Poage Legislative Library To Celebrate 25th Anniversary

  • News Photo 2239
    W.R. "Bob" Poage presided over the House Committee on Agriculture from 1967-74. Courtesy, Baylor Collections of Political Materials.
  • News Photo 2240
    The W.R. Poage Legislative Library was dedicated at Baylor in 1979. (L-R) Frances Poage, W.W. Callan, Dr. Herbert Reynolds, Poage, Baylor President Abner McCall. Courtesy, Baylor Collections of Political Materials.
Oct. 5, 2004

The Baylor University Collections of Political Materials (BCPM) will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the W.R. Poage Legislative Library in October.

An open house for the public will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, during National Archives Week. A private program is planned Oct. 8 for the family and former staff members of those who deposited their papers in the collection.

When the Poage Library was dedicated at Baylor 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 U.S. House of Representatives. The unique status has not changed in 25 years, noted Ben Rogers, director of the BCPM.

A native of Waco, W.R. "Bob" Poage (1899-1987) graduated from Waco High School in 1918. Following a brief tour in the Navy, he attended several universities before eventually earning both his bachelor's and law degrees from Baylor.

Poage's first experience in public life came with his election to the Texas House of Representatives in 1924. After four years of service, he left politics for a time but returned to Austin as a state senator from 1931-37. While in the state senate, Poage made an unsuccessful attempt to unseat 11th District Congressman O.H. Cross in the 1934 Democratic primary. However, his second effort in 1936 succeeded, and Poage entered the powerful Texas delegation in Washington, where he served for 21 consecutive terms in the House of Representatives.

Following his retirement in 1978, Poage donated papers from his nearly 50 years of public service, the cornerstone of the present collection. The construction of the Poage Legislative Library for Graduate Studies and Research was a joint project of the university, the Poage Library Project Board and the Baylor/Waco Foundation. Board members included such well-known Central Texans as W.W. Callan, Roane Lacy, S. Spencer Brown and Frank W. Mayborn. Poage maintained an office in the Baylor building that bore his name until he died in Temple on Jan. 3, 1987. He was buried in Waco.

In addition to his own papers, Poage encouraged his fellow congressmen and staff members to deposit their papers. Many of them did, including Hyde Murray, legal counsel for the House Committee on Agriculture on which Poage served as chair from 1967-74, and Fowler West, commissioner on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Today, the Poage Library houses the papers of 12 former U.S. congressmen, seven Texas legislators, the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock - a major addition - and five judges, as well as several ancillary collections. In addition to Poage, congressional collections in the BCPM include the papers of John V. Dowdy Sr., O.C. Fisher, Ed Lee Gossett, Sam B. Hall Jr., Jack Hightower, Marvin Leath, Reid Murray, Thomas Pickett, W.R. Smith, Hatton Sumners and Alan Steelman. Texas legislative papers represent Poage, Bullock, Don Adams, Chet Edwards, Ray Kirkpatrick, George Moffett and Allen Place Jr.

The BCPM also holds an editorial cartoon collection, newspapers, USDA maps, an extensive collection of campaign materials and buttons, records of the McLennan County Democratic Party, and an 8,000-volume book collection focusing on Congress, political history and areas of public policy. In addition to the various collections, the ground floor of the library features Poage's office and a newly renovated exhibit area where a permanent display about Bob Bullock will be placed along with rotating exhibits.

Participants in the special program Oct. 8 will include John Dowdy Jr., a mediation lawyer in Arlington, Texas; Ben Guttery, senior program manager for Texas Airports Development Office in Fort Worth; Jack Hightower of Austin, former congressman and Texas Supreme Court justice; Michelle Jackson of Lubbock, doctoral student at Texas Tech University; and West, now legal counsel for The Washington Group in Washington, D.C.

The Baylor Collections of Political Materials is part of Baylor University Libraries, functioning as a research facility which collects congressional records and personal papers related to the political history of Central Texas.

More information on the Poage Library anniversary can be found at: https://www.baylor.edu/Library/BCPM/Anniv25.

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