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The president takes history seriously


The Texas Historical Commission recently decided to honor the late 1995 J. Evetts Haley is commemorated by a plaque on the campus of West Texas A&M University, where he worked for a time and was known for his studies of the region. But the marker doesn’t tell the whole story.

So Walter W. Wendler, president of West Texas A&M, made a second marker. It notes that when Haley ran for governor in 1956, he ran on a segregationist platform. “These prejudices are not good for West Texas A&M,” the marker reads

Inside the higher ed asked Wendler why he put the second marker. His answer:

“I, in turn, shared [the draft for the first marker] with some members of our history department and they recognized that Haley was an important historian for our region and we also discussed the fact that he was a proponent of segregation. In the middle of the twentieth century, many people still held such miserable views. So we have a dilemma. Do we ignore this man and his important historical contribution, or do we recognize him in all his flaws?

“Some said the plaque shouldn’t be on campus at all. These are important and different perspectives. I believed that we should present a more complete picture of the story, the man and his contribution. Who among us is without “sin”? What historical figure is free of mistakes, flaws, and bad decisions, especially when judged by history decades or even centuries later? (Forgive me for interfering with my beliefs, but as a Christian, I know of only one such person, Jesus Christ, who, according to the Scriptures, was also fully God.)

“So adding a topical perspective to the accompanying board seemed like a rational approach to a difficult issue. The writing on the WT board is meant to paint a more complete picture of Hayley. The idea of ​​abandoning our commitment to the history of the Texas Panhandle and its importance as a place in Texas is antithetical to carefully examining our past as a means to create a better future. Such actions represent a form of timidity that teeters on the edge of the abyss of ignorance. Practical people and want the facts to understand and process the full story. This is a public debt to all those involved in higher education. The purpose of the university is to promote and nurture active citizenship. Such understanding can lead to progress.’

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