Sitton, Thad 1941–

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Sitton, Thad 1941–

(Thad Edward Sitton, Jr.)

PERSONAL:

Born January 8, 1941, in Lufkin, TX. Education: University of Texas, Austin, Ph.D., 1978.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Austin, TX.

CAREER:

Independent scholar and writer. Previously lectured at New College and St. Edwards University.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Otis Locke Award for Best Book, East Texas Historical Association, 1986, for Every Sun That Rises; T.R. Fehrenbach Award, Texas Historical Commission, 1987, for Ringing the Children In, and 1998, for Nameless Towns.

WRITINGS:

(With George L. Mehaffy and O.L. Davis, Jr.) Oral History: A Guide for Teachers (and Others), University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1983.

(Editor) The Loblolly Book: Water Witching, Wild Hog Hunting, Home Remedies, Grandma's Moral Tales, and Other Affairs of Plain Texas Living, Texas Monthly Press (Austin, TX), 1983.

(Editor, with James H. Conrad) Wyatt A. Moore, Every Sun That Rises: Wyatt Moore of Caddo Lake, including "Building the Last Caddo Bateau," photographs by Stan Godwin and Jim Cammack, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1985.

(Editor, with Lincoln King) The Loblolly Book: Omnibus Edition, Texas Monthly Press (Austin, TX), 1986.

(Editor, with Lincoln King) The Loblolly Book II: Moonshining, Basket Making, Hog Killing, Cat-fishing, and Other Affairs of Plain Texas Living, Texas Monthly Press (Austin, TX), 1986.

(With Milam C. Rowold) Ringing the Children In: Texas Country Schools, Texas A&M University Press (College Station, TX), 1987.

Texas High Sheriffs, Texas Monthly Press (Austin, TX), 1988.

Backwoodsmen: Stockmen and Hunters along a Big Thicket River Valley, University of Oklahoma Press (Norman, OK), 1995.

(With Dan K. Utley) From Can See to Can't: Texas Cotton Farmers on the Southern Prairies, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1997.

(With James H. Conrad) Nameless Towns: Texas Sawmill Communities, 1880-1942, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1998.

The Texas Sheriff: Lord of the County Line, University of Oklahoma Press (Norman, OK), 2000.

(Editor) Harder Than Hardscrabble: Oral Recollections of the Farming Life from the Edge of the Texas Hill Country, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 2003.

(With James H. Conrad) Freedom Colonies: Independent Black Texans in the Time of Jim Crow, with research assistance and photographs by Richard Orton, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 2005.

(With C.E. Hunt) Big Thicket People: Larry Jene Fisher's Photographs of the Last Southern Frontier, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 2008.

Contributor to Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine.

SIDELIGHTS:

Thad Sitton is an American scholar and writer. Born in Lufkin, Texas, on January 8, 1941, Sitton earned a Ph.D. from the University of Texas, Austin in 1978. Sitton lectured at New College and St. Edwards University and has had an interest in oral history and Texas history for a number of years.

Sitton published his first book, Oral History: A Guide for Teachers (and Others), in 1983 with George L. Mehaffy and O.L. Davis, Jr. He then edited The Loblolly Book: Water Witching, Wild Hog Hunting, Home Remedies, Grandma's Moral Tales, and Other Affairs of Plain Texas Living in 1983. In 1985 Sitton edited Every Sun That Rises: Wyatt Moore of Caddo Lake, including "Building the Last Caddo Bateau" with James H. Conrad.

Writing with Milam C. Rowold, Sitton published Ringing the Children In: Texas Country Schools in 1987. The book covers the difficult circumstances children in Texas faced in order to receive an education. Donald Dale Jackson, writing in the Smithsonian, remarked that "though the authors of Ringing the Children In have a point to make, the real meat of their book is the oral history. Reminiscences drawn from hundreds of interviews are raw material for historians, an evocation of grass-roots life in Texas between about 1890 and 1945. The book has the plain, straightforward manner of the people who fill it and something of their dry, squint-eyed humor."

Sitton published Texas High Sheriffs the following year. In 1995 Sitton published Backwoodsmen: Stockmen and Hunters along a Big Thicket River Valley. The book covers the lives of farmers, stockmen, and woodsmen of the Neches River of Texas. Gerald D. Saxon, writing in the Oral History Review, commented that "Sitton has consistently blended the methods of oral history with solid documentary research to produce important historical monographs about the Lone Star State." Saxon went on to say that with this book, "Sitton succeeds marvelously" at accomplishing his goal. Saxon pointed out that "Sitton's documentary research for the book was exhaustive, but it is in his deft use of oral history that he excels," appending that his "approach to collecting oral histories shows a great deal of methodological flexibility and adaptability."

