Founding director of Tech’s Vietnam Center and Archive dies at 78

Founding director of Tech’s Vietnam Center and Archive dies at 78
James Reckner, the founding director of the Texas Tech Vietnam Center and Archive, died on Nov. 16 at the age of 78. (Source: Texas Tech)

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - James Reckner, a U.S. Navy veteran and retired professor at Texas Tech who helped establish the Texas Tech Vietnam Center and Archive, died on Friday at the age of 78.

A memorial service for Reckner has been scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Nov. 30 at Lake Ridge Chapel and Memorial Designers at 6025 82nd St., according to a Tech news release.

Reckner, who retired from the university in January of 2009, was integral in setting up the university’s Vietnam center and helping in getting it highlighted by various education agencies. The idea for the center came in 1988 after he found students in his class could not properly identify Gen. William Westmoreland, who was the general most closely associated with the Vietnam war.

He found Tech’s university library did not have enough material to support graduate research after he tried to teach a course that was entirely focused on the war so he asked local veterans to help collect documents. The first of the many contributions came from a soldier who had a stack of letters written to his mother in Slaton, after that the collection grew to more than 20 million pages of documents.

“Jim was an amazing professor, mentor, scholar and friend,” Steve Maxner, director of the center, said. “Over the two decades of his service, he worked with hundreds of graduate students, completely changing the landscape of Vietnam War and military history studies for the nation. Jim also established the Vietnam Center and Archive, which he helped to grow into the largest university program in the country. Jim’s incredible contributions will serve as a daily reminder of his important legacy at Texas Tech, his dedication to his students and his love and passion for the study of the Vietnam War and military history. We miss him and send our prayers and condolences to his family.”

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