News and Features

For 120 Years, Four Generations Of One Family Photograph North Texas


Four generations of Byrd Williams.

Thanks to KERA’s Eric Aasen, for pulling together this post.

For more than 100 years, a family of Fort Worth photographers has captured vivid scenes across Dallas-Fort Worth and around the state. Four generations of Williams photographers have shot thousands of images, ranging from Pancho Villa’s soldiers to author Larry McMurtry, from western landscapes to street life in Fort Worth.

The University of North Texas recently acquired thousands of these pictures. And I spoke with Byrd Williams IV, whose photos, along with those of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, are included in the collection.

Listen to the interview that aired on KERA FM:



Together, the family has captured more than 100 years of North Texas history. The collection includes more than 10,000 prints and 300,000 negatives.

Morgan Gieringer, head of archives and rare books at UNT in Denton, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about 80 percent of the collection documents Fort Worth. The collection also includes documents other parts of Texas, including photos by Byrd Williams II of soldiers fighting with Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa near El Paso in 1915.

UNT offers background on the family:

Byrd Moore Williams owned a hardware store in Gainesville. But he also sold cameras and operated a darkroom in his home. The earliest prints in the collection document the Gainesville area.

Byrd Moore Williams, Jr. (Byrd Williams II) started his photographic career in college at the University of Texas in 1905. He went on to career in engineering, documenting many major projects, including the construction of the San Antonio River walk with his camera.

Byrd Williams III opened a photo service in Fort Worth. The collection contains a large number of studio prints as well as prints documenting the family’s growing interest in artistic photography. Williams III’s collection includes a significant series of prints documenting women at work in Fort Worth during the 1930s.

Byrd Williams IV continued in his father’s footsteps – sometimes literally. He shot images of the same street corners in Fort Worth 40 years later. Williams’s career has included street scenes, portraits of gun crime victims, and televangelists, among other subjects. Williams is an artist and a photography professor at Collin College.

Here are some highlights from my interview with Byrd Williams IV

… on his grandfather photographing Pancho Villa’s soldiers: My grandfather got an engineering job on the bridge that goes from Juarez to El Paso in 1915. And that was around the time that Pancho Villa’s army was whipping the Mexican army. … They had to take a work crew on the Rio Grande every day and he had to go to Pancho’s train car. He lived in a train car. And they’d say “We’re just working down here. Please don’t shoot us!” He photographed Pancho’s soldiers there.

… on his dad developing Lee Harvey Oswald film for the FBI: It was brought through by the crime lab. When the assassination happened they took investigation pictures, since we were the closest local lab, they brought the investigation pictures through Byrd Photo. They stayed with the film. They cleared all the employees. Everybody was sent home and dad developed the film with the FBI there. And about a month later they came back and sent the employees home again and they inspected the trash. … It kind of scared my dad.

… on his family’s photographic adventures: I’d say 75 to 80 percent of it is in Fort Worth. We’d come to Fort Worth and leave. But there’s the North Texas/Gainesville area, there’s El Paso … along the coast. Both my granddad and my dad shot commercial jobs on Padre Island. It’s sprinkled across the state.

… on standing in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps: I really like it. Whenever I find a roll of film of my dad’s, they’re all in order. They’re shot in 35 mm and ordered. I can make his walk downtown. It’s kind of interesting. I can see he shot on this corner and then he walked over here and shot this. I find it fun and I think it’s very wonderful standing where an artist worked.

… on whether the family photography tradition will continue (he has two sons): No they’re not [photographers]. Neither of them had any interest in it. I was never given a choice. We were … digging this ditch. We were in a photo service. I never got asked whether I wanted to or not. I gave them the choice. They said: “No.” It stops with me.

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Marilynne Robinson Visits The Writers Studio On Saturday

Marilynne Robinson. Photo: Nancy Crampton

Marilynne Robinson. Photo: Nancy Crampton

This Saturday at 9 p.m., tune in to hear hosts Catherine Cuellar and Randy Gordon chat up Marilynne Robinson. Art&Seek presents The Writers Studio on KERA FM 90.1. The series of interviews with some of our most accomplished authors is produced by The Writer’s Garret.

Listen to the conversation:

Robinson has been called by the London Times, “The world’s best writer of prose”—a bold statement considering she has written only eight books in nearly thirty years. Her first novel, Housekeeping, came out in 1980 and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her next novel, Gilead, arrived 24 years later, and garnered both the Pulitzer AND National Book Critics Circle Award. While uniquely focused on American traditions and way of life, these books bring to light the struggles of everyday humanity, as illustrated in her most recent novel, Home, which received the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She is also the author of four nonfiction books, including Mother Country, which was nominated for a National Book Award. In 2012 Robinson received the National Humanities Medal, awarded by President Barack Obama, for “her grace and intelligence in writing.”

