History Department named for Arnoldo De Leon, Robstown native with ties to Duval County

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Angelo State University’s Department of History has been officially re-named the Arnoldo De León Department of History in honor of the longtime ASU professor who is acknowledged as one of the nation’s preeminent scholars in the field of Mexican American history.

A 1970 ASU graduate, De León returned to his alma mater as a faculty member in 1973 and stayed until his retirement in 2015, teaching courses in American, Texas, Mexican American and Latin American history while re-shaping the perception of Hispanics in Texas history.

During his time at ASU, De León also established himself as a prolific writer. He earned early acclaim for “They Called Them Greasers: Anglo Attitudes Toward Mexicans in Texas 1821-1900,” which is one of the seminal works in Texas history and considered by many to be one of the top 10 books ever written on the state’s past.

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De León’s influence on the understanding of Texas history is also recognized at all levels of the educational process. When the state’s seventh-graders study Texas history, they are likely to read “Texas and Texans,” the textbook De León published in 2002 with four co-authors. The most-used collegiate textbook on the state’s past is “The History of Texas,” which he co-authored with Robert A. Calvert and Gregg Cantrell.

For college courses examining the Hispanic history of Texas or of the U.S., De León authored “Mexican Americans in Texas” and “North to Aztlán: A History of Mexican Americans in the United States,” both of which have been produced in multiple editions.

“During his 41-year career at Angelo State University, Dr. Arnoldo De León exemplified the role of a true academic scholar dedicated to the publication of his research and a professor devoted to teaching his students,” said Dr. John Klingemann, dean of ASU’s College of Arts and Humanities. “He also became one of the most influential scholars in the field of Mexican American Studies, as well as the study of the U.S.–Mexico borderlands. His expertise, camaraderie and passion for teaching students set a standard for many of us to follow. On a personal level, I am honored to have been mentored by Dr. De León.”

In all, De León’s publishing record totaled 21 books, over 70 essays and a long list of book reviews.

In addition to the many books he published, De León wrote two booklets on Duval County history that had only limited distribution. The first, A social history of Mexican Americans in Nineteenth-Century Duval County was commissioned by the Duval County Commissioners Court circa 1975. In 1980, the Benavides City Council also contracted the noted author, on the occasion of their centennial, for a pamphlet entitled Benavides: The Town and Its Founder, 1880.

Among his book awards are a Luciano Guajardo Award from the Webb County Heritage Foundation in Laredo, and a Robert A. Calvert Book Prize from Texas A&M University Press. He also received ASU’s C.J. “Red” Davidson Endowed Professorship in History in 1988, and he was ASU’s inaugural recipient of the Texas Tech University System Chancellor’s Council Distinguished Research Award in 2009.

In 2013, De León was recognized with the Premio Estrella de Aztlán Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor bestowed by the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies. He is also a Fellow of both the Texas State Historical Association and the West Texas Historical Association, as well as a member of the Texas Institute of Letters.

Upon his retirement in 2015, the TTUS Board of Regents awarded De León the title of Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus.