Friday, May 31, 2013

We pause to remember our State Historian...

An Appreciation of Walter T. Durham, Tennessee State Historian
 From the Tennessee State Library and Archives
By Dr. Wayne Moore

The State Library and Archives, and all who value the history of the State of Tennessee, lost a great friend on Friday, May 24th with the passing of Walter Thomas Durham. Anyone who has worked in Tennessee history during the last forty years knew of Mr. Durham’s love of our state’s past and his tireless energy on behalf of those institutions which preserve and make accessible this heritage.

Walter had high standards as an historian of Tennessee and his scholarship did much to raise the level of professionalism and accuracy in the field. He was truly a public historian, in that he believed a key element of any democracy was an informed citizenry that understood something about its own history. A public man, too, in the sense that he was deeply involved in politics and gave much of his time to people in the community. Never one to sentimentalize or “live in” the past, Walter was a keen observer of and participant in current affairs.

The variety of historical organizations which he led or advocated for runs the gamut. He was part of every significant statewide historical group or commission, and a guiding force in most of them. He raised the office of State Historian to a new level of activity, leadership, and commitment. I never knew him to turn down a request to speak to a county historical society—large or small. Mr. Durham was a fine storyteller with a sharp and mischievous sense of humor. His speeches were never dull.

History was important to Mr. Durham, but his accomplishments as a family man, veteran, a son of Gallatin and Sumner County, a businessman, and civic leader were equally a part of who he was. Most importantly, perhaps, Walter Durham was a true gentleman—gracious and sharing of his gifts with all who knew him. He never failed to give a kind or encouraging word. We at the State Library and Archives will miss working with him.

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State. 

1 comment:

  1. We owe this gentlemen much for his preservation of our middle TN heritage. Sad to hear of his passing.