Baylor University Poage Library

Scope and Content

The Ed Lee Gossett Papers in the Baylor Collections of Political Materials consist of nine linear feet of correspondence, speeches, congressional documents, reports, publications, and newsclippings. The bulk of the material documents the years 1945-1951, Gossett's last three terms in Congress. Almost all of the material in the Gossett Papers is the product of his legislative interests and activities; there is virtually nothing about personal or other political matters. Indeed, perhaps the greatest research value of the Gossett Papers derives from the fact that the bulk of the material deals with two major issues confronting the post-World War II Congress in which Gossett played a major role: the problem of the displaced persons in post-war Europe and the Texas tidelands conflict.

The Displaced Persons Question

With about one million homeless refugees still left in Europe after post-war relocation efforts, pressure was great to relax the United States' restrictive immigration quotas. Sitting on the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration and Naturalization, Gossett was one of several southern Democrats who led opposition to any easing of quotas and called instead for tougher restrictions. As a result of his outspoken position, he drew national media attention and the applause of ultra-conservatives. The Gossett Papers document well this opposition to what became the 1948 Displaced Persons Act, as well as the fight to introduce tougher qualifications for immigration which eventually led to passage of the Internal Security Act of 1950.

In addition, since many of the displaced persons were Jewish, a large amount of the correspondence in Gossettžs files regarding the immigration quotas is from anti-Semitic groups. In fact, although Gossett kept separate files on immigration, Zionism, and Communism; anti-Semitic sentiment pervades all three files and richly documents this aspect of American thought during the post-war period.

The Tidelands Conflict

About one third of the Gossett Papers document the clash between the federal government and the states resulting from the 1947 Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. California, in which the Court ruled that the federal government had ownership of the submerged lands (tidelands) of California. This decision upheld President Truman's 1945 proclamation which claimed exclusive national rights to all resources in submerged lands. The Supreme Court decision was viewed as an alarming precedent by many states which had opposed Truman's claim.

After the Supreme Court decision, several bills were introduced in Congress to re-establish the states' ownership of the tidelands. In the House of Representatives, the bills were sent to the Judiciary Committee, where Gossett assumed a leading role in representing Texas' interests in the matter. Texas was particularly concerned about the ramifications of U.S. v. California since it derived a substantial proportion of its public school funds from oil and gas leases in the tidelands. Indeed, in 1950, the Supreme Court ruled against Texas in U.S. v. Texas. The conflict was still unresolved when Gossett left Congress in 1951.

The Tidelands files in the Gossett Papers comprise a rich source of information about a classic case of conflict between states and the national government over a question of control. Many of the letters in these files are from Texas officials and document the battle against federal control of the tidelands from the Texas perspective. Principle correspondents include Price Daniel, Attorney General; Bascom Giles, Land commisioner; Beauford Jester, Governor; and Robert Lee Bobbitt, Chairman of the Texas Bar Associationžs Tidelands Committee. Also included in the files are numerous publications, articles, and newspaper clippings, as well as documents from hearings by the Judiciary Committee and the Supreme Court. Additional material on the Tidelands conflict may be found in the W.R. Poage Papers, the O.C. Fisher Papers, and the Thomas A. Pickett Papers, all part of the Baylor Collections of Political Materials.