- Southwestern Collection
(The editors of the Southwestern Historical Quarterly wish to thank Ron Tyler, former director of the Texas State Historical Association, for the following tribute.)
It has been hard to write this memorial of Al Lowman, a friend for forty years, because I cannot imagine a TSHA annual meeting without him. He was one of the few people who immediately understood what you meant when you referred to "the Association" or "the Quarterly." No further explanation was needed, regardless of the context.
I first met Al, I am sure, in the book exhibit of a TSHA meeting long ago, where he was a regular. He would have already scouted the entire exhibit for any "sleepers" or hoped-for-additions to his collection. Al was a life member of the Association. He was often the auctioneer for the annual book auction, a frequent presenter at annual meetings, and TSHA president in 2000-01.
Al Lowman was born on February 2, 1935, in Corpus Christi. He was the middle child of three children born to Grace and Fred Lowman. In 1944 the family moved to Stringtown, just outside San Marcos, where Al lived in the same house for sixty-five years—until he and Darlyne moved to a new house on the back of the property. Al attended public school in San Marcos and began his college career at Southwest Texas State Teachers College (Now Texas State University-San Marcos), graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with B.A. (1957) and M.A. (1962) degrees in government and economics. He was a charter member of his Sunday School class, which he attended for more than fifty years and where he helped with the teaching duties. On the occasion of the church's 125 th anniversary, Al wrote its history of the church, First United Methodist Church, San Marcos, Texas: 125th Anniversary Year, 1847-1972, with illustrations by his good friend, El Paso artist José Cisneros (1972).
Al spent most of his life working in the Texas history field, commuting to Austin and then to San Antonio for thirty-five years. (He always said that if he ever wrote an autobiography he would call it "35 Years on Interstate 35.") For the last twenty-one of those years, he worked at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio coordinating special exhibitions and writing the catalogs that went along with the exhibits. He also published a number of books under his own name, all distinguished by superb design. This Bitterly Beautiful Land: A Texas Commonplace Book (1972) is a compilation of quotations about the state and its people drawn from non-fiction sources. He followed with Printing Arts in Texas (1975), a tribute to "those remarkably gifted individuals who have combined inspiration, technique, and typographical taste to form books of exceptional beauty and harmony." John H. Jenkins selected it for inclusion in his Basic Texas Books, not because of its handsome design and production by William R. [End Page 184] Holman but "because of its text." But Al's passion was the work of the El Paso printer and designer Carl Hertzog, who had among his clients Alfred A. Knopf, Everett L. DeGolyer Sr., Stanley Marcus, the King Ranch, and the University of Texas, and for years Al collected every book, pamphlet, program, brochure, letterhead, menu, invitation, note card—practically every scrap of paper or printed matter that passed through Hertzog's hands. The result was Printer at the Pass: A Bibliography of Carl Hertzog (1975), the definitive work, so thorough that one librarian referred to Al as Hertzog's Boswell.
Al also published a number of articles on subjects as varied as Bell Cord Rutherford ("Cowboy Quixote of the West Texas Plains"), Elmer Kelton, and his paean to Rosengren's Book Store in San Antonio on the occasion of its closing, which, no doubt, was one of the most read articles published in the Quarterly during my directorship. I tried for years to get Al to compile his articles into a book, because they are so well written and engaging, and that is a task that I would still recommend to Darlyne and their children, son Todd...