Southern Methodist University

Herbert P. Gambrell papers

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: Gambrell, Herbert Pickens
Title: Herbert P. Gambrell papers
Dates: 1926-1981
Abstract: Contains papers from Southern Methodist University history professor Herbert Gambrell. Most of the material relates to the writing of Gambrell’s 1948 biography of Texas Republic President Anson Jones. The collection also contains other writings from Dr. Gambrell, including his recollections on various parts of SMU history. Some personal and academic correspondence is also included.
Accession No: SMU 1992.0165
Extent: 6 boxes (3 linear feet)
Language: Material is in English
Repository Southern Methodist University Archives, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

Herbert P. Gambrell (class of 1921 and 1923) worked as a history professor at SMU from 1923 until 1964. Gambrell was an authority on Texas history and worked at the Southwest Review. His published works include biographies of two presidents of the Republic of Texas and several other books and articles on the history of the state.

Gambrell was born in Tyler, Texas, on July 15, 1898. He graduated from Dallas High School in 1915 and began college at Baylor the following year. Newly-built Southern Methodist University opened in Dallas for the 1915-16 school year, and Gambrell transferred there; he received a B.A. in 1921. He also earned a M.A. from SMU three years later. He received a doctorate from the University of Texas in 1946, and his dissertation on Republic of Texas President Anson Jones was published in book form in 1948.

Recalling his years as a student at SMU, which corresponded with the first several years of SMU’s existence, Gambrell wrote,

It all seemed pretty grand, that university under a single roof. Of course, fumes from the chemistry laboratory and hamburger grill in the basement had a way of rising and penetrating; and the sounds of piano’s lungs and brass instruments at work on the third floor floated downward. Odors from the cooking laboratory beneath the library made hungry students drool and some complained that the embalming fluid in which biology specimens were preserved was unpleasant to smell in adjacent rooms. But it seemed all right and proper to us pioneers. Not many of us knew anything about higher education except what we observed in Dallas Hall. We just naturally supposed that these were things that made college different from high school.

In 1940, Gambrell married Virginia Leddy of Greenville, Texas. Virginia Leddy Gambrell became the first archivist of the Dallas Historical Society in 1934. She met Herbert Gambrell at the Hall of State, located at Fair Park in Dallas. Mrs. Gambrell later became director of the Hall of State in 1948 and served in that capacity until 1976.

Gambrell’s teaching career began the same year he graduated from college, when he taught high school history in Temple, Texas and later worked at Weatherford College. He accepted a teaching position at SMU in 1923.

His interest in Texas history led to the publication of his first book, coauthored with Lewis Newton in 1932: A Social and Political History of Texas. Two years later, he published Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamar: Troubadour and Crusader, a biography of Texas’ third president from 1838-41. Anson Jones: The Last President of Texas, based on Gambrell’s doctoral dissertation, was published in 1948. Gambrell published a final book in 1960, coauthored with his wife, entitled A Pictorial History of Texas.

SMU bought the Southwest Review in 1924, and Gambrell worked as the managing editor from 1924-1927, as well as contributing articles. He also published material in the Journal of Modern History and the Dictionary of American Biography. In the midst of all of this, Gambrell also found time to serve as chairman of the Board of Education for SMU Press, founded in 1937, from 1939 until his retirement in 1964.

Beyond strictly academic pursuits, Dr. Gambrell also participated in several history-related societies and activities. He worked as the director of historical exhibits at the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936, held at Fair Park. He also worked on historical exhibits at the 1937 Pan American Exposition. Gambrell was active in the Philosophical Society of Texas, the Texas Institute of Letters, the Dallas Historical Society, and the Texas Historical Association.

Like her husband, Virginia Gambrell was active in several historical and literary groups, including the Texas State Library and Historical Commission, the American Association of State and Local History, the Society of American Archivists, and the Philosophical Society of Texas, in addition to her work as director of the Hall of State.

Mrs. Gambrell died in 1978. Dr. Gambrell received the title of chairman emeritus of the SMU history department, from which he retired in 1964. SMU honored him with an honorary doctorate in 1982, and he died in December of that year at 84 years of age.


"Herbert Gambrell of S.M.U.; Teacher and Texas Historian," New York Times, January 3, 1983 (no page given).

Romero, Rachel. "Virginia Leddy Gambrell," Handbook of Texas Online:

Ruffcorn, Scott. "Herbert Pickens Gambrell," Handbook of Texas Online:

Thomas, Mary Martha Hosford. Southern Methodist University: Founding and Early Years. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1974.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

This collection is divided into four series. Because Gambrell served on the SMU faculty, the material related to his time as a professor has been placed at the front of the collection, in its own series. Series 2 holds several folders of correspondence, some personal and some academic-related.

Series 3 contains the majority of the collection’s material: manuscripts, notes, and book proofs from Dr. Gambrell’s book on Anson Jones, who served as President of the Republic of Texas from 1844-46. The book, which was published in 1948, was also Gambrell’s dissertation topic. Copies of Anson Jones: The Last President of Texas can be found in the SMU Fondren Library.

