Baylor University Poage Library

Series Description

Papers of JOHN DOWDY
Member of Congress, 1952-1972

I. Agencies and Commissions, 1952-1972 15.5 lin. ft.

Every congressional collection contains numerous files from government agencies and commissions. Dowdy was no exception but seems to have had no special interest in any of them. These files contain general information a congressman would receive from federal offices. Also included are several folders under Executive Offices of the President. Publications which were not substantial enough to be removed for cataloging are listed not only in this section but throughout the finding aid. These files are organized alphabetically by agency or commission name. [ Outline ]

II. Departments, 1952-1972 42.5 lin. ft.

These records reflect government issues and programs as they interface with congress, the congressman, and his constituents. Considering that a large portion of Dowdy's constituents lived in rural areas of East Texas, there are 8.5 lin. ft. devoted to Agriculture. An equal number of files are devoted to Defense, which is also an important topic to East Texans. There are numerous smaller publications listed under HEW and more substantial publications have been removed and cataloged. Other departments represented in this series include Commerce, HUD, Interior, Justice, Labor, Post Office, State, Transportation, and Treasury. Files are in alphabetical order by department and then chronological within each sub-series. [ TOP ] [ Outline ]

III. Committees, 1952-1972 65.5 lin. ft.

During his twenty years of service, Dowdy took his committee assignments seriously. He served for four years on the Post Office and Civil Service Committee and then sixteen years on the Judiciary Committee and its District of Columbia Sub-committee. He eventually became Chairman of this subcommittee spearheading an investigation into corruption of urban renewal projects in Washington, DC.

This section is divided into twenty-two committee sub-series Over half of these materials, however, deal with only four committees: District of Columbia, Education and Labor, Judiciary, and Ways and Means. The arrangement is alphabetical by committee or subcommittee and then chronological within the sub-series. [ TOP ] [ Outline ]

IV. Legislation, 1952-1972 29 lin. ft.

Divided into two sub-series, these records contain correspondence, bills, and publications concerning legislative issues of general interest to constituents from Dowdy's 11th district. The first sub-series is an alphabetical legislative subject file of outstanding issues from Aging and Animals to Wages and Welfare. The Urban Renewal files in this section contain letters from every state as well as the District of Columbia and deal mainly with describing scandals and overspending in local Urban Renewal projects.

The second sub-series contains bills sponsored or co-sponsored by Dowdy beginning in 1953. The bills are arranged numerically within each congressional session. These files also contain correspondence and ancillary materials. [ TOP ] [ Outline ]

V. Correspondence, 1952-1972 42 lin. ft.

While much of a congressman's papers are correspondence of a specific nature, Dowdy's office staff organized the correspondence into three divisions which form natural sub-series for this section. The first is Academy Applications by academy: Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, Military Academy- West Point, and Naval Academy. The files are generally in chronological order within each academy but cover only the last ten years of Dowdy's service in Congress, 1962-1972. There are also files of West Point and Naval nominees in alphabetical order for the same time frame.

The next sub-series, Outgoing Correspondence, contains carbon copies of every letter sent out by Dowdy's office during the eleven year period of 1961-1972. The filing system is chronological by month from 1961 to 1964 and then alphabetical from 1965 to 1972. While it would be difficult to find a specific letter, these files do offer insight into the wide variety of correspondence sent out from a congressional office.

The third sub-series is Alphabetical Correspondence from 1952-1964. In addition to alphabetized files, it includes anonymous letters, materials sent to the District offices, letters of referral, and Robotyper letters.[ TOP ] [ Outline ]

VI. Subject Files- Alphabetical, 1952-1972 40 lin. ft.

This section contains a number of general office files along with extensive files on district postmaster nominations (11 lin. ft.) and district federally funded projects (2.5 lin ft.). There are also significant files related to Texas which are arranged alphabetically (6 lin. ft.) A number of files of a repetitive nature have been sampled: Christmas cards, condolences, congratulations, constituent visits to Washington, contributions, request for flags, football tickets, and invitations. Publications of a relevant nature to the library have been listed in the finding aid and placed in the vertical file. Other significant topics found here include the Johnson administration, Spiro Agnew, crackpot letters, inaugurations, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Joseph McCarthy, telegrams, voting record, the White House, Charles Wilson, and Women in government. [ TOP ] [ Outline ]

VII. Personal, 1930-1992 51.5 lin. ft.

Four sub-series have been grouped together under Personal: General Materials, Media, Political Materials, and Speeches.

A. General, 1930-1992, 8 lin. ft.

This sub-series includes articles, awards, biographical information, personal correspondence, family information/correspondence, guest registers, Presidential invitations, and programs. Correspondence begins as early as 1930 when Dowdy was in college. One file contains correspondence following the death of Dowdy's first wife in 1943. Dowdy kept all of the condolence and flower cards from this sad occassion, and these items were included in the papers given to the BCPM following his death. A sampling of these have been retained. The Dowdy family files include letters from his children, Carol Sue and Skip (John Jr.), from the time they could write. Dowdy's second wife, known simply by her initials, J. D., was also politically active both before and throughout their marriage. The Personal files document their relationship from the 1940's until her death in 1992. There are invitations to the Eisenhower, Johnson, and Nixon inaugurations as well as invitations from the President and First Lady dating from 1953 to the Reagans in 1984. [ TOP ] [ Outline ]

