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TABLE OF CONTENTS


Collection Summary

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Contents

Arrangement

Restrictions

Index Terms

Related Material

Separated Material

Administrative Information

Description of Series

General Personal Files, 1989-2010

KLRU, 1982-2008

Spirituality and Gardening, 1989-2010

Community Events, Certificates, and Philanthropy, 1990-2015

Austin History Center

Tom Spencer Papers and Recordings

An Inventory of the Collection



Collection Summary

Creator: Spencer, Tom
Title: Tom Spencer Papers and Recordings
Dates: 1982-2017
Dates (Bulk): 1985-2010
Abstract: Tom Spencer is a well-known figure in the Austin nonprofit community, and former host and producer for public affairs programs at KLRU. The collection contains newspaper articles, photographs, journals, correspondence, writings, certificates and video recordings documenting his KLRU career. It also includes collected writings on spirituality and Spencer’s recurring gardening column in the Austin Chronicle, as well as notebooks and administrative materials pertaining to his involvement with religious and environmental organizations in Austin, Texas from the 1980s through the present.
Accession number: AR.2017.008
Quantity: 3.8 linear feet (8 boxes)
Location: Archives Stacks, Outer Vault, qAR, Artifacts
Language: English
Repository: Austin History Center, Austin Public Library,
810 Guadalupe, PO Box 2287, Austin, TX 78768

Biographical Sketch

Tom Spencer was born in Duchess County, New York. His parents were avid gardeners and their family home was a former apple orchard set in the scenic Hudson River Valley. Tom Spencer was 15 years old when his family moved to Port Arthur, Texas following his father’s relocation for work. After Spencer graduated from high school, the family moved to Houston.

Spencer earned a BA in history from The University of Texas at Austin in 1979. To earn money for traveling and to advance a budding career in landscaping, Spencer returned to Houston and worked at Woodlands Landscaping, where he learned the fundamentals of landscape design. In 1982, he moved back to Austin to pursue his master’s degree at UT Austin and began a job at Austin’s local Public Broadcasting System affiliate, radio station KLRU. Shortly after starting the job, he became a producer and quit his studies to commit to a career in broadcasting.

Employed by KLRU for twenty-six years, Spencer served as a manager and producer of local and state-wide public affairs programs, including nationally distributed documentaries on art, architecture, Texas history, Austin issues, and the natural world. Spencer’s documentary projects with KLRU have included: Rio Grande: La Frontera, on the architecture and history of the Texas-Mexico border; Austin Remember When, a series of documentaries on the history of Austin; Building the American City: San Antonio, about the history, architecture and culture of San Antonio, Texas; James Michener and the Art of Collecting, a profile of writer James Michener and his collection of 20th century American art; and The Painted Churches of Texas, Echoes of the Homeland from 2001, about fifteen churches in Texas listed on the National Register of Historic Places for their unique art, architecture, and cultural heritage.

Throughout his employment with KLRU he served as a producer and host for the station’s local programming, including the weekly public affairs series Austin at Issue. During his career at KLRU, Spencer won many awards and honors, such as the Press Club of Dallas Award of Excellence for Outstanding Achievement in Journalism and Mass Communications in 1997 and Outstanding Support from the Texas State Preservation Board in 1990.

Spencer began producing and hosting the long-running weekly radio program on gardening for KLBJ-AM called the The Wildflower Hour in 1983. He is the author of numerous articles and columns on gardening and landscape design. His work has appeared in a variety of publications including: The Good Life, Domain Magazine, The Austin Chronicle, and The Austin American-Statesman. From 1989 to 2006, he shared personal stories and tips regarding gardening and spirituality in his column, “Over the Hedge”, for the Austin Chronicle. He is well known for hosting the long-running series, the Central Texas Gardener, a weekly gardening program presented by KLRU.

