One morning last week I stopped to chat with a patron who was walking in to the Woodson at the same time I was. Her errand had to do with family history, not anything I knew about. But in the course of the brief conversation she mentioned that her math teacher at Lamar High School had been a Rice graduate, Hattie Lel Red, ’16. She must have thought I was nuts when I excitedly asked her to hold still for a minute while I ran to the back room to fetch something.
A couple of days before I was peering intently at a contact sheet of photos that were taken at an alumni reception in the spring of 1983. It was mostly the usual stuff–small groups milling around and laughing with drinks in their hands–except for the last few images. These showed a young woman on a bench, listening to a very old woman. This was extremely interesting to me but I could find no way to learn who either was:
On a hunch I showed it to the kind lady who had come in for a very different purpose and she confirmed that the older woman was Miss Red. I’ve written about her before but always focused on her as a very young woman, the first to enroll at the new Rice Institute. This time I went to find her obituary, a record of a full and rich life.
I also came across this note that she received from Dr. Lovett, apparently in response to something she wrote him at the time of his retirement in 1946. It’s a lovely note, one written in a tone rather unusual for him:
Here’s Miss Red in 1914, with one of my favorite pots:
Bonus: New railings at the library!