History

The bringing together of scholars and historical agencies to explore the rich history of the area from New Orleans to St. Marks from 1500 to the present was the goal in 1968 of the organizers of the Gulf Coast History and Humanities Conference. After talks with University of West Florida president Judge Harold Crosby, Earle Newton, director of the Historic Pensacola Preservation Board of the State of Florida, initiated the idea to form a conference. Among those contacted to discuss the concept were: Dr. Russell Mortensen, president of the American Association for State and Local History; Dr. Charles Summersell, Professor of History, University of Alabama; Dr. Ernest Dibble, newly appointed chairman of the history faculty at the University of West Florida; Dr. Jack Holmes, professor of history, University of Alabama at Birmingham; Mr. Pat Dodson, chairman of the Pensacola Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission; Mr. Earle Bowden, vice-chairman of the Pensacola Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission; Mr. Charles Branch, director of the Escarosa Humanities Program; and Mr. Randall Broxton, Escambia County Board of Public Instruction.  A second meeting was held at the Southern Historical Association Meeting in New Orleans during November of 1968. Earle Newton was asked to serve as organizing chairman and Dr. Ernest Dibble was asked to be the chairman of a planned 1969 conference.  Attending the meeting in New Orleans were Dr. William S. Coker, University of Southern Mississippi (and later the University of West Florida) and Robert Harris, University of West Florida.  The conference was supported by the State Commission, the University of West Florida, Pensacola Junior College, the Escarosa Humanities Program, and the American Association for State and Local History.  At the New Orleans meeting it was decided to concentrate on the documentary and artifactual resources for research in the Gulf Coast area.  Titled “In Search of Gulf Coast Colonial History, “ the conference would be held December 5-6, 1969. The group met frequently at the Escarosa Center at the Eliza Jane Wilson School on 248 East Chase Street in Pensacola. The group then planned the next two conferences- “The Gulf Coast: Spain and Her Rivals” to be held December 4th and 5th 1970 and “The Gulf Coast: Americanization Period,” to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the U. S. acquisition of Florida in 1971.   Charles Branch served as business manager for the conference until 1970 when Dr. Grace Earnest of Pensacola Junior College became the business manager, serving many years until her retirement in 1990.  Dr. James Servies of the University of West Florida and Dr. A. B. Thomas of the University of Alabama and the University of West Florida joined the planning committee in 1970.  The University of South of Alabama became a member in 1988 and hosted the 1989 conference, as well as including the proceedings in special issues of the Gulf Coast Historical Review.  Southeastern Louisiana University and the University of Southern Mississippi joined as members in 1997.  The seventeenth conference at Southeastern Louisiana University, in Hammond, became the first to use the new name, the Gulf South History and Humanities Conference.  Texas A & M at Galveston and Texas Christian University joined the consortium (now known as the Gulf South Historical Association) as members in 1998.

Throughout the history of the Gulf South History and Humanities Conference, participants have come from as many as twenty-two different states. Foreign countries represented have included Great Britain, Italy, Spain, France, and Canada.  Many distinguished people have presented papers or participated in the conference.

Excerpt from The History of the Gulf South History & Humanities Conference by Randall Broxton published by Patagonia Press Bagdad Florida 2000