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Czechs honor Utahn

LOGAN (AP) -- Utah native Spencer Taggart has been honored for his efforts to save historic Czechoslovak documents more than five decades ago.

He received the Jubilee Award from Jaroslav Panek, vice rector of Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, who called it "an expression of high esteem for his life's work in the field of history."Taggart was one of three people to receive the award this year. He cried as he was given the medal.

"I love your country, and I love your people," he told Panek at the ceremony held Thursday at Utah State University.

Taggart was working in the American Embassy in Prague when the newly powerful Communists began destroying Czech records and books around 1948. Concerned that historical works would be lost forever, he managed to get more than 70 cases of books out of the country.

"After the Communists took over, my emphasis shifted to making sure I got the most important works to where they would be safe and preserved," he said.

The collection now belongs to USU, which Taggart graduated from in 1936.

In addition to the medal, Taggart also received a doctorate in history that he earned at Charles University when he lived in Prague but which was withheld by the Communist government.

Taggart's fascination with the country then called Czechoslovakia began in 1931 when he was sent there on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was on his mission he became enthralled with the writings of Thomas Masaryk, who wrote extensively on democracy and became its first elected president in 1918.

Taggart said he met Masaryk several times and calls him a strong influence in his life.

"I have patterned my life after his example," he said.

Taggart returned to Prague in 1946 as a diplomat.

Realizing that it was urgent his hero's works be protected, he began searching out Masaryk's writings and interviewed the people who had known him.

Once back in the United States, Taggart continued working for the federal government and lived in Maryland. He and his wife moved to Logan in 1972 and donated his collection to USU, where his brother Glen Taggart was president.