By Randy Fiedler
This article originally appeared in the Waco Today magazine on 28 June 2004 and on wacotrib.com.
Well before his death in 1999, former Texas Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock began sending his personal and official records to Baylor University. When the collection - now known as the Bullock Archive - opens its doors this month, the public will gain access to a treasure trove of political history spanning more than a quarter century.
The Bullock Archive, located in the W.R. Poage Legislative Library building, opens July 12. In addition, a special exhibit titled "Red, White and Bullock," which showcases selected materials from the archive, will be on display July 12 to Oct. 1 at the Mayborn Museum Complex.
Bullock, a Hillsboro native, was attending law school at Baylor in 1956 when he won his first race for political office - a seat in the Texas House of Representatives. He received his law degree two years later, and he went on to serve as secretary of state and state comptroller. As lieutenant governor, he forged a friendship and political partnership across party lines with then-Gov. George W. Bush.
When deciding where to place his political papers, Bullock was attracted to the Baylor Collection of Political Materials, where the papers of former U.S. Rep. Bob Poage and about 25 other Texas politicians already were archived.
"Baylor University was important to him because he went to Baylor Law School and it was near his hometown of Hillsboro," said Jan Felts Bullock, his widow. "He thought it was a great educational institution. . . . It is only fitting (the papers) should come to rest at Baylor, where he learned the skills and habits he practiced throughout his career."
Bullock eventually gave thousands of documents and other items to Baylor, most of them dating from 1972 to 1999. He requested they not be made available for public inspection until five years after his death, which is why the archive has delayed its formal opening until now. The amount and scope of the materials are formidable.
"There are 26 bound volumes of speeches, 40 volumes of news releases, 140 notebooks of news clippings, probably 400 to 500 framed plaques, certificates, awards and photographs, and about 6,000 unframed photographs," said Ben Rogers, director of the Baylor Collection of Political Materials.
Rogers said the archive also includes 278 reels of microfilm containing official records from Bullock's service as lieutenant governor and additional records from his time as comptroller. Detailed indexes for many of the items already have been prepared, and archive staffers will spend the next decade or so completing the task of indexing and cataloging the entire collection.
"Anything that Bullock gave us that was printed, we have taken out and cataloged," Rogers said. "We have a long-term project to commit all the records to an archival format that would be computer-accessible from anywhere in the world, just like books are."
If you placed the boxes storing the more than 70,000 folders of Bullock material back to back, they would stretch about 1,150 feet - almost the length of four football fields. Rogers said one reason Bullock created so much paperwork was his habit of writing lots of letters.
"Bullock's office had a turnaround time of maybe two days on a letter. They worked very hard to make sure people were answered as quickly as possible," he said. "If Bullock met someone in a certain city, he would call Austin and dictate a letter that would be in the mail probably before the time he got back."
Benna Ball, Bullock Archive project director, said the collection also includes some personal items that reflect Bullock's personality and interests, such as family scrapbooks, belt buckles, hunting knives, boots, a collection of more than 30 ceremonial gavels and even his old high school baseball jersey. There also is an extensive cartoon collection.
"Bullock had an intense relationship with the press, and he was quite often caricatured in political cartoons," Ball said. "He would contact the cartoonist and pay for the original of the cartoon, then have copies made and framed. It's a fascinating collection, and it captures his spirit and the issues the cartoons talk about."
Rogers said he expects the Bullock Archive will appeal most to researchers who have an interest in Texas history and government during the late 20th century. Most of those will be professional scholars, but he said the materials also will be of use to students working on school projects.
"When a student walks in the door to do research, they become a scholar," he said.
"Our policy certainly includes students. We've had sixth-graders come here to research historical topics, and we have Baylor graduate students right now doing research."