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Clara Lee Tanner (1905-1997)

Inducted in 2004

Used by permission from the Arizona Historical Society

Born in Biscoe, North Carolina on May 28, 1905, Clara Lee (Fraps) Tanner was an Arizona resident for 90 years. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Archaeology at the University of Arizona and was one of the first three students there to receive a Masters Degree in Archaeology (1928). She pursued graduate studies at the National University of Mexico and at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Arizona in 1983.

Clara Lee Tanner was appointed to the faculty of the University of Arizona in 1928 where she taught in the Department of Anthropology for half a century. She specialized in Southwest Indian arts and crafts and authored an extensive list of articles and books ranging from newspaper articles to college textbooks in addition to being a regular contributor to Arizona Highways magazine.

For many years she was the recognized authority on Southwest Indian culture and arts. As a highly sought after public speaker, she was able to communicate appreciation of the artistic achievements of these people in both the United States and abroad and inspire other’s interest.

Among her numerous awards were the Sharlot Hall Award in 1985, given to a living Arizona woman who has made a valuable contribution to the understanding and awareness of Arizona’s history, and in 1993 she was given an National Lifetime Achievement in the Crafts Arts Award sponsored by the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Tanner’s many publications have been praised by professionals and the public, and her major works have been distributed in 85 countries. She won numerous Arizona Press Women First Awards and three awards from the National Federation of Press Women for her books on Southwest Indian craft arts, Southwest Indian painting and Apache baskets, and prehistoric southwest arts.

This remarkable lady uniquely combined the attributes of inspiring teacher, outstanding scholar, stimulating writer, and dedicated public speaker to serve with vigor and grace both the profession of anthropology and the artistic creativity of the Indians of the American Southwest.

Clara Lee Tanner died in Tucson, Arizona on December 22, 1997 at the age of 92.

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