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J. Frank Dobie: Tribute to a Texan (1964)

Gordon Wilkison

Sound | 1964

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  •  Scenes from the last interview with J. Frank Dobie 
  •  Cactus Pryor talks with Dobie following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 
  •  Humorist and author John Henry Faulk, an Austin native,  discusses Dobie’s social influence 
  •  Director of the University of Texas Press Frank Wardlaw reminisces about Dobie’s love of nature and ranch living 
  •  Mody Boatright, a professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin, talks about Dobie’s gifts as a teacher 
  •  Joe France, a professor of history at the University of Texas, remembers Dobie’s self-confidence and graciousness 
  •  Joe Small, publisher of True West Magazine, tells an anecdote about Dobie 
  •  The men talk about Dobie’s sense of justice and his relationship with his wife, Bertha 
  •  Pryor concludes the discussion by reading an excerpt from Dobie’s last book, Cow People 
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In this tribute special produced by Austin’s KTBC-TV, reporter Neal Spelce honors author, folklorist, and Texan James Frank Dobie. Broadcast on September 20, 1964—two days after his death—the segment first looks back at KTBC interviews with Dobie in which he discusses his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Honor and his thoughts following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Later, Austin broadcast personality Cactus Pryor sits down with several of Dobie’s friends to discuss the late author. Members include humorist and Austinite John Henry Faulk; Frank Wardlaw, the director of the University of Texas Press; Joe Small, the publisher of True West Magazine; and Mody Boatright and Joe France, both professors at the Univesity of Texas at Austin. In the discussion, the gentlemen talk about Dobie’s life and legacy, reminiscing about his love of ranch living and his sense of justice. To conclude, Pryor reads an excerpt from Dobie’s last book, Cow People.
James Frank Dobie was a Texas folklorist and writer who wrote on the traditions of rural Texas and was known for his liberal views that went against the grain of mainstream Texas politics. Dobie was born on a ranch in Live Oak County in 1888. At age 16, he moved to Alice, Texas to live with his grandparents and finish high school. He attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, near Austin, where he was introduced to poetry and to his wife, Bertha McKee, whom he married in 1916. He worked for newspapers and taught high school before attending Columbia University in New York City to work on a master's degree. 
In 1914, he joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin, where he became involved with the Texas Folklore Society. He left UT in 1917 to serve in Word War I. Upon his return, Dobie worked on his uncle's ranch in La Salle County, where he learned to write of the richness of life, land, and rural ranch culture. He returned to the university and the Texas Folklore Society in 1919 for the use of its libraries and resources, and, after a brief stint at Oklahoma A&M Univeristy, published his first book, A Vaquero of the Brush Country, in 1929. Dobie continued to publish books through the 1930s, and in 1941, published The Longhorns, which is considered one of the best descriptions of the 19th century Texas cattle industry. 
In 1939, Dobie began writing a Sunday newspaper column that humorously critiqued Texas state politics and politicians from his liberal point of view. During World War II and the immediate post-war years, Dobie taught American history at Cambridge University in England, as well as at universities in Germany and Austria. He published a book about his experiences in Europe. Dobie was dismissed from the faculty of UT in 1944 after a public reaction to a colleague's dismissal for liberal beliefs. He spent the remainder of his working years writing another series of books about life on the open range. 
Dobie was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Baines Johnson on Septemeber 14, 1964; he died in Austin four days later. He is remembered as one of the great progressive thinkers of Texas. Dobie is buried at the Texas State Cemetery.
Gordon Wilkison began work as a cameraman at the local Austin television station KTBC (now FOX 7) during 1952, its first year of operation. At the time the station was owned by the Texas Broadcasting Company, which was owned by Senator Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson. This relationship would continue to shape Wilkison's career well into the next decades. During the Johnson administration, Wilkison covered the president's visits to Texas, preparing material for national and international news correspondents. 
A particularly notable moment in his career occurred on August 1, 1966, when Wilkison and KTBC reporter Neal Spelce risked their lives to capture footage of the Tower shooting at the University of Texas at Austin. 
Wilkison was also the General Manager of Photo Processors at the LBJ Broadcasting Corporation, which he later took over and renamed Cenetex Film Labs. In addition to his camera work and film processing, his work at the station also included direction of a number of television film productions.
Outside of KTBC, Wilkison shot, edited, and processed Longhorn football game footage for the University of Texas at Austin, a partnership that lasted nearly 30 years.    
Recognizing the historical value of film and news footage, Wilkison kept the material, later contributing hundreds of reels to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image's collection.