The Hardin-Simmons University Library and the Research Center for the Southwest are named for Dr. Rupert N. Richardson (1891-1988), eminent historian, scholar, and author of Southwest history, and who was a student, educator, dean, vice president, and president of Hardin-Simmons University.
Born on April 28, 1891, near Caddo, Texas, Richardson arrived in Abilene in September 1907 to enroll in Simmons College (now Hardin-Simmons University). He graduated in 1912 with a B.A. from Simmons and, in 1914, earned a B.S. from the University of Chicago. Following several years as principal of Cisco and Sweetwater high schools, Richardson returned in 1917 to Simmons College as a professor of history. After a brief stint as a second lieutenant in the U.S. army during World War I, he entered graduate school at the University of Texas, earning an M.A. in 1922 and a Ph.D. in 1928.
Associated with Hardin-Simmons University for some eighty years, Richardson served as dean of students starting in 1926, as vice president beginning in 1928, as acting president in 1943-45, and as president from 1945 to 1953. In 1953 he was named president emeritus and returned to the history department faculty. Into his later retirement, Richardson continued to teach courses and to supervise students’ theses as a professor emeritus.
In addition to his teaching and administrative roles at Hardin-Simmons, Richardson was a superb and prolific Texas and Western historian. He researched and wrote acclaimed volumes such as The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement (1933), The Greater Southwest (with Carl Coke Rister, 1934), Adventuring with a Purpose (1952), The Frontier of Northwest Texas (1963), Colonel Edward M. House: The Texas Years (1964), and Caddo, Texas: The Biography of a Community (1966). Based on his long and intimate knowledge of the institution, Richardson also penned Famous Are Thy Halls: Hardin-Simmons University (1964). His Texas: The Lone Star State—first published in 1943—was a favored history textbook, was updated in numerous editions, and was the leading college textbook into the 1980s.
Always dedicated to the scholarly examination of southwestern history, Richardson helped found the West Texas Historical Association in 1924 and was editor of its Year Book from its beginning until his death. The WTHA continues to sponsor the annual Rupert Norval Richardson Award for the best book on West Texas history. He was also active in other professional organizations and causes such as the Texas State Historical Survey Committee (now the Texas Historical Commission) from 1953 to 1967, serving as the group’s president from 1961 to 1963. In 1972, he received its Ruth Lester Award for his historic preservation activities. He traveled to Washington in 1965 to testify in support of the bill to create the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The Texas Society of Architects awarded him a Citation of Honor in 1978 for his significant contributions toward the improvement and preservation of the built Texas environment. He was, as well, a fellow of the Texas State Historical Association and served in 1969-70 as its president. He was elected president of the Southwestern Social Science Association, and was a member of the Texas Philosophical Society and the Texas Council of Church Related Colleges and Universities.
Richardson died on April 14, 1988, in Abilene. His considerable legacy is honored in the naming of Hardin-Simmons University’s Rupert N. Richardson Library which houses the Richardson Research Center for the Southwest.
One of Rupert Richardson’s contributions—and probably his most enduring and endearing legacy, particularly to the Hardin-Simmons University community—is his inimitable “Bee Speech.” First presented as a 1922 chapel talk, the speech originated some thirty-four years earlier as a result of one of his customary boyhood family farm excursions. On one such occasion—accompanied as usual by his faithful though cantankerous canine companion, Richardson discovered a beehive which led to a lifelong fascination with the tiny winged creatures. Using their community-building and industrious nature for inspiration, he fashioned an address which entertained his audiences while providing important life lessons. Although his talk evolved over the years in its annual presentation, his fondness for bees and their lessons for humans remained Richardson’s constant, entertaining theme.
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Dr. Rupert N. Richardson
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