The Texas State Historical Association has selected University of Texas at Arlington associate professor Gerald Saxon to receive its John J. Jenkins Research Fellowship. The fellowship is awarded annually for the best research proposal having to do with Texas history.
Saxon is researching Sterling Clack Robertson (1785-1842), an impresario from Tennessee who brought families to Texas when it was a part of Mexico in the 1820s and1830s. He plans to write the first biography about Robertson.
“The John H. Jenkins Award is an honor I am especially proud of since I am well aware of the fine work that scholars are doing in all aspects of Texas history,” Saxon said. “Just as importantly, the award will give me the funds necessary to visit and examine historical collections in Tennessee and other parts of Texas.”
Robertson’s family founded Nashville, Tenn. In addition to being an impresario, Robertson fought in the War of 1812, speculated in lands in both Tennessee and Texas, fought in the Texas Revolution against Mexico, served in the Texas Rangers against the Indians on the Texas frontier, served as a senator during the first couple of congresses when Texas was an independent nation and was the first person to bring thoroughbred horses to Texas, Saxon said.
Despite his many contributions, history relating to Robertson is deeply divided. The controversy that has swirled around him stems from the public conflicts he had with Stephen F. Austin and Austin’s secretary and business partner, Samuel May Williams, over a grant of land above Austin’s first colony.
“The biographers of Stephen F. Austin have depicted Robertson as manipulative, self-serving and a liar in his Texas dealings,” Saxon said. “Robertson’s great-great-grandson in his monumental Papers Concerning Robertson’s Colony in Texas series portray Robertson as an individual who was betrayed by a scheming, devious and dishonest Austin and Williams.
“My goal in researching and writing a biography of Robertson is to objectively evaluate all of the extant evidence and render a judgment about Robertson and the impact he had on Texas,” he said.
In 2011, Saxon stepped down as dean of UT Arlington libraries to resume his research, writing and teaching in the subject area of western and southwestern history.
Dr. Beth Wright, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said Saxon’s work extends beyond the classroom.
“We’re delighted that Dr. Saxon’s scholarly research in Texas history has been recognized with this prestigious fellowship from the Texas State Historical Association,” Wright said. “His knowledge of Texas history is vast, and his activities in support of its scholarship have been many. I know that the results of his research will prove both enlightening and fascinating.”
Saxon is also an honorary life member of the Descendants of Mexican War Veterans and a former president of the Texas Oral History Association.
The Jenkins Research Fellowship was presented to Saxon on March 1 at the Texas State Historical Association’s annual meeting in Fort Worth.
The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 33,800 students and more than 2,200 faculty members in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.
(Contributed by Bridget Lewis, UTA Media Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org.)