← Back to Leonard J. Arrington Diary Excerpts Index

Leonard J. Arrington Diaries – “Davis Bitton”

Below you will find diary entries on the topic of “Davis Bitton.” You can view other subjects here.

Search the diary entries below for specific dates, names, and keywords using the keyboard shortcut Command + F on a Mac or Control + F on Windows.

LJA Diary Thursday 12 September 1963  (written 3 Feb 1980)

Flew to Austin, Texas, to deliver two lectures in the Walter Prescott Webb History of American Civilization, funded by the Ford Foundation and administered by the University of Texas.  The lectures were two of a series of seventy given by “distinguished historians” on television for showing to university classes in American civilization and its history.  Webb had decided to have two lectures on the Mormons as a part of the series and invited me to give the two lectures.  I learned later that he had consulted, among others, with Davis Bitton, then a member of the History Department at the University of Texas, and known by members of the department to be a Mormon. Davis invited me to spend the night with him and Peggy, which I did.  I think they had two small children at the time.

The first lecture was focused on myself—how I got into history—and on getting into Mormon history and its significance.  The second was on the Mormon system of cooperation.  The lectures were shot for TV on Friday, 13 September.  As I recall, I was invited to dinner with History Department staff members Friday night, and returned back to Logan Saturday.  My memory is that I received $350 each for the two lectures, or a total of $700.

I worked for a couple of months on the two lectures and, then, fearing I might antagonize someone in the Church, I wrote the director of public relations for the Church, Ted Cannon (Theodore), and sent him a draft of the two lectures.  He phoned me the day before I was to leave and said he’d like to talk with me.  So went early to Salt Lake City and met him in the Hotel Utah where we talked for an hour before I went to the airport.  He was complimentary and had no particular suggestions to make.  He simply wished me well, congratulated me, and thought I’d be doing the Church a good service.

In the series were such persons as Arnold Toynbee and other noted historians.  The series has been rather widely used.  Many younger historians, in seeing my nameplate at a historical convention, have remarked that they had seen me in the Webb American Civilization Series.  The opportunity also allowed me to become acquainted for the first time with Davis Bitton.

[LJAD, journal entry written 3 Feb 1980 regarding the events, which occurred 12-14 September 1963]