By CLAY COPPEDGE
SALADO - Dr. Harry A. Wilmer II, founder of the Institute for the Humanities in Sal-ado and a pioneer in modern group psychotherapy, died on March 13 at his home here.
Wilmer, 88, left behind half a century of groundbreaking psychiatric work that was sometimes overshadowed locally by his work at the Institute for the Humanities. Like his innovations as a Jungian analyst, the programs at the Institute for the Humanities often garnered national attention.
"Dr. Wilmer, by virtue of his reputation, was able to bring in national and internationally known scholars, writers, scientists, Nobel Prize winners," Dr. Dudley Baker, president of the Institute board of trustees, said Monday.
"He could call up these people and they would come here because he was so well known in his field, and people wanted to be a part of this."
In his 17 years as leader of the Institute, Wilmer brought more than 200 of the nation's leading scholars to Salado, including Nobel laureate Linus Pauling, playwrights Edward Albee and Horton Foote, writers Isaac Bashevia Singer, N. Scott Momaday and Tony Hillerman, historian T.H. Fehrenbach, fiddler Johnny Gimble, astronaut Story Musgrave, the poet and writer Maya Angelou.
Ms. Angelou appeared at the 1987 symposium "Understanding Evil," which also counted among its participants Rollo May, M. Scott Peck and Barbara Jordan. It became part of a 90-minute Bill Moyers video broadcast, "Facing Evil," on PBS.
A 1982 symposium, "Understanding Vietnam," featured former soldiers, generals, policy makers from the Johnson administration, journalists and others. That symposium was covered in the Washington Post, Boston Globe and several national publications.
"I think he had a profound impact on so many Central Texans for such a long time," his son, Jim Wilmer, of Seattle said Monday. "He was quite a center for Salado culture and intellectual life."
Wilmer came to Salado with a reputation as a pioneer in group psychotherapy, which is common today, but was unheard of in 1950s.
In January, the 1961 made-for-TV movie "People Need People" was nominated for an Emmy award. The book on which the movie was based, "Social Psychiatry in Action," detailed Wilmer's experiments at Oakland Navy Hospital during the Korean War in which restraints were removed from mental patients at the hospital.
"People Need People" starred Arthur Kennedy as Dr. Wilmer and the late Lee Marvin as his most volatile patient.
The movie was shown this year at the Silver Spur Theater in Salado as the subject for the second annual lectureship named in Wilmer's honor.
In the mid-1960s, Wilmer created the Youth Drug Ward program to treat drug casualties in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco.
He was appointed Senior Staff Psychiatrist at Scott and White Clinic in Temple in 1969 and later became professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio.
There he created one of the first wards for the training of caregivers to AIDS patients. He also studied the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on Vietnam veterans.
While in San Antonio Wilmer founded and directed four annual International Film Festivals that brought in speakers from all over the world to discuss important human and medical issues.
The San Antonio conferences foreshadowed the Institute for the Humanities at Salado, which Wilmer founded in 1980 following his retirement.
The Institute for the Humanities at Salado is a non-profit corporation offering the public educational programs and conferences.
"The word 'wise' comes to mind when I think of Dr. Wilmer," said Sara Mackie, executive director of the Institute Board. "He exuded wisdom. He had already had an outstanding career when he started the Institute. He helped put Salado on the map nationally. He helped not only with Salado's growth, but with its credibility."
Private graveside services were previously held.
A memorial service is scheduled for June 4 in Salado.