By Jessica Tucker, Archivist
On September 21, 2017, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) lost of one of its greatest treasures—Tony Black, longtime archivist, coworker, and friend, following a brief illness. Tony faithfully served the state of Texas for over 35 years. Beginning in 1981 as a typist and receptionist in the Library Development Division, Tony eventually became an appraisal and processing archivist at TSLAC, dividing his time between assessing the historical value of state agency records (such those of the Texas Adjutant General, the Comptroller of Public Accounts, and the Secretary of State) and arranging and describing a wide variety of archival records ranging from the Howard Hughes estate litigation papers to the gubernatorial records of Governors George W. Bush and Rick Perry. In addition to Tony’s extensive work with the records of the Adjutant General, the Comptroller of Public Accounts, and the Department of Human Services, there are finding aids written by Tony on Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) for the records of over 30 other state agencies. (These finding aids are available online at http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/browse/browse_tslac1.html.)
Tony was always a bright spot in the halls of TSLAC, known for his good nature and humor. When named Employee of the Quarter in 2012, one coworker described him as “…one of the nicest, most helpful individuals I have ever met… He is not the type of person to ever make you feel that your question is silly, or not important, or that you are bothering him with it. This consideration and warm approachability extends to everyone in the agency, including members of other divisions and patrons.” Others commented on “the amazing depth and breadth of his knowledge of [TSLAC’s] records.” Another colleague remarked that the only time she had ever seen Tony angry was when he was accidentally locked in the stack for a few hours on a Friday afternoon over a decade ago. Tony frequently recounted this cautionary tale to new employees with a laugh, throwing up his hands in his characteristic gesture of amused bafflement.
Born in Roswell, New Mexico, and raised in El Paso, Texas, Tony’s passion for history began early. Tony received a B.A. in history from the University of Texas at El Paso in 1968, and followed by an M.A. in medieval history from the University of Texas at Austin in 1970. After a year in Spain, researching the socio-economic structure of Vic (a Catalan city) during the 1390s, Tony returned to El Paso to teach United States history, where he met and married his wife, Carole. Tony never lost his love of teaching. After the couple returned to Austin, Tony began teaching U.S. History at Austin Community College, which he continued to do while employed full time at TSLAC. Tony began work at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in the Library Development Division in 1981. He then worked briefly in the Secretary of State’s office, administering one of the ethics laws for the Campaign and Ethics section of the Elections Division, followed by a job editing the Texas Administrative Code for the Texas Register Division, but he returned to TSLAC in 1984.
Tony was devoted to his wife Carole, sister Pam, and his much-discussed dogs. He was also known for lovely cello playing during the annual TSLAC holiday fundraiser.
Justifiably proud of his work at TSLAC, Tony once exclaimed to a researcher, “I have the perfect job!” His legacy is clear in his many processing and appraisal projects, the archivists he mentored, and the researchers he helped.