Frances Vick was a prospective college freshman applying to The University of Texas at Austin in 1954, when her father dropped her off on “the Drag,” pointed her toward the Tower and said, “Go up there. They can tell you how to register.”
That was the beginning of her time in the College of Liberal Arts, which she credits as being the “foundation on which the rest of my life was built.”
“There is nothing, other than being terribly fortunate in having the parents I did and the friends I have, that is more important to my life than the foundation I received at The University of Texas, and specifically the liberal arts education I received,” says Vick, an English alumna and 2009 Pro Bene Meritis recipient.
A leading advocate of Texas authors and literature, past president of the Texas State Historical Society and self-proclaimed provincial Texan, Vick is uniquely poised to tell the stories of the state.
She was recognized by The Dallas Morning News in 2000 as one of “100 Texas Women Who Made Their Mark on Texas.” Since retiring as director and founder of the University of North Texas Press in 2000, she has authored two books: “Petra’s Legacy: The South Texas Ranching Empire of Petra Vela and Mifflin Kenedy,” with Jane Monday, and “Literary Dallas.”
Vick first learned about Petra Vela, the matriarch of one of the most important Texas families of the 1800s, when her good friend Monday was researching a book on the vaqueros of the King Ranch and Kenedy Ranch. Monday kept coming across Petra’s name and was intrigued, eventually asking Vick to join the project.
“I was completely surprised at how cosmopolitan South Texas was in those days,” says Vick. “There were ships coming in there from all over the world, bringing in fine French wines, foods from around the world, and beautiful fabrics for dresses along with patterns and designs for those dresses.
“As I am fond of saying, while we were eating black-eyed peas and cornbread in East Texas, the South Texans were dining on fine wines and caviar.”
Vick and Monday are collaborating once again, editing the love letters of Robert Kleberg to Alice King of King Ranch.
Vick admits there isn’t a place in Texas she doesn’t love. But after 35 years, she calls Dallas home, which made it particularly special when she was asked by Judy Alter, the director of TCU Press, to write “Literary Dallas,” a collection showcasing all things Big D.
For a future project, Vick would like to trace her colorful ancestors who settled Texas. She has great-great grandfathers who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, swam the Sabine River to escape a feud in Louisiana, and journeyed with the Choctaws from Mississippi to Texas. A great-grandfather emigrated from Ireland and landed at Galveston.
She has passed on her Texas legacy to children Karen, Ross and Pat.
“Within my family one can see the founding of Texas through the pioneers who led the way,” says Vick. “Nothing about it was easy, but they somehow made it work and made a state while they were at it.
“The people make Texas special, and the fact that we were once our own nation, a Republic,” she adds. “I think that must be part of a Texan’s DNA, that realization that we were always a different species.”