Listen to previous Writers Studio interviews here. And stay tuned for the next and final installment in this series of The Writers Studio. Eric Bogosian will join Catherine and Randy on Saturday May 3,  same time, same place.



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The Big Deal: TITAS Presents The Mark Morris Dance Group

TITAS Presents the Mark Morris Dance Group.  Mark Morris is the contemporary choreographer noted for the musicality of his work. Morris told guest blogger Danielle Georgiou in an earlier interview why music – good, live music – plays such a priority in his dance works. You can see for yourself when the New York based troupe promenades across the stage at the Winpsear Opera House on May 10. Two lucky Art&Seek will receive a pair of tickets for the evening’s performance.

PLEASE NOTE: Only Art&Seek e-newsletter subscribers can win the Big Deal.  If you are not a subscriber then take care of that first, then sign up below for a chance to see TITAS Presents the Mark Morris Dance Group.

UPDATE: We have our winners. Remember to come back next week for more Big Deals!


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The High Five: Austin City Limits Festival Features Lots Of Nostalgia

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Five stories that have North Texas talking: the U.S. Chemical Safety Board says the West fertilizer plant could have been prevented; Austin City Limits announces its lineup; Gov. Rick Perry talks up Texas in New York; and more.

  • The USA Film Festival opened in Dallas Tuesday night with Fading Gigolo. John Turturro wrote, directed and stars in the film about a man who takes up an unlikely second career. And he stopped by KERA for a chat with Stephen Becker. How did he get Woody Allen to act in the film? Turturro explains: “I thought Woody and I could be interesting as a team playing opposite of each other, and I suggested it to my hair cutter – Anthony, his name is, who’s Woody’s hair cutter. And he was brave enough – I don’t know if I asked him or told him, ‘Hey, if it comes up naturally, whatever…’ And Woody really, really liked it.” Listen to the conversation here. The festival runs through Sunday at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas. Turturro’s movie opens in Dallas May 2.
  • The Dallas Architecture Forum continues its Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Wednesday with architect Gregg Jones, principal of Pelli Clarke Pelli. The event takes place at the Dallas Museum of Art’s Horchow Auditorium. Pelli Clarke Pelli has designed several iconic buildings, including including the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia and the World Financial Center in New York City. Jones was the principal in charge of the International Finance Center in Hong Kong, the tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong.  Gregg Jones is also leading the McKinney and Olive project in Uptown – the building will be the tallest in that neighborhood.  A reception is at 6:15 p.m. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $5 for students with ID and can be purchased at the door. No reservations are needed.
  • Gov. Rick Perry is again in New York, hoping to convince employers there to move to Texas. Meanwhile, back in the Lone Star state, he’s under investigation regarding whether he abused his power in Austin. Perry left Tuesday for a three-day visit featuring meetings with business leaders. On Tuesday, Perry challenged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to a debate over economic policy. A Cuomo spokesman had no comment. Perry has led similar job-poaching tours in California, Illinois, Missouri and Connecticut. The governor touts Texas’ “business-friendly climate,” but hasn’t prompted any major employer to move. In Texas, Perry is the focus of a grand jury investigation that could cause quite a bit of difficulty for the man who might run again for president. A judge seated a grand jury in Austin last week to consider whether Perry abused his power when he carried out a threat to veto $7.5 million in state funding for public corruption prosecutors. The Texas Tribune is reporting that Perry representatives worked to “swap the resignation of embattled Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg for restoration of the money.” [Associated Press]
  • A federal agency leading one of the investigations into last year’s deadly West fertilizer plant explosion says that even if regulators don’t know what started an initial fire, they know the resulting blast could have been prevented. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board on Tuesday announced its findings after a year of investigating the blast that killed 15 people, injured 200 and damaged much of the tiny town. The safety board chairman, Rafael Moure-Eraso, says the owners of the West plant weren’t required to comply with any fire codes. “They were basically under the radar of any regulators,” he told KERA. He says the ammonium nitrate at the West facility could have been stored inside a concrete structure, instead of one made of wood. And there were no sprinklers to flood the chemicals in case of a fire. More regulation is needed, the board says. Several other investigations have yielded no cause of the fire that preceded the blast. [Associated Press]
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Art&Seek Jr: Give Your Mother A Hug–Mother Earth, That is

Art&Seek Jr. is one mom‘s quest to find activities to end the seemingly endless chorus of the “I’m Bored Blues” while having fun herself.  Impossible you say? Check back on Tuesdays for kid-friendly events that are fun for adults, too.

While searching Google yesterday morning I came across a bit of serendipity. A happy, pappy animated doodle of a rufous hummingbird wishing me a Happy Earth Day! Awwww…thank-you! I will!

Earth Day doesn’t exactly have the same build up as Christmas or Easter, but it’s a great opportunity to bond with two important moms–Mother Earth, and her sister Mother Nature.  With that in mind  grab your brood and head out to these weekend events that celebrate our big blue planet.