B. Media, 1931-1974, 8 lin. ft.

Dowdy's career spanned a time of technological revolution in the media industry. His media materials begin with 3" reel to reel tapes, 12" vinyl records, 16 mm film, and radio transcripts but end with cassettes, video tapes and television scripts. Along with these audio visual mediums are also the printed media: news clippings, news letters, news releases, and photographs. In all, there are twelve kinds of media in this section divided into seven sub-series. Materials are arranged in chronological order within each medium with the exception of photographs which are alphabetical by subject. Along with the reel to reel tapes, included in this sub-series is the tape recorder Dowdy used to make the tapes which was also donated by the Dowdy family.[ TOP ] [ Outline ]

C. Political Materials, 1926-1972, 26 lin. ft.

There are five sub-series in this sections: Court Reporter, Legal papers, Campaign Materials, Opinion Ballots/Questionnaires, and Publications.

The first section begins with Dowdy's non-elective job as a Court Reporter and contains transcripts from court cases both typed or in shorthand from as early as 1926.

The next section has been designated Legal Papers, although it is unclear what Dowdy's criteria was for placing files here. Each file is numbered beginning in 1935 and includes personal as well as legal records. There are tax records, divorce proceedings, murder trial cases, bill collection files, insurance papers, how-to-raise-chickens booklets, and wills. The original order and numbers have been retained. Some files such as speeches were moved to other sections but in these cases, cross references have been added. These numbered files end in 1952 when Dowdy was elected to Congress.

As a U. S. Representative, Dowdy had to run for election every two years. The Campaign Material sub-series documents Dowdy's campaigns for Congress from his first in 1952 to his last in 1970 after he was indicted. Correspondence with individuals and organizations in the district are filed alphabetically by county within each campaign. This section is supplemented with campaign ads and campaign expense records along with letters of support and congratulations.

As part of his effort to keep in touch with his constituents, Dowdy sent out extensive questionnaires and opinion ballots. Thousands of these were retained in his files but have now been sampled and reduced to one box (.5 lin. ft.).

The final section of political materials contains publications from various conservative organizations which were supportive of Dowdy's legal troubles with the government. Many of these saw Dowdy as a hero and victim of a corrupt government. Foremost among these was Liberty Lobby. Some other groups include Americans for Constitutional Action, Committee to Restore the Constitution, Defenders of the American Constitution, John Birch Society, and Texas Committee for the Constitution. [ TOP ] [ Outline ]

D. Speeches, 1942-1986, 5 lin. ft.

Dowdy was not known as a fiery orator nor was he a dynamic speaker in any way. Rather, he was simple and practical just like the East Texas constituents he served for twenty years. His speeches begin in 1942, three years prior to his election as local District Attorney, and end in 1986, fourteen years after he retired from Congress. Most of them were given at special events or before service organizations such as Kiwanis or Lion's Club. House floor speeches are also included here. His thematic materials centered around law and order, God and country, and government corruption such as in the urban renewal scandal. Following the dated speeches are sixty undated speeches, speech materials arranged by subject, and speech rough drafts, also in chronological order. [ TOP ] [ Outline ]

VIII. Trial, 1965-1978 15 lin. ft.

On March 31, 1970, Dowdy was indicted by a federal grand jury in Baltimore, Maryland on charges of conspiracy, perjury, and promoting bribery. The government alleged that on September 22, 1965, Dowdy accepted $25,000 as a bride to intervene in the federal investigation of Monarch Construction Company of Silver Springs, Maryland. In spite of the government case, Dowdy was elected to his tenth term in November, 1970.

On April 10, 1970, Dowdy was arraigned on the indictment. The trial began on November 8, 1971, and on December 30, 1971, Dowdy was convicted on eight counts: two counts of conspiracy, one count of transporting a bribe over state lines, and five counts of perjury. In 1973, however, the Fourth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, overturned the bribery and conspiracy convictions. The Washington Observer and Liberty Lobby contended that Dowdy was a victim of a "vicious frame-up by the Justice Department in collaboration with a clique of housing racketeers. The ulterior motive was to stop Dowdy's subcommittee investigation of housing and urban renewal frauds." [Washington Observer, April 15, 1973]

Nevertheless, Dowdy began serving a six month prison term on January 28, 1974 and was released in June. He then retired to his home in Athens Texas where he died in 1995.

This section is divided into four sub-series: Correspondence, Trial Exhibits, General files related to the trial, and Trial Transcripts. Correspondence from 1964 to 1978 includes letters in support of Dowdy and against the government. Dowdy received hundreds of letters during the six months he was in prison, mostly handwritten, not only from East Texas constituents but also from people throughout the United States.

Trial exhibits are in numbered ordered as presented by his defense attorneys.

The General Files contain such files as appeals, articles, attorney correspondence, FBI and defense investigative reports, the grand jury indictment, and various legal proceedings. There are personality files including Dowdy's accusers: Myrvin Clark, Nathan Cohen and High McGee. Dowdy wrote a prison journal that is found here along with his Statement to the House in 1972 following his conviction. Also found here are tapes and telephone transcripts of Dowdy talking to the men who testified against him reportedly admitting that Dowdy never did anything wrong.

The last section is a multi-volumned transcript of the entire trial. [ TOP ] [ Outline ]