The Great Eleanor Roosevelt Mystery: Solved!

Over the years I’ve had several people tell me that they remember hearing Eleanor Roosevelt talk in the library’s Lecture Lounge (later called the Kyle Morrow Room). I always believed these people, of course, but we were never able to find any confirmation that she was on campus. There’s no story in the Thresher and her name doesn’t appear on the list of dignitaries who have visited. (This proves nothing, by the way. Academics don’t always report their activities to the archives or to anyone else for that matter. You might recall we also missed a visit from the King of Belgium.)

About a year ago, though, I ran across a very tantalizing piece of evidence in the oversized photo files. Here is Mrs. Roosevelt with the Rice librarian, Hardin Craig, but they aren’t here–they’re in a studio on the University of Houston campus. It’s unlabeled and undated:



So, close but not quite there yet.

Then yesterday I was looking for pictures of Sammy in the 1955 Campanile (don’t ask) and lo and behold, here she is, inside Fondren Library, again with Dr. Craig:

Eleanor Roosevelt 1955 campanile 1


Eleanor Roosevelt 1955 campanile 2


It’s kind of hard to tell from the fuzzy yearbook photo but this might have been the same day. She’s got the same hat on and probably the same dress. I can’t see if the necklace is there or not.

The lingering mystery to me is what panel discussion would have involved both Eleanor Roosevelt and Hardin Craig. Now that I have an approximate date I can try to figure it out.



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16 Responses to The Great Eleanor Roosevelt Mystery: Solved!

  1. marmer01 says:

    I am reasonably unconvinced that Mr. Craig is wearing the same chalk stripe suit and foulard tie that he is in the panel discussion picture. This might be a day earlier or later.

    • That doesn’t look like a chalk stripe suit to me. It looks like an english wool light herringbone pattern. That is certainly what I would choose if I was meeting Eleanor Roosevelt.

      I think it could be the same suit. And I really want the pattern on the tie to be owls.

  2. almadenmike says:

    Sorry for the long post, but here’s what appears to be the story:

    Mrs. Roosevelt’s visit was sponsored by the American Association of the United Nations Association ( … “In 1955, the AAUN offered to send Eleanor Roosevelt to Houston. By this time, she was no longer a delegate to the Human Rights Commission, and she was in great demand as a lecturer. … Like Ambassador Lodge, she would not speak to a segregated audience. The only possibility for an integrated luncheon was the YMCA cafeteria on Rusk, but the program was scheduled for Saturday when the “Y” was closed. The staff and help volunteered to open the “Y” and work without pay. A gratifying audience of 210 attended the luncheon. A group called the Minute Women threatened to picket and otherwise disturb Mrs. Roosevelt’s visit, but chapter members let it be known that a Houston newspaper had offered to have a photographer present at all times to record any disruptions. The threat did not materialize. …”

    It turns out that Mrs. Roosevelt wrote “My Day” report on her travels and activities, which was distributed to newspapers via the United Features Syndicate. Here are some excerpts from her Jan. 11 & 12, 1955, columns ( & (

    > > > >
    Jan 11: Later we all went to Rice Institute where outside the library, which is a charming room, a United Nations exhibit had been set up. The library was filled by people who were working in support of the U.N. in spite of considerable antagonism and opposition.

    I was asked a number of times if I knew that Mrs. Oveta Culp Hobby’s paper, The Houston Post, had done a wonderful series of investigations and reports on the Minute Women. Of course, no one interested in the U.N. could lack knowledge of this investigation and very useful series of articles which exposed the Minute Women, and I am very glad to have the full report, which will be kept for future reference.

    Our first meeting ran from 10 o’clock to 12 o’clock at Rice Institute and was chiefly on matters on organization and cooperation of the Houston Council, which is an independent body, with our own American Association for the United Nations.

    Then we went to lunch at the YWCA where Mr. Clark Eichelberger and I both spoke and then to a meeting in the auditorium of the “Y”. This meeting was attended by some 225 persons—50 organizations being represented by at least two delegates each. This again was a question-and-answer session and had to come to an end around 4:15 because I had to return to the hotel and prepare to go to a TV interview.

    Jan 12: After the television program on which we appeared at the University in Houston on Saturday we came back to the hotel and had a steak dinner because that seemed to be expected of us. They put on the menu four different kinds of beef.

    It was interesting to see the program at the university directed by a girl student. The cameras and all other equipment also were managed by students. A faculty advisor was there and, of course, our moderator was the head of the department. This is very good training and the authorities at the university are proud that they sent 76 of their graduates into commercial positions this past year.

