Saturday, March 10, 2007

James Culp

Dr. Culp died this week. He was the chair of the English department at ACU when I did my English major.

He was tall and well-built, with curly black hair and glasses. He always wore a suit and tie to class. Though slightly effeminate, his manner was always masculine. He injected droll and sometimes irreverent humor into his lectures and kept us laughing as we parsed Old English and learned the rhyme schemes in Byron and Browning. He addressed his students with great respect as Mr. and Miss. And he always appeared slightly sad when we were not prepared for the day's lesson on Chaucer. He seemed to know everything we studied by heart. I shall never forget his quoting T. S. Eliot's Wasteland, "I grow old, I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled...."

My most anxious moment with him was when I missed a test on Milton and had to take it orally in front of him in his office. Whew!

Although he did not hesitate to make fun of the CofC oddities, he was very devout and never missed a worship service.

He was in World War II, although he would quickly say that he spent all of the war behind a desk in the states to his relief.

I believe he never learned to drive, and his long-suffering wife Clara drove him everywhe

ACU lost him to Texas Tech over a matter of whether a teacher in his department could teach and assign Catcher in the Rye. He was awarded the best teacher in his college at Tech. But he forgave and came back to ACU later and retired there.

When I was hired at ACU, I was given his old office. Every day as I marched off to teach
Lewis Carroll and Beatrix Potter, I heard his voice, "Miss Brandon, do well."

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