Local History -- Putting Fresh Angles on National Events

Holding Forth the Word of Life: The Witness of a Downtown Church; First Presbyterian Church Dallas 1856-2006. Gift of Dr. T. Bradford Willis in memory of Hester Beck Willis and J. Todd Willis, Jr. Call No. folio BX 9211 .D25 A33 2006
Holding Forth the Word of Life: The Witness of a Downtown Church; First Presbyterian Church Dallas 1856-2006. Gift of Dr. T. Bradford Willis in memory of Hester Beck Willis and J. Todd Willis, Jr. Call No. folio BX 9211 .D25 A33 2006

Broad outlines build up over time to tell familiar stories of the settling of the West, for example, or the struggle for an eight hour day. Switching from the big picture to the small one often puts a fresh spin on events that affected the nation.

Paging through a typical church history for First Presbyterian Church, Dallas, Texas, we come across six pages devoted to the roles church members played in the drama of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. One photographer was so close to the motorcade that he saw one of the bullets hit the president. Another took the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Ruby shooting Oswald, locking the negative in a bank vault for safekeeping. The entire congregation could not leave Sunday services when Oswald was shot, due to the downtown church’s proximity to the city municipal building.

Accounts like these make history more human and accessible. That’s why the Newberry welcomes donations of faith organizations’ histories and all types of local histories from all over the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Western Europe. To discuss the donation of local history materials to the Newberry, contact Matt Rutherford, Curator of Genealogy and Local History, at 312-255-3671 or rutherfordm@newberry.org.

By Grace Dumelle

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