Congregational Church of Austin,
United Church of Christ
Men's Book Club

Club Coordinator: Rambie Briggs
Ph. 512 267-4832

Previous Coordinator: Dave Ross

Email Rambie

Club History:

The book club started in September of 1992 and consisted of men from the Congregational Church of Austin, United Church of Christ at 408 23rd Street, near the University of Texas. Meetings, held at 7:30 pm on the third Wednesday of each month, were hosted by members of the club. As the years passed, members would invite friends to attend. and often they would become permanent members and added a rich diversity of interests and backgrounds to the mix. Rambie Briggs, David Ross and Dennis Murphy were charter members. Rambie suggested that the club be formed. The club has read over 250 books. The corona virus has forced meeting via Zoom. Meeting time is now 10:00 AM on Third Wednesday of the Month.

To provide some inperson contact we now have a once a month lunch at a restaurant. Saj Maqsood has kindly taken on the task of arranging these meeting which have met with much success.





Zoom Meeting

Next Meeting

February 21, 2024, Wednesday, 10:00 AM
And There Was Light: Lincoln and the American Struggle

By Jon Meacham

Mel Oakes will email members the link to the Zoom meeting a week or so before.
If you have any problem contact Mel below.

His contact information is

Phone: (512) 964-1423











2024-25 Schedule
Date Book Title Author Host
February 21, 2024 And There Was Light: Lincoln and the American Struggle Jon Meacham Zoom Meeting
March 20, 2024 Gunship: Spectre of Death Henry Zeybel Zoom Meeting
April 17, 2024 The Which Way Tree Elizabeth Crook Zoom Meeting
May 22, 2024 The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the Twenty-First Century’s Greatest Dilemma Mustafa Suleyman Zoom Meeting
June 19, 2024 Harlem Shuffle: A Novel Colson Whitehead Zoom Meeting
July 17, 2024 Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self Andrea Wulf Zoom Meeting
August 21, 2024 Raven Black

Ann Cleeves

Zoom Metting
September 18, 2024 The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder David Granns  Zoom Meeting
October 16, 2024 Killers of the Flower Moon David Grann Zoom Meeting
November 20, 2024 Blood Memory Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns Zoom Meeting
December 18, 2024 Four Winds Kristin Hannahy Zoom Meeting
January 15, 2025 Books Selections Meeting None Zoom Meeting
February 19, 2025 The Covenant of Water Abraham Verghese Zoom Meeting


Men's Bookclub Members, November 2017, Home of Mel and Pat Oakes
Left to Right:

Seated: Rambie Briggs, Roger Bengtson (deceased), Mel Oakes

Second Row: Michael Rotman (deceased), Dennis Murphy (deceased), Gordon Huth, Al Lindsey, Bill Briggs (deceased), Loren Stell

Back Row: Saj Maqsood, Jim Keeler, Michael Hall (deceased), Don Brown (deceased), Sam Sutherland, Carl Hehmsoth

Missing Regulars: Dave Ross and Jim Vick (deceased)

Dave Ross
Jim Vick (deceased)








2/21/08  The Men's Book Club--Back Row: Michael Rotman, Carl Hehmuth, Dave Ross, Don Brown, Matt Blackstock, Ben White, Jesse Binford, Paul Landry, Bill Briggs, and Joe Dunst

Front Row: Mel Oakes, John Towery and Rambie Briggs.



In Memoriam

John Chesley Towery (1925-2014)
Charter Member of Book Club
John was the minster of the Congregational Church of Austin, United Church of Christ, for 30 years. His impact on his congregation, his community and his family will long be felt in so many important ways. John, Ben, Matt, Jesse, Jim, David and Carl lived lives of service that most of us can only aspire to. However they left a well marked path for us to follow. —Mel Oakes

Link to Obit and Eulogies



Jesse Stone Binford (1928-2014)
Member of Book Club
Jesse and his wife Lolita came to Austin in 1955 to join the UT Chemistry Faculty, He was very active in the Congregational Church of Austin. He spent most of his career at the University of South Florida. In 2003, following retirement, they returned to Austin. Jesse was a principled and caring man who fought injustice all his life. His support of the less fortunate was a corner stone of his life of service. —Mel Oakes

Link to Obit and Eulogies


Mathis Wilholte Blackstock (1925-2012)
Charter Member of Book Club
How fortunate our book club was to have seven of the finest men most of us have ever known. To lose four over the past three years saddens us on many levels. What a privilege to have known them. Matt lived a life of dedication to his fellow man that stands tall. So many felt his healing touch. It continues. —Mel Oakes

Link to Obit and Eulogies



Ben Henson White (1923-2011)
Charter Member of Book Club
When I received notes from the book club with the salutation "Gentlemen" I was never sure if I deserved the title, however, there was never a doubt that Ben did. I never knew a finer man. To be in his presence was a pleasure and an honor. His passion for justice and equality never flagged. His passing diminishes us all, and yet his life inspires us to reach higher. Ben accomplished much in his long life and kindness was his currency. —Mel Oakes

