Monday, September 24, 2018

Betsy Vardaman relates more about the last years of her very intellectually engaged husband


Baylor University, alma mater to the student James Vardaman, called him to a professorship in its history department in 1967 for the next 33 years, and his wife, Betsy, tells us of his busy retirement years after that:
Then retirement began and he filled his days with even more volumes and topics, ranging more freely from Africa, to South America, to the American West, to the cosmos, to the history of salt, to the novels of Cormac McCarthy.

He had great friends and immediately began to organize lunch groups . . . . On occasion, they came to our home and, sitting in the library, enjoyed homemade apple or pecan pie . . . . Jim was, of course, a dynamic presence in those and many other conversations that took place in "the room." He was a master at orchestrating discussions, choosing when to remain quiet and listen; when to posit a complex, follow-up question; when to challenge or complicate a historical point or provide context; when to contribute an anecdote or correct a date about a leader, scoundrel, war, world issue; or if encouraged slightly, when to explain the riveting history of the potato.
More tomorrow from Betsy, the person who knew him best. The quotes are from her Remembrances of Dr. James W. Vardaman and his Library.

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