Professor Henry L. Talkington’s life was marked by tragedy, and his heartbreak drove his work until the day he died, said Lewiston historian Steven Branting.
Branting spoke at a dedication Friday of an exhibit celebrating the revered professor’s contributions to the college and the community. The exhibit, located in the Lewis-Clark State College Student Union Building, was designed and installed by Pullman historian and artist Mary Reed.
Branting’s speech related the story of Talkington’s two young sons, Paul and Arthur, who drowned in the Snake River in 1903, when they were only 6 and 8.
In the aftermath of the death of his children, Talkington “threw himself into his work as a teacher and author,” Branting said.
He published 10 books, wrote articles for scholarly journals and spearheaded the development of the school’s library, which was destroyed by fire in 1917.
However, his greatest legacy was as a teacher. The exhibit, titled “Professor Henry L. Talkington – A Legacy for LCSC,” features a passage written by a former student in 1939, the last year of Talkington’s career as a teacher.
“Behind the little brown desk sits kindly friend Dr. Talkington,” the student wrote. “He observes yet never condemns. He upholds all that is good and true, yet never preaches. He has never grown narrow in his attitudes nor biased in his opinions.”
Talkington was an innovative teacher and often used historical artifacts to illustrate his lectures, Branting said. A museum eventually sprung up around his vast collection, which included hundreds of pieces and a stagecoach.
Reed said Talkington made significant contributions to LCSC and Lewiston, but few records of his life and 40-year career exist. He died in 1949 after influencing generations of educators and thousands of students, she said.
“Early in his career, he recognized the importance of using historical materials in his lectures,” she said. “We can put him in the ranks of innovative historians and teachers.”