Thomas Chester "Chet" Edwards

Finding Aid | PDF

Chet Edwards was born in Corpus Christi, Nueces County, Texas, November 24, 1951. In 1974, he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Economics from Texas A&M University. Edwards worked for three years from 1974-1977 for Congressman Olin E. "Tiger" Teague as a legislative and district administrative assistant in the 6th district of Texas. Congressman Teague was the most highly decorated World War II veteran in Congress and was known for 32 years as "Mr. Veteran" in Congress. At the age of 26, Edwards was encouraged by Congressman Teague to become his successor in 1978. Congressman Edwards narrowly lost in the Democratic primary to Phil Gramm, but went on to earn an MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1981. In the 1980's, Edwards worked as a marketing representative at the Trammell Crow Company in commercial real estate. Additionally, he owned and was the president of Edwards Communications, a rural radio station in South Texas.

Edwards began his 28-year public service career as a state senator, being elected in 1982 as the youngest member of the Texas Senate at age 30. From 1983 to 1990, Edwards served Central Texas District 9 in the Texas Senate, participating in the 68th-71st Legislatures. He was on the Health and Human Resources Committee, and chaired the Senate Nominations Committee. Edwards was also chairman of the Texas Sunset Commission, a joint commission which reviews state agencies on a 12-year rotation, as well as chair of the Texas Election Code Revision Committee, and the Committee on Business, Technology, and Education.

Edwards had a number of legislative accomplishments during his time in the Texas Senate. As a member of Senate committees on education, he was a champion for making educational improvements, including public education reform and education for women and minorities in engineering. He was also a champion of High Technology economic development legislation which included research on the Superconducting Super Collider. His labor legislation reformed workers’ compensation, and business legislation dealt with trucking deregulation, and the Texas Growth Fund. Edwards was also involved in Health and Human Services by strengthening the Board of Medical Examiners, chairing the Sunset Commission and passing Texas Department of Human Services legislation, and requiring criminal background checks for nursing home employees. He was also known as a champion for Texas’s senior citizens, was influential in agriculture, worked on consumer legislation, including compromise on AT&T deregulation, and reformed the primary election process by passing Super Tuesday legislation.

Edwards received the “Texas Business” Award during the 68th Regular Session as one of three outstanding freshman legislators. He was named one of the Ten Best Legislators by Texas Monthly magazine in 1985.

Edwards was elected as a congressman in 1990, serving in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991-2010. He served as a member on the House Budget Committee, the Appropriations Committee, and the Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee, and as vice chair of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee. He also co-chaired the House Army Caucus.

Congressman Edwards was known as a national champion for America's veterans, troops, and their families. After becoming Chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee in 2007, Congressman Edwards authored a huge increase in funding for veterans health care and benefits, the largest increase in veterans funding in the history of the Veterans Administration. Edwards also played a key role in enacting the 21st Century GI Bill of Rights into law, covering the full cost of a college education for our troops. When he represented Fort Hood, the world's largest Army base, Congressman Edwards played a major leadership role in support of the U.S. Army, troops, and military families. He was co-chair of the House Army Caucus for over a decade and served on the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees for six years before joining the Appropriations Committee.

Edwards became known as a leader in the fight against nuclear terrorism, and in 2001, strongly opposed cuts to the nuclear non-proliferation budget proposed by the Bush Administration. Serving as a member on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, Edwards helped to oversee key homeland defense and university research programs to protect Americans from the threat of nuclear terrorism.

During his 20-year tenure in Congress, including 12 years of seniority on the powerful Appropriations Committee, Congressman Edwards developed a reputation of working hard and effectively for his Central Texas constituents. This reputation was the result of his commitment to protecting jobs and the local economy by making vital federal investments in key education, health, transportation, and water programs in his District.

Edwards is known as a fiscal conservative who believes massive federal deficits and the multi-trillion national debt are harmful to our economy and morally wrong to pass on to our children and grandchildren. He adopted a pro-economic, pro-agriculture record which earned him several endorsements, and was known as a supporter of Second Amendment rights.

As a respected voice on issues facing working families, Edwards pushed for increased access to health care for children of working families under the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), supported middle class tax cuts, and protected Medicare and Social Security benefits for America's seniors. Edwards was also recognized as a defender of religious liberty.

Since leaving Congress in 2011, Edwards was appointed the W. R. Poage Distinguished Chair of Public Service at Baylor University. He established Edwards, Davis Stover & Associates, LLC with his former chief of staff, Lindsey Davis Stover, and continues to be involved with veterans issues in the Washington, D.C. area through his work on the boards of the Military Child Education Coalition and the Arlington National Cemetery Advisory Commission.

The Collection

The Chet Edwards State Legislative papers cover an expanse of 1957-1991, although the majority of the records span 1982-1990, from the 67th through the 71st Legislatures. Collection materials are based on Edwards’ service as a Texas State Senator from 1983-1990, and materials are comprised of House and Senate Bills and Resolutions, correspondence, topical files, and other administrative materials. Each session of Congress has been organized into a series, and these particular materials are repeated within each series. These materials discuss a wide variety of important issues from the 1980’s in Central Texas, including Abortion, Blue Laws, Budget Crisis and Taxation, Criminal Justice, DWI and Drinking Age, Education, Elderly Care, Elections, Health and Healthcare, High Technology economics, Pari-Mutuel Gambling, Trucking Deregulation, Utilities, and Workers’ Compensation.

The collection consists of 224 document boxes, 93 linear ft.