Skip to main content

Retta Murphy collection

Identifier: 90.200-Faculty-1981-Murphy

Scope and Contents

This collection contains materials related to Retta Murphy, who was a professor of history for 37 years at Southwest Texas State Teachers College. It contains research notes for her dissertation, letters of reference, certificates and diplomas. Also includes personal items such as financial ledgers and report cards. Of note are two albums: one is a photo album of her 1909 trip to Europe on the S.S. Minnetonka, and other was a retirement gift that includes photos of herself and colleagues as well as letters. Materials are arranged loosely by item type and function.


  • 1854-1981
  • Majority of material found within 1902 - 1981


Language of Materials

Materials are mostly in English with some materials in Spanish.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status is unknown. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, obtaining permission to publish from copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies.

Biographical note

Retta (Henrietta) Murphy was born in Mexia, Texas in 1889. The youngest of nine children, she knew she wanted to a teacher.

She graduated from Texas Presbyterian College (1904), then received her Bachelor of Arts (1915) and Master’s degree (1916) from the University of Texas. Murphy accepted her first teaching job at Trinty Presbyterian School (now Trinity University) in Waxahachie in 1918. She was “drafted” into the position of Dean of Women, which she simply couldn’t stand -- all she wanted to do was teach. When she heard about a vacancy in the History Department at Southwest Texas State Normal College (now Texas State), she applied. President C.E. Evans met her at the bus station in Waxahachie on his way to Dallas and hired her on the spot.

Murphy moved to San Marcos and started teaching in June 1919. She taught full time, attended classes in the summers, and received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas in 1938, thus becoming the first female professor at SWT to earn a doctorate. She pursued research in the Spanish Southwest, the subject of subsequent scholarly publications.

From her arrival in 1919 until her retirement in 1956, Dr. Murphy personified excellence at SWT (now Texas State University). Her demanding and popular course in U.S. and Latin American history exposed generations of students to the intellectual vigor, depths of knowledge, and keen wit with characterized her teaching. A resolute classroom instructor and trusted professional colleague, her contributions to the University’s academic vitality were many and enduring.

Retta Murphy passed away in 1981 at the age of 95, but her legacy continues on the Texas State campus. In 1983 the building previously known as the Fine Arts Buildings was named for two history faculty – Dr. James Taylor and Dr. Retta Murphy. The building was formally dedicated in October 1983 along with the creation of an endowed Taylor-Murphy Presidential Scholarship.


2.58 Linear Feet (Three legal sized hollinger boxes, one oversized box and four book volumes. )


This collection contains materials related to Retta (Henrietta) Murphy, who was a professor at Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Texas State University). Consists of personal items such as her dissertation, diplomas, financial ledgers, and notable two photo albums.

Physical Location

Materials may be stored off-site. Advance notice may be required for use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Merry Fitzpatrick, 1981 October 20.

Related Materials

Retta Murphy was interviwed as part of the Craddock Oral Histories (1974) and the Brown Oral Histories (1978). Transcripts are avaiable online.

Retta Murphy collection
Nicole Critchley
2019 December
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

Alkek Library Room 580
601 University Drive
San Marcos Texas 78666 USA