Baylor Collections of Political Materials Celebrates Release of Chet Edwards’ Congressional Papers

  • Chet Edwards Exhibit
    The opening of the Chet Edwards Congressional Papers in the Baylor Collections of Political Materials coincides with the Poage Library exhibit, "Chet Edwards: Experience and Engagement," which runs throughout the spring. (Photo courtesy of Rod Aydelotte)
  • Chet Edwards head shot
    Photo courtesy of the Baylor Collections of Political Materials, 1991: Chet Edwards' first congressional photo.
  • Chet Edwards Post Office
    Photo courtesy of the Baylor Collections of Political Materials, 2009: Chet Edwards at the dedication of the John David Fry Post Office in Lorena, Texas. A Lorena native, Gunnery Sgt. John David Fry, a father of three children, was killed in Iraq just one week before his planned return home in March of 2006.
  • Chet Edwards VA Hospital News Conference
    Photo courtesy of the Baylor Collections of Political Materials, 2006: Chet Edwards speaks at the news conference announcing that the Waco VA Hospital would remain open.
  • Chet Edwards Doris Miller stamp
    Photo courtesy of the Baylor Collections of Political Materials, 2010: Chet Edwards at the unveiling of the Doris Miller commemorative postage stamp.
  • Chet Edwards Kosovo
    Photo courtesy of the Baylor Collections of Political Materials, 2003: Chet Edwards with First Infantry Division soldiers in Kosovo.
  • Chet Edwards Head Start
    Photo courtesy of the Baylor Collections of Political Materials, 2000: Chet Edwards reading to children at Headstart.
  • Chet Edwards History Fair D.C.
    Photo courtesy of the Baylor Collections of Political Materials, 2010: Chet Edwards met with McLennan County History Fair students at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
  • Chet Edwards TAMU students D.C.
    Photo courtesy of the Baylor Collections of Political Materials, 2006: Chet Edwards met with Texas A&M students in Washington, D.C.
March 3, 2016

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, 254-710-6275

Follow Lori on Twitter at @LoriBaylorU
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WACO, Texas (March 3, 2016) – The Baylor Collections of Political Materials (BCPM), Baylor University’s resource of legislative and congressional collections, celebrated the official release of former U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards’ Congressional Papers at a standing-room-only opening ceremony and reception March 3 in the W.R. Poage Legislative Library.

Edwards was first elected to Congress in November 1990, and the collection covers his 20-year career in Congress representing Texas’ 11th Congressional District through 2005 and Texas’ 17th Congressional District until 2010. Now the 13th Congressional collection held in the Baylor Collections of Political Materials, the Edwards papers further BCPM’s mission to assist scholars and citizens explore the dynamic relationships between people and their elected officials.

“It is an honor to have my congressional papers added to those of Congressmen W.R. Poage (11th District 1937-78) and Marvin Leath (11th District 1979-90). Together these political papers represent 43 percent of Texas political history since Texas became part of the Union in 1845,” Edwards said. “The Baylor Collections of Political Materials is one of the finest and most respected political collections in the country, and I hope it’s a place where researchers and Baylor students and faculty can learn more about our local, state and nation’s political history.”

In addition to Edwards, speakers at the opening ceremony included John Wilson, associate dean for special libraries at Baylor; President and Chancellor Ken Starr; Grant Teaff, former Baylor head football coach and executive director emeritus for the American Football Coaches Association; and Pattie Orr, vice president for information technology and dean of University Libraries.

“Papers returning home”

The Edwards Congressional Papers measure 212 linear feet and are contained in 341 boxes, which include his administrative records, district files, legislative records, press materials, materials about religious liberty, speeches and voting records. The collection also includes additional 91 linear feet of oversized materials – primarily awards and plaques – that are contained in 77 boxes.

“This collection represents Chet Edwards’ incredible devotion to Texas and its citizens,” Wilson said. “His service to the 11th Congressional District was selfless. He listened and worked on behalf of all of his constituents. I hope his archive will inspire future generations to give of themselves for others.”

The strengths of the collection fall into the categories of Appropriations, Military and Veterans Affairs, Religious Liberty and TX-11 and TX-17 District projects, said Debbie Davendonis-Todd, The Bob Bullock Archivist at BCPM.

“In a way, the Edwards’ papers are returning home to people of central of Texas,” she said. “The Baylor Collections of Political Materials is honored and humbled that Mr. Edwards selected our repository to house his life’s work.”

Davendonis-Todd, who leads the team that processes political materials at Baylor, said archival work has two purposes: preservation and inspiration. As she and her team processed Edwards’ material, she made note of interesting facts about the collection:

    • Of the 257 awards and plaques, 13 are in the shape of Texas and five are Keys to the City for Bellmead, Corsicana, McGregor, Hillsboro and Copperas Cove.

    • The collection includes Mr. Edwards’ Electronic Voting System Nameplate and a piece of the U.S. House of Representatives carpet.

    • The word "veterans" appears in a folder title 250 times; "Waco" appears in 126 titles; "Baylor" appears in 29 titles.

    • There are 818 speeches and 538 are handwritten by Mr. Edwards.

BCPM is processing Edwards’ Texas State Legislative papers and completing work on materials involving Edwards’ House correspondence, such as constituent mail, letters with VIPs and form letter responses an expect these projects to be completed later this year. (With BCPM’s firm commitment to privacy, the archiving of constituent mail and the study of this material pertain only to the historical issues they contain. They do not cite personally identifiable information.)

