Nielsen, George R. 1932-
Nielsen, George R. 1932-
Born May 29, 1932.
Home—Rapid City, SD.
Educator and writer. Concordia University, River Forest, IL, faculty member, 1959-97.
The Kickapoo People, Indian Tribal Series (Phoenix, AZ), 1975.
In Search of a Home: The Wends (Sorbs) on the Australian and Texas Frontier, Department of Russian Language and Literature (Birmingham, England), 1977.
The Danish Americans, Twayne Publishers (Boston, MA), 1981.
In Search of a Home: Nineteenth-Century Wendish Immigration, Texas A&M University Press (College Station, TX), 1989.
Johann Kilian, Pastor: A Wendish Lutheran in Germany and Texas, Texas Wendish Heritage Society (Serbin, TX), 2003.
(With David M. Horton) Walking George: The Life of George John Beto and the Rise of the Modern Texas Prison System, University of North Texas Press (Denton, Texas), 2005.
An educator who has retired from academia, George R. Nielsen has had a longtime interest in the Wends, a word used in the German language for Slavs living in or near Germanic settlements. Today the word is used to refer to different groups, including Sorbs and people of Sorbian descent. Nielsen is also the author of biographies of two Texans: Johann Kilian, Pastor: A Wendish Lutheran in Germany and Texas and, with David M. Horton, Walking George: The Life of George John Beto and the Rise of the Modern Texas Prison System. In Johann Kilian, Pastor, the author provides a biography of the leader and pastor of the Wendish-German colony around Serbin, Texas, beginning in the 1850s. The author chronicles Kilian's life and leadership of the 500 Wends who arrived in Texas in 1854 after a disastrous sea journey that had resulted in one-tenth of their number dying before reaching America. The book details the hardships that the agricultural colony faced and how they ultimately survived under Kilian's leadership and theological philosophy.
In Walking George, Nielsen and Horton examine the life and contributions of George John Beto to the Texan criminal justice system and criminal justice education. Both former students of Beto, the authors reveal that Beto initially wanted to become a Lutheran pastor before turning to education and becoming a teacher at Concordia Lutheran College in Austin, Texas. He went on to become the school's president and developed the school into a coeducational and racially integrated institution. Despite not being trained in corrections, he became head of the Texas Department of Corrections and served on the Texas Prison Board. During his term at the corrections department, he headed a strong reform program in areas such as prisoner management, education, and rehabilitation. He acquired the nickname "Walking George" for his habit of showing up on foot both day and night in front of a Texas prison to conduct an inspection and tour. Beto died in 1991.
"Walking George is an interesting biography of a very talented and educated religious man who assumed control of the country's second largest state department of corrections without having worked a day inside a prison," wrote William Ey in Corrections Today. "It is also about the politics involved in the upper reaches of state government." Noting that "the authors draw on an impressive array of sources," Journal of Southern History contributor Paul M. Lucko wrote: "In a smoothly constructed narrative, the authors effectively highlight Beto's many accomplishments as a penologist."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, October, 1982, review of The Danish Americans, p. 1177.
Corrections Today, October, 2007, William Ey, review of Walking George: The Life of George John Beto and the Rise of the Modern Texas Prison System, p. 132.
Journal of American Ethnic History, winter, 1993, James S. Pula, review of In Search of a Home: Nineteenth-Century Wendish Immigration, p. 8.
Journal of American History, June, 1982, H. Arnold Barton, review of The Danish Americans, p. 125.
Journal of Southern History, February, 2007, Paul M. Lucko, review of Walking George, p. 229.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 2005, review of Walking George.
Southwestern Historical Quarterly, January, 2007, Mitchel P. Roth, review of Walking George, p. 419.
Western Historical Quarterly, May, 1991, Frederick C. Luebke, review of In Search of a Home, p. 236.
Texas A&M University Press,http://www.tamu.edu/ (February 7, 2008), brief profile of author.