With thanks and in celebration of James Stewart

Many of us were saddened with the news last week that James Stewart, former director of the Victoria Public Library, TLA President, and TSLAC Commissioner, had died. Those of us who had the privilege to know James over many years, respected and appreciated him as a unique and powerful presence in Texas libraries, and the source of huge energy, creativity, and fun. Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz was responsible many years ago with organizing the TLA archives, which are now a part of the TSLAC collection. I asked Gloria to comment on one particular holding of that archive of which James was particularly proud.

Here is Gloria’s James story:

James Stewart knew a thing or two about having fun and supporting creative expression. In his long and significant career, James made Texas libraries and librarians all the better for his energy and skill. I have many great memories of James.

As many of you know, James and company created the Doo-Wop Interest Group (which is now the Intergalactic Dance Club Round Table) back in 1996 to “bring enlightenment and to restore pitch, harmony, and majesty to TLA.” The initial petition to create the interest group was written on a bar napkin – a prized archival document that James and Steve Brown protected like the Magna Carta. I, a young archivist at the time, was tasked with organizing TLA’s files. I received several helpful calls from said pair to ensure that that the serviette was appropriately preserved. After several assurances on my part that the thing was safe, I finally had to produce the document…napkin…to verify its safekeeping.

This round of good-natured back-and-forth was my introduction to an incredible librarian who supported me and the members of TLA. James enveloped me in the folds of the Doo-Wop trust and stood ready to help in any way he could. Thank you, James, for rushing up to Austin so many times to attend hearings or anything else TLA needed!

It is with great respect that I celebrate James and herein show proof that the Doo-Wop petition is safely preserved at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. There are many signatories – look to see all the names you recognize. I’ll note that two state librarians (current and former) must have also been at the bar that evening.

— Gloria Meraz

5 thoughts on “With thanks and in celebration of James Stewart

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with the statement that those of us who knew James appreciated and respected him. He was a singular force in Texas libraries. I am proud to have had the opportunity to sign the great cocktail napkin petition.

  2. This brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart – something of which James was so good at doing! Being a dedicated librarian, he still made it his mission not to take himself, or anyone else, too seriously. It’s hard to imagine TLA and the world without James, but I know that his legacy is forever etched in the hearts of everyone who knew him. Thank you Mark Smith and Gloria Meraz for this great story.

  3. Having been at that gathering when DWIG was born, I was tasked with presenting the petition for status at the following Council meeting. At Barbara Gubbin’s insistence, I had to sing the request. Apparently, my spur of the moment melody sufficed, and Doo Wop became an entity. Thanks to James for mentoring it, just as he did so many of us in TLA.

  4. Before there was the “Doo-Woop” there was the Order of the Coo-Coo founded (circa 1971) in the Student Lounge of the UT GSLIS on the 3rd floor of the Ransom Center. James and co-conspirators decreed that a clock was needed for this location and proceeded to solicit donations for its purchase. Those wise enough to buy shares were treated to a party every year at TLA Annual Conference until shareholders either died, moved to other states, or got promoted at work. James was in the later category. To compensate for the lost of Coo-Coo fun, he and others (you know who you are) established the D-W interest group. All of this proves that a person may grown older but they don’t have to grow up. I will miss Jimbo and his humor an awful lot.

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