family donates archive
Keleher family donors recently met with UNM General Library
Dean Camila Alire. From left, James W. Rogers, Jr., William
B. Keleher, Ann Rogers Rothman, Alire and Michael L. Keleher.
Photo by Carolyn Gonzales.
months ago, the paperwork was signed, and the final box was
removed from the Keleher home, leaving behind empty shelves,
spaces and files. New Mexico attorney and historian William
A. Kelehers collection of books and archival materials
are now part of collections held by the UNM General Library.
former UNM faculty member Loretta Barrett Keleher, died July
31, 2000, and the collection became available. His four sons,
William, Michael, John and Thomas Keleher, and the children
of his daughter Mary Ann Keleher Rogers: James W. Rogers, Jr.,
Susan Rogers Schenkelberg, Ann Rogers Rothman and Michael W.
Rogers, decided they wanted the collection to stay together
and remain in New Mexico.
was to donate it to UNM.
believe this to have been the best private library on Southwestern
Americana available, said Jan Dodson Barnhart, who is
in charge of the library donor programming. Barnhart worked
closely with Kelehers heirs to acquire the collection
for the UNM library.
Dropout to Distinction
A. Keleher (1886-1972), was the child of David and Mary Ann
Gorry Keleher who married in San Felipe Church, Albuquerque,
in 1882. He opened his law practice in 1915, and founded
one of the largest law firms in the state, Keleher & McLeod,
P.A. Three of Kelehers sons, William, Michael and
Thomas, still practice law at the firm.
A. Keleher had not completed the eighth grade when family needs
compelled him to drop out of school and work to help support
his family. Years later, he was accepted by Washington &
Lee University as a special student to study law and he graduated
two year later with his law degree. He then returned to Albuquerque
to practice law.
the New Mexico Bar Association named Keleher one of the Outstanding
Lawyers of the Century for the 1920s.
authored some of the premier works on the Southwest: Maxwell
Land Grant, 1942; Fabulous Frontier, 1945;
Turmoil in New Mexico, 1846-1968, 1952; Violence
in Lincoln County, 1957; and Memoirs 1969.
Memoirs was republished as New Mexicans I
Knew, in the early 1980s when UNM Press reissued all his
collection would find a home at UNM is not difficult to understand.
All five of his children hold degrees from UNM as do several
of his grandchildren. He received an honorary degree from the
UNM Law School in 1968. He gave the birthday speech at the Alumni
Chapel dedication on Feb. 28, 1962.
itself is represented in three parts. The first is primarily
Southwestern history books and publications on New Mexicos
territorial era. A leather bound copy of the original
edition of The Fabulous Frontier is among the vast
library of books.
part of the collection is Kelehers correspondence, letters
and files relating to his research interests, as well as the
galley proofs for his books.
The history of the Maxwell Land Grand is outlined in those
documents, complete with verifying statements and amplification,
William B. Keleher said.
A map of the land grant, produced in Denver in 1889 and measuring
24 inches by 30 inches, is also included.
of the collection is an assortment of records, memorabilia,
photographs, newspapers, pamphlets and more.
of Albuquerque business cards, advertising notions, dance cards
and brochures from 1883-1903 are but a few of the rare items
found in the collection. Included in the collections are invitations
to social functions in Albuquerque in the 1930s and 40s, said
dinner menu from the 1939 opening of the Hilton Hotel and a
thank-you letter from Elizabeth Taylor for a wedding gift are
among the treasures, she said.
retirement, Katherine McMahon, Southwest librarian for the Albuquerque
Public Library for many years, catalogued many of the books.
She told the family the collection was unique in that Keleher
saved pamphlets and other publications that are usually pitched.
A number of years ago, his widow hired Donald R. Lavash, retired
historian and archivist with the New Mexico State Archives to
process portions of the collection.
B. Keleher spent days following his mothers death going
through boxes identifying things that Lavash was unable to.
Although Lavash thought the books and other materials could
stand alone as a private collection, the heirs decided the solution
was to have the collection placed centrally, at UNM.
was the family surrounded by the mementos of their fathers
connections and collections, but they also have some of the
best stories to tell. More than one anecdote features the colorful
New Mexico figure Elfego Baca (1865-1945). Baca was deputy and
sheriff of Socorro County, practiced law, operated a detective
agency and speculated in mining and real estate, among other
ventures. Keleher was his attorney.
Sunday morning Elfego Baca came to the house demanding to see
my father who was sick in bed, recalled William B. Keleher.
Mom told him he was sick. Baca replied, Its
important! Its about Mrs. Baca [his wife].
Mom said, Mr. Baca, I dont see how that could
be. Youve killed several men. How could you be so intimidated?
Mr. Baca shook his head and said, You dont know
signed by Baca, as well as Bacas briefcase are part of
the collection is at UNM, members of the Keleher family plan
to spend more time reviewing the material. Being available
locally makes it accessible to family members, said Keleher.
and the grandchildren arent particularly interested in
the material now, but they will be later, said Keleher.
of the family and the state are connected through this archival
collection. Kelehers contributions will continue to be
revealed as historians use the archive to develop a greater
understanding of the history and the man.