In addition to his work in public broadcasting, Tom Spencer also takes photographs of nature and landscape scenes. His photographs have been published in the Austin American-Statesman and shared on his personal website alongside blog posts and inspirational resources (www.soulofthegarden.com). He also produced “Soul of the Garden,” a program for KLRU. In addition to his writings and photographic work, Spencer has held local workshops about spirituality, Zen, and gardening in Austin at such places as the Lady Bird Wildflower Center and The Seton Cove, a local meditation center. As of 2019, Tom Spencer continues to speak at local events on such topics as gardening, the environment, civic matters, and the city of Austin. In September of 2019, he attended the Texas A & M AgriLife Extension Service’s “Earth-Kind Gardening Field Day” and demonstrated how to plant a tree.

Spencer has also worked in several different Austin-based philanthropic organizations. In 2008, he became the CEO of iACT, the Interfaith Action of Central Texas organization, which aims to bring together all faith communities of Central Texas to promote peace, respect, and interfaith dialogue, and also completes public service projects for the local community. In 2013, Spencer replaced Patsy Martin as Executive Director of I Live Here, I Give Here, a local fundraising organization which hosts the annual “Amplify Austin” charity event.

Tom Spencer continues to be active in local Austin public good projects. On June 5, 2019, Spencer took on the role of Executive Director at TreeFolks, an organization that is helping to rebuild forest areas in Central Texas and urban areas of Austin.

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Scope and Contents

The materials in this collection date from 1982 to 2017 and consist primarily of materials generated by Tom Spencer during his twenty-six year career working at KLRU. The materials document his passion for gardening and the relationship he explored between gardening and spirituality.

The General Personal Files series consists of poems, excerpts, and quotations Tom Spencer collected, particularly from such authors and poets as Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Li Po, and Rumi. It includes Spencer’s own essays and poems in which he explored the symbiotic relationship around life, nature, and spirituality. This series also includes a notebook from 2006-2007 and a desk planner from 2008, with scattered daily notes, contacts, and scheduled appointments. This series also contains college essays, photographs of Tom, miscellaneous landscape photography, and an unlabeled strip of tree bark.

The KLRU series makes up the bulk of this collection. It contains photographs from KLRU productions and staff events which Spencer attended, photographic negatives taken during the filming of Painted Churches, a KLRU program that he hosted, articles about KLRU programming, personal and professional correspondence about KLRU programming, viewer comments, newspaper clippings related to KLRU, and production guides and notes. The series also includes materials from the research phase of “Cultivating the Sacred,” a KLRU program, mostly containing personal contact information for potential consultants and program guests. Additional materials from a scrapbook that Spencer maintained, which includes program invitations, photographs of Spencer with notable people, award certificates, correspondence with viewers, and reviews of programs he worked on is also part of the collection. Spencer included awards he received while at KLRU in the scrapbook, including the Bronze Quill Award of Merit, the Special Recognition Award from SECA, the Time/NASBE Award, and the Ground Water Conservation Award among others for his work on public programming. The KLRU Series also includes a total of 31 audiovisual recordings consisting of DVDs and VHS tapes. Most recordings are copies of the KLRU programs that Tom Spencer produced and/or hosted, though some VHS tapes are unedited drafts of KLRU segments.

The Spirituality and Gardening series mainly includes copies of Spencer’s column, “Over the Hedge,” and materials related to his personal website, Soul of the Garden. “Over the Hedge” was a long-running column that Spencer wrote for The Austin Chronicle; it provides gardening tips as well as general thoughts and anecdotes about gardens. Soul of the Garden materials include print-outs of his blog posts as well as a participant packet for a Soul of the Garden retreat he organized at The Crossings. Other materials in this series include assorted writings about nature and spirituality, including a speech he gave on The Big Thicket Nature Preserve and drafts of sermons he gave at local spiritual centers.

Tom Spencer’s involvement in local Central Texas public service programs is reflected in the Community Events, Awards, and Philanthropy series. This series contains 11 professional work journals, desk planners, and appointment books covering portions of the time period 2008-2014. These journals and planners cover the time periods over which he worked at Austin Area Interfaith Ministries (AIMM), Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT), and I Live Here, I Give Here. This series also contains certificates from the early 1990s and onwards, given by bodies such as the Austin Chapter of the American Marketing Association and Covington Middle School.