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10 Songwriters Win Spots In Richardson’s Wildflower! Arts And Music Festival

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z If you start seeing wildflowers on the side of the road then it must be time for Richardson’s Wildflower! Art & Music Festival.  The festival runs May 16-18 at Galatyn Park in Richardson. In the 22 years since the event began it has grown to be quite the musical destination attracting local and national acts. The festival also fosters independent singer-songwriters with a songwriting competition. The panel of judges just released the names of the Top 10 finalists who will perform during the 3-day festival. The full press release is below.

RICHARDSON, TX–APRIL 22, 2014 – The City of Richardson’s 22nd annual Wildflower! Arts and Music Festival, North Texas’ largest music festival, has announced the top 10 finalists for the award-winning Performing Songwriter Contest. Interestingly, while three are from Texas, four are from Maine.  Their names, and details, after the jump.

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Q&A: John Turturro Talks USA Film Fest Opening Night Film ‘Fading Gigolo’

John Turturro 1

Photo: Andy Taylor

The USA Film Festival opens tonight with Fading Gigolo. John Turturro wrote, directed and stars in the film about a man who takes up an unlikely second career. And he stopped by KERA this morning for a chat.

Among the highlights:

On how he got Woody Allen to act in the film…

“I thought Woody and I could be interesting as a team playing opposite of each other, and I suggested it to my hair cutter – Anthony, his name is, who’s Woody’s hair cutter. And he was brave enough – I don’t know if I asked him or told him, ‘Hey, if it comes up naturally, whatever…’ And Woody really, really liked it.”

On his directing style …

“I talk when I have to. … If I had nothing to say, I don’t say anything.”

On the fulfillment he gets from directing …

When I’ve had great roles, you get a fulfillment from that. But this, you know, you’re in every part of the film. And you are really confronted with yourself.”

Listen to the interview here:

Turturro will take part in a Q&A session tonight after the USA Film Festival screening of Fading Gigolo. The movie opens in Dallas on May 2.

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Artistic Director Jonathan Pell Will Step Down At Dallas Opera

Jonathan-Pell-in-DallasJonathan Pell joined the Dallas Opera in 1985 as artistic administrator and was appointed artistic director in 2009 — only the second to hold that post in the company’s history. He will no longer be working full-time beginning this December but will continue to contribute to the company.  He helped move the company from Fair Park to the Winspear Opera House, worked on 162 productions of 97 operas for the Dallas Opera, and singers who debuted with company – at Pell’s invitation – include Renee Fleming, Cecilia Bartoli, Ben Heppner and Denyce Graves.

The full release:

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The High Five: Dallas Public Library Celebrates National Poetry Month With ‘The Swing’

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Five stories that have North Texas talking: how many Texans text while driving?; University of Texas at Dallas alums score big on “Shark Tank;” Wichita Falls is short on water; and more.

  • April is National Poetry Month and the Dallas Public Library’s Arcadia Park Branch is celebrating at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday with a reading of “The Swing” by Robert Louis Stevenson. “As you listen to this beloved, well-known poem, close your eyes and imagine the motion of a swing, recalling a pleasant memory or remembering what it felt like to be carefree with the wind against your face and blowing through your hair. With the guidance of master storyteller Alfreda Rollins, translate this feeling into a poem and create a vision board that reflects your experiences as keepsakes to take home.”
  • Texans love to text while driving. Three out of four Texans at least occasionally speak on a cellphone while driving and nearly half sometimes read or text while driving, according to a study released Monday of 3,000 drivers by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The Texas Tribune reports: The institute surveyed drivers in April and May 2013 at 12 state driver’s license offices around the state about their driving habits. The researchers found that 76 percent of drivers said they had talked on a cellphone while driving at least once in the previous month, with 24 percent acknowledging that they did so regularly. Forty-four percent of respondents said they had read or typed texts or emails while driving, and 18.5 percent said they had looked at Facebook or other websites while driving.
  • Two University of Texas at Dallas alums emerged from the “Shark Tank” with a $350,000 deal with entrepreneur (and Dallas Mavericks owner) Mark Cuban to take their smartphone-controlled light bulbs to the next level. UT-Dallas sends along the details: Corey Egan and Swapnil Bora appeared on Friday’s show. They developed the idea for their Plano-based business, ilumi, while at UTD. Ilumi makes LED “smartbulbs” that allow users to control lighting levels and colors through a mobile app. Users can program lights to create a sunrise effect or romantic candlelight. “Mark’s just going to be just like fuel on the fire,” Egan said in an interview on the show. “This thing is going to spread like wildfire and ilumi’s going to shine across the world.” Here’s a clip from the show:


