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March 9, 2001


DALLAS (SMU) -- The future of the Southern Plains will be the focus of the annual Stanton Sharp Symposium in History at Southern Methodist University from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday, April 6, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 7.

Free and open to the public, the symposium will feature a group of historians, geographers and a climatologist who will reflect on the history of the Southern Plains -- which includes West Texas, eastern New Mexico, the Oklahoma panhandle and southeastern Colorado -- and discuss future trends affecting the region. Issues to be presented include:

  • The transition from family farm to corporate agribusiness
  • The challenge of balancing regional growth with environmental constraints
  • The creation of a Great Plains landscape aesthetic to attract tourism
  • A historical view of drought over the millennia
  • Petroleum production and its consequences for employment as well as public policy
  • The political culture of the Texas panhandle
  • The impact of Mexican Americans and Hispanic institutions on the Southern Plains

Elliott West, author of five books on western and American social and environmental history, will open the symposium at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 6, in McCord Auditorium, third floor of Dallas Hall, with a keynote address, "Trails and Footprints: Past Patterns of the Southern Plains."

"Although often considered a historically stunted region, the Southern Plains have been witness to a long sequence of movement and adaptation," says West, a native of Dallas' University Park who is now a distinguished professor of history at the University of Arkansas. "My lecture will look at about 20 counties in West Texas to sketch some prominent themes of the past and suggest what they say about the present conditions and the future of the plains."

A second keynote lecture scheduled for the Saturday luncheon will examine modern efforts to encourage a Great Plains landscape aesthetic through national parks, art and ecological restoration. Dan Flores, author of Horizontal Yellow: Nature and History in the Near Southwest and the A.B. Hammond Professor of Western History at the University of Montana-Missoula, will speak at noon, Saturday, April 7, in the ballroom of SMU's Hughes-Trigg Student Center.

Registration is required by March 23. The symposium presentations are free; the luncheon cost is $25. Symposium presentations are as follows:

Water and Drought

"Droughts of the Past; Implication for the Future?" presented by Connie Woodhouse, a physical scientist with the U.S. Government's National Geophysical Data Center's Paleoclimatology Program. Woodhouse also is a researcher with the University of Colorado's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research; 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 7, in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Forum.

" 'The Future Isn't What It Used to Be': Wayne Wyatt and Fifty Years of Ogallala Aquifer Irrigation," presented by John Opie, author of Nature's Nation: An Environmental History of the United States; Ogallala: Water for a Dry Land; and The Law of the Land ; 9:15 a.m. Saturday, April 7, in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Forum.

Politics and Ethnicity

"Conservatism and Political Symbol: The Future of the Southern Plains," presented by Jeff Roche, author of Restructured Resistance: The Silbey Commission and the Politics of Desegregation in Georgia; 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 7, in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Forum.

"The Mexican-American Experience in 20th Century Northwest Texas," presented by Yolanda Romero, who teaches American and Mexican-American history at Dallas County Community College and is a member of the board of the West Texas Historical Association; 11:15 a.m. Saturday, April 7, in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Forum.


"Petroleum in the Future of the Southern Plains," presented by Diana Davids Olien author and co-author of six books on Texas oil, including Oil in Texas: The Gusher Age, 1896-1945.; 2 p.m. Saturday, April 7, in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Forum.

"When Corporations Rule the Llano Estacado," presented by John Miller Morris, an associate professor of interdisciplinary studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio and an expert on the historical geography of the Southwest. Morris is the author of three books, including El Llano Estacado: Exploration and Imagination on the High Plains of Texas and New Mexico.; 2:45 p.m. Saturday, April 7, in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Forum.

Sponsored by SMU's William P. Clements Jr. Center for Southwest Studies and SMU's Clements Department of History, the Sharp Lecture in History is supported by a gift from Ruth Sharp Altshuler honoring her son, Stanton Sharp. The Sharp Fund enhances history faculty research and teaching and brings to the SMU campus some of the nation's most distinguished scholars for lectures, discussions and interactions with students, faculty members and the public.

For more information about the conference, contact the SMU Clements Center at 214-768-3684.