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Arrangement

The collection is arranged into four series:
  • General Personal Files, 1989 - 2010
  • KLRU, 1982 - 2008
  • Spirituality and Gardening, 1989 - 2010
  • Community Events, Certificates, and Philanthropy, 1990 - 2015

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Restrictions

Access Restrictions

Open to all users. Advance notice is required for any audiovisual materials that do not have an access copy already created. Turnaround time for requested access copies will be no less than one week, depending on the number of tapes requested and their duration.

Use Restrictions

The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.

Several audiovisual items are KLRU productions, and therefore the copyright for those items is held by KLRU.

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Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Spencer, Tom.
Subjects (Organizations)
KLRU (Television station : Austin, Tex.).
Public Broadcasting Service (U.S.).
Interfaith Action Council of Central Texas.
I Live Here, I Give Here.
Subjects
Public broadcasting--Texas--Austin.
Documentary television programs—Production and direction.
Gardening--Texas.
Faith.
Environment.
Places
Austin (Tex.)— Religious life and customs.
Austin (Tex.)— Social life and customs.
Document Types
Administrative Records.
Biography Files.
Black-and-white photographs.
Brochures.
Broadsides.
Certificates.
Clippings.
Color negatives.
Color photographs.
Color slides.
Correspondence.
Diaries.
Fliers.
Greeting cards.
Handbills.
Instructional materials.
Journals.
Manuscripts.
Memorabilia.
Programs.
Project files.
Scrapbooks.
Speeches.
Videocassettes (VHS).
Videocassettes (DVCAM).
Videodiscs (DVD).
Writings.

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Related Material

Archives and Manuscripts Collection


Austin Files


  • Religion - Philosophy R2610, Interfaith Action of Central Texas (28) T
  • Television - KLRU (Formerly KLRN) T0705, General (1) P T

Recordings Collection


  • A VHS 976.431 AU, Austin Remember When: The Brown Building. 1998.
  • A VHS 711.57 CA, Campus Master Plan. 1996.
  • A DVD 261.88 SO, Soul of the Garden. 2006.
  • A DVD 940.5309764 WO, The World, the War & Texas. 2007.

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Separated Material

Periodicals and duplicate VHS tapes have been separated from the collection.

Periodicals


  • DOMAIN, 1989 March April
  • DOMAIN, 1990 March
  • DOMAIN, 1990 May
  • The Good Life, No. 28, 2000 January
  • The Good Life, No. 32, 2000 May
  • The Good Life, No. 59, 2002 August
  • TRIBEZA_austin, Issue 29, 2003 December
  • Ransom News, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2002 Fall

3 duplicate VHS copies of Painted Churches of Texas (2001) will be deaccessioned.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Tom Spencer Papers and Recordings (AR.2017.008). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.

Acquisition Information

Donor DO/2017/029

Donation Date: 2017 March 16

Processing Information

Original folder headings and audiovisual headings were preserved when they existed and are included in quotation marks. Loose materials were arranged by subject matter and material type.

Finding aid created and encoded by Patrick Mclynch, Elizabeth Peattie, and Katie Stacy/2019.

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Other Finding Aid

An inventory of audiovisual materials in the collection is available here. This inventory lists the item number, series, format, label(s), date(s), etc for each A/V item. A/V materials in this collection are arranged within their relevant series (KLRU, Spirituality, etc) as appropriate.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

General Personal Files, 1989-2010

Artifacts, undated
Location BoxItem
Artifacts 133/012 "President Reagan" Button, undated
133/014 "Proud to call Austin Home" Button, undated
133/013 "Uncensored" [John Henry Faulk] Button, undated
Box Folder
1 1 Bark Strip, undated
2 Assorted, 1990-2003
3 Collected Excerpts, 2008, undated
4 Collected Poems, undated
5 Collected Quotations, undated
6 Desk Planner, 2008
7 Essays by Tom Spencer, 1996-2010
8 Notebook, 2006-2007
9 Poems by Tom Spencer, 1989-1993, undated

