the first class of women admitted to the National Press Club on March 3, 1971. Helen was the first woman elected to club office (as finance secretary) in 1971, while Sarah was the first woman to serve as high official after defeating three men in a 1974 special election for the unexpired term of the vice-presidency. The American News Women’s Club (ANWC) awarded Helen and Sarah the prestigious Excellence in Journalism award in 1993 and 1995 respectively.

Image National Press Club newsletter announcing Sarah’s election in 1974 {UASC}

Although Helen and Sarah pursued different audiences (Helen wrote for a more international audience, while Sarah represented regional interests), they held each other in mutual high regard. They often appeared together on panels, at award ceremonies, and across the Press Corps speaking circuit. Sarah appeared as a guest of honor at Helen Thomas’ American News Women’s Club Roast in 1993 and Helen gave a speech at Sarah’s 85th birthday celebration, “A Salute to Journalist Sarah McClendon”, in 1995.

Invitation to Sarah McClendon’s 85th birthday celebration and roast {UASC}

In an oral history interview with the Washington Press Corp Foundation, Sarah named Helen Thomas the reporter she most admired, saying, “She never fails to ask the questions that should be asked. She’s got the nerve to press it and press it through.”

In her second memoir, Mr. President, Mr. President, Sarah wrote, “The top print journalist in my book is Helen Thomas… She was a real door opener for women.” (p.240-241) Helen returned the praise in her own memoir, Front Row at the White House: My Life and Times, declaring Sarah “an icon in the White House pressroom. Her questions have made presidents squirm and I’m sure that she’s also made their blood boil – but they always answer her. Furthermore, she puts them to shame and makes them act.” (p. 383)

At Sarah McClendon’s 90th birthday celebration, hosted by the National Press Club in 2001, Helen Thomas said, “Her greatest contribution, I think, is that there’s never been any woman in our country who has ever helped newspaper women more. She’s been a pioneer, she paved the way, she made the breakthrough for all of us and I think we are indebted for life.”

Sarah McClendon and Helen Thomas (right) confer at the book release party for Harriett Woods’ “Stepping Up to Power: The Political Journey of American Women” in March 2000.

Want to Learn More about Sarah McClendon?
1. Visit the finding aid for the Sarah McClendon papers.
2. Check out our permanent digital exhibit.
3. Read more about her career as a White House Correspondent.
4. See our previous posts on the Sarah McClendon Papers.

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Mysteries of the Special Collections: An Exploration of Rare Manuscripts in the Archives

In November 2012, members of the Walter Prescott Webb Society at UT Tyler were invited to tour the University Archives and Special Collections department (UASC). During this tour, history major Daniel Parker asked what might have been an inconsequential question: “What is the oldest book in the UASC?” The surprising answer sparked a new wave of interest in of UT Tyler’s best kept secrets.

According to the UT Tyler catalog, the oldest books in the UASC closed stacks were published in the later 18th century.  However, the UASC also maintains a special collection of rare books and manuscripts that is secured in a temperature controlled room well beyond the public eye. English major Michael Cerliano curated an exhibit of the unique items in 2008 under the supervision of University Archivist and Special Collections librarian Déirdre Joyce. UASC accession records indicate that the first of these rare manuscripts probably came to the University through private donations in the 1980s, with subsequent additions purchased by library staff at local estate sales.


Velvet-bound edition of Milton’s “Paradise Lost”

Among the most compelling items are an 18th century German elector Bible (Nuremberg, 1770), a 17th century hand-illuminated Genealogy of the Family of Philip III Habsburg of Spain (1618) from Colonial Mexico, a late 19th century velvet bound edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost, and a 16th century compendium of Roman history by Eutropius (1533, Basel). Additional items of interest include an early unabridged edition of Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language (1865, Massachusetts), and several ornately decorated gift books from the 19th century. The lavishly illustrated gift books feature works by Alfred Tennyson, Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Moore, and others.

Hand-inked illumination from the genealogy of Philip III

Hand-inked illumination from the genealogy of Philip III

As a result of determined advocacy by Webb Society officers, a number of faculty members (representing the English, History, Art, Anthropology, and various Language departments) have expressed scholarly interest in the manuscripts.  Manuscripts may be viewed in the UASC reading room (Lib 107) under the supervision of UASC staff.

Ornate gift book featuring the poetry of Thomas Moore

Preserving rare manuscripts is just one of the missions of the UASC. To learn more about the UASC and what we do, visit our official University website, check out the Muntz Archives Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter @muntzarchives.

