Mary Faye Willms-Barnes
TOHA is pleased to announce the naming of its Award for Excellence for Community History Projects in honor of Mary Faye Barnes. As chair of the Galveston County Historical Commission from 1976 to 1996, Mary Faye facilitated the use of oral history research for preservation projects and historical marker applications. Through mini-workshops and consultation, she taught professional standards of oral history research and provided guidance for beginning interviewers. A charter member of Texas Oral History Association, Mary Faye served eight years in two separate terms on the TOHA board of directors and two terms as TOHA president, 1985-86 and 1995-96.
A graduate of Southwest Texas State University with a degree in education, Mary Faye taught elementary girls physical education in Texas City from 1953 to 1959. When she became the mother of first one and then another daughter, she quit her teaching job and turned her attention to motherhood and volunteer work. When the girls grew older, she returned to school and earned a masters degree in education from University of Houston in Clear Lake City. Among her volunteer activities was service as president of the Weed ‘n Wish Garden Club in Dickinson, Texas, which involved Mary Faye in one of her first preservation projects. The garden club worked toward the move and restoration of the old Dickinson railroad depot. Their success in that venture led to the donation to Dickinson of the old League City depot, which was also restored.
Mary Faye's efforts caught the attention of Galveston County Judge Ray Holbrook, who appointed her to the Galveston County Historical Commission in the mid 1970s. By 1976, Mary Faye became chair of the historical commission, an appointment she held for the next twenty years. During her tenure as chair, Galveston County Historical Commission attained great success in preservation and restoration, archaeology, folklife, history fairs, and historical markers, achievements recognized frequently by qualification for the THC Distinguished Service Award. Under Mary Faye's leadership, the commission fostered the use of oral history, particularly in marker applications on topics with few extant public records. Among Galveston area projects using oral history were preserving the story of African American nurses at the University of Texas Medical Branch, recording the story of LaMarque's vital African American leader Frank Bell, gathering memoirs on Galveston's Cotton Concentration Company and recollections of the early community histories of Hitchcock and Bacliff.
Mary Faye became actively involved in Texas Oral History Association from its beginning. In October 1982, she attended the national Oral History Association's annual workshop and colloquium in San Antonio, Texas, where names were first gathered in support of a statewide oral history association for Texas. She was TOHA's twenty-first registered member following receipt of its state charter in April 1983. In November 1983, she participated in the second Texas Sesquicentennial Oral History Workshop, held at Galveston's Rosenburg Library, and in early 1984, she was elected to TOHA's first board of directors in the office of vice-president. As TOHA's first vice-president she planned and presided at its second annual meeting, "Oral History at the County Level," in March 1985.
In her first term as president, 1985-1986, Mary Faye hosted a fall 1985 TOHA meeting in Galveston, with a fully packed Saturday program on oral history preceded by a Friday evening dinner and jazz cruise. During her first presidential term, she also encouraged TOHA to work with Texas Historical Commission toward formulating a policy regarding the use of oral history as part of the THC Distinguished Service Awards. Mary Faye returned to service on the TOHA board from 1992 through 1997. During her second term as vice present, 1994-95, she planned and presided for an annual program on Southeast Texas cowboy traditions. As TOHA president, 1995-96, she wrote a Five Year Plan for the board of directors that provided focus and direction to carry the organization into the new century. In addition, she provided a great boost to the early years of Sound Historian, through soliciting donations toward printing costs of the fledgling journal.
Although Mary Faye retired from the Galveston County Historical Commission in 1996, she still donates her time to preservation projects. As current president of the Galveston Garden Club, she is leading her organization in projects preserving Galveston's scenic resources, including the marsh along Interstate 45 leading into the island city. She is active in the German Texas Heritage Society, helping plan its upcoming fall meeting in Galveston.
TOHA takes great joy in announcing the Mary Faye Barnes Award for Excellence in Community History Projects.