Nacogdoches historian Archie McDonald dead at 76

Source: Facebook
Source: Facebook

A longtime Nacogdoches historian, columnist, radio commentator, and teacher, among other things, died Thursday morning. Archie McDonald was 76.

McDonald died at 4 a.m. in a Nacogdoches hospital following a long battle with cancer. He had been treated for non lymphoma Hodgkin's disease.

The former executive director of the East Texas Historical Society was born Nov. 29, 1935. He is survived by his wife and former Nacogdoches mayor Judy McDonald, his son, Chris and granddaughter Kelly McDonald.

McDonald was active in the Rotary Club and once served as president. He taught history at SFA and was prepared to teach in the fall.

His family is one of five families who founded Austin Heights Baptist Church.

A public viewing for Dr. McDonald is Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Laird's Funeral Home in Nacogdoches. Visitation with the McDonald family will be Sunday at Austin Heights Baptist Church from 5-7 p. m. A Celebration of Life will be held at SFA's Grand Ballroom Monday at 10 a.m. Parking will be open in the parking garage.

Donations can be made to a Archie McDonald Scholarship Fund through the SFA Alumni Association.

U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, whose family traces its roots to Nacogdoches and still owns a house in the city, issued a statement on the passing of Dr. Archie McDonald.

"Texas has lost one of our best historians. Archie's knowledge of Texas history was unsurpassed. Living in Texas' oldest town, Nacogdoches, and teaching at Stephen F. Austin University, he specialized in East Texas history and lore. His research was prodigious. He will be missed by all who knew him."


Dr. Archie McDonald. His friends call him Archie. Archie was a planner, except when it came to his funeral. Finally, the coaxing of his beloved wife of 54 years, former Nacogdoches mayor Judy McDonald, led him to the task. However, Archie did it in a very public way.

Among the many hats Archie wore, he was a radio commentator for NPR's Red River Radio. In January he talked about funerals.

"Part of this won't resonate with you today, I hope, because the funeral which prompts this lament occurred last August, with 105-degree heat bearing down on a thirty-minute graveside service," said McDonald in the commentary. "Blamed preacher said 'in conclusion' three times before he let the departed go on his way."

The Reverend Kyle Childress got to know Archie over the fact they both wear hats. He knows not to preach to long this hot August at his good friend's funeral.

"We have copies of it and we're gonna be paying attention to that these next few days," said Childress.

The last month has been difficult for McDonald and his friends. Archie had difficulty speaking and spent weeks in a Nacogdoches hospital.

Childress knew what Archie was wanting to say. "He's grateful to be a part of this world. He's grateful to be in East Texas and Nacogdoches. He's grateful for the opportunities that he has been given to teach over 50 years at SFA and all of the students and to be in this church and all those things, so there was a strong sense of gratitude."

Archie was one of several founders of Austin Heights Baptist Church. "I've never been comfortable anywhere else since we started Austin Heights," McDonald said in his commentary.

Archie wrote about the church in a book. In all he wrote and edited over 50 books and countless more articles.

"My specialty was the American Civil War, but I'm mostly associated with Texas history," said McDonald in a video produced by the Chamber of Commerce.

The longtime director of the East Texas Historical Society is a 'wordsmith', said Judy.

He was the go-to person for East Texas history, but also knew enough about his Hollywood idol John Wayne to teach a class.

"Archie had such a broad based and deep knowledge of his subject matter," said Dr. Ric Berry, SFA vice-president for academic affairs.

The last words Archie was writing before he got to sick to continue sit on his desk. His secretary of 17 years was ready to type them up.

"Special, a special history professor," said Portia Gordon, who plans to retire in just two weeks. "It will be hard. I will miss him. He was like family to me. The best boss ever."

Archie got lots of awards. Many were state and national honors. The Rotarian knew famous people. Some he invited to Nacogdoches, including George Forman and Alan Bean.

Archie tells his friends it's alright to be sad.

" Sadness, well I want some of it, so make sure a choir sings, "Amazing Grace,", but do leave on a happy note," said McDonald in his funeral commentary. "How about "When the Saints Go Marching In," because some folks will enjoy the irony."

Longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Ab Abernethy will get it.

"I'm older and wiser and better looking than Archie is, but outside of that we kind of mentored each other," joked Abernethy. Abernethy didn't miss a day in one month to visit his good friend in the hospital during the month long stay.

Dr. Archie McDonald wore many hats, but Judy says his "proudest title was to be called 'dad' and 'papa Mac'.

Archie will be missed, but no need to go on any longer.

"Tell everyone I regret my shortcomings and thank them for their kindness. And when you say 'in conclusion'...mean it for Heaven's sake!," McDonald concluded in his commentary.

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