    The country just outside Houston is rather gloomy, I thought, flat and very unattractive. As you progress on your journey (Added: toward Dallas), however, you find a little more rolling country and it looks more friendly. Most of the land which is not occupied by oil fields is grazing ground for cattle. …
    < < < < John C. Schwarzwalder, who established KUHT as the nation’s first educational television station. He was at UH from 1953-1956. His papers are at the University of Maryland, but the specific URL is too long, so here’s a more general one:

    > Clark Mell Eichelberger (1896-1980) was executive director of the AAUN (and its predecessor League of Nations Association) from 1934-1964. ( He was traveling with Mrs. Roosevelt on parts of her 1955 trip to New Orleans, Houston & Dallas.

    > Delia Smith (Mrs. Joseph) Mares, who was active with the League of Women Voters in St. Louis, and then Dickinson (Tex.) She wrote the 1952 book, “Know Your Enemy (From Marx to Malenkov”)

    (Note: A year of so earlier, Craig, Mares and Austin Wheatley, director of the British Information Office for Texas and New Mexico, appeared on another KUHT “University Forum” program. (

  3. almadenmike says:

    One detail I forgot to mention was that, Hardin Craig, Jr., was a co-founder of the United Nations Council of Houston.

  4. mjthannisch says:

    Quite classy, matching over coat and suit, but no watch chain. Looks like a hat in his hand too.

  5. John Wolda says:

    The student standing next to Mrs Roosevelt is Ernest William “Bill” Allen,one of the ten Outstanding Seniors of 1955.

  6. Sigsby Rusk says:

    This sequence reminds me of another almost forgotten visit. 1952 was my junior year and Bud Rorschach had just arrived at Rice. I was in his thermodynamics/statistical mechanics course. I can’t be sure about the date, it could have been a year later but the Physics Dept had apparently arranged a dinner for a brief visit from Neils Bohr. Rorschach was there and the next day he told a group of us that he had sat across the table from Bohr but hadn’t understood a word because of Bohr’s infamous mumbling. A few years ago I did a brief web search but could not find a single reference to Bohr’s visit. I would be interested to know of any such reference.

    • almadenmike says:

      I see several mentions of a rather extended visit by Niels Bohr to Rice in December 1957, but nothing (yet) about any earlier visit. Two Thresher articles mention his Dec. 17, 1957, address to the Rice Associates in the Wiess College Commons, two physics colloquia and visiting with Rice President Houston through Christmas.

      An Cal Tech oral history of Thomas Tombrello (, a Rice physics grad (1958, PhD, 1961), mentions this 1957 talk and includes a nearly identical account of Bohr’s elocution skills: “…Niels Bohr had visited Rice while I was a student there. I remember he was very hard to understand, and I thought it was because he doesn’t speak English, and somebody said, “No, he speaks English, he just doesn’t speak very clearly. You have to listen very carefully. But it’s definitely worth the trouble.” He spoke slowly. I would describe it as mumbling.” (p. 77)

  7. mjthannisch says:

    Another well known visitor was Henry Kissinger, whom I was privileged to hear and who received a standing ovation.

  8. Sigsby Rusk says:

    Thanks, almadenmike. Your reply reminds me again how unreliable my old memories can be. I had dropped out after my M.A. in 1955 because i had to take time to make a little money, working for an aircraft company in Bellaire. Then in 1957 I knew it was “now or never” and returned to Rice to start a PhD project with Dr. Class. Tom Tombrello became a good friend at the time. I didn’t take any more of Rorschach’s classes so I can’t remember why I was in the group when he told us about Bohr’s visit which was indeed in 1957.

  9. Angela Wren Wall says:

    Wow, what a surprise! I asked about Mrs. Roosevelt’s visit to Rice a while back. I assisted at an event on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009 held in the KMR []. That afternoon [as I guarded the catered lunch] two visiting alums wanted to enter KMR to reminisce about their days as projection assistants. Apparently, these gentlemen said students used to staff a projection room located at the rear of the KMR, and they recounted to me when they used their keys to sneak in the projection room to see Mrs. Roosevelt’s lecture [as students weren’t invited].

    I spoke with Dr. Katherine Drew (whom the two alums recalled fondly) in the hope that she may remember this visit by Mrs. Roosevelt, but alas, she did not. I did not doubt the kind gentlemen in the least; I could only be stunned that there was no findable record of Mrs. Roosevelt’s visit.

    And what perfect timing, too, Melissa, to post this story the same week Houston PBS viewers are enjoying Ken Burns’ latest documentary “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” which I believe concludes tomorrow. It’s been a fascinating series.

  10. Angela Wren Wall says:

    I’m making a guess (no reconnaissance mission this time) that the BONUS photo was taken in the basement of Allen Center. Not long ago I visited Jeff Fitlow, one of the Rice photographers, and I had to traipse through the “TV studio” area to get to Jeff’s tiny corner office. During that visit to Allen Center’s basement floor, I didn’t notice the “On Air” thingie, but I presume its purpose would be to deter folks from knocking or entering while they’re filming.

  11. Rachel Kimbro says:

    This is absolutely the best!!

  12. Pingback: “our day in Houston was a very successful one,” 1955 | Rice History Corner

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