To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the W.R. Poage Legislative Library at Baylor University, the library has scheduled two events in October. An open house will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 15, during National Archives Week. A private program is planned Oct. 3 for library supporters, and the family and former staff members of those who deposited their papers in the collection, said Ben Rogers, director of the library. Both events will highlight a new exhibit in the W. R. Poage Exhibit Gallery: “Remembering and Honoring: Poage Library at 30.”
A native of Waco , W. R. “Bob” Poage (1899-1987) 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. He served as the 11th Congressional District representative in the U.S. Congress for 42 years and helped shape the future of Central Texas. Poage was known as “Mr. Agriculture, and the entire agriculture complexion of the nation reflected his influence and leadership as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee from 1967 until 1974.
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. 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 eleven formerU.S. congressmen, eight 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, 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 opened to researchers in 2004.
Ancillary papers include editorial cartoons, campaign materials and buttons, USDA maps, JFK research materials and Project 9-11. Approximately 20,500 volumes are in the book collection. In addition to the various collections, the W. R. Poage Exhibit Gallery features items from Poage’s home office and features rotating exhibits. The library also houses the John and JD Dowdy Digital Lab and the Jack Hightower Book Vault.
The 30th Anniversary Open House on October 15 will be open to the public, and refreshments will be served. More information on the Poage Library and the anniversary celebration may be obtained at www.baylor.edu/lib/poage.