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REMEMBERING T. HARRY WILLIAMS Joseph G. Dawson III For T. Harry Williams, history first and foremost was the study of people who had shaped the events of the past, especially the great men, evaluating them, analyzing their actions, concluding why their careers ended in tatters or triumph. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Huey Long, his biography of Louisiana's premier politician, but he believed that the Civil War was an endlessly vibrant era, and his books on the leaders of that time include Beauregard, Napoleon in Gray, Lincoln and His Generals, Hayes of the Twenty-third, and McClellan, Sherman, and Grant. Williams enjoyed the challenges of supervising and guiding graduate students, and more than thirty earned the Ph.D. under his direction. Simultaneously, he was devoted to undergraduate teaching, and those who had the good fortune to enroll in his courses found themselves entertained, entranced, and educated. Under any circumstances, Williams appeared effortlessly to transfer his own enthusiasm for history to his auditors, be they undergraduates, graduate students, colleagues, the general public, or some combination of them all. Williams acknowledged that his speaking style was unorthodox. After auditing one of Williams' classes, a professor of speech told him that his mannerisms and method of delivery would not pass muster in the Department of Speech, but that it had been a fascinating class! Williams' classes began when he walked through the door of the packed lecture hall, nodding to a student here, stopping to speak to someone there, eventually moving to the podium where his graduate assistants, who had been trailing behind him, set up maps, projection screen, or other paraphernalia in their proper places. Williams insisted on putting notes and names from the day's lecture topic on the chalk board himself, writing in his cryptic scrawl which everyone soon learned to decipher. Then he cast an inquiring eye toward the graduate assistant manning the slide projector or the map, and, seeing that all was in readiness, he raised his hands, calling the class to order. Those attending fell silent, heads cocked in anticipation. Giving a preemptory glance at his notes, Williams stepped from behind the podium and Civil War History, Vol.XXVI, No.3 Copyright © 1980 by The Kent State University Press 0009-8078/80/2603-0005 $00.50/0 268CIVIL WAR HISTORY began speaking, his rich, well-modulated voice cascading out into the room. Waving his hands, he frequently emphasized words or punctuated sentences, pointing—forefinger touching thumb, three other fingers flagging—then pausing for effect, before charging on again. Often he used the phrase, "do you see?" And his audience could imagine Lincoln and Davis, Grant and Lee, cabinet secretaries and common soldiers, living once more through his vivid characterizations. In Williams' Civil War course, his eloquent descriptions of Pickett's charge and the last hours at Appomattox never failed to raise chill bumps on even the most blasé student. Several auditors had been known to weep at the semester's concluding lecture, when Williams recounted how the Shenandoah returned from her long voyage, and the final flag of the Confederacy fluttered down its staff. Regularly at the end of each term, students in Williams' classes stood and applauded, showing their appreciation for the teaching artist who had introduced them to the people of the past. While Williams remained continually fascinated by history, he also enjoyed watching sports, reading fiction, and sparking a good conversation. His favorite sport was baseball, and the Boston Red Sox were his team. He looked forward to viewing the Sox on television but, like all true fans, he knew the game was meant to be enjoyed at the ballpark. Williams spent most of his summers in Wisconsin (he received his Ph.D. in 1937 from the University of Wisconsin), and he usually planned a trip into Milwaukee to see the Brewers and the Red Sox play. In the fall, after returning refreshed to the Bayou State, he continued to follow die Red Sox. He might momentarily glide out of a Civil War Roundtable meeting, find a television set, watch a pitch or two, and, upon learning the score of the game, return to the evening's convivial company. Williams often read...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 267-269
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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