Southern Methodist University

John H. McGinnis papers

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: McGinnis, John H.
Title: John H. McGinnis papers
Dates: 1864-1960
Abstract: John Hathaway McGinnis (1883-1960) was an English professor at Southern Methodist University from its founding in 1915 to his retirement in 1954. John H. McGinnis was an important editor for the Southwest Review in its early years at SMU. McGinnis edited the Southwest Review for nearly twenty years, from 1924 to 1942. He was the founding editor of the Dallas Morning News book page, beginning in 1916, editing the book page until his retirement in 1948. McGinnis also helped found the SMU Press in 1937. His papers include daily correspondence with his wife, Grace McGinnis, letters of congratulations upon his retirement, and miscellaneous correspondence. Included in this collection is correspondence with many prominent Texans such as J. Frank Dobie, Charles W. Ferguson, O'Neil Ford, Lon Tinkle, and Walter Prescott Webb.
Accession No: A1992.1792c
Extent: 2 boxes (1 linear foot)
Language: Material is in English
Repository DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

John Hathaway McGinnis was an editor of the Southwest Review, editor of the Dallas Morning News book page, and was professor of English at Southern Methodist University. Born in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania on December 21, 1883, McGinnis earned his BA in English at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri in 1904 and moved on to Columbia University to pursue his master’s degree in 1915. From 1907 to 1914 he taught at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. When the president of Southwestern, Robert S. Hyer, was chosen as president of the newly created Southern Methodist University, he chose McGinnis as one of the first professors hired. Before making the move to Dallas, Texas, McGinnis finished his master’s degree at Columbia. In 1915 McGinnis was the first professor to arrive for duty at SMU. He helped develop the early curriculum for SMU with the assistance of Frank Seay, professor of theology, and President Hyer.

At SMU, McGinnis became notorious on campus as a professor who was difficult to please and extremely demanding; however, he also became a favorite of SMU students. Many of his admiring students became respected professors and authors in their own right. Charles W. Ferguson, SMU professor and McGinnis student, said of his mentor after his death that he was "a sign of what man at his best has always been." Henry Nash Smith, a McGinnis student and distinguished professor at UC Berkeley, jokingly wrote a letter for McGinnis’ retirement in 1954. It read: "Greetings to my classmates in the John H. McGinnis Institute of Advanced Studies. Like all the rest of you, I am still trying to work off my incompletes and to learn to write prose which the Boss will accept for credit. Be of good cheer, we will get our degrees some day if we keep working." Yet another famous McGinnis student was Texas author Lon Tinkle.

McGinnis loomed large in Texas letters during the first half of the twentieth century because of his central participation in creating path-breaking avenues in publication. Beginning in 1916, he became the editor of the Sunday Book Page for the Dallas Morning News. Under his strong direction, it grew from a few articles to a multiple page weekly edition and became one of the most respected book pages in all of the Southwest.

In 1924, he took over the reins of the Southwest Review. Previously known as the Texas Review, with fewer than 20 subscribers, the journal moved from the University of Texas to SMU. Through the Southwest Review, McGinnis helped establish an important new strain of Texas regionalism—one that balanced regional, national, and international perspectives evenly. J. Frank Dobie, a former McGinnis student, wrote of McGinnis’ editorship "I have always admired the tone, the slant, you [McGinnis] gave the Southwest Review as well as the book page, though sometimes I had no interest at all in certain articles on international affairs that you printed in the Review."

McGinnis continued his ventures into publishing with the creation of the Southern Methodist University Press in 1937. He served as the editor until 1942.

McGinnis’ personal life was filled with ups and downs. When he met his future wife, Grace Gillett, she was engaged to another man. This did not deter McGinnis and he quickly fell in love with her. From SMU he wrote her multiple letters daily. In the spring of 1916 Grace came to Dallas to stay with family friends. McGinnis finally won her affections and they were married on October 29, 1916. They had four boys; Gillett, Albert and Edwin, who were twins, and John, the youngest. Unfortunately Gillett was mentally handicapped, and John drowned at age 6 during a family fishing trip.

McGinnis spent the rest of his academic career at SMU and retired in 1954. His friends and former students constituted a veritable who’s who of Texas and Southwestern letters. Outside of the region, many of his former students held positions on the faculties of various universities including Harvard and the University of Chicago. On April 8, 1960 John H. McGinnis passed away.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The John H. McGinnis papers include personal correspondence to his wife, correspondence congratulating him on his retirement, and various correspondence with his friends and colleagues.

Originally, the papers in this collection were arranged in several separate collections:



A1994. 1917c

These three collections were combined into one collection. The John H. McGinnis papers are divided into seven series.

The first series contains personal correspondence between John H. McGinnis and Grace McGinnis, his wife.

The second series contains letters of congratulations on the retirement of John H. McGinnis and letters of condolence to Mrs. Grace McGinnis about the passing of John. Also included in this series are news clippings reporting both events.

The third series contains correspondence with various prominent people. It includes letters from J. Frank Dobie, Walter Prescott Webb, Lon Tinkle, and O’Neil Ford, among many others.

The fourth series contains correspondence that ranges from personal letters to a letter of complaint about the "vulgarity" of the Southwest Review.

