Baylor University Poage Library

After the Pioneers

After the Pioneers CoverAbout the Author

W. R. (Bob) Poage, Democrat, of Waco, McLennan County, Texas, was born in that city on December 28, 1899, the son of William A. and Helen Conger Poage. He spent his childhood and received his first education in Throckmorton County, Texas; attended Baylor University, the University of Colorado, and the University of Texas, receiving his A.B. and LL.B. degrees from Baylor. He was admitted to the bar in 1924, and practiced in Waco until elected to Congress. He was a member of the Texas House of Representatives, 1925-29, and of the Texas Senate, 1931-37. He was elected to the 75th Congress in 1936 and re-elected to each succeeding Congress. Since 1947 he has served as a member of the American Delegation to the Interparliamentary Union.
When Mr. Poage became a member of the 75th Congress he served on four committees: (1) Census, (2) Immigration and Naturalization, (3) War Claims and (4) Claims. In the 76th Congress he served on these four committees again and in addition was appointed to two more committees: Flood Control and the District Committee.
Beginning in the 77th Congress he left these committees and was appointed to the House Agriculture Committee on which he has served continuously since that time.
He served as Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture for 14 years. He was chairman of three subcom­mittees (Conservation and Credit, Livestock and Feed Grains, and Foreign Agricultural Operations) from their creation in 1955 until the end of 1966.
At the beginning of the 90th Congress Mr. Poage became Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture.
He is married to the former Frances Cotton.


Many people in other parts of the world have a ridiculously distorted version of Texans. Many form their opinion of Tex-from the "western" movies and envision Texans as people of violent emotions and violent actions engaged in frequent gun battles with rustlers or Indians. Others too often form their opinion of Texans from the loud-mouth buffoon attired in a garish jangling cowboy outfit who lurches to his feet in a Manhattan night club and bellows, "Ah'm a Texan!" Equally ludi­crous versions of Texas as the land of the "Big Rich" populated by domineering oil billionaires can be found in novels written by authors who made "careful" studies of the state while on trans­continental trips by jet plane with brief stopovers at Dallas and El Paso.
In these memoirs, Congressman W. R. (Bob) Poage portrays the life of typical Texas ranch families in Central Texas in the first decades of this cen­tury. These Texans are depicted with­out exaggeration, distortion, or carica­ture. They are ordinary Americans who work hard all their lives to wrest a living from their small ranches. As Bob Poage observes in this book, most of them by government standards of today were "economically deprived," did not make a "living wage," lived in substandard housing, had deplorable working conditions, and worked from "can't see" in the morning until "can't see" in the evening. But they were rich in integrity, responsibility, self-re­liance, and genuine concern and affec­tion for their neighbors.
Indeed, these memoirs reveal Bob Poage himself as a product of the Bra­zos River Valley in Central Texas-a man of extraordinary diligence and thoroughness in his work, of scrupulous honesty in word and deed, of genuine respect for every man regardless of rank or race, and of deep devotion to his state and his country. The book also records his thorough knowledge of the region and its people and reveals his abiding love for both.
Some might think that this book should be mostly about politics and government. Bob Poage has represent­ed the people of Central Texas in the Texas Legislature and the United States House of Representatives for over forty years. As Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, he is one of the most influential leaders in Washington. Few men know as much about Congress and the practical work­ings of our federal government as Bob Poage. These matters are barely men­tioned, but as one reads of Bob Poage and his family and friends in the Cen­tral Brazos River Valley, he gets a better insight into American character and American self-government than can be gained by studying books about the federal government and the actions in Washington.
Abner V. McCall, President Baylor University


My father, William Allen Poage, was a typical product of the Western Frontier. He helped put in motion the forces which tamed and civilized that frontier. He believed in the dignity of work and in scrupulous personal integrity.
My mother, Helen Conger Poage, experienced the trials, the work, and the hardships of the frontier. She found beauty wherever she went. She taught her family to make the best of what they had but to always strive for something better. For almost a full century she has been an inspiration to the community in which she lives.
To these outstanding parents I lovingly dedicate this rec­ord of personal experiences.


This volume is a collection of personal recollections only. It does not purport to be a comprehensive history of any time or place or person. It is hoped that it may be of some assistance to historians in that it does attempt to record the memory of one individual over a period of our history which witnessed a basic change in the living conditions and in the outlook of our people within a very circumscribed but rather typical area.
There is admittedly far too much of personal and family events and interests to commend the volume to the general public but the author has sought to emphasize only facts and situations of which he had personal knowledge and to minimize, although not entirely avoid, philosophical discussions.
Throughout the ages history has been recorded very largely for the purpose of magnifying and preserving the memory of individuals or for the purpose of justifying the actions and view­point of some individual. Surely the pyramids of the Egyptian kings are examples of the first type of records. An example of the second type would be General Longstreet's monumental vol­ume From Manassas to Appomattox in which the author seeks to justify his military judgments at the battle of Gettysburg.
Regardless of the motives which may compel man to record the actions of the past it seems clear that no people will make very much progress who are not familiar with their past. This is true because no one who does not understand the past can very intelligently analyze the future. This volume will be of especial interest to those who either directly participated or through their families and relatives participated in the events of the period described. It is, however, hoped that it will also be of some interest to all those who seek a picture of the growth of Central and North Central Texas over the past 70 years. It may be of interest to those who shared the activities of the era in other areas.
There is some conscious repetition in the volume. It was felt that it was better to repeat than to ignore important facts in certain chapters.
There is no more than passing mention of the author's involvement in the political arena. It was felt that these activ­ities were not typical of the economic and social transition which is discussed herein. For a like reason there is no mention of many fine friends of more recent years who seemed to have little connection with this transition. The author can only hope that his friends will understand, and will recognize that this is not an autobiography where the impact of their friendship would of necessity be included.


  1. iii Dedication
  2. v Introduction
  3. vii Foreword
  4. 1 Chapter 1-Geography and History
  5. 20 Chapter 2-Family and Friends
  6. 50 hapter 3-Living Conditions
  7. 79 Chapter 4-Education and Schools
  8. Following Page 86 Illustrations
  9. 111 Chapter 5-Travel and Transportation
  10. 148 Chapter 6-Business and Social
  11. 169 Index