“If it matters to you . . . the young man on the left is James Hackney,” 1948 and 2023

I’ve mentioned before that I routinely troll eBay for Rice materials. In the course of this business a couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon something unexpected. There are always a lot of archival photos from various newspapers–mostly sports related–but only rarely do you find personal photographs. These ones are pretty standard fare for snapshots at Rice–Lovett Hall with the thriving hedges and a family gathered in front of the statue of William Marsh Rice:


But this is the one that made me buy them:

I knew right away, of course, that the building behind them was the brand new Abercrombie Lab, but I’d never before seen a picture taken in the parking lot that later became the site of Bonner Lab, then Duncan Hall. Here’s a shot of it from above about a decade later:

So, not spectacular but it fills in a gap in my mental image of campus.

Then I got a note from the person who sold me the pictures that made me think harder:

If it matters to you, in the photo with the car, the young man on the far left is James Hackney. He graduated from Rice in 1944 and served immediately in the Navy. He was aboard the USS Halford. After the war, he returned to Rice and earned his masters in Chemical Engineering. He worked for Humble Oil.

Well, yes it matters to me. James Hackney came to Rice from Temple, Texas. He was  Chem. E., a member of the Rally Club, the Engineering Society, and the Naval Club. He played in the band but I don’t know what instrument. He married but had no children, which is how his pictures wound up in an estate sale. A bit more thought and I realized that I have another picture of him. This is the Rice Naval ROTC in 1942. Hackney is twelfth front the right in the back row, probably a bit too short to belong up there:

Bonus: Speaking of Abercrombie, when I was over in the new O’Connor Hall that will replace it I was so happy to see them beginning to re-assemble “Uncle Jupe.”

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8 Responses to “If it matters to you . . . the young man on the left is James Hackney,” 1948 and 2023

  1. Galloway H Hudson (Wiess '60) says:

    What is “Uncle Jupe”? My failing vision can’t make out anything in the photo. Is it post-1961?

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Uncle Jupe is what the sculptor called the figure on the front of Abercrombie. I think it’s actually supposed to be Prometheus, but it has always looked like Spiderman to me.

  2. Matthew Noall says:

    Thanks for the picture of “old Jip”. I figured he would be trashed along with the building. Nice to see it survived.

    • George Webb '88, '91 says:

      The plan was always to preserve and re-assemble it. I watched two summers ago as a crew took the sculpture apart piece by piece, before Abercrombie Hall was demolished.

  3. George Webb '88, '91 says:

    Melissa: You mention the new O’Connor Hall, and I really wish that were the name — it just sounds right! Unfortunately, someone decided a while ago (perhaps more by default than by intention) that it would be the O’Connor Building, which doesn’t sound anywhere near as good. I suggested Hall instead, but my suggestion didn’t seem to go anywhere — perhaps it would get more traction coming from you? Of course, it will be an outstanding facility by any name, and a great tribute to one of the best friends Rice has ever had.

  4. marmer01 says:

    The Hackneys must have had some money, judging by that brand new 1948 Cadillac Series 61.

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