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The University of Texas at Tyler
Meet the Patriots: UT Tyler Alumnus Helps Preserve Tyler’s History
Editor’s Note: The University of Texas at Tyler prides itself on its remarkable ensemble of undergraduates, graduates and alumni. In this 2008-09 feature series, “Meet the Patriots,” we will focus on some of those individuals.
Robert Earl Reed Jr. of Tyler holds local history in his heart – and hands. A self-proclaimed history buff, Reed enjoys collecting a wide variety of items from Tyler’s early days.
The University of Texas at Tyler alumnus published a book in the Arcadia Publishing series “Images of America,” which focuses on the Rose City.
“I contacted Arcadia Publishing in 2005 about an idea I had for a postcard history book, since I have a vast collection of vintage postcards,” Reed said. “But Arcadia suggested I write one for their photographic series ‘Images of America,’ which covers local histories across the United States. By the time I submitted the book proposal in 2007, I was vice president of museum/archives for the Smith County Historical Society, so I had access to all the society’s photo archives.”
Reed said about 70 percent of the book’s photographs comes directly from the society’s collection, while about two dozen come from his own.
“There were a lot of aspects of Tyler’s history in photos that I didn’t have, so I knew I wanted to use other sources besides my own photo collection,” he explained. “I approached a lot of local organizations and a few individuals and gathered it all for the book. I was really surprised the first printing sold out in about a month.”
Already in its fourth printing, the February 2008 publication caught the eye of Dr. Alexander Mendoza, UT Tyler assistant professor of history, who said he uses the book as a required text in a graduate-level course.
“I think Reed’s work on local history was a welcomed addition to our course curriculum,” Mendoza said. “Many of our majors have a vaunted interest in local and public history. The work Mr. Reed put into his pictorial account of the Rose City, thus, fills that void. Arcadia Publishing did a nice job with Reed’s hard work. He should be proud.”
Growing up, Reed and his family would travel to Tyler’s historical places, and that’s when the collection began.
“As a child picking up freebies like pens, pencils, matchbooks and postcards – that’s how my Tyler history collection started,” he said.
Over the years, he has acquired about 450 vintage postcards – the subject of his second book with Arcadia Publishing’s postcard history series.
“I always had an interest in history, from grade school on up,” Reed recalled. “I have other interests; including astronomy, as well as computer science, which turned out to be my profession, but history – especially local history – has always fascinated me. I couldn’t get enough.”
Reed expects his second book to debut this fall.
“It’s been fun,” Reed said of his research development for the first book. “I tried to bring all aspects of Tyler’s history in the book, since I had a feeling of what other locals would like. It’s become very popular, and I’m excited about bringing the postcard history book to life.”
Reed, a senior systems analyst for Tyler’s Andrews Center, graduated in 1984 with a bachelor of science degree in computer science. He also holds an associate of arts degree in astronomy from Tyler Junior College. In his second term, Reed serves as president of the Smith County Historical Society.
Aside from collecting Tyler history, Reed enjoys genealogical research, classic movies, traveling and collecting science fiction and Dr Pepper memorabilia.
He and his wife Kay, who also attended UT Tyler, married in 1992. They have one son, Robert Evan.
One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. Nearly 90 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of more than 6,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.
Meet the Patriots Feature Series: