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The Early Life of Hattie Elam Briscoe

February 8, 2016

In honor of Black History Month, Top Shelf is featuring a look at the early life and educational accomplishments of Hattie Elam Briscoe.


Hattie, upon her graduation from St. Mary’s Law School, 1956.

Hattie Ruth Elam Briscoe was born to Cloral Burton Elam and Willy Perry Elam in Shreveport, Louisiana on November 13, 1916. She was the second of five children. Hattie’s mother taught her children to read and write before entering school, which resulted in Hattie skipping a grade level upon entering elementary school. Her mother also encouraged and inspired Hattie to go to college. Sadly, her mother suffered a stroke and passed away at the age of thirty-three. Hattie was just nine years old. After her mother’s passing, her father moved the family to Marshall, Texas. Her father remarried, but unfortunately Hattie’s new stepmother was not terribly kind to her. When she was sixteen, her father “whipped” her at her stepmother’s request, and she decided to run away from home. She stayed with friends initially, but then began working as a cook for another family in exchange for room, board, and other necessities.

Upon graduating from high school, Hattie won a scholarship to Wylie College, where she majored in education and minored in German. While attending Wylie, Hattie met her future husband, William Briscoe, a San Antonio native. After college, she began teaching fourth grade in Wichita Falls, Texas. She and William married in secret (due to her teaching job) on October 12, 1940. In 1941 Hattie left her teaching job in Wichita Falls and moved with William to San Antonio.





William Briscoe, 1952.

William had previously attended cosmetology school in Austin, and opened his own seven chair beauty shop in San Antonio on the corner of Pine and Alabama Streets. He passed his skills on to Hattie, who was then able to take and pass the state board without attending cosmetology school. After working with William in their shop, she attended Hicks Beauty School to obtain her instructor’s license, and began working for the same school afterwards. She also taught cosmetology at Wheatley School (now Brackenridge High School) for six years.

While teaching at Wheatley, William encouraged Hattie to return to school for her master’s degree. However, upon obtaining her master’s degree in administration and supervision from Prairie View A&M University, she was fired from her job at Wheatley. Hattie speculated that it may have been due to jealousy from the superintendent (he had the same degree), but never found out for certain why she had been fired. She had wanted to be the first black state supervisor in cosmetology, though this did not come to fruition.




Hattie began looking for work, and was able to find employment with Kelly Air Force Base as a secretary.  In the meantime, her friend, Dr. Ruth Ann Bellinger, encouraged her to go to law school. Hattie applied to St. Mary’s University School of Law and was accepted. She managed to work full time throughout school and performed at the top of her class. In 1956, she became the first black woman to graduate from St. Mary’s School of Law. She was the only black female attorney in Bexar County for the next 27 years, earning numerous awards and honors. She passed away on October 17, 2002.






“Well, if you’re determined to do something, you just do it.” – Hattie Elam Briscoe, 1997.


The Hattie Elam Briscoe Papers are housed at UTSA’s Main Campus and can be viewed by appointment in the John Peace Library Special Collections Reading Room. The collection guide for the papers is available online. Additionally, items from the collection have been scanned and can be viewed online.



Interivew with Hattie Elam Briscoe. February 21, 1997. Archives for Research on Women and Gender Oral History Project, MS 317, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

Biography of Attorney Hattie Elam Briscoe. Hattie Elam Briscoe Papers, MS 67, Box 1, Folder 1, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

National Archives Awards UTSA Libraries $146k to Support Major Research Collection on Latino Vote

January 25, 2016

In May 2015 we announced the acquisition of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project/William C. Velásquez Records. The collection–one of the largest archival acquisitions in UTSA Libraries’ history—consists of 500 linear feet of documents and 154 pieces of audiovisual material. The collection covers the organization’s first 20 years, from 1974 to 1994, and includes redistricting maps, voter exit surveys, GOTV campaign planning materials, pre-election surveys, office files, research files, research publications, and newsletters.

We are very excited to announce that The National Archives of the United States has awarded the UTSA Libraries a $145,650 grant to process the records and digitize the audiovisual material in the collection.

The grant is one of the largest awarded by the National Archives this year, and will cover the additional staff needed to process the collection so it can be used for research. The work is expected to take approximately two years.

Not only is this grant a huge honor of distinction for UTSA, but it commemorates the legacy of Willie Velásquez and recognizes the continued hard work and dedication of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project and the William C. Velásquez Institute staff.

Be on the lookout for regular Top Shelf posts on the progress of this project!

San Antonio Celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 18, 2016

Today over 200,000 residents of San Antonio and the region are expected to march side by side through the streets of the city’s East Side to commemorate and honor the memory of the civil rights leader, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The 29th annual MLK March will begin at 10 a.m. at the MLK Academy located in the 3500 block of MLK Drive and end at Pittman-Sullivan Park, 1101 Iowa (march route and info).

Although various civic and community organizations have been organizing memorial processions and ceremonies on Dr. King’s birthday in the 1970s, it was not until 1986 that the City officially recognized, sanctioned and supported the celebrations.

On April 3, 1986, the San Antonio City Council through City Resolution No. 86-15-19 under the leadership of then-Mayor Henry Cisneros established a volunteer organization “The MLK, Jr. Commission” to organize and oversee the march and various events around the city that commemorate and celebrate the life and vision of the civil rights leader.


On January 19, 1987, chaired by Aaronetta Pierce, the Commission and the City of San Antonio held its first official Martin Luther King, Jr. March.

The marches continued each year, but it was not until 1991 that the third Monday in January would become an official, paid state holiday allowing city and state employees, families and individuals to participate in the community events and reflect on the messages of Dr. King. Many individuals, local and regional activists, civil rights advocates, state and the city leaders as well as the National Football League championed the establishment of an official holiday in Texas.

In San Antonio, Mario Marcel Salas, a prominent advocate for San Antonio’s African-American community and a key member of local activist groups such as the San Antonio chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Organizations United for Eastside Development, Black Coalition on Mass Media, and Frontline 2000 spearheaded the movement behind the MLK holiday. On June 12, 1991, Governor Ann Richards signed into law a bill creating a state holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.


The Mario Marcel Salas papers document his activities to establish the holiday and shed light on the strategies of the activists as well as the rhetoric of the opposition in the aftermath of the bill’s passing.




Pals Social Club 90th Anniversary Display

January 11, 2016
Pals 90th Anniversary Ice Sculpture

90th Anniversary ice sculpture backlit with holiday décor.

On December 20th, UTSA Special Collections exhibited items from the Pals Social Club Collection, which has been previously featured on Top Shelf. Items from the collection were displayed at the organization’s annual debutante ball, which was held at the University of the Incarnate Word’s Rosenberg Sky Room. 2015 marked the 90th anniversary of the organization.

The display featured photos of debutantes and Pals Club members, articles about debutantes, and invitations from past balls. The items displayed ranged in date from 1928 to 2013. Some San Antonio families have legacies of presenting the young women in their family as Pals debutantes. Those in attendance were able to see their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, daughters, and even themselves in the photos.

The Pals Social Club was founded in 1925, deriving their name from the motto “Pleasant Attitude towards Life.” They began hosting debutante balls in 1928, and have done so every year with the exception of a short pause during World War II. Each group of debutantes is called a coterie; the 2015 coterie included eight debutantes. The annual ball, also known as a cotillion, is held in December and marks the beginning of the social season. During this time debutantes are honored at parties, and host as well as attend events in the community.

Pals Social Club Collection items on display.

Pals Social Club Collection items on display.

Potential debutantes must be at least 18 years old, enrolled in college, and are selected by a vote from Pals Club members. Additionally, each debutante is sponsored by a Pals Club member. Each debutante wears a white gown and is presented with flowers from her mother before performing a formal bow. She is then escorted around the ballroom by her father as her accomplishments and future goals are read aloud. The presentations are followed by dances with their fathers and escorts for the evening. After the presentations, dinner is served and guests enjoy music and dancing. Below is a selection of the items featured in the display.


5 O’clock bridge party honoring Tallulah Lane. L-R: Mamie Smith, Fay Gray, Marietta Black, Geraldine Thomas, Williams, Grace Kirtz, Tallulah Lane, Lorraine Kirby, Clara Carter, Ama Landry, and Minnie Emily Lowery, 1940.



Invitation to the 1940 cotillion.



Arthur Marie Taylor, Debutante engaged on the evening of her presentation, 1950.



Pals Club Members. L-R: Marilyn Gardner, Carolyn McDonald, Louise Grant, Henrietta Flower Herndor, Marnenette Smith, Priscilla Preacher Armstead, Sara Spear Cook, December 1968.



1977-78 Debutante Coterie

An online guide for the collection was prepared shortly after UTSA acquired the items in 2014, and the collection is open for research. Additionally, the club’s 80th anniversary book has been digitized and is available to view online.

Travel Grants for Faculty Teaching with Special Collections

January 4, 2016

Faculty-Travel-Grants-Logo_3x3_2015 (002)

We’re proud to announce a new grant program for faculty interested in designing or invigorating their courses with unique content from UTSA’s Special Collections.

UTSA Special Collections invites applications for the Special Collections Faculty Grants for the 2016-17 academic year. The grants are aimed at instructors who would like to design or invigorate an undergraduate or graduate course with unique content from UTSA Special Collections, generating innovative primary source assignments and projects for students.

Special Collections Faculty Grants offer instructors an opportunity to create semester long courses that utilize rare and unique collections housed in UTSA Special Collections. The intent is to introduce students to a variety of contextualized primary sources, engage them in-depth archival research, build their critical thinking skills, and stress participation in collaborative projects and presentations.

UTSA’s manuscript and rare book collections are well suited for faculty interested in teaching evidence-based research methods, public history, book studies (broadly defined), or material culture in a variety of subject areas and topics.

UTSA Special Collections brings national recognition to the university for distinctive research materials documenting the diverse histories and development of San Antonio and South Texas. Signature collecting areas include the histories of the Mexican-American, African-American and LGBTQ communities in San Antonio, the history of women and gender in Texas, the Tex-Mex food industry, as well as regional photography, architecture and urban planning.

In addition, Special Collections has a wide range of materials from around the world, enabling research and instruction in a variety of disciplines from medieval art to creative writing. Special Collections also houses UTSA’s own history archives, providing a rich source for UTSA institutional history as well as photographs and faculty/staff papers.


Four (4) grant recipients will receive $1,000 to supplement their departmental annual travel allowance. Upon award, the money will be transferred to the recipient’s department and earmarked for the recipient’s use.


Special Collections Faculty Grants are open to UTSA tenured, tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty teaching undergraduate and graduate courses at any level. Interdisciplinary approaches are strongly encouraged.

Preference will be given to course design that:

  • Involves close collaboration with an archivist or rare books librarian to define specific learning objectives for the visit to the archives, select materials or documents, design tailored small group activities, and model document analysis though directed prompts
  • Utilizes Special Collections materials and spaces throughout the semester
    • scaffolded research and writing assignments using variety of primary sources
    • training in critical analysis and use of primary source materials through specific and tailored prompts
    • student engagement with scholarly communications, social media, blogs or exhibit curation/creationProvides opportunities for students to do at least one of the following:

Selection Criteria

Successful proposals will demonstrate how students will benefit from the opportunity to select, analyze and use primary sources to learn and create new knowledge. Proposals will be evaluated for:

  • Feasibility: Is the project realistic in terms of what can be accomplished? Does the proposal communicate clearly the project’s central goals, learning objectives, and approaches?
  • Depth of integration: To what extent will special collections materials be integrated throughout the course?
  • Innovative pedagogy: Does the project employ well designed practices or approaches that are either new to the instructor, course, or department or new to the application of those practices? If so, how do these new approaches facilitate student learning?
  • Partnership building: Does the instructor-librarian/archivist collaboration help to build or strengthen connections between the academic program and the Libraries? What is the extent and the nature of the collaboration between the instructor and the librarian?

Application Process

To apply, faculty should submit a 2-3 page concept paper for incorporating Special Collections materials into an existing course, or designing a new course that would include an intellectually central archival or rare books component. Proposals should be accompanied by an endorsement from the department chair.

The deadline for proposals is 5 p.m. CST on Friday, February 26, 2016. Applications should be submitted to Award recipients will be notified on March 15, 2016.

For more information or questions about the application process please contact Agnieszka Czeblakow, Rare Books Librarian.


Names and Places of UTSA: Dr. Edward Treviño Ximenes

December 28, 2015

This month we continue “Names and Places of UTSA,” a blog series on university history, with a post by archives student assistant, Marissa Del Toro.

Portrait of Dr. Edward Treviño Ximenes courtesy of Former Regents of the University of Texas System.

This month we take a look at Dr. Edward Treviño Ximenes, a man who lived an honorable life as a physician and civic leader here in San Antonio. Dr. Ximenes was the first Hispanic member appointed to the Board of Regents for the University of Texas System, as well as an advocate for scholarships to be awarded to young Mexican American students interested in medicine. For his work as both an advocate and inspiration to the community, UTSA recognized his contributions through the naming of a prominent campus street, parking garage and lot after him.

Dr. Ximenes was originally born in Floresville, Texas, on September 25, 1915 to Joe and Herlinda (Treviño) Ximenes. He attended the Lodi School and Floresville School, graduating as salutatorian where he received a scholarship to the Schreiner Institute in Kerrville. After his time at Schreiner, Dr. Ximenes received his bachelor’s degree in 1937 from the University of Texas. His interests in medicine led him to pursue his medical degree at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in 1941.

