Robert Thomas Havins (1890–1976) was my husband’s great-grand uncle, and the brother to Hattie Havins Atwood, my husband’s great-grandmother. Most of the information that I have on Robert comes from a biography written on him by Mrs. Gordon Creel for the Handbook of Texas Online which is published by the Texas Historical Association, and credit is given to this author here.
Thomas Robert Havins, a historian and college professor, was born on October 6, 1890, to William Eastland Havins and Frances Emaline (Fannie) McCall in Merkel, Taylor County, Texas. It was there that his mother Fannie died while he was still an infant. After the death of Robert’s mother, his father, a sheep herder, moved his young family often throughout central Texas. During a stay in Callahan County he sent his son Tom to Scranton Academy and then later, in 1907, to Howard Payne College (now Howard Payne University) in Brownwood, Brown County, Texas.
Robert taught in small public schools from 1909 to 1921. He began working as a librarian at Howard Payne College in 1923 and received a B.A. degree there in 1927. In 1931 he received his M.A. degree from the University of Texas and began teaching history and government at Howard Payne. He taught there until his retirement in 1961, except when he left to obtain a Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas (awarded in 1941) and to serve in the United States Army Air Force as an officer during World War II.
Robert was chairman of the department of social sciences and was the first recipient of the Howard Payne Oscar, an award for faculty achievement. He was credited with teaching more students than any other teacher in the school’s history and was named professor emeritus upon retirement. He served as a visiting professor of history at the University of Texas (1962–63).
From 1947 to 1953 he was a member of the Texas Prison Board and was recognized for his role in helping reform the state’s prison system. The Havins Unit in Brownwood, Brown County, Texas is named in his honor.
Robert was made a fellow of the Texas State Historical Society in 1959. He wrote Something About Brown (1958), a history of Brown County; Camp Colorado: A Decade of Defense (1964); Beyond the Cimarron: Major Earl Van Dorn in Comanche Land (1968); and Belle Plain, Texas: Ghost Town in Callahan (1972). He published numerous articles in the 1952 Handbook of Texas, the Southern Baptist Encyclopedia, Texas Military History, Texana, and the West Texas Historical Association Yearbook. He was also the author of a column, Evergreen, published in the Brownwood Bulletin in 1960 and 1961, for which he won a Texas Press Association award.
Thomas Robert Havins was married on June 14, 1915, to Mottie Frierson, who died on June 26, 1970. They had a son (Thomas Robert Havins, Jr. 1918-1995) and a daughter (Mary Elizabeth Havins Creel 1928-?). In 1972 Havins married Myrtle Kimberlin. He was a Baptist and Democrat. He died in Baptist Memorial Hospital in San Angelo on February 6, 1976, and was buried in Eastlawn Memorial Park in Early.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Brownwood Bulletin, February 7, 1976. T. R. Havins Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin; Mrs. Gordon Creel; See related articles by: Mrs. Gordon Creel, “HAVINS, THOMAS ROBERT,” Handbook of Texas Online Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
We are very interested in making contact with any family members who might be willing to share a photograph of Robert – as we do not have one in our ancestry collection.