Baylor University Poage Library

Scope and Content

Papers of JOHN DOWDY
Member of Congress, 1952-1972

The John Dowdy papers cover the life of John V. Dowdy, Sr. from the mid-1920s until his death in 1995. While the bulk of the papers are from his congressional years, 1952 to 1972, there are also considerable materials in the Personal and Political Materials series dealing with his life from 1935-1952 when he served as Court Reporter and District Attorney. Another series, Trial and Imprisonment, dates mostly from 1970 to 1974 with a few letters as early as 1965 and as late as 1978.

The massive congressional papers, 1952-1972, contain the usual government files for agencies, commissions, departments, committees, legislation, correspondence, and case files, both civilian and military. The points of interest here are the District of Columbia Committee files, the Judiciary Committee files, and the extensive correspondence scattered in several places related to urban renewal. There are urban renewal letters from every state usually detailing some overspending or scandal related to local projects.

The Personal Papers are divided into four sub-series: General, Media, Political Materials, and Speeches. The General series includes information about Dowdy's family, the death of his first wife, his children, and his second wife, J. D., awards, guest books, and inaugural invitations. There are eleven kinds of media in Dowdy's files: news clippings, news letters, news releases, photographs, radio scripts, TV scripts, reel-to-reel tapes, cassette tapes, video tapes, vinyl discs, and films.

Political Materials includes five sub-series: Court Reporter, Legal Papers, Campaign Materials, Opinion Ballots and Questionnaires, and Publications. The Legal Papers are of particular interest because they retain the original filing system employed by Dowdy from 1935 to 1952. A variety of papers are included such as wills, divorces, murder trials, insurance policies, tax returns, and agricultural publications.

Dowdy's political campaigns for the U. S. House span eighteen years, 1952-1970. As he became more skilled at organizing his campaign, the files expanded to include letters from supporters filed by counties in his district. In spite of his indictment in 1970, his campaign for re-election that year went ahead successfully.

Only a small segment of Dowdy's Opinion Ballots and Questionnaires has been retained. The collection originally contained thousands of these taken on an annual basis. Only samples remain along with the Sampling Sheets describing the number of files or boxes discarded.

Publications in the Political Materials section represent the kinds of groups that were attracted to Dowdy during his ordeal by the government. While the groups themselves seem to be extremely Right Wing, Dowdy himself does not seem to have leaned this far.

Speech materials Dowdy collected as possible illustrations, rough drafts, dated and undated speeches from the early 1940s to the 1980s are found in the Speeches sub-series.

What makes this congressional collection somewhat unique is the inclusion of Dowdy's Trial and Imprisonment Series. There is abundant material here for a researcher: correspondence before, during and after imprisonment, trial exhibits, attorney files, FBI investigative files, legal proceedings, personality files, telephone tapes with transcripts, and the entire trial transcript. Perhaps someone could wade through all this material and arrive at the truth. After all, Dowdy was not imprisoned for taking a bribe or even thinking about taking a bribe, but rather for committing perjury against two government witnesses who themselves eventually were imprisoned for defrauding the government. So was Dowdy lying about them if they themselves were already lying?

Casework in the Dowdy Papers is scheduled for discarding because of the Freedom of Information Act which protects the private nature of these documents. Civilian casework military casework, and servicemen correspondence are listed in the Finding Aid, but the files themselves are no longer available.