Harrell, James Nelson
James Nelson Harrell (1918–2000) was born and raised in Waco, Texas. Harrell graduated from Baylor University with his BA in drama in 1940, and later earned his MA from Trinity University in 1967. In the 1940s, Harrell toured the East Coast with Michael Chekhov's Acting Studio until the attack on Pearl Harbor pushed him to serve in the U.S. Army for four years. He did not begin acting professionally again until 1962, when a former professor connected him with a position in the Dallas Theater Center's troupe.
Harrell joined Southwest Texas State University in 1970 as a member of the speech and drama department. He taught communications, stage acting, film acting, and directed a number of university drama productions until his retirement in 1994. Harrell appeared in over seventy-five film productions, including Hope Floats, Varsity Blues, and Paper Moon.
James Harrell talks about growing up in Waco, studying in Dallas, and working in the movie business. He relays information about how Texas has grown to better support actors and the film industry, and outlines present trends in professional acting. Along with recalling changes he has seen in the university, Harrell also discusses the evolution of the drama department and the new Speech and Drama Building.