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.
Here are links to several of my favorite pieces written on Bill this past week.
Michael Barnes and Peter Blackstock for the Austin American-Statesman
Robert Faires for the Austin Chronicle
Joe Holley for the Houston Chronicle
W.F. Strong for the Texas Standard
More friends remember the magic of Bill in Texas Monthly
Beautiful tribute, David to a beautiful man. He will be deeply missed.
Thank you for the article. He’s done so much in his lifetime. I am apart of his family from down the line and I wish I could’ve taken the time to see him before. But now I have a legacy to follow.
Thank you immensely for this kind and informative mail and remembrance of our beloved and unique amigo and colleague of so many years,and in my case, when I first came to know Bill in Houston when I worked at Marboro Books — the large retailer of ‘remaindered’ or wholesale bookstore — when Bill was representing the University of Texas Press and other university presses, like SMU, et al. I was surely and instantly impressed by him and in many ways. LIttle did I know what deep influences he would come to have upon me, my work and visions, on both sides of the Rio Grande — the feeling of loss of a great friend is deeply felt.
The last time I saw Bill was in Judge Havener’s garden in Lockhart, Texas, where he was our guest at “Evening with the Authors.” He appeared very casually dressed, but in good humor. Such a multi-talented person, and one who left a marvelous legacy of words and pictures. He was one of a kind, and will be greatly missed.
In 2012, my youngest daughter and I traveled from Knoxville TN to attend the Lonesome Dove program at TSU emceed by Bill. It was a wonderful experience as Bill and others shared many inside stories and trivia about the production that only an avid fan could appreciate. I’ve regretted since that I didn’t go to the open mic and say out loud what I was thinking: “This is like a Star Trek convention for Texans.” But we Tennesseans loved it, too. He will be missed. Also, congratulations to TSU for housing Knoxville native Cormac McCarthy’s papers.