  • Dallas police say a man was fatally shot Monday afternoon after he pointed a gun at officers during a standoff following a car chase. The chase began when officers tried to take Michael Mayo into custody after learning he had felony warrants for his arrest. Dallas Police Deputy Chief Gil Garza says Mayo led officers on a 30-minute chase through south Dallas before ending up in a Southwest Center Mall parking lot. Garza says that during the standoff with officers, the 30-year-old Mayo got out of his vehicle and pointed a gun at his head. Mayo then went back in his vehicle but later got out again and then pointed his gun at officers, who fired at Mayo. No officers were hurt. [Associated Press]
  • Wichita Falls is so far behind on rainfall that city leaders are asking state regulators for permission to use treated toilet flushes as drinking water. The city is about 34 inches behind on precipitation over the past three years. It’s awaiting state regulatory approval of a system that would re-use wastewater, a small amount coming from flushes. The two lakes that serve Wichita Falls are just 26 percent full. City leaders are also considering rare restrictions on outdoor watering for swimming pools and car washes. It’s already cloud seeding to try to squeeze more out of rain clouds. A West Texas water supplier garnered attention in 2011 when it began constructing a wastewater re-use plant in Big Spring that’s similar to what Wichita Falls wants. [Associated Press]


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The High Five: Emerson String Quartet Performs Tonight At SMU

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Five stories that have North Texas talking: Has a missing woman’s remains been discovered?; remembering William Blair Jr., Dallas is a basketball and hockey playoff team (at least for now); and more:

  • For nearly 35 years, no one has been able to find Helen Holladay after she fought with her husband. Last week, authorities went to Lake Granbury to pull out a truck. Inside: a skeleton. Hood County authorities say they found identifying information that ties the skeleton and truck to Holladay. Credit the ongoing drought for making it easier to spot the truck. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports: “Low lake levels brought on by the drought revealed the pickup’s resting spot. At normal lake levels, the area where the vehicle was found would have been in 15 to 16 feet of murky water and about 15 feet from the normal shoreline.” A Granbury city employee saw a vehicle sticking out of the lake. Holladay was last seen alive in 1979, when neighbors said she’d been in a blood struggle with her husband, Herman Holladay at a home on Lake Granbury, the Star-Telegram reports. Helen Holladay was declared dead in 1986. Her husband died later. Authorities will use DNA samples provided by Holladay’s daughters to identify the remains, the newspaper reports. In a separate case, in South Dakota last week, authorities announced that the drought revealed a missing car and the remains of two missing teenagers who hadn’t been seen in more than 40 years.
  • William Blair Jr., founder of the DFW Elite News and a civil rights advocate, has died. He was 92. WFAA-TV reports: “The Dallas native graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and began his career as a pitcher in Negro League baseball in 1946. Blair launched Southwest Sports News in 1949, a newspaper that specialized in reporting on African-American collegiate games. The weekly newspaper was renamed Elite (pronounced “E-light”) News in 1960 and expanded its coverage to other issues focusing on the black community. Blair helped establish the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in Dallas, and attended the most recent event in January.” A city park was named in his honor. The Dallas Morning News has more.
  • Dallas is both a basketball and hockey playoff town – at least for now. The Dallas Mavericks blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter Sunday to lose to the San Antonio Spurs, 90-85, in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. (Game 2 is Wednesday.) San Antonio won despite going three for 17 on 3-pointers and getting only 23 points from its normally potent bench, ESPN reported. “The Spurs held Dallas to one field goal in the final seven minutes,” ESPN said. “The Mavericks also went scoreless for 5½ minutes during that stretch, their lone field goal coming with less than a second remaining.” In the other playoff series, the Anaheim Ducks beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 Friday night. The Ducks have a 2-0 lead in their first-round series. Game 3 is Monday night in Dallas. CBS Sports reports: “Rookie Frederik Andersen made 34 saves in his second postseason start, and Andrew Cogliano scored a short-handed goal in the third period before the Ducks survived Dallas’ late flurry to move halfway to their first series victory since 2009.”
  • The housing market in North Texas is hot, hot, hot. It’s so hot that if you’re selling a home, be prepared to have a place to live – because it’s likely to sell quickly, according to a new national survey issued by the Redfin Research Center. Dallas is ranked No. 5 on a list of the country’s fastest housing markets in March. In Dallas, 14 percent of homes sold within three days. Fort Worth is ranked No. 8. Slightly more than 10 percent of Fort Worth homes sold within three days. Read more from KERA News.
  • The Dallas Chamber Music Society welcomes the Emerson String Quartet to SMU’s Caruth Auditorium at 8 p.m. Monday. The concert includes works by Mozart and Mendelssohn. Over three decades, the quartet has produced more than 30 acclaimed recordings, and received several awards, including nine Grammys, three Gramophone Awards and the Avery Fisher Prize. Here’s a sampling: Dvořák’s “String Quartet No. 11 in C major.”

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