Category Archives: Havins

Robert Thomas Havins – Part 2

As so often is the case – ask and you shall receive! This picture of Thomas Robert Havins came to us yesterday from cousin Beverly Atwood Blankenship of Lawn, Texas. Thanks Beverly!


As we learned in Part 1, our great grand-uncle, Thomas Robert Havins, served in the United States Army as a Captain during World War II. Since he was a long-time resident of Brownwood, Texas, I wondered if he had received his military training at Camp Bowie.

My husband has recounted childhood memories of hunting and camping on “Bowie” mountain; however, it wasn’t until now that I realized that Camp Bowie was an actual military training center (which grew to be one of the largest in Texas during World War II).

After I started digging into the history of Camp Bowie, I was surprised to read that not only was it a training center for our young soldiers – it was also a prison camp which consisted of two separate prisons – one was known as the rehabilitation center (that restored men back to health and duty – I don’t know why this would be considered a prison); and the other was a German Prisoner of War Camp. This camp also housed a small amount of Italian and Japanese prisoners and was known as Camp Bowie Internment Camp.

The first German prisoners of war began arriving at Camp Bowie during August of 1943 – there would eventually be about 2,700 men. Most of these men were members of Rommel’s Afrika Corps. The men were made to work either on the camp or as day laborers for local farmers and ranchers, often times picking cotton or corn.

Compared to how our boys were treated, it sounds like these prisoners had it fairly easy. The prisoners were up by 5:45 a.m. and lights were out at 10:00 p.m. They were given English lessons and many other classes including farming, forestry, electrical, bookkeeping, etc. Musical groups were formed, including a 10-piece orchestra. Each compound had a theater, wood working shop and day rooms with ping-pong tables, cards and other forms of entertainment. Exercise was encouraged on the two soccer fields and tennis courts. Movies were shown twice per week. The prisoners farmed 125 acres producing their own fruits and vegetables. The prisoners were provided medical and dental care – by one American doctor; one American dentist; three German doctors; and one German dental assistant.

Camp Bowie – Entrance

At this point in time, we know that Robert served in World War II from 1942-1945; however, we don’t know a lot about his service locations. However, I came across a small treasure on the internet. The letter below was written by Thomas’ wife, Mrs. T. R. Havins (Mottie Frierson) to Dr. Karl H. Moore (Pastor, First Baptist Church, Brownwood, Brown County, Texas), in which she thanks him for praying for her “boys” who were in the military. The letter is postmarked March 26, 1943, Brownwood, Texas, and reads as follows: Dear Dr. Moore: I want to express my appreciation for the Church Bulletin of March 14. I am so happy to know that my boys name is on your Church Roll, and that you are interested in him as well as all the other boys of your church, who are in the armed forces. I will deeply appreciate your prayers for him. 


Posted by on August 16, 2011 in Atwood, Havins, Times and Places


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Thomas Robert Havins – Part 1

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.

Scranton Academy

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).

Howard Payne University

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.

Thomas Robert Havins - Final Resting Place

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. 

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Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Atwood, Havins


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