Letters to the EditorsJan. 24, 2001
Column wrong in assumptions about BU's Bush library bid
The opinion piece ('Baylor fails to honor prominent Democrats,' The Baylor Lariat, January 19, 2001), is an unfortunate reaction to a current endeavor of the university without the author having the complete picture of either what a presidential library center is or what Baylor has done in the past to archive important collections of papers. Please allow me to explain.
Every former president of the United States is entitled to have a major archival research center and museum. Almost every such center established over the past forty years has been affiliated with an American university. It is extremely important to emphasize that each presidential library center must be planned and operated as a nonpartisan center that welcomes people of all political interests to its research facilities and to its museum programming. After construction, the archives portion of the center is deeded over to the National Archives and Records Administration, a highly respected arm of the federal government known best for its preservation of the nation's most precious documents and which hires and pays all archives staff members who process, preserve, and provide access and service for every former U. S. president's papers, and also for any other official's papers that may be deposited in the same collection. The presence of the Gerald R. Ford Library on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is not a political statement by that excellent university, but, rather, is clear evidence of that Big Ten institution's realization that having a presidential library on its campus is a great honor and that the study of the American presidency is important. It is also important for Lariat readers to understand that in asking to be selected as the home of the future George Walker Bush Presidential Library Center, Baylor is continuing its long-established excellent program of archival administration and NOT making a political statement.
Students and other Lariat readers should know about this university's fine history as the repository of papers of public figures. The papers of Pat M. Neff (Texas governor, 1921-1925) and Leon Jaworski (prominent attorney, member of several White House commissions and former Watergate Special Prosecutor) are preserved in The Texas Collection, a state-of-the-art research center located in Carroll Library Building. Nine American congressmen's papers -- those of both Democrats and Republicans -- are to be found in the Baylor Collection of Political Materials, located in the Poage Library Building. The papers of former Texas Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, arguably one of the most powerful Texas political leaders during the 20th century, have been deposited in the BCPM and will yield invaluable insight into the workings of the state government when they are opened to researchers and the public in the summer of 2004. The gubernatorial papers of Ann Richards and Mark White, distinguished former Texas governors and both Baylor alumni, are in the Texas State Library and Archives, in Austin, with other similar collections, but their personal papers are yet to be deposited anywhere and could come to Baylor in the future.
Baylor is proposing to become the site of the future George Walker Bush Presidential Library Center because that is precisely the role that an excellent university plays. President Bush, who received an honorary doctorate at Baylor in 1998, is no stranger to this university, nor is his family. The proximity of Baylor to the Bush family ranch, outside Crawford, makes Baylor an appropriate possible location of the future presidential library center. The prospect of a major research triangle (Austin -- College Station -- Waco) for future presidential studies and related programming with the library centers of former presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and George H. W. Bush is very exciting to scholars. The new Bush center would also become a major magnet to the university, for both future students and to tourists traveling along I-35. Baylor students should be reminded that a separate 501 (c)(3) foundation -- completely non-profit -- will raise construction funding for this project and operate the museum after it opens.
Let's tone down the partisan rhetoric as we contemplate a second Bush library and museum in Texas, and quite possibly at Baylor. Thanks for your consideration.
Thomas L. Charlton
Vice Provost for Research