Working with Conrad again, Sitton published Nameless Towns: Texas Sawmill Communities, 1880-1942 in 1998. The authors discuss towns that developed around timber mills in East Texas and the lifestyles they created. Writing in the Oral History Review, Sandra McCollister "found that the authors' use of multiple sources provided variations in the voices, tones, and literacy levels of their contributors. There was richness to the portrayal of the life of the people and the life of the businesses within the communities." McCollister noted that "throughout the book, there is a sense of connection, events are interwoven, and the voices of varied community members are heard," adding that "we see the combination of informal stories and formal resources most effectively in the rich detail of the life of the towns."

Sitton then published The Texas Sheriff: Lord of the County Line in 2000. The book examines a cross section of sheriffs across the state of Texas and real stories from their experiences on the job, some brutal, some comedic. John Troesser, writing on TexasEscapes.com, commented that "although this book won't be found in the humor section of your bookstore, there's plenty to laugh at." Troesser added that "this is not a Cops and Robbers book. The subject is interesting enough without embellishment or resorting to detailed descriptions of shootouts. It's a window open on a part of the 19th Century that in some cases lasted into the 1960s." Bruce A. Glasrud, writing in the Journal of Southern History, remarked that the book "is well written, entertaining (albeit disturbing), and well researched. The most important resources for Sitton's book are the sheriffs themselves." Glasrud suggested that "anyone interested in law enforcement or in Texas society during the mid-twentieth century will find this book a must."

Sitton edited Harder Than Hardscrabble: Oral Recollections of the Farming Life from the Edge of the Texas Hill Country in 2003. The book uses oral histories from farm families in Texas after they were relocated as a result of the U.S. Army taking over their land to build the Camp Hood training base. Lu Ann Jones, reviewing the book in the Journal of Southern History, mentioned that "the personality of a place emerges far more clearly than the personalities of individuals because no one person speaks for very long. Nonetheless, there is much grist for the social historian's mill as the fifty-two narrators describe in lively detail a wealth of topics." Jones added that "one of the strongest portions of Harder Than Hardscrabble is sixty-four pages of family photographs gathered from participants in the oral history project. The photo gallery, composed primarily of candid snapshots, provides a visual interlude and complements the oral recollections." Writing in the Oral History Review, Kyle Wilkison commented that "one of the work's most beneficial features is the organization of the material. The eyewitness historians' excerpts begin with a chapter centered on the homeplace and subsistence activities (gardens, chores, etc.) before widening out behaviorally, spatially and chronologically to ‘money crops,’ ‘settlements,’ and ‘modernization and takeover’ (vii). These rural people's lives centered on work. Interviewees remind the reader in unforgettable detail of the arduousness of early twentieth-century farm life."

Sitton worked with Conrad in 2005 to publish Freedom Colonies: Independent Black Texans in the Time of Jim Crow. With research assistance and photographs by Richard Orton, the book examines the lives in rural settlements that were founded by African American landowners in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Alwyn Barr, writing in the Journal of Southern History, observed that "the authors have researched widely in oral histories, the files of the Texas and county historical commissions, and the Texas slave narratives but, apparently, in few black newspapers. While topical organization leads to some repetition, the book is clearly written and presents insightful quotations." Gene B. Preuss, writing in the Oral History Review, concluded that "Freedom Colonies is an important book in the historiography of the American South and Texas because it fills an overlooked gap in the story of African-American life through the Gilded Age and Progressive Eras. For oral historians, Sitton and Conrad's book is a testimonial to the effectiveness of using oral history to fill the gap that results from a strict reliance on traditional historical sources. Finally, the authors demonstrate how oral history contributes to the preservation of community and memory."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Agricultural History, June 22, 1989, Robert A. Calvert, review of Ringing the Children In: Texas Country Schools, p. 104; September 22, 1996, Terry G. Jordan, review of Backwoodsmen: Stockmen and Hunters along a Big Thicket River Valley, p. 688; June 22, 1998, Robert A. Calvert, review of From Can See to Can't: Texas Cotton Farmers on the Southern Prairies, p. 647; September 22, 2005, Ricky Floyd Dobbs, review of Harder Than Hardscrabble: Oral Recollections of the Farming Life from the Edge of the Texas Hill Country, p. 494; January 1, 2008, Debra A. Reid, review of Freedom Colonies: Independent Black Texans in the Time of Jim Crow, p. 114.

