Moving Speeches, Moving Images: The Chet Edwards Collection Adds Video

Congressman Chet Edwards sits in his office at the Poage Legislative Library, 2012. Photo courtesy Allyson Riley of the Digital Projects Group.

It was a little over two years ago – though it seems like yesterday! – that we met with former U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) as he prepared to deposit his congressional papers with the Poage Legislative Library. We gave Rep. Edwards a tour of the Riley Digitization Center (described in this blog post) and had a good discussion of what to expect from the materials he had secured and generated over a sterling career in public service.

In the interim, we have since added the Chet Edwards Collection to our roster of digital collections, and today we’re happy to announce that, in addition to its 200+ transcripts of speeches delivered by Rep. Edwards, we have added the first batch of video materials. These clips were migrated from their original format of VHS tape and are presented in digital form for the first time via this collection.

The videos encompass three major sources: footage of Rep. Edwards’ floor speeches from the House of Representatives (captured by C-SPAN); unedited satellite feed from the House Studios and beