‘Dean’ of Historians Saying Goodby

“Don is known as the dean of Orange County historians,” fellow historian Jim Sleeper said. Sleeper, speaking for himself and other county historians, is referring to 88-year-old Don Meadows, former teacher, author and probably the county’s foremost chronicler of Orange County history.

Meadows and wife, Frances, will soon be leaving the county and their custom-built adobe home in Panorama Heights, north of Tustin, to live closer to their son and family near Yuba City.

Meadows was just 6 years old when his family settled in Orange more than 80 years ago. Through his friendship with Father St. John O’Sullivan, pastor at the San Juan Capistrano mission, he gained access to mission records--a key to the county’s earliest history. Ever since, Meadows has collected old records, maps, pamphlets and talked with old-timers to soak up enough information to author or co-author seven books, including a three-volume history and reference work on Orange County--"Historic Place Names in Orange County.” His 4,000-volume library of western history resides in the UC Irvine library.

“Don’s activities as a historian predate any institutionalized interest in the county’s history,” said Lindy Currie, owner of the county’s oldest used bookstore.


“There was no other historical source prior to Don. He led a one-man crusade to save old county materials and to get important information recorded. He links us with the past, bringing history to the modern day, and does it as a labor of love.”

Currie spoke of the many organizations Meadows was a member of, or founded, including the rather unstuffy group of history buffs, the Platrix chapter of E Clampus Vitus. The “Clampers” were a “fun-loving history group” of men with a keen interest in western history who enjoyed “clamping out” twice a year, usually at a historic site in Orange County. But Don had his serious side, too, says Newport Beach historian and author Ellen K. Lee of South Laguna. “Don never made fun of history; he always took a scholarly approach to anything he wrote about,” Lee said.

“If it hadn’t been for Don collecting (historical items), we’d certainly be a lot poorer for it. He personifies Orange County history to all of us, and if he insists on moving to Yuba City, then that’s where we’ll have to go to get our questions answered.

“Of course, he will never lose his position as the dean of Orange County history,” she said.


Dorothy B. Heide, associate professor of management at Cal State Fullerton, is the new chairman of the university’s Faculty Council. Also elected were vice chairman Carole C. Harrison, associate professor of music; secretary Norma G. Inabinette, professor of reading, and treasurer James F. Woodward, professor of history.

Soroptimist International of Huntington Beach honored Huntington Beach Mayor Ruth Bailey and the Rev. Peggy Bassett with its Woman of Distinction Award on Thursday.

Bailey has worked for many civic organizations, was elected to the City Council in 1978 and 1982 and has twice been mayor.

Bassett, minister of the Huntington Beach Church of Religious Science, has seen church membership grow from 40 in 1974 to more than 1,500.