Link to Obit and Eulogies

James Tomasek Jr. (1929-2005)
Charter Member of Book Club
Conversations with Jim always revealed some surprise about his life and career. From an early age he was concerned about racial justice and he chose pastoral appointments that gave him an opportunity to work toward equality. He was at the Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” speech. He was disappointed that family responsibilities prevented him from participating in the Selma March. Jim and his wife Mary loved the theater and were involved since their school days. Jim’s dedication to justice and fairness is dearly missed. —Mel Oakes

Link to Obit and Eulogies

David Z. Lippmann (1925-2015)

Following his WWII service in France, David had a distinguished career as a research chemist at the forefront of the development of rocket engines, David was a professor of chemistry for 50 years. His resumé includes patents, many papers, and service to professional organizations. He enjoyed reading and writing outside of his discipline. He was a published author. Behind his quiet demeanor was an insightful thinker and a sensitive and critical observer of the world around him.—Mel Oakes

Link to Obituary

Carl Jennings Rigney (1925-2011)

WWII interupted Carl's education at UT. Following service in the US Navy, he continued his eduacation at U. of Louisville in electrical engineering on the GI Bill. He then completed a masters and doctorate at Northwestern University where he met his wife Margaret. Carl then had a number of temporary teaching jobs before returning to Texas where he had a distringuished career as an educator. He taught at Stephen F. Austin U. and at Lamar University where he served as chair. Carl was a kind and softspoken man with a deep concern for the less fortunate in society. His son, David, referred to him as a "progressive populist." My conversations with him enroute to bookclub were often about some social problem the country or the communty was facing. He always empathized with the less fortunate and vulnerable in our country. He was a man of principle wrapped in compassion.—Mel Oakes

Link to Obituary


Michael Rotman (1941-2021)

Michael was a highly respected cardiologist in Austin. He was born in Quito, Ecuador to Jewish Immigrant parents who had separately fled Eastern Europe. Michael was proud of his Jewish heritage and celebrated it. His book selections often provide us with a window to his faith. He was keenly interested in the health of others and promoted a healthy lifestyle. Michael was an advocate of universal health care coverage. He enjoyed the affection of all the bookclub members and he is dearly missed—Mel Oakes

Link to Obituary


Don W. Brown (1943-2022)

Don was an educator and an important administrator in Texas higher education. He was born in Houston, Texas, later moving to Kerrville. He attended UT and University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a PhD. He taught at UC-Riverside before joining the Texas Coordinating Board where he later became Commissoner of Higher Education. Don served aboard a destroyer in Vietnam and he had an interest in the military hisory of our country and spy novels. His book selections were always a hit with the club. Dennis Murphy said of Don, "And did anyone, ever, not enjoy Don's company?  Impossible." Don fought a courageou battle with a relentless form of Parkinson's. He was everything you would want in a human being. We are all diminished by his loss.—Mel Oakes

Link to Obituary


Wlliam Ross "Bill" Briggs (1946-2022)

Bill Briggs was a distinguished mechnical engineer. He was born in San Antonio, Texas, on September 23, 1946, to Ross Neville and Frances Laurine Stovall Briggs. He graduated from the University of Texas and had a long career with the US Patent Office in Arlington, VA. His book selections always introduced the group to interesting authors and topics. Bill, cousin of Rambie Briggs, was a skilled craftsman, a talented poet, a musician and an avid gardener. He was a loyal member of our bookclub. He was loved and respected by everyone and is sorely missed.—Mel Oakes

Link to Obituary


Dennis Eugene Murphy (1941-2022)

It is with much sadness that we note the untimely death of Dennis Murphy, our dear friend and fellow bookclub member. Dennis died suddently on December 4, 2022, of a heart attack. Dennis Eugene Murphy was born on November 17, 1941, in Denton, Texas, to Dennis James and Mary Barton Pugh Murphy III. He created a successful company, Professional Training Associates, Inc. Dennis was a charter member of our bookclub. He was loved and respected by everyone. His book selections always introduced the group to new authors, poets and genres. Dennis was a loyal and valued member of the club. Our condolences go out to his wife, Nodie and all the family. He will be forever missed.—Mel Oakes

Link to Obituary


Michael Lee Hall (1946-2022)

Sadly we note the passing of Michael Hall, our dear friend and fellow bookclub member. Michael died suddenly on December 21, 2022, of an apparent heart attack. Michael was a valued member of our bookclub and greatly treasured by our members. His knowledge of literature was encyclopedic, and we all looked forward to Michael's comments about each month's book selection. His book selections were always special and introduced the group to something new. Michael was a devoted member of the club. Our condolences go out to his wife, Joy, and the family. He will be sorely missed.—Mel Oakes

Link to Obituary


Roger D. Bengtson (1941-2023)

Roger Bengtson, fellow bookclub member died following a stroke on May 8, 2023 in Provo, Utah. Roger, a retired UT physics professor was a devoted member of our bookclub. He joined the club following his retirement. He was an avid reader, broad in his topic. True to his Swedish heritage, he was a man of few words but those were always inciteful. His mentoring of students was special. Our condolences go out to his son, Hans, and daughter, Nissa, and their families. We have lost a fine man.—Mel Oakes

Link to Biography














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