restricted access 6: Reflections on Walter Taylor
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123 As best I remember, I first became acquainted with Walter Taylor in May 1958, duringameetingof theSocietyforAmericanArchaeologyinNorman,Oklahoma. J. Charles Kelley, director of the Southern Illinois University Museum and acting chair of the newly created Department of Anthropology at Southern Illinois University, had previously approached Taylor and offered him the position of departmental chair, an offer that Taylor eventually accepted. Wanting to take a closer look at his new home to be, Taylor returned to Carbondale with me and two other departmental members who had attended the meeting. I had come to Southern Illinois just three years before, joining Kelley and Charles H. Lange. Howard D. Winters was added to the faculty a short time later and we formed the anthropology group at the time Taylor joined us.1 Lange, Winters, and I were originally associated with the University Museum but taught courses as part of SIU’s Department of Sociology, a very unsatisfactory arrangement because our interests and those of our sociological colleagues were quite far apart. From the first, therefore, there was the plan to form an independent Department of Anthropology. The university had originally wished Kelley to take over chairperson duties as well as direct the museum, but Dr. Kelley, heavily involved in research, chose not to go that route. It was felt that a senior person Reflections on Walter Taylor Chapter six Carroll L. Riley Carroll L. Riley 124 was needed (both Lange and I were young assistant professors, only a few years out of graduate school, and Winters was still a graduate student); hence, Taylor was hired. Under his direction, the Department of Anthropology at SIU grew rapidly. In 1960 we initiated a Ph.D. program, and by the early 1970s we had a faculty of some eighteen people of whom twelve were full-time. A great deal of this growth was because of Taylor’s direction. A year or so after Taylor’s arrival, he and I launched what was to be our only official scholarly collaboration, a festschrift volume for the anthropologist Leslie Spier. Spier had been my major professor in my graduate years at the University of New Mexico. Although Taylor had never studied under Spier, Lyda Taylor, Walt’s wife, had worked closely with him in earlier days. In a sense, this was to be a tribute to Lyda as well as Spier, for both died during the early days of the project. Work on this book went on sporadically for a number of years. It virtually collapsed in 1963–1964 when Taylor and I were in Europe but eventually the project was revived and published in 1967 under the title American Historical Anthropology. Taylor was a stimulating person to be around and he and I shared certain interests, one being European archaeology, particularly the Bronze and Iron ages in Western Europe. I still remember with pleasure the “bull sessions” that Walt and I engaged in and the stimulating disagreements that, I think, enriched us both. Although we published only one book together, we collaborated informally on a number of other projects. Taylor gave departmental backing to the formation of an SIU Irish Studies Committee, an organization in which I initially played a major role. In 1967, he was also supportive when I, along with Thomas Kinsella, the translator of the Irish Iron Age epic Tain Bó Cualne, and several Irish archaeologists, attempted to initiate an archaeological and historical study of an Irish west country Iron Age tomb complex. The Riley and Taylor families also interacted a great deal socially, especially in the early years, and my wife and I had a warm relationship with both Lyda and Nancy, Walt’s second wife. Outside of family, I was a charter member of an intellectual town-and-gown organization, the Quien Sabe? Club, modeled on a similar club to which Walt had once belonged. Taylor was an orchid grower and established a hothouse near his new residence south of Carbondale. He suffered severe financial loss when on one of his field trips, the caretaker hired to look after his house and outbuildings allowed the orchids to freeze. As one might expect from an orchid devotee, Taylor liked convivial gatherings , good food, and good wine. He and I considered ourselves experts in martini making and I remember how shocked and horrified both of us were when, returning to the United States from Europe in the mid-1960s, we found that a new fashion, the “martini on the rocks,” was sweeping the United States...


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Subject Headings

  • Taylor, Walter W. (Walter Willard).
  • Archaeology -- United States -- History.
  • Archaeologists -- United States -- Biography.
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