1970 - 1982


Thomas L. Charlton
Director, 1971-1993

Tom Charlton presents tapes and transcripts to Oscar DuConge, Waco's first black mayor, interviewed in 1975, as Kitty DuConge looks on.

Recording and transcribing from open reel recorders

Transcribing on typewriters with carbon paper copies

Computer-powered typing gradually replaced typewriters.

Videotaping introduced new dimensions to interviews.

The PROGRAM FOR ORAL HISTORY was established in 1970 by a group of interested faculty members who recognized a shift in the historical profession, with increasing emphasis on nontraditional history. Members of the founding faculty committee were Lyle C. Brown (Political Science), Thomas L. Charlton (History), Erwin A. Elias (School of Law), Glenn O. Hilburn (Religion), Burke A. Parsons (Economic), and Rufus B. Spain (History). Their work received enthusiastic support from then Executive Vice President Herbert H. Reynolds and President Abner V. McCall.

Under the leadership of Thomas L. Charlton, then a new assistant professor of history, the Program from its inception followed professional and ethical standards of oral history research established by the Oral History Association (OHA). Its fundamental purpose was to collect oral history interviews, transcribe and edit them, and create finding aids for their use. From its beginning, the Program established a close working relationship with The Texas Collection archives division, which performs the public service operations of the oral history process, making the interviews available to researchers in accordance with legal agreements governing the use of each interview.

During the Program's first twelve years, research projects reflected existing strengths at Baylor -- law, religion, and business -- as well as the history of the university itself. Thus, the initial oral history interviews conducted by Baylor faculty established the Texas Judicial Systems Project, Religion and Culture Project, Texas Economic History Project, and Baylor University Project. Many of the interviews gathered the stories of the people of Texas and the Southwest.

In 1974, funding from the Madison A. and Martha Roane Cooper Foundation of Waco enabled the creation of the Waco-McLennan County Project. In the following years, additional funding for local history came from a grant from the Fentress Foundation (1975)and from contracts with the Junior League of Waco (1975-1976, Woman in Waco Project) and the Waco-McLennan County Library (1981, Waco Tornado Project).

In 1976, the Baptist General Convention of Texas provided funding to foster the Texas Baptist Oral History Consortium, and two years later the Mexican Baptist Convention contracted with the Program to process interviews with its leaders for the Mexican Baptist Project.

The amount of interviewing and editing in the early days was remarkable, indicative of the enthusiasm of the first participants. In the first three years, the Program produced more than two hundred interviews, all recorded on open-reel tape recorders and transcribed by talented staff members on electric typewriters with carbon paper. Early field interviewers were Baylor faculty members from several departments, a practice so successful that since that time, more than sixty Baylor faculty members have served as interviewers, some individually responsible for producing close to one hundred interviews.

With a firm foundation established, the Program reached beyond interviewing to professional and academic service. Charlton rose quickly to leadership roles in the Oral History Association, in 1974 becoming editor of the Oral History Association Newsletter, a quarterly publication that remained at Baylor for eighteen years, and in 1975 serving as a national conference program chair. Charlton also assisted the Texas Historical Commission and the Southern Baptist Historical Commission with a series of oral history workshops. In 1971, Charlton received $46,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop undergraduate and graduate curriculum offerings in oral history. The graduate seminar in oral history, cross listed in history and American studies (HIS/AMS 5367), was first offered in the early 1970s and continues to develop strong oral historians through the present.

In 1981, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) published the first edition of Charlton's book, Oral History for Texans, providing a strong introduction to oral history interviewing and project management to the state's county historical commissions and local history organizations. THC published the second, updated edition of the book in 1985, as a project for the 1986 sesquicentennial of Texas independence.

Institute for Oral History
One Bear Place #97271
Waco, TX 76798