Dr. Archie P. McDonald named Citizen of the Year 2010
By Bruce Partain
Stephen F. Austin State University President Baker Pattillo calls him “The Rock Star of Red River Radio.”
James Michener said his work was vital in telling the story of Texas.
Judy McDonald considers him a pretty good short-order cook.
Dr. Archie P. McDonald is all of those things, and a bit more.
His path has mainly been academic, but his impact has been much wider.
After 500 commentaries on Red River Radio, he’s as likely to be recognized in a New Mexico convenience store as on the SFA campus.
He’s written or edited more than 30 books. More than 10,000 students have had the honor of sitting in one of Dr. McDonald’s history classes. Some were inspired to begin their own academic careers, spreading his influence.
"His commitment to his craft is the strength of the man which has resonated down through the decades and which has given me pleasure in knowing him as a friend and colleague,” said Dr. Allen Richman, retired SFA history professor.
Along with teaching, Dr. McDonald currently serves SFA as the University/Community Liaison.
The Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce has named Dr. McDonald the 2010 Citizen of the Year. He will be recognized at the Chamber’s 89th Annual Meeting and Membership Banquet, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m. at the Hotel Fredonia
Archie P. McDonald was born in 1935 in Beaumont and attended French High School.
“My parents were from Louisiana – depression-era refugees,” he said. “Mom and Dad met in Beaumont. Dad was a barber and a cattle agent. He passed away when I was 8 or 9 years old in 1944. My mom married George Harvie Tucker, an electrician at the Pennsylvania Shipyard. She was a telephone operator. I called both men daddy. He finished raising me. I had two brothers and a sister; all three were Tuckers. But with me, he never used the term ‘step.’
After high school, McDonald enrolled in Lamar University, graduating in 1958, and picked up a Masters degree at Rice. In three years he earned a PhD at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
“My devotion to LSU is only slightly less than to SFA,” he laughed. “I am a Tiger.”
Except for a short stint at Murray State in Kentucky and two quarters as a visiting professor at Central Washington, he has begun every fall and finished every spring since 1964 at SFA.
“My specialty was the American Civil War,” he noted, “but I’ve mostly been associated with Texas.”
His most successful book was on Stonewall Jackson’s Civil War cartographer, “Make Me a Map of the Valley: The Journal of Jedediah Hotchkiss, 1862-1865.” Several authoritative sources list it as one of the top 100 books on the Civil War.
Dr. McDonald’s academic credentials include chairing or presiding over the Texas State Historical Association, Texas Committee for the Humanities, State Board of Review for the National Register, and the Old San Antonio Road Preservation Commission.
Notably, he was director of the East Texas Historical Association and editor of the Association’s Journal for 37 years. He was author/editor of more than 30 books on historical topic. One book of humor titled “Helpful Cooking Hints for HouseHusbands of Uppity Women” landed the McDonalds a guest spot on “CBS This Morning” in New York.
The book was the result of tending the home fires while his equally well-known wife Judy served first as city commissioner then as mayor of Nacogdoches. Judy also served as the President/CEO of the Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation from 1996 through 2008.
The couple been married since 1957, when she was a sophomore and he was a senior at Lamar. They raised two sons – Tucker and Christopher - and celebrate the accomplishments of granddaughter Kelly, a senior at Nacogdoches High School. Christopher is a senior majoring in history at SFA.
Outside of extra pot-rattling, Dr. McDonald found benefits in his wife’s activities. “It has been very enriching to me. As accompanying spouse, I met a lot of political figures.”
His side career as a celebrity on Red River Radio began innocently enough.
“I started as a supporter, then a board member,” McDonald said. “I proposed we do “All Things Historical.’ It has startled me that so many people recognize me now by my voice. Most of my commentaries are just about life, such as memories about the movies. All of it is very personal. I run into people in places like Kline’s Corner, New Mexico and they’ll recognize my voice and ask how are things in Nacogdoches. So it has a life beyond East Texas.”
In the mid-1980s, James Michener descended on the Lone Star State, gathering details for an historical novel appropriately titled “Texas.”
“I was honored to get to meet Michener,” McDonald recalled. “He came for a two-three hour visit and had dinner at our house. He was tracing immigrant routes and wanted to know the hardships they faced.” McDonald shared his own research with the famous author.
Michener had a chance to thank McDonald at a meeting of the Texas State Historical Association. At a large luncheon meeting, Michener “heaped praise on a little monograph I had written titled ‘The Trail To San Jacinto,’” McDonald recalled.
McDonald and a group of historians - including Edward “Mr. Ed” Aubrey Clark of San Augustine - shared an elevator after the meeting.
“My good friend, and at that point green-eyed friend Ben Procter, kept asking, ‘What did you do to get him to say all that?’ I said, ‘We fed him dinner.’
From the back of the elevator came Mr. Ed’s comment, ‘I’d say you got your money's worth!’"
The Chamber’s 2010 Gary Justice Business Excellence Awards recipients are:
Ø Large Business of the Year: J.E. Kingham Construction Co.
Ø Medium Business of the Year: First Bank & Trust East Texas
Ø Small Business of the Year: Laine’s Hallmark Shop.
Dr. Archie P. McDonald has been named 2010 Citizen of the Year.
The Chamber’s Annual Meeting begins at 6 p.m. with a raffle and social hour. Dinner is served at 7 p.m. Contact the Chamber office for tickets and event sponsorships. Check the Chamber web site, nacogdoches.org for the event registration form. Contact Barbara Holl, 560-5533, to donate items for the raffle.