Category Archives: Archives of the Big Bend

McKay Journals Donated to Archives; One of Sul Ross’ First Students

Media Contact: Stephen Lang, Director of News and Publications,
For Release: April 28, 2017

Pat (front, left) and Julius Dasch (right) present Dr. James Welborn McKay’s journals to the Archives of the Big Bend archivist Lisa Zakharova and senior archivist Melleta Bell (center). (Photo by Steve Lang)

Journals and coursework notebooks from one of Sul Ross State University’s first students were donated to the Archives of the Big Bend Thursday (April 27).

The John Welborn McKay Collection was presented by Sul Ross Distinguished Alumnus, E. Julius Dasch, his wife Pat, and Dr. George Bradley, retired Sul Ross Professor of Communication and Theatre. The collection includes six volumes of the McKay Chronicles (1-5, 7), containing 788 handwritten pages, as well as four coursework notebooks.

Photo of James Welborn McKay from the 1922 Brand Yearbook

McKay was a student at Sul Ross Normal College from September 1920 — the first year of classes at what is now Sul Ross State University — through May 1923, when he graduated. He later had a lengthy career at the U.S. Horticultural Station, now known as the National Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, MD. McKay, who later earned a Ph.D., conducted research on nut trees, preparing and presenting numerous papers on the subject.

Bradley purchased the collection from Phyllis Noland, Phoenix, AZ. Noland bought the items at an auction in Mesa, AZ, and assumes they came from a storage building.

McKay’s daughter Jan attended Sul Ross during the 1954-55 academic year, when Julius Dasch was an undergraduate student in geology. Jan McKay died several years ago, but Julius Dasch remained in contact with her brother, Warren, Washington, D.C., who worked for the Library of Congress. Bradley, Julius and Pat Dasch and Warren McKay authored “The John Welborn McKay Chronicles,” and made a presentation at the 2007 Center for Big Bend Studies conference.

Following the presentation, the journals and course notes were given to Warren McKay. He returned the notebooks to Julius Dasch earlier this year on the condition of their donation to the Archives of the Big Bend. The Chronicles begin on Nov. 28, 1938 and end on July 5, 1968  and include information about McKay’s work, trips taken, visits to the beach, illnesses, his children Jan and Warren, purchases of cars and household items, involvement in community and church work, as well as various pictures and documents.

Photo of James Welborn McKay from the 1923 Brand Yearbook

At Sul Ross, McKay was the first president of the Big Bend Literary Society and was named in the 1922 Brand yearbook as continuing in that role as well as serving as president of the freshman class, staff photographer for the Brand, assistant secretary of the Boys Glee Club, business manager of the Boys Athletic Council, and a member of the basketball team.

“These journals serve as a unique record of the life of one of the first students to attend and graduate from Sul Ross State University,” Julius Dasch said.

For more information, contact Melleta Bell, Archives of the Big Bend, (432) 837-8127 or