The fifth series contains one letter dated April 13, 1864 from Benjamin Gillett, a relative of Grace McGinnis (whose maiden name was Gillett), detailing the battle that took place a few days earlier. The soldier stayed at a camp located near Shreveport, LA.

The sixth series is composed of photographs of the McGinnis family and some photos of Georgetown, TX. Also included in this series are miscellaneous items such as a grading book from the 1919-1920 SMU school year and a few magazine issues.

The seventh series contains a microfilm copy of John H. McGinnis’ master’s thesis from Columbia University. McGinnis’ topic was children’s poetry and the changes in its uses over time.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into 7 series:
Series 1: Personal Correspondence with Grace McGinnis
Series 2: Retirement and Death
Series 3: Correspondence with Prominent People
Series 4: Miscellaneous Correspondence
Series 5: Civil War Letter
Series 6: Photographs and Miscellaneous Items
Series 7: Microfilm of John H. McGinnis’ Master’s Thesis


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.
Editors -- Texas -- Dallas.
Southern Methodist University -- Faculty.
Academic dissertations.

Related Materials


Southwest Review, Mss 0065

SMU Press, Mss 0064

Faculty/Staff Collection, McGinnis File, SMU 1992.0148

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

John H. McGinnis papers, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information

Gift, Dick Ellinghouse, 1991.

Gift, Susan Byrne, 1992.

Gift, Susan Byrne, 1994.

Gift, Grace McGinnis, 2015.

Finding aid written by

Aaron Sanchez, 2009. Revised by Cynthia Franco, 2015.

Encoded by

Lara Corazalla, 2009. Revised by Cynthia Franco, 2015.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Personal Correspondence with Grace McGinnis

Box Folder
1 1 1916 wedding announcement; correspondence with Mrs. Grace McGinnis, Dec. 12, 1918-Dec. 20, 1918.
2 Letter to Mrs. McGinnis, Dec. 9, 1921
3 Letter to Mrs. McGinnis, Sept. 25, 1923
4 Letter to Mrs. McGinnis, Oct. 5, 1924
5 Correspondence with Mrs. McGinnis, Sept. 10, 1925-Dec. 9, 1925
6 Correspondence with Mrs. McGinnis, Jan. 9, 1926-Oct. 7, 1926
7 Correspondence with Mrs. McGinnis, March 23, 1927-April 30, 1929
8 Letter to Mrs. McGinnis, July 6, 1931
9 Letter to Mrs. McGinnis, Oct. 15, 1935
10 Correspondence with Mrs. McGinnis, Nov. 19, 1939-Aug. 14, 1945
11 Correspondence with Mrs. McGinnis, undated.
Box Folder
2 48 Letter to Mrs. McGinnis 1928 (oversize)

Series 2: Retirement and Death

Box Folder
1 12 Congratulations Letter from George E. Bushong
13 Congratulations Letter from J. Frank Dobie
14 Congratulations Letter from Alexander Hogue
15 Congratulations Letter from Allen Maxwell
16 Congratulations Letter from Walter Prescott Webb
17 Telegram Tributes of McGinnis on his Retirement
18 Condolences, 1960
19 Condolences, 1960
20 Obituary and Eulogy Clippings, 1960
21 Newspaper Clippings
Box Folder
2 1 Dedication of McGinnis Hall at SMU, 1964

Series 3: Correspondence with Prominent People

Box Folder
2 2 J. Frank Dobie, 1928-1954
3 Charles W. Ferguson, 1926-1927
4 Charles W. Ferguson, 1927-1928
5 O’Neil Ford, 1952
6 O’Neil Ford, 1958
7 Lon Tinkle, 1928
8 Walter Prescott Webb, 1932

Series 4: Miscellaneous Correspondence

Box Folder
2 9 James T. Allen
10 Fran Bearden
11 Robert Brown
12 Jerry and Mary Bywaters
13 John Chapman
14 Dallas Morning News, 1940s
15 G.B. Dealey
16 Mrs. G.B. Dealey
17 Samuel Geiser
18 E.G. Gillett
19 J. Everetts Haley
20 J.B. Hayne
21 William Stanley Hoole
22 Jay B. Hubbell
23 Robert Stewart Hyer
24 Umphrey Lee
25 Kenneth and Kate Pope
26 Ruth Rice
27 Mrs. Emmet D. Riggs
28 Mrs. James Ryman
29 Claude Simpson
30 Complaint about the Southwest Review
31 Henry Nash Smith
32 Melmoth Young Stokes
33 Robert Sutton
34 Willis M. Tate
35 George Thomas
36 J.M. Wilson
37 Berta ??
38 Reunion announcement

Series 5: Civil War Letter

Box Folder
2 39 Letter from Benjamin Gillett, April 13, 1864

Series 6: Photographs and Miscellaneous Items

Box Folder
2 40 Publications
41 Jay B. Hubbell’s Grade Book, 1919-1920
42 Photographs
43 Photographs
44 Photographs, Georgetown
45 Portrait of John H. McGinnis by Jerry Bywaters
46 Photographs
47 Issue of Southwestern Arts

Series 7: Microfilm of John H. McGinnis’ Master’s Thesis

2 A microfilm of John H. McGinnis’ master’s thesis from Columbia University, 1915.