A year after he received his medical degree, Dr. Ximenes joined the Army Air Corps and was assigned to the China-Burma-India theater as a captain and flight surgeon during WWII. The US presence in China and Southeast Asia area was established to assist China in its war with Japan. At the end of his service, Ximenes was awarded the Air Medal with the oak-leaf cluster. President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Air Medal by Executive Order 9158 on May 11, 1942. This award is given to any service member of the Armed Forces of the United States who shows commendable achievement while participating in aerial flight.

New regents sworn in by Chief Justice Robert Calvert at the Alumni Center are, left to right, Frank Ikard, Joe Kilgore, and Dr. Edward Ximenes. Courtesy Alcalde, The University of Texas Alumni Magazine, September 1967.

New regents sworn in by Chief Justice Robert Calvert at the Alumni Center are, left to right, Frank Ikard, Joe Kilgore, and Dr. Edward Ximenes. Courtesy Alcalde, The University of Texas Alumni Magazine, September 1967.

Upon his discharge, Dr. Ximenes moved to San Antonio to practice internal medicine, where he stayed for more than 40 years. During this time he was appointed by Governor John B. Connally to the UT System Board of Regents in 1967. He served from July of that year to January 1971. As previously mentioned he was the first Hispanic appointed to the position since the Board of Regent’s establishment in 1881. As regent he was a vocal proponent in the establishment of UTSA in its emerging years but also in the development of UTSA scholarships for young Mexican Americans interested in medicine and science. He was a considerable man, who also served on the National Advisory Board for the Administration on Aging and a member of the Bexar County Medical Association, the American Medical Association, the Economic Opportunity Development Corporation of Bexar County, the Model Cities Participation Commission, and the Alamo Area Council of the Health Coordination Committee.

At the end of his term as regent, Dr. Ximenes was described in a resolution as having a great sense of integrity and good judgment that made a vital model for future board members. Dr. Ximenes lived in San Antonio until his death on April 27, 1992; he was buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, where he received full military honors. His name and legacy lives on in the prominent road on the south side of campus.

Board of Regents resolution honoring W. H. Bauer, Jack S. Josey, and E. T. Ximenes, M.D.


Hercilia X. Toscano, “XIMENES, EDWARD TREVINO,” Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed December 14, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

“Ximenes, Edward Treviño, “Former Regents the University of Texas System (, accessed December 14, 2015.

Holiday Lights in San Antonio

December 21, 2015

San Antonio is known for the dazzling light displays that appear after Thanksgiving each year. Tourists come to the city to stroll beneath the lights hanging from the Cypress Trees along the River Walk. People enjoy driving by the colorful lights in the oaks on the campus of the University of the Incarnate Word.   Numerous residences are decorated with strings of lights.

Though illuminated holiday decorations became more common in the second half of the 20th century, there were interesting displays in previous decades. These photographs document some of the holiday lights from the late 1930s to 1950s.


Lights on the Gibbs Building and the Rotary Club Christmas tree, behind the Cenotaph on Alamo Plaza, early 1950s. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: 0364-A-06)

Lights on the Gibbs Building and the Rotary Club Christmas tree, behind the Cenotaph on Alamo Plaza, early 1950s. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: Z-0364-A-06)















J. L. Clark’s Gulf Super Service Station Number One, 1739 Fredericksburg Road, 1939. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: 0967-B-04)

J. L. Clark’s Gulf Super Service Station Number One, 1739 Fredericksburg Road, corner of North Zaramora Street, 1939. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: Z-0967-B-04)


Sears, Roebuck and Company, Romana Plaza Store, corner of Navarro and Soledad Streets, circa 1948. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: 2274-B-01)

Sears, Roebuck and Company, Romana Plaza Store, corner of Navarro and Soledad Streets, circa 1948. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: Z-2274-B-01)


Transit Tower (now Tower Life Building), from the corner of St. Mary’s and Nueva Streets, circa 1948. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: 0364-A-07)

Transit Tower (now Tower Life Building), from the corner of South St. Mary’s and East Nueva Streets, circa 1948. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: Z-0364-A-07)


Houston Street looking east from St. Mary’s Street, 1947. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: 0364-A-01)

East Houston Street looking east from St. Mary’s Street, 1947. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: Z-0364-A-01)


Houston Street looking west from Broadway, 1958. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS : 0364-4)

East Houston Street looking west from Broadway, 1958. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS : Z-0364-4)


Frank T. Brady residence, 300 Alameda Circle, Olmos Park, 1940. (San Antonio Light Photograph Collection, MS 359: 2626-L)

Frank T. Brady residence, 300 Alameda Circle, Olmos Park, 1940. (San Antonio Light Photograph Collection, MS 359: L-2626-L)






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