Learn more about the Frank R. Smyrl chapter of the Walter Prescott Webb Historical Society here.

Learn more about the 2008 exhibit “The Power of Books: Selections from the Special Collections at UT Tyler” here.

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The Eisenhower International Golf Classic

For thirteen years, the University of Texas at Tyler sponsored a world class professional golf tournament which boasted some of the biggest names in golf. The Eisenhower International Golf Classic (Eisenhower Classic), a partnership between UT Tyler and Sister Cities International, was named in honor of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an avid golfer and founder of Sister Cities International.

The Eisenhower Classic served as a showcase for Tyler’s membership in Sister Cities International. Proceeds from the tournament went towards scholarship funds for international students pursuing higher education in U.S. Sister Cities. Tyler joined the Sister Cities Program in 1982, forming mutual ties with Metz, France (1982-1990). Additional partnerships were subsequently established with Yachiyo City, Japan (1992-present); Jelenia Gora, Poland (1993-present); and Lo Barnechea, Chile (2001-present).

Dr. George F. Hamm, second president of UT Tyler and member of the International Executive Board of Sister Cities International, served as tournament chairman from 1987-1998. Dr. Hamm co-chaired the 1999 tournament with his successor, current UT Tyler president Dr. Rod Mabry.


Left to right, Dr. George Hamm, Tournament Chairman and UT Tyler president. Richard G Neuheisel, president of Sister Cities International. 1992.

The first Eisenhower Classic took place in 1987 at Hollytree Country Club in Tyler, Texas. The tournament moved to Willowbrook Country Club in Tyler, Texas in 1990, where it remained until 1999. The Tyler Sister Cities Board of Directors partnered locally with the UT Tyler Patriots, an honorary organization founded in 1984, to create the first annual Million Dollar Hole-In-One contest in conjunction with the Eisenhower Classic. Additional support for the tournament came from the PGA Tour, Sister Cities International, and local Tyler businesses.

The inaugural tournament was co-hosted by David and Julie Eisenhower in collaboration David Graham, a professional golfer from Australia. Thirty-two professional golfers from PGA Tour roster joined the 1987 Eisenhower International Golf Classic. The first Eisenhower Classic also included an auction, the Million Dollar Hole-In-One contest, and series of luncheons.

Over the next twelve years, the Eisenhower International Golf Classic expanded to include a Texas barbeque, concerts, a youth putting contest, a football clinic, a 5k run, celebrity luncheons, the Sister Cities International Young Artists Competition, twinning ceremonies hosted by Tyler Sister Cities, an International Trade Conference, the High School Scholars Program, and charity raffles featuring prizes from local businesses.


Cover art for the 1988 program by Texas artist and UT Tyler professor emeritus Ancel Nunn. The piece, titled “Pars Pro Toto (A Part for the Whole)” was sold as a limited edition lithograph benefiting the UT Tyler Alumni Association.

The Eisenhower Classic featured members of the LPGA Tour for the first time in 1991. Members of the Senior PGA tour joined the tournament roster in 1995. In addition to pro golfers, the Eisenhower Classic hosted a broad range of celebrities including football great Troy Aikman and the Dixie Chicks. In keeping with its international mission, the Eisenhower Classic also hosted dignitaries from Austria, Argentina, Australia, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the United States, and the Soviet Union.

The last Eisenhower International Golf Classic took place in 1999. Many aspects of the Eisenhower tournament found new life under the auspices of the UT Tyler Patriot Golf Classic, an annual tournament and fundraiser which benefits the university’s scholarship program. In conjunction with the Patriot Golf Classic, the UT Tyler Patriots organization hosts the Million Dollar Hole-In-One competition yearly. The Tyler Sister Cities organization continues to maintain business opportunities and educational ties through Sister Cities International.


Grounds ticket for the 1999 Eisenhower Classic.

Want to Learn More about the Eisenhower Classic?
Check out the finding aid for the Eisenhower International Golf Classic Records.

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Filed under Eisenhower International Golf Tournament Records, Exhibits, University Archives, UT Tyler History

Sarah McClendon, Irish-American

On March 17, 2013, friends of Ireland around the world celebrated the feast day of St. Patrick, a Christian missionary and bishop in 5th century Ireland. For the UASC, any celebration of St. Patrick’s Day includes special recognition of our most famous Irish-American subject: White House Correspondent and Tyler native, Sarah Newcomb McClendon.

