When the library was dedicated in 1979, it was the only congressional library associated with an institution of higher education, which honored an individual for his service wholly in the United State House of Representatives. This unique status has not changed in 30 years, Rogers noted.
A native of Waco, W. R. "Bob" Poage (1899-1987) served as the 11th Congressional District representative in the U.S. Congress for 42 years and helped shape the future of Central Texas. The entire agriculture complexion of the nation reflected his influence and leadership as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee from 1967 until 1974. Known as "Mr. Agriculture," he received his bachelor's and law degrees from Baylor University. Poage was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1924 and served as a state senator from 1931-1937 before his election as a U.S. representative in 1936.
The construction of the library was a joint project of the University, the Poage Library Project Board and the Baylor-Waco Foundation. Board members included W.W. Callan, Roane Lacy, Spencer Brown and Frank W. Mayborn.
When the library was organized, Poage encouraged his fellow congressmen and staff members to deposit their papers and many of them did including Hyde Murray, legal counsel for the Agriculture Committee, and Fowler West, commissioner on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
The library houses the papers of 12 former U.S. congressmen, seven Texas legislators, Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock and five judges as well as several ancillary collections. In addition to Poage, congressmen whose collections are in the archive include John V. Dowdy Sr., O.C. Fisher, Ed Lee Gossett, Sam B. Hall Jr., Jack Hightower, Marvin Leath, Reid Murray, Thomas Pickett, W.R. Smith, Hatton Sumners and Alan Steelman. Texas legislative papers represent Don Adams, Chet Edwards, Ray Kirkpatrick, George Moffett and Allen Place, Jr. The Bullock Archive, a major addition to the library, was added in 2000.
Ancillary papers include editorial cartoons, campaign materials and buttons, USDA maps and newspapers, JFK research and conspiracy materials, and Project 9-11. Approximately 14,500 volumes are in the book collection. In addition to the various collections, the exhibit area features items from Poage's home office and features rotating exhibits.