Dr. Truett Latimer

Former State Representative, Film Producer, and Former President of the Houston Museum of Natural Sc

Born August 23, 1928, in Lueders, Texas, Truett Latimer has never forgotten his West Texas roots and has maintained his down-to-earth modesty and sincerity as he has grown from a small-town boy to an effective executive.

Truett graduated from Lueders High School in 1945 and received a business degree from Hardin-Simmons University in 1951. While at HSU, he served as treasurer of the senior class. Upon graduation, he entered the insurance business in Abilene and remained in that field until 1955. Truett served 13 years in the Texas National Guard and one year in the Army Reserve.

During his insurance business career, he won a seat in the Texas House of Representatives, where he served the 84th district, which included Taylor County. Elected at the young age of 23, he was re-elected four times and served as a State Representative until 1962. While in the House, he authored a large body of legislation of local, regional, and state-wide significance. Among his committee assignments were appropriations, insurance, water, and agriculture. During his tenure in the House, he also served as HSU alumni director for seven years.

In 1962, Truett became public relations director for the Texas Association of Realtors, where he served for three years. He then became executive director of the Texas Historical Commission. Over the next 16 years, he spearheaded one of the most aggressive and successful historical preservation programs in the nation, and helped communities save and restore their historical structures, especially their county courthouses. He also played a role in establishing the Winedale Museum Workshop, founding the Texas Association of Museums, and developing a museum consulting program for the State of Texas.

Preservation Texas each year presents the Truett Latimer Award to a working professional who demonstrates a significant commitment and sustained involvement in preservation as part of his or her job responsibilities.

Truett left the Texas Historical Commission to accept a position as vice president for marketing and public relations with Spaw-Glass Construction, a commercial construction company with projects in five states, ranging from hotels and condominiums to major retail centers, hospitals and office towers.

In 1986, Truett embarked on a mission that would set new standards in the nonprofit field when he became president of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Applying his public relations expertise and his common sense approach, Truett brought the museum from what has been described as “a bunch of old bones and a life-size model of a pre-historic dinosaur” to a world-class museum that is the second-most visited attraction in Houston and one of the best attended museums in the United States. Many credit him with single-handedly rescuing the museum, but Truett humbly shifts the praise to the board and people who worked alongside him. He set the tone for a 1989 interview for a Houston Chronicle article about the museum by stating up front, “I hope that whatever else you write that you give a lot of credit to a very quality staff.” Earned income yearly was between 80 and 90 percent—a figure unheard of for museums.

To list but a few of the dramatic changes to the museum during his 15-year tenure, the 400-seat Wortham IMAX Theater was added, which features what was then the world’s largest motion picture screen; the Cockrell Butterfly Center, a living exhibit that showcases live butterflies in a naturalistic rainforest setting; the George Observatory at Brazos Bend State Park, which houses the largest telescope open to the public; and the Challenger Learning Center, which is designed to educate students about space and space flight. The museum produces an atmosphere of subtle learning, which Truett calls “the reduction of ignorance.”

Today the museum has more than 240,000 square feet of space and employs 225 personnel. Under his tenure, the museum produced five IMAX films, one of which received an Oscar nomination in the documentary category. Truett retired as president in 2001, though he remains active as a trustee emeritus, and continues to travel worldwide to produce IMAX films through his company Truett Latimer Productions.

With a busy career, Truett still managed to stay involved in many professional and civic organizations. A few of those offices and memberships include the Giant Screen Theater Association, the Explorer’s Club, the board of trustees for the Texas State History Museum Foundation, and the Sam Houston Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He is a fellow of the Linnean Society and the Royal Geographic Societies in London, where is is also a member of the East India Club.

Ever faithful to staying young, Truett enjoys jogging, canoeing, sailing, and backpacking. Well into his 50s in 1983, Truett ran in the Tenneco Marathon, and in 1985 and 1986, ran the New York Marathon. He is married to the former Harriet Calvin and they have five children. Harriet says Truett is an eternal optimist and no matter how bad a situation is he always says, “It could have been worse!”

Since leaving Hardin-Simmons in 1951, Truett has spent his years returning time, talent, and resources to the University. He is a lifetime member of the Hardin-Simmons University Presidents Club, in 1991, he received the HSU Distinguished Alumni Award, and in 1996 HSU conferred upon him the honorary doctor of laws degree. Truett continues to serve HSU as the current president of the Board of Development.

Truett Latimer has done much in his lifetime to preserve the history and quality of life in Texas and to magnify the learning experience through mediums which bring awe and joy to the learner. It is with great pride that we at Hardin-Simmons University claim Truett Latimer as a member of our family.

It is the high honor of Hardin-Simmons University to recognize one of her own and to formally induct Truett Latimer into the HSU Hall of Leaders.