Sarah identified strongly with her family’s Irish roots. Although her papers at the UASC deal predominantly with her journalism career, she donated a small number of photographs and artifacts pertaining to her work in Ireland and her advocacy on behalf of Irish-Americans.

One of the most fascinating items is this small leather bound journal from Sarah’s 1937 trip to Ireland.

The first journal entry, recording Sarah’s train schedule from Bryan, Texas to St. Louis, Missouri, is dated September 13, 1937. Sarah arrived in Ireland sometime in October 1937. The Fianna Fáil government of the Irish Free State had ratified the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland in July 1937, only months before her arrival. The new Constitution, which replaced the Irish Free State with the sovereign Republic of Ireland, went into force December 29, 1937. Sarah’s travel journal included both handwritten and typewritten notes about her experiences, contacts, and research during the first year of the Republic of Ireland.


She recorded her impressions of various tourist sites as well as candid interviews with neighboring families, clergyman, and revolutionaries. As in her post-World War II journalism, Sarah paid special attention to the plight of women, laborers, and veterans. She also wrote at length about the Irish rose growing industry, paying homage to her Tyler, Texas upbringing.

In one entry (undated), she recounts overhearing “an explosion that might have swallowed up the earth and that left one breathless” on the night of November 10th. According to her journal, the landlord indicated that the explosion came from Dublin castle where a handful of Irishmen had dynamited “the British coat of arms over the courtyard gate”.

In 1938, Sarah McClendon worked as the Washington correspondent for Dublin’s Irish Independent newspaper. In the photo below, Sarah McClendon (far right) attends a sporting event in Washington, D.C. with the head of Ireland’s parliamentary government, Sean MacBride (second from right).

McClnedon and MacBride
Sarah McClendon visits with fellow Irish-American, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, at a Washington, D.C. function.

Sarah McClendon visits with former U.S. Senator George Murphy (far right) at a St. Patrick’s Day Party hosted by the National Press Club, March 15, 1974.


In 1990, the St. Patrick’s Parade Committee of Washington, D.C. declared Sarah McClendon a “Distinguished Irish-American”. The plaque reads: “In recognition of one of the most extraordinary American careers in journalism in our history and for exemplifying the traits of love, faith, courage and leadership bred into all sons and daughters of Erin by the blessed and loving memory of Saint Patrick.”


Want to Learn More about Sarah McClendon?

1. Visit the finding aid for the Sarah McClendon papers.
2. Check out our permanent digital exhibit.
3. Read more about her career as a White House Correspondent.
4. See our previous posts on the Sarah McClendon Papers.

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Filed under Sarah McClendon Papers, Special Collections

A Brief Library History

Revised layout for the Tyler State College library.

Revised layout for the Tyler State College library.

Processing of the Library Records collection began with four bankers boxes full of documents concerning the formation and development of the University Library. Many of the documents came from the personal files of University Librarian Olene Harned, a testament to her tremendous efforts in the establishment, operation, and improvement of the library.

The University Library has moved around quite a bit since opening in 1973. In the early days, Tyler State College was located in the Roberts Junior High School building on East Berta Street with the library housed in the gymnasium. While public services and the growing library collection filled the gym, technical services found a home in the locker rooms. Significant book accessions occurred in 1974 with the purchase of the Seton Hall and Kraus collections.

Tyler State College students at work in the library.

Tyler State College students at work in the library.

While technical services worked diligently to process new arrivals, preliminary planning and clearing of land was underway at the permanent campus site on Old Omen Road. In 1976 the library collection and public services moved to the second floor of the new University Student Center. Three years later technical services moved to the new campus, finding refuge in the science building.

The Student Center hosted the library temporarily as construction plans for the current library building advanced under the guidance of Olene Harned. During the Christmas break of 1980, public services, technical services, and the library collection moved into the new library building across campus. In October 1982 the library building was dedicated as the Robert R. Muntz Library. In 1991 renovations of the fourth floor concluded and periodicals were transferred from the second floor.

In 1990, University President George F. Hamm proposed the establishment of a University Archives. Under the guidance of James Smallwood a group of graduate students began compiling the history of the university by interviewing early faculty, administration, and donors. In 1991 the nascent archive began a project of preserving the records and history of the United States District Court System, Eastern District of Texas. This project marked the beginning of the University Archives as a repository for non-university records. The University Archives received its first full-time archivist in 1994.

An empty fourth floor of the Robert R. Muntz Library.

An empty third floor of the Robert R. Muntz Library.

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Filed under University Archives, UT Tyler History