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A Legacy to Remember “Archie McDonald lived his life exceptionally well with grace, intelligence and integrity; above all, with humor, generosity, kindness and compassion.” – Dr. Elizabeth Deanne Malpass, SFA professor of history “Dr. McDonald loved to teach. Even after officially retiring, he continued to teach a class of more than 100 students each semester.” – Dr. John Dahmus, SFA professor of history “What I’ll remember most about Archie McDonald is his generosity regarding the work of fellow historians. Far from seeing others as competitors, he was always glad to share sources, reference materials and, most importantly, his own vast knowledge.” – Jeff Guinn, author “Texas has lost one of our best historians. Archie’s knowledge of Texas history was unsurpassed. Living in Texas’ oldest town and teaching at SFA, he specialized in East Texas history and lore. His research was prodigious. He will be missed by all who knew him.” – Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. senator “I never ceased to admire Archie’s vision, energy and commitment to his discipline. He was a true scholar, and he searched for knowledge to share, never to hoard.” – Dr. Francis Abernethy, SFA professor emeritus “Archie was a loyal friend and church member who was always aware of people who were hurting, worn-out, beaten-down or on the margins of life.” – The Rev. Kyle Childress, pastor of Austin Heights Baptist Church “Archie’s legacy as a role model for the highest standards of both history and personal life continues on. There is perhaps no more fitting tribute for a historian than to be such an integral part of the past he spent a lifetime pursuing.” – Dan K. Utley, former chief historian of the Texas Historical Commission and past president of the East Texas Historical Association. “I am honored to remember Dr. Archie McDonald not only as a longtime friend, but also an extraordinary educator, prolific author, force for good and fellow musician. He is one of the most important history students ever to graduate from Lamar University, as evidenced by his books and other writings and his impact on generations of students.” – Dr. James M. Simmons, president of Lamar University “With the passing of Dr. Archie McDonald, SFA has lost one of its greatest ambassadors. A lifelong student of American history and culture, he leaves behind his own rich legacy of scholarship, service, humor and friendship.” – Dr. Baker Pattillo, SFA president


Dr. Archie P. McDonald, distinguished scholar, historian and beloved history professor at SFA where he taught for 48 years, passed away in August. As a tribute to McDonald’s legacy of scholarship, service and humor, Sawdust has chosen to reprint one of the last essays he penned for his popular weekly commentary on Red River Radio, an NPR affiliate.

FUNERALS By Dr. Archie P. McDonald


ERE WE GO again with funerals – probably because I am attending way too many of them these days. Part of this won’t resonate with you today, I hope, because the funeral which prompts this lament occurred last August, with 105-degree heat bearing down on a 30-minute graveside service. Blamed preacher said “in conclusion” three times before he let the departed go on his way. That ain’t gonna happen when I kick the bucket. I’ve made plans and filed them with the preacher. Here’s what will happen: Cremation is OK. I don’t relish lying in the ground for eternity. Just make sure I’m good and gone before you light the fire, or I’ll think the devil got me after all; The service MUST be at Austin Heights Baptist Church, the one that has let me be its Designated Sinner for four and a half decades. I’ve never been comfortable anywhere else since we started Austin Heights. Judy said helping start that church is going to be her ticket to heaven, and I’m counting on her grace spilling over on me a little; Most flowers make me sneeze, but I’ve always liked roses so have one of those, and give anything left over to the Benevolence Fund; The preacher MUST be the current pastor of Austin Heights, but if the Revs. Jerry Self, Roger Paynter, Jim Denham or Kyle Childress show up, make ’em say something nice about me for a change. I know I’ve been the congregation’s resident cusser and all-around sinner, but, hey, tell ’em not to

speak as ill of the departed as they did when I was their greatest challenge; Sadness, well, I want SOME of it, so make sure a choir sings “Amazing Grace,” but do leave on a happy note. How about “When the Saints Go Marching In” because some folks will enjoy the irony. Pallbearers – I’m not sure any are needed, but if used, make sure one of them is a gal. Judy says I’ve always been partial to women anyway, and besides, I’ve never seen a woman pallbearer; Make sure it is raining, the way it always is in the movies; Tell my brother John, administrator of whatever I haven’t spent, to take everyone somewhere for a send-off toast with the beverages of their choice; Scripture – use that one when Jesus said he wasn’t lying about salvation. Lord knows I sinned aplenty, not as much as I could have because I wanted to at least be a little worthy of His sacrifice, and because I didn’t want to disappoint Mother and Aunt Venie. I didn’t mention Judy because she has been well aware of my actual and potential sins and loved me anyway; Tell everyone I regret my shortcomings and thank them for their kindness; Finally, read this testimony to whomever shows up, so they won’t blame anyone else, and tell them I left pretty much without my consent. And when you say “in conclusion”. . ., MEAN it, for heaven’s sake!


Sawdust Winter 2012  

Sawdust is the magazine of the SFA Alumni Association and Stephen F. Austin State University