Clara Lee Tanner

Areas of Achievement: 
Higher Education

Honored By

Honored by: Griffith, Jim & Loma
Date submitted: July 01, 2008
Gift: Engraved Paver, Small

Clara Lee Fraps Tanner was born on May 28 in 1905, in Biscoe, North Carolina. Two years later, in 1907, she and her family moved to Tucson, Arizona. It was here that she met her husband, John F. Tanner, with whom she had one daughter Sandy Elers. She was also blessed with two grandchildren and three great grandchildren. It was here that she had lived out the remainder of her life.

In 1927, Tanner graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in archaeology. She had studied under Byron Cummings, who began the anthropology department at the University of Arizona. In 1928 she received one of the first three M.A. degrees in archaeology granted from the University of Arizona. She received her degree along with Florence M. Hawley Ellis and Emil W. Haury. That same year she took a teaching position at the University of Arizona for the department of Anthropology. She held her job there for 50 years, when in 1978 she retired from teaching. She had first begun teaching Greek, Roman and Egyptian archaeology. Then in 1940 she began teaching about the Southwest Indian Art, in which she examined artifacts from various tribes and communities throughout the southwest. In 1983, the University of Arizona awarded her with an honorary doctor of letters degree. She also received other awards, including from the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Craft Arts.

Clara Tanner had a passion for learning and spreading information about Indian art. She worked on Indian arts and crafts and judged Indian craft art exhibits throughout the West. Tanner wrote 10 books, some of which include: Southwest Indian Crafts Arts in 1969, Southwest Indian Painting, A Changing Art in 1974, and Prehistoric Southwestern Craft Arts in1976. She also gave many speeches and wrote over 160 articles.

Clara Lee Fraps Tanner died on December 24, 1997 at the age of 92. She left behind her extensive research of Indian craft art and her enthusiasm on the subject, which she had passed on to her students and the public.

"I feel that the Indian has given us a tremendous gift. Indian art roots are the deepest in the country, and they're very important. I hoped to present in a truthful, non-exaggerated fashion the greatness of Indian art, and hoped to leave this legacy for Indian art to the American people." --Clara Lee Fraps Tanner