30 July 2013

Appearance At The Rockbridge Historical Society - And Connecting With A Legend

William G. Bean, Jr. & Yours Truly
(Yes, we forgot to smile.)
Several months ago, I was invited to speak at the monthly meeting of the Rockbridge Historical Society. I did so last night and had a great time discussing my latest book, Lexington Virginia and The Civil War. I was surprised to address a standing room only crowd and it was a very enjoyable evening. Any day in Lexington, Virginia is usually a good one for me. I'm also glad to report that the book is selling well - at least in Lexington. The good folks at Lee Chapel reported sales of the book are quite brisk.

One of the highlights of the evening was the opportunity to meet the son of a Civil War scholar and legend - William G. Bean. Professor Bean taught history at Washington & Lee and, to those of us who are both native to the Shenandoah Valley and students of the WBTS - as well as to CW buffs across the country - Bean is somewhat of a legend. He authored two must read classics: Stonewall's Man: Sandie Pendleton and The Liberty Hall Volunteers: Stonewall's College Boys.

So last night before the RHS meeting, Professor Bean's son, William G. Bean, Jr., came up to me and introduced himself. He was very cordial and interested in my projects. I shook his hand and said it was "an honor to meet the son of the man from whom I stole so much of my work." He got a chuckle out of that. 

Here's just some of what one of Professor Bean's publishers (UNC Press) had to say about him:
William Gleason Bean came to the writing of Sandie Pendleton's biography by way of a geographical emigration from the Deep South to Virginia. Bean was born in Heflin, Alabama, the day after Christmas in 1891 and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama. After teaching in his native state for three years, he went to graduate school at Harvard, which conferred on him both masters and doctoral degrees (with Phi Beta Kappa honors).

. . . The young scholar's stint at Cambridge was interrupted by the Great War, during which he saw something of military affairs at firsthand during three years of service as a lieutenant in the American Expeditionary Force in Europe. In the fall of 1922, as a freshly minted Ph.D., William Bean began teaching history at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He died there more than five decades later, having been all the while on the history faculty, the chairman of the history department (from 1930 to 1962), or professor emeritus of history (upon his retirement in 1963). In 1958, Bean was appointed Douglas Southall Freeman Professor of History. 

. . . generations of students bestowed upon Professor Bean the nickname "Blinky" and became familiar with his figure--medium height, slender build, brown hair--as he strode briskly around the campus. He died in his longtime home, the Shenandoah Valley, on May 24, 1971. 

. . . Bean became deeply absorbed in the history of his adopted state. A colleague who rode with him to a historical convention grumbled upon his return that the trip took more than twice the wonted time because Bean insisted on stopping at every state historical marker and historic site. Not surprisingly, Bean wrote extensively about the history that fascinated him--four significant articles on Virginia themes, and one book in addition to Stonewall's Man. All of the articles appeared in the organ of the Virginia Historical Society, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography: "A House Divided: The Civil War Letters of a Virginia Family" (October 1951), "The Ruffner Pamphlet of 1847: An Antislavery Aspect of Virginia Sectionalism" (July 1953), "The Unusual War Experience of Lieutenant George G. Junkin, C. S. A." (April 1968), and "The Valley Campaign of 1862 as Revealed in Letters of Sandie Pendleton" (July 1970). 

. . . Lexington Confederates who fought under Jackson were the subject of Bean's other book, The Liberty Hall Volunteers: Stonewall's College Boys (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1964). The Lexington lads of that volunteer company became part of the 4th Virginia Infantry of the Stonewall Brigade. They earned considerable fame, but at an immense cost in blood. Collectors in years to come will want to know that the slender (227 pages) book was issued without a dust jacket, although the press supplied a plain and flimsy glassine wrapper that covered the blue cloth meagerly.  
The younger W.G. Bean and I shared some great conversation at the close of the evening as folks filed out. We discussed several topics in regards to Lexington, the WBTS, his father and the centennial; in which his father was an active participant. He described with fondness how his father used to "drag him" to every CW meeting and event in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He also said that "Bud Robertson was just a pup in those days" and that "Bud used to sit at the feet of my father and drink in all he could." It was an evening and conversation I will always treasure.


13thBama said...

Roll Tide Professor Bean!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yeah Boy! I've got a couple of follow up posts about Professor Bean and his books coming. I have hardback, 1st edition copies of both books.

Brother Juniper said...

Thanks, Richard. You are always posting great books to add to my reading list. Makes me look forward to retirement more and more.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Robertson's style is very similar to Bean's - with good reason. There's depth and great, easy flowing writing. Two qualities that don't always come in the same package with historians. Both books are small, but jam-packed with good stuff.

Lindsay said...

I purchased your book a few weeks back, am looking forward to reading it while on vacation next week!

Any chance you would venture out to the VA Historical Society to do a talk? Would love to see you speak!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hi Lindsay - thank you. Hope you enjoy it. I would consider if invited.