What is a book? Is it a written work of art? Is it an idea or a story caught in ink—pressed into paper? Is it a compilation of words or a collection of pages? Mark Firmin, one of the authors of Lust, Violence, Religion: Life in Historic Waco, has a different definition.
“Every person is a book,” Firmin said. “Every person possesses memories, experiences, and knowledge that are finite unless collected, documented, and shared.” In researching for his chapter in the book, Firmin spoke with many Wacoans. “It is their memories that intrigue me more than anything,” he said.
Collecting facts and documenting information are Firmin’s areas of interest. “I love the detective work,” he said. Firmin received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from Baylor and is now a candidate for a master’s degree in Information Studies with a focus on archives and special collections at the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin. After he finishes his MSIS, he hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in history.
Firmin did not always know he wanted to make history his profession until his senior year at Baylor. He had always planned to go on to law school and be a law professor. It wasn’t until he taught a college class that he realized his calling. “It was my experience as a supplemental instructor for Religion 1310 at Baylor that made me want to integrate my passion for teaching and history,” Firmin explained.
Although he may not have always wanted to pursue history professionally, Firmin said the past has always interested him. “The older I got, the more I wanted to know about who we are and where we come from,” he said. Starting at his roots, Firmin began researching his hometown, Waco, Texas. “Waco’s history is so fascinating,” he said. His research led him to write Cameron Park: A Centennial History, which was released in May. He also wrote on Cameron Park in a chapter entitled “For the Pleasure of Which People? Race in William Cameron Park” in Lust, Violence, Religion.
Firmin said he became involved with Lust, Violence, Religion through his thesis director, Dr. T Michael Parrish. Parrish was also advising Brad Turner, the main author of Lust, Violence, Religion, and put the two graduate students in contact with each other. “I am indebted to Brad for all of his hard work and willingness to include me,” Firmin said.
Although Firmin has researched Cameron Park the most, he said all of Waco’s history interests him; he could not pick any particular event or incident as his favorite because they all connect and impact each other. “Events such as the City Beautiful movement, the First and Second World Wars, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights movement all affected the City of Waco and Wacoans, and therefore impacted Cameron Park,” Firmin said.
However, Firmin did have an area of particular interest concerning Cameron Park itself. “I have enjoyed uncovering the pre-history of the park and about the people that donated, built, and managed the park,” he said. “Most people don’t know how Emmons Cliff, Lawson’s Point, Wilson’s Creek, or Proctor Springs got their names. These were the things that I enjoyed working on.”
Currently, Firmin is a teaching assistant for Dr. David B. Gracy II, a professor in Archival Enterprise at the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin. Firmin helps Gracy do historical research on Major George Washington Littlefield. Firmin said he would also like to research more on the Progressive Era and Great Depression in Waco and also work more on the history of Baylor University and its faculty and students.
Firmin resides in Austin, Texas, and is engaged to Liza Christian from Center, Texas. Outside of his academic research, he enjoys reading and names The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky as his favorite book.
Lust, Violence, Religion: Life in Historic Waco will be released September 1. The book will be available through all major book sellers and retail stores. Books are available now for pre-ordering through Amazon.
For more on the book, go to our Facebook Fan Page which also includes audio files of chapters being narrated by Mike Jones.