Dr. Thomas L. Charlton is without question a true trailblazer of Texas oral history. His achievements in the field are noteworthy. A graduate of Baylor University with master’s and doctorate degrees from The University of Texas, Dr. Charlton was the founder and director of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History, now in its thirtieth year of service to Baylor and the community. During his twenty-three-year tenure as director (1970-1993), the program earned a nationwide reputation for excellence in oral history interviewing and memoir processing. Having personally interviewed over 150 persons for Baylor’s oral history collection, Dr. Charlton also established a summer research faculty program that provides stipends for Baylor faculty to conduct oral history research in topics related to their fields. Dr. Charlton taught a graduate seminar in oral history for over twenty years and directed dozens of history theses, including many based on oral history interviewing.
Dr. Charlton also was the co-founder of the Texas Oral History Association in 1982; and as interim president and later president, he guided TOHA through the formative years to become one of the largest regional oral history associations in the country. During 1985 and 1986, he directed a highly successful series of oral history workshops in the major cities of Texas as part of the Texas Sesquicentennial Celebration. Largely because of this project, the Texas Historical Commission honored him with the Texas Award for Historic Preservation for Outstanding Contributions to Oral History in 1986.
Respected for his knowledge, energy, and dedication, he led Texas to the forefront of the Oral History Association in the 1970s and 1980s, bringing to the national organization a host of talented oral historians from Texas. His dramatic role in OHA is attested by the various committees and offices that he has held: Program Chairman, Tenth Annual Colloquium on Oral History, October 1975, Asheville, North Carolina; Local Arrangements Committee, Seventeenth Annual Colloquium on Oral History, October 1982, San Antonio; Editor, Oral History Association newsletter, 1975-85; Chairman, Committee on Endowment, 1986-89; Member, Program Committee, OHA Annual Meeting, October 1989, Galveston; Vice President/President Elect, 1989-90; President, 1990; Immediate Past President, 1991-92; Nominating Committee, 1992-93; and Liaison to the Organization of American Historians, 1991-97.
Whether in a conference room with one person or lecturing in an auditorium containing hundreds, Charlton inspires, educates, and motivates Texas historians on the virtues and techniques of oral history. Always open to new ideas, he has been an active, vocal practitioner and advocate of the use of videotaping oral history interviews.
Not surprisingly, his scholarly publications and professional presentations on oral history are equally commendable, including dozens of journal articles, lectures, and keynote addresses. His book, Oral History for Texans, published in two editions by the Texas Historical Commission, remains a classic handbook among both professional and amateur historians in the Southwest.
Even a partial enumeration of his civic activities on behalf of historical preservation is a source of inspiration to historians. Some of these are: Waco Bicentennial Commission, 1974; McLennan County Historical Commission, 1979-1992; Board of Review for Texas, National Register of Historic Places, 1977-82; Chairman, Texas Sesquicentennial Commission for Waco, 1983-1986; Board of Directors, Historic Waco Foundation, Inc., 1991-92.
In addition to oral history groups, Dr. Charlton holds memberships in the National Council on Public History, Organization of American Historians, American Studies Association, Southern Historical Association, Western History Association, Texas State Historical Association, Texas Baptist Historical Society, National Council of Research Administrators, Society of Research Administrators, Texas Humanities Alliance, Southwest Parks and Museums Association, Texas Folklife Resources, and National Trust for Historic Preservation.
In personality, erudition, and accomplishments, Dr. Charlton is the ideal individual to be the first to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Oral History Association. Furthermore, TOHA is pleased to announce that in the future its lifetime achievement award will be named the Thomas L. Charlton Lifetime Achievement Award.
TOHA Board of Directors 2000
George R. Gause, Jr., President
Shelly Henley Kelly, Vice President
James H. Conrad, Michelle Mears
Tai Kreidler, Gerald Saxon, JoAnn Stiles