American Historical Review, April 1, 1988, Wayne E. Fuller, review of Ringing the Children In, p. 521; April 1, 2000, review of Nameless Towns: Texas Sawmill Communities, 1880-1942, p. 558; April 1, 2006, Rebecca Sharpless, review of Freedom Colonies, p. 488.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, February 1, 1996, S.J. Bronner, review of Backwoodsmen, p. 1013; April 1, 1998, review of From Can See to Can't, p. 1437; November 1, 2004, K.G. Wilkinson, review of Harder Than Hardscrabble, p. 547.

Journal of American Folklore, April 1, 1987, Joel Gardner, review of Every Sun That Rises: Wyatt Moore of Caddo Lake, including "Building the Last Caddo Bateau," p. 246.

Journal of American History, June 1, 1996, David L. Kimbrough, review of Backwoodsmen, p. 222; December 1, 1998, David Vaught, review of From Can See to Can't, p. 1093; December 1, 1999, Steven A. Reich, review of Nameless Towns, p. 1368; March 1, 2006, Jeannie M. Whayne, review of Freedom Colonies, p. 1481.

Journal of Economic Literature, June 1, 1998, review of From Can See to Can't, p. 1071; March 1, 1999, review of Nameless Towns, p. 308.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History, September 22, 2007, Loren Schweninger, review of Freedom Colonies, p. 302.

Journal of Southern History, August 1, 1988, review of Ringing the Children In, p. 513; November 1, 1996, Megan Biesele, review of Backwoodsmen, p. 788; May 1, 1999, Lu Ann Jones, review of From Can See to Can't, p. 434; February 1, 2000, Marilyn D. Rhinehart, review of Nameless Towns, p. 145; May 1, 2002, Bruce A. Glasrud, review of The Texas Sheriff: Lord of the County Line, p. 498; November 1, 2005, Lu Ann Jones, review of Harder Than Hardscrabble, p. 941; May 1, 2006, Alwyn Barr, review of Freedom Colonies, p. 494.

Journal of the West, July 1, 1989, Roy Bird, review of Texas High Sheriffs, p. 93; January 1, 1990, Chad Litz, review of Ringing the Children In, p. 105; June 22, 2005, Robert H. Duke, review of Freedom Colonies, p. 104; June 22, 2005, George Green, review of Harder Than Hardscrabble, p. 104.

Labor History, May 1, 2005, Charles Thompson, review of Harder Than Hardscrabble, p. 258.

New Scientist, November 21, 1998, review of Nameless Towns, p. 55.

Oral History Review, June 22, 1997, Gerald D. Saxon, review of Backwoodsmen, p. 152; January 1, 2002, Sandra McCollister, review of Nameless Towns; June 22, 2005, Kyle Wilkison, review of Harder Than Hardscrabble; June 22, 2006, Gene B. Preuss, review of Freedom Colonies.

Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 1999, review of Nameless Towns, p. 45.

Roundup Magazine, December 1, 2000, review of The Texas Sheriff, p. 22.

Rural Sociology, June 1, 2000, Don E. Albrecht, review of Nameless Towns, p. 337.

Smithsonian, September 1, 1987, Donald Dale Jackson, review of Ringing the Children In, p. 180.

Southwestern Historical Quarterly, January 1, 1990, James Conrad, review of Texas High Sheriffs, p. 408; October 1, 1996, Robin W. Doughty, review of Backwoodsmen, p. 261; January 1, 2002, Dick Diamond, review of The Texas Sheriff, p. 528; April 1, 2005, Gene Preuss, review of Harder Than Hardscrabble, p. 559; April 1, 2006, James M. Smallwood, review of Freedom Colonies, p. 584.

Western Historical Quarterly, November 1, 1989, Stuart H. Traub, review of Texas High Sheriffs, p. 465; March 22, 1996, review of Backwoodsmen, p. 109; March 22, 2000, Janet Schmelzer, review of Nameless Towns, p. 91.

Western Legal History, June 22, 2001, David R. Johnson, review of The Texas Sheriff.

ONLINE

Baylor University Web site,http://www.baylor.edu/ (May 10, 2008), author profile.

TexasEscapes.com,http://www.texasescapes.com/ (May 10, 2008), John Troesser, review of The Texas Sheriff.

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Sitton, Thad 1941–

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