Armstrong’s Stars: “Where is Waco, Texas?”

September 8, 2014 amie_oliver

By Jennifer Borderud, Access and Outreach Librarian, Armstrong Browning Library

 

In her biography of Dr. A.J. Armstrong, chair of Baylor’s English Department from 1912-1952 and founder of the Armstrong Browning Library, Lois Smith Douglas recounts Dr. Armstrong’s efforts to bring English poet Alfred Noyes to Waco in 1917.  Douglas writes that the poet’s manager initially declined the invitation “with undisguised humor,” asking “‘Where is Waco, Texas?’” (93).

Account of Noyes's lecture in the 18 January 1917 issue of the Lariat (found in The Texas Collection)

Account of Noyes’s lecture in the 18 January 1917 issue of the Lariat (found in The Texas Collection)

Undeterred by the remark, Dr. Armstrong arranged an additional thirteen speaking engagements for the author of the “The Highwayman” throughout Texas and the Southwest and succeeded in bringing Noyes to Baylor’s campus on 12 January 1917.  Waco was Noyes’s first stop on his tour of the United States that year (Douglas 93-94).  Baylor’s student newspaper, The Lariat, wrote of the event:  “It is unprecedented in the history of Texas and the South that a poet belonging to the world’s great poets has visited this section” (“Alfred Noyes to Lecture Here” 1).  Ever the ambassador, Dr. Armstrong enthusiastically introduced Noyes to Baylor and Waco, and over the course of his 40-year career at Baylor, Dr. Armstrong made certain that Baylor and Waco came face-to-face with the world’s dramatic, literary, and musical talents.

Armstrong’s Stars, a new blog series, is a collaboration between the Armstrong Browning Library and Baylor’s Texas Collection.  Once a month we will feature a story about a celebrity that Dr. Armstrong brought to Baylor.  These stories will highlight an interesting part of Baylor’s history and feature collection materials housed in both the Armstrong Browning Library and the Texas Collection.  Contributions to the blog series will be made by ABL and Texas Collection staff as well as by students from Baylor’s English Department, some of whom are also members of Sigma Tau Delta, Baylor’s English honor society.  We are particularly pleased to have members of Sigma Tau Delta participating in this series as Baylor’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, founded by Dr. Armstrong in 1925, sponsored many of these exciting events and ensured their success.

Members of Sigma Tau Delta with Dr. A.J. Armstrong (seated left of center) and actors Katharine Cornell (seated center) and Basil Rathbone (seated at far right) in 1934; Photo by Farmer, Waco, Texas (Armstrong Browning Library, Sigma Tau Delta Photo File)

Members of Sigma Tau Delta with Dr. A.J. Armstrong (seated left of center) and actors Katharine Cornell (seated center) and Basil Rathbone (seated at far right) in 1934; Photo by Farmer, Waco, Texas (Armstrong Browning Library, Sigma Tau Delta Photo File)

Works Cited

“Alfred Noyes to Lecture Here.”  Lariat 11 Jan. 1917:  1.  Web.  4 Sept. 2014.

Douglas, Lois Smith.  Through Heaven’s Back Door:  A Biography of A. Joseph Armstrong.  Waco, Texas:  The Baylor University Press, c1951.  Print.

To learn more about the life and career of Dr. Armstrong, see:

Lewis, Scott.  Boundless Life:  A Biography of Andrew Joseph Armstrong.  Waco, Texas:  Armstrong Browning Library of Baylor University, 2014.  Print.  Now available here.

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