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KLRU, 1982-2008

Box
8 Audiovisual Materials, 1984-2005, undated
“Emerging Voices, Emerging Church”, 1 videodisc (DVD), undated
“Historic Texas Courthouses, Foundations for the Future”, 1 videodisc (DVD), undated
“KLRU-TV Local Programming Inspired Here”, 1 videodisc (DVD), undated
“Lady Bird: The People’s Tribute”, 1 videodisc (DVD), undated
“Las Misiones: The Missions of Texas, Narrated by Fred Cantú”, 1 videodisc (DVD), 2005
“Soul of the Garden”, 1 videodisc (DVD), undated
“Wine Roads of Texas”, 1 videodisc (DVD), undated
“A celebration of the natural and urban environments, Selections from Austin at Issue”, 1 videocassette (VHS), undated
“Austin at Issue #738, 11/00 - Teen Summit”, 1 videocassette (VHS), 2000
“Austin at Issue, August 31, 1994. Information Superhighway”, 1 videocassette (VHS), 1994
“Austin at Issue, The Homeless + Jan 89 CTG”, 1 videocassette (VHS), 1989
“Austin Now #122: The Best of Austin”, 1 videocassette (VHS), undated
“Austin Now Show #103; VT 329711”, 1 videocassette (VHS), undated
“Austin Online, 7/3/86, Southwest Texas Public Broadcasting Council”, 1 videocassette (VHS), 1986
“Bamberger Development Piece”, 1 videocassette (VHS), undated
“Campus Master Plan”, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 videocassette (VHS), undated
“Central Texas Gardener Premiere; Farm Aid w/ Dylan”, 1 videocassette (VHS), undated
“Cowboy Days”, 1 videocassette (VHS), 1995
“Gordon White Garden / Sept. 96”, 1 videocassette (VHS), 1996
“Last Great Places- Texas Nature Conservancy”, 1 videocassette (VHS), undated
“On Line Premiere, Tom Spencer”, 1 videocassette (VHS), undated
“Perspective; Landscape 2/85; Sports 3/85”, 1 videocassette (VHS), 1985
“Perspective; New Years w/ John Henry Faulk & Molly Ivins; Christmas 84/ Nutcracker; Computers, Kids, Creativity 1/28/85”, 1 videocassette (VHS), 1984-1985
“Rio Grande B1; TC / copy of B1; EEM”, 1 videocassette (VHS), undated
“San Antonio EEM; Audio Not Sweetened”, 1 videocassette (VHS), undated
“Segment Saver, On-Line Off-Line”, 1 videocassette (VHS), undated
“Selah - Bamberger Ranch”, 1 videocassette (VHS), undated
“Texas Nature Conservancy: Saving the Best of Texas, KXAS-TV, 1990 Communities Foundation of Texas, 1990”, 1 videocassette (VHS), 1990
“The Painted Churches of Texas: Echoes of the Homeland”, 1 videocassette (VHS), 2001
“Tom Spencer, Producer, KLRN-TV9/KLRU-TV 18, The Southwest Texas Public Broadcasting Council”, 1 videocassette (VHS), undated
“Tom Spencer, Resume Tape, Public Affairs Sampler, assorted segments from Perspective, Entire Perspective 6/18/85”, 1 videocassette (VHS), 1985
Box Folder
2 1 Announcements and Releases, 1988-2000, undated
2 Community Events and Guides, 1987-1999, undated
Correspondence, 1983-2008, undated
3 "AN [Austin Now] Viewer Comments", 1994-2004, undated
4 Correspondence, 1984-1989, undated
5 Correspondence, 1990-2008, undated
“Cultivating the Sacred” Project, Materials from 3-Ring Binder, 2005-2007
6 “Cultivating the Sacred” Binder, Cover and Front Pocket, 2005-2007
7 “Cultivating the Sacred” Binder, Loose Papers in Front, 2005-2007
8 “Cultivating the Sacred” Binder, “Contacts A-E” Folder, 2005-2007
9 “Cultivating the Sacred” Binder, “Contacts F-L” Folder, 2005-2007
10 “Cultivating the Sacred” Binder, “Contacts M-S” Folder, 2005-2007
11 “Cultivating the Sacred” Binder, “Contacts T-Z” Folder, 2005-2007
12 “Cultivating the Sacred” Binder, “Organizations + Networks” Folder, 2005-2007
13 “Cultivating the Sacred” Binder, “Proposals” Folder, 2005-2007
14 “Cultivating the Sacred” Binder, Loose Papers in Back, 2005-2007
15 “Cultivating the Sacred” Binder, Back Pocket, 2005-2007
16 Employee Records and Biographical Writing, 1983, undated
17 Newspaper Clippings, 1984-2007, undated
Photographs, 1985-1997, undated
Location Location
Outer Vault Color Negative Drawer “Painted Churches” Project, Photographic Negatives, undated
Box Folder
2 18 Staff and Production Photographs, 1985-1997, undated
Box Folder
3 1 Production Guides and Notes, 1994-2007, undated
2 Program Guides and Notes, 1985-2005, undated
KLRU Scrapbook, Materials from 3-Ring Binder, 1984-2001, undated
3 Certificates, Programs, and Other Assorted Materials, Folder 1 of 5, 1984-2001, undated
4 Certificates, Programs, and Other Assorted Materials, Folder 2 of 5, 1984-2001, undated
5 Certificates, Programs, and Other Assorted Materials, Folder 3 of 5, 1984-2001, undated
6 Certificates, Programs, and Other Assorted Materials, Folder 4 of 5, 1984-2001, undated
7 Certificates, Programs, and Other Assorted Materials, Folder 5 of 5, 1984-2001, undated
8 Staff Artifacts, 1984, undated

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Spirituality and Gardening, 1989-2010

Box Folder
4 1 Assorted, 1998-2000, undated
Box
9 Audiovisual Materials, 2007, undated
"B.B. Taylor Interview", 1 videocassette (DVCAM), 2007
"Bishop JS Spong, Do Not Erase", 1 videocassette (DVCAM), undated
"Mysticism Conference Interviews, Marcus Borg, Joan Chittister", 1 videocassette (DVCAM), undated
"Richard Rohr Interview", 1 videocassette (DVCAM), undated
"Soul of the Garden, Incomplete version, DO NOT USE!", 1 videocassette (DVCAM), undated
"Spirituality #1", 1 videocassette (DVCAM), undated
"Spirituality #2", 1 videocassette (DVCAM), undated
"Spirituality #3", 1 videocassette (DVCAM), undated
"Spirituality 3B, Patti Speier", 1 videocassette (DVCAM), undated
"Spirituality 4, Greg Rickle, Hamilton Pool", 1 videocassette (DVCAM), undated
"Spirituality #5, Neil Blumhofe, Austin Now", 1 videocassette (DVCAM), undated
Box Folder
4 2 "Big Thicket" Project, 1993-1994, undated
3 Dialogue Kit and Discussion Guide, “The Amazing Faith of Texas”, 2006
4 Instructional Materials, undated
5 "Native Texas Gardens" Chapter Draft on Tom Spencer, 1996
Location BoxItem
qAR 078/036-41 Newspaper Clippings, 1989-2009
078/042-067 “Over The Hedge” Column in the Austin Chronicle, 1989-1991
Box Folder
4 6 Sermons and Talks, 2010, undated
"Soul of the Garden", 2000-2007, undated
7 Assorted, 2000-1007, undated
8 The Daily Muse Blog Entries, 2001-2002
9 Lecture Notes, 2007
10 Legal Documents, 2006
11 "Retreat and The Crossings", 2006, undated

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Community Events, Certificates, and Philanthropy, 1990-2015

Box
5 Austin Area Interfaith Ministries, 2008-2010
1 AAIM Materials, 2008-2009
2 Professional Journal, 2008 February - 2008 June
3 Professional Journal, 2008 June - 2008 November
4 Desk Planner, 2009
5 Journal, 2009 July - 2010 February
5 Journal, 2010 March - 2010 September
6 Weekly/Monthly Appointment Book, 2010
Box Folder
6 1 Certificates, 1990-1997
I Live Here, I Give Here, 2013-2015
2 Assorted, 2012-2015
3 Work Journal, 2013 September
4 Moleskine Notebook, 2014 April - 2014 November
Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT), 2011-2013
5 Journal, 2010 October - 2011 June
6 At-A-Glance Daily Planner, 2011
7 Moleskine Notebook, 2012
Box Folder
7 1 Work Journal, 2012 March - 2012 December
2 Moleskine Notebook, 2013
3 Work Journal, 2013 January - 2013 September

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