Reflections on Bill Wittliff and “The Collections”

I came to The Wittliff in October 2011, and most of my days since that time have begun with a call from Bill Wittliff. After he and Sally received honorary doctorates from Texas State In 2014, I’d always greet him with “Doctor, good morning,” and he’d reply in kind. Bill loved to check in and discuss all things having to do with “the Collections.” I have dearly missed those calls this past week.

The outpouring of tributes on the web and social media has been remarkable—many of you have sent The Wittliff moving wishes of support and condolence. On behalf of everyone here, thank you! To us the accolades validate the clarity and power of Bill’s vision for who he was and what he valued. The Wittliff Collections are a big part of that, and it stands as a testament to his commitment to the creative culture of Texas and the Southwest.

All of this underscores the importance and value of our mission. Bill visited The Wittliff the week before last, and he was able to see the beginnings of our expansion construction. He was very excited, and he could easily envision our upcoming Texas Music, Treasures, and Edward Curtis galleries—not just on paper, but in the real space.

Bill and Sally have been involved from the very beginning of our planning, and it’s gratifying to know that Bill helped to craft our entire expansion, which will eventually encompass the whole of the top floor of the Albert B. Alkek Library.

We are deeply honored to celebrate and sustain Bill’s truly visionary legacy. This fall we will be mounting two special exhibitions to honor him: a retrospective of Bill’s extraordinary photography, plus an exhibit devoted to J. Frank Dobie, the master storyteller whose manuscripts became the genesis of The Wittliff Collections more than 30 years ago.


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Here are links to several of my favorite pieces written on Bill this past week.

Obituary by Stephen Harrigan:

Michael Barnes and Peter Blackstock for the Austin American-Statesman

Robert Faires for the Austin Chronicle

Joe Holley for the Houston Chronicle

John Spong for Texas Monthly

W.F. Strong for the Texas Standard

More friends remember the magic of Bill in Texas Monthly