BCPM archivists also are processing Edwards’ “born digital” records, such as press mailers, photographs, schedules and more, which present exciting opportunities and unique challenges. BCPM staff work closely with colleagues in the Riley Digitization Center and Baylor Libraries to breathe new life into “born digital” records and to ensure that they are properly preserved, identified and accessible, according to national standards.

In January 2012, Baylor appointed Edwards as The W.R. Poage Distinguished Chair of Public Service. He is in residence two weeks each semester, which allows him to share his congressional experience and passion for public service, as well as his expertise about religious freedom, veterans and military affairs and business. He also assists Baylor students and interns when they are in the Washington, D.C., area. Since he began his service at Baylor in 2012, Edwards has:

    • taught 95 classes

    • mentored 67 students one-on-one

    • addressed 70 student and civic groups

In his remarks, President Starr lauded Edwards for embodying the spirit of public service and using his gifts to serve others.

“Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair made this comment to service providers, ‘What made you choose this career is what made me go into politics. A chance to serve, to make a difference, is not a job; it is a vocation.’ And that was Chet’s calling,” President Starr said. “It is such a joy to know that his papers will be here at this beautiful and wonderful library, named for a great man who likewise represented this beautiful community, [W.R.] ‘Bob’ Poage.”

Highlighting a Congressional career

Edwards represented portions of North Texas, Central Texas and the Brazos Valley in Washington, D.C., from 1990-2011. He served as a member on both the House Budget and the Appropriations Committees and also served on the Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee, as vice chair of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, and co-chaired the House Army Caucus. While chair of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, he authored a $17.7 billion increase in funding for veterans health care and benefits – the largest ever annual appropriation increase for veterans. In 2009, he authored and passed the John David Fry Scholarship law to provide a full college scholarship for every military child who has lost a parent in service to country since Sept. 11, 2001. He named the bill in honor of a Lorena, Texas, native son, Gunnery Sgt. John David Fry, a father of three children who was killed in Iraq just one week before his planned return home in March of 2006.

Edwards also played a key role in enacting the 21st Century GI Bill of Rights into law. It covers the full cost of a college education for U.S. troops. In 2008, both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars recognized Edwards’ leadership with their national awards given to only one member of Congress.

During his 20-year tenure in Congress, including 14 years of seniority on the Appropriations Committee, Edwards assisted the local economy with federal investments in key education, health, transportation and water programs in his district, as well as for Fort Hood, the Central Texas Veterans’ Health Care System and university research programs at Baylor and Texas A&M University.

Edwards’ congressional career also was marked by significant work in the areas of nuclear non-proliferation, domestic security measures against global terrorism, strong stances against deficit spending and fighting for fiscal measures that benefited children, senior citizens and the middle class. He was honored with the T.B. Maston Christian Ethics Award in honor of his years of exemplary public service and with the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award from the Interfaith Alliance and the Barbara Jordan/Hatfield Courage Award from the Baptist Joint Committee for his defense of religious liberty. He gives credit to former Baylor President Herbert H. Reynolds for inspiring his commitment to the cause of religious liberty.

“I am profoundly grateful and humbled that the people of Waco and Central Texas gave me the opportunity to work with and for them for 28 years. I’m optimistic about our nation’s future because I saw and continue to see the spirit of people who represent all that is good about our country,” Edwards said.

Edwards graduated magna cum laude from Texas A&M in 1974 with his B.A. in economics. Upon graduation, he received the Earl Rudder Award, given to two outstanding seniors. He worked for three years for Congressman Olin E. “Tiger” Teague, the most highly decorated World War II veteran in Congress, who was known for 32 years as “Mr. Veteran” in Congress. At 26, Edwards was encouraged by Congressman Teague to become his successor in 1978. Edwards narrowly lost in the Democratic primary to Phil Gramm and took the opportunity created by his defeat to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School.

In the 1980s, Edwards worked at Trammell Crow Co. in commercial real estate. Additionally, he owned and was the president of Edwards Communications, a rural radio station in south Texas. In 1982, he was elected the youngest Texas State Senator at age 30 and served in the Texas Senate until 1989. As a Member of the Senate Education Committee, he played an active role in reducing class sizes in Texas’ public schools and was named one of 10 Best Legislators by Texas Monthly magazine.

In 2008, Congressman Edwards was vetted and became a finalist to become then-Sen. Barack Obama’s vice presidential running mate.

Preserving materials, documenting the work of government

The Baylor Collections of Political Materials is housed in the W.R. Poage Legislative Library and is part of Baylor University Libraries, functioning as a special collections library and research facility that collects congressional records and personal papers related to the political history of Central Texas. It was established in 1979 in honor of Congressman W.R. Poage, Baylor alumnus and retired public official whose career spanned more than 50 years.

BCPM supports programs designed to inform and educate students, scholars and the general public on the history of Congress, the legislative process and issues facing both local, state and national governments. The library encourages the preservation of materials that document the work of government, including the papers of U.S. congressional representatives, Texas state legislators and judges, and supports programs that make those materials available for educational and research use.

Collections offer a range of primary source records from correspondence, bill files, speeches, campaign memorabilia and more.

The opening of the Edwards collection coincides with BCPM’s current exhibit, “Chet Edwards: Experience and Engagement” in Poage Library, which runs throughout the spring.

For more information about the Baylor Collections of Political Materials, visit wwww.baylor.edu/library/BCPM.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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