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PJC celebrates 50th anniversary of “This Stubborn Soil”

Published or Revised January 13, 2017

William Owens

PJC will hold several events celebrating the 50th anniversary of “This Stubborn Soil,” by William A. Owens, shown here as a young man and as a professor at Columbia University.

A series of events is planned by Paris Junior College next week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr. William A. Owens’ autobiographical book “This Stubborn Soil,” including a writing contest and the opportunity to enter a StoryCorps Oral History Competition Project for PJC students.

The Lamar County native passed away in 1990. He frequently visited Lamar and Hunt counties in the 1970s and 1980s, places he loved and incorporated into many of his books, including several visits to PJC, where he was a student.

Born in 1905 in Pin Hook, a small community approximately 15 miles northeast of Paris, Owens penned “This Stubborn Soil,” chronicling his youth as a poor farm boy.

After attending both PJC and East Texas State College, Owens completed his studies at Southern Methodist University, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree. In 1933, he graduated with a Master of Arts degree from SMU and in 1941 was awarded a doctorate from the State University of Iowa.

His career in higher education included teaching at Wesley College in Greenville and Texas A&M University, serving as director of research in the Oral History project at the University of Texas at Austin, and holding a professorship at Columbia University in New York.

A World War II veteran, Owens was a member of the U.S. Army’s Counter-Intelligence Corps. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service in the Philippines.

Also among his books is “Black Mutiny: The Revolt of the Schooner Amistad,” detailing the anti-slavery case that John Q. Adams argued before the Supreme Court in 1841. This book was used as the basis for the motion picture “Amistad,” directed Stephen Spielberg and starring Morgan Freeman and Matthew McConaughey.

On Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 2:00 p.m., “Amistad” will be shown with introductory remarks by PJC History Instructor Ty Welborn.

On Thursday, Oct. 27, the film “Frontier Boy,” will be screened with introductory remarks by History and English faculty. The movie was based on “This Stubborn Soil.”

Later that evening at 7:00 p.m., “Frontier Boy” will be shown again, this time preceded by a panel discussion on Dr. Owens’ life and work with Dwight Chaney, Betty Clement, Carolyn Karrer, and John Wright.

The evening’s special invited guests include Owens family members, the cast from “Frontier Boy,” and former PJC faculty and staff acquainted with Dr. Owens. Community, alumni and students are invited to attend. Student contest winners will be announced and prizes given. Student contest work and Owens artifacts will be on display. Door prizes and refreshments are planned.

For more information, contact PJC history instructors Lisa Johnson or Ty Welborn at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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