Users should note that some of the manuscript chapters for Anson Jones were originally titled and numbered differently from the way they appear in the book; this material has been arranged in the collection according to the published ordering of the chapters.

Series 4 contains other material on Gambrell’s writings, including articles for the Handbook of Texas.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into four series:
Series 1: SMU-related material
Series 2: Correspondence
Series 3: Anson Jones manuscripts and book proofs
Series 4: Articles and other writings


Access to Collection:

Collection is open for research use.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Gambrell, Herbert Pickens -- Anson Jones, the last President of Texas.
Southern Methodist University -- Faculty.
Southern Methodist University -- History.
Historians -- Texas.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Herbert P. Gambrell papers, Southern Methodist University Archives, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information


Finding aid written by

Paul H. Santa Cruz, 2009.

Encoded by

Lara Corazalla, 2009.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: SMU-related material

Box Folder
1 1 Writings, SMU recollections
2 Writings, SMU-related
3 SMU-related correspondence
4 Other education- and history-related material

Series 2: Correspondence

Box Folder
1 5 Humorous correspondence—Gambrell, Umphrey Lee, and Sam Geiser
6 Correspondence, Gambrell to Geiser; Philosophical Society of Texas
7 Correspondence

Series 3: Anson Jones manuscripts and book proofs

Box Folder
1 8 Title page, Table of Contents, Prologue
9 Chapter I, "Thirteenth Child"
10 Chapter II, "Brotherly Love in Philadelphia"
11 Chapter III, "Nadir"
12 Chapter IV, "Mr. Austin’s Texas"
Box Folder
2 1 Chapter V, "Five Thousand a Year"
2 Chapter VI, "An Anxious Observer"
3 Chapter VII, "1836"
4 Chapter VIII, "Brazoria"
5 Chapter IX, "A Mammoth Scheme"
6 Chapter X, "The City of Houston"
7 Chapter XI, "Mr. Jones of B."
8 Chapter XII, "Guide, Philosopher, Friend"
9 Chapter XIII, "Annexation?"
10 Chapter XIV, "The Thread"
11 Chapter XV, "Jeanette"
12 Chapter XVI, "Mr. Lamar’s Texas"
13 Chapter XVII, "Like Certain Fevers"
14 Chapter XVIII, "The City of Austin"
15 Chapter XIX, "Some Courtly Language"
16 Chapter XX, "Not by My Vote"
17 Chapter XXI, "Farewell to Politics"
18 Chapter XXII, "Without Money, Without Credit"
Box Folder
3 1 Chapter XXIII, "Secretary of State"
2 Chapter XXIV, "Mr. Houston’s Texas
3 Chapter XXV, "Washington-on-the-Brazos"
4 Chapter XXVI, "Armistice"
5 Chapter XXVII, "An Uncertain Die"
6 Chapter XXVIII, "The Absorbing Question"
7 Chapter XXIX, "Secret, Dark, and Diligent"
8 Chapter XXX, "Wary as Foxes"
9 Chapter XXXI, "Interlude"
10 Chapter XXXII, "The President"
11 Chapter XXXIII, "Alternatives"
12 Chapter XXXIV, "Mr. Jones’ Texas"
13 Chapter XXXV, "Mission Accomplished"
14 Epilogue
15 Acknowledgments, Bibliography, Index
16 Dissertation title pages
Box Folder
4 1 Miscellaneous chapter sections
2 Miscellaneous chapter sections, part 2
3 Miscellaneous pages
4 Miscellaneous pages, part 2
5 Notes
6 Notes, part 2
7 Miscellaneous
Box Folder
5 1 Proof 1, Prologue-Chapter XV; pgs. 1-150
2 Proof 1, Chapter XV-Bibliography; pgs. 151-453
3 Proof 2, Prologue-Chapter III; pgs. 1-18
4 Proof 2, Chapter III-Chapter XX; pgs. 19-196
5 Proof 2, Chapter XX-Bibliography; pgs 196-448
6 Proof 3, Prologue-Chapter XV; pgs. 1-150
Box Folder
6 1 Proof 3, Chapter XV-Chapter XXVI; pgs 151-270
2 Proof 3, Chapter XXVI-Index; pgs 271-462
3 Proof 4, Chapter I-Chapter X; pgs. 2-31
4 Proof 4, Chapter X-Chapter XXIII; pgs. 32-79
5 Proof 4, Chapter XXIV-Bibliography; pgs. 80-151
(NOTE: Each sheet of this proof copy was numbered as one single page; the page numbering on this copy is different from the other three proofs.)
6 Miscellaneous proof material

Series 4: Articles and other writings

Box Folder
6 7 Carroll H. Bailey and Herbert Gambrell, The Handbook of Texas
8 Texas Institute of Letters
9 "Martha Sumner University" (mythical SMU spoof)