History is what we remember and share from the past. With the passing of time there occurs the passing of many friends and family members leaving only memories and memorials. In this column I would like to recognize two of the faithful and finest who have graduated from this earthly life, closing blessed and beneficial lives. There are people who, when remembered, cannot be separated from one another. That is certainly true when we think about Vera Walton and her historian husband Seth. Their lives and works are intertwined and inspiring when we think about them. They not only loved one another. They loved and promoted East Texas Baptist University and the Marshall community all the years of their lives, and that love and association continues even though both Seth and Vera are now gone from this earth. Their graduation to “the land that is fairer than day” only intensified appreciation and admiration of this couple. Their rich heritage continues and will be remembered through their associations and contributions to many groups.
This family demonstrated their commitment to ETBU institutionally, to students individually and to higher education generally by establishing the Bellew-Walton History Scholarship to benefit students pursuing studies in history and social studies into the future. This is testimony to their love for the school, where they invested many years of their lives and for students pursuing degrees. This was a real investment this family, and their friends made to honor two important individuals and their descendants.
Not only did Seth and Vera wish to provide some significant scholarship support for ETBU and student achievement, they also engaged in preserving and maintaining the physical record of Seth’s research, writing and scholarly associations. After Seth’s death, Vera asked me to visit her. She gave me several of Seth’s history texts, his research files, lecture/teaching notes and scholarly papers. I am working through his books and papers and at some point will be submitting them to the Harrison County Historical Library or the East Texas Historical Research Center at SFA for the archives so as to assure that what Seth researched, recorded and wrote will be preserved for future generations. Whatever Seth achieved and accomplished included the interest and inspiration of Vera. The point we need to remember in this matter is that history is not a “lone ranger” experience. History is a social engagement and expression of our memories from the past. So we will not forget Seth and Vera Walton and their investment in and inspiration of the many people who know them and remember them. They will live on, not just in memories and memorials, but also in the endowed scholarship they established that will help students finish an education and begin to invest in and inspire others. They will live on in the associations and papers they have left behind for others to enjoy and learn from.
Vera was always included in Seth’s memberships and activities in historical scholarship and associations. They were active in local history particularly, working to maintain and preserve family, local and regional histories. Seth and Vera were both involved in the founding and activities of the East Texas Historical Association and the Harrison County Historical Society. Seth was a founding member of both this regional and local history groups. Seth and Vera moved back to Texas in 1954, having taught from 1951 to 1954 at Cumberland College in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Seth would stay with East Texas Baptist from 1954 to 1989 when he retired, completing 35 years teaching history and political science, touching several thousand students.
Seth and Vera were not only engaged and involved in history. They also were active and faithful, working and worshipping with Marshall’s First Baptist Church. Seth served as a deacon most of his years at First Baptist, which, of course, involved Vera in many and varied activities through this great church. The Waltons were also involved in the Marshall Lions Club, the Friends of the Public Library and Marshall Masonic Lodge No. 22 for many years. These relationships and associations mark the lives and history of both Seth and Vera.
It is so easy for youth and new folks to forget the significance of those who have gone before and invested time and treasure in what we enjoy today. This is all the more reason why I wanted to remember Seth and Vera Walton today in this column. We owe both of them a great deal and we need to honor them, not just in one time memorial services, but in other ways that we can recognize and show our appreciation for this remarkable and memorable couple. In such moments, history and memories come together, and we need to give specific references and responses to such good and graceful people. My wife Lucyann as an ETBU student in Seth’s history classes still recalls his memorable lessons and lectures. I was never privileged to be one of Seth’s students, but I became a friend of both Seth and Vera and wish to acknowledge them in this way. This is also a way to give thanks to God and to express our gratitude for their life investment and inspiration.
History is memories of people and events in the past. History is a written record of what we remember about individuals, families and events sometimes long in the past. The passing of Seth and Vera Walton many years ago caused many to remember them and what they left us to think about. This is certainly a part of our “community conversation” that I’ve been emphasizing in these columns. I look forward to hearing from you and what you think about local and regional history, and also about Vera and Seth Walton and what you remember about them. We need to put such memories and ideas in writing so that they can be in this way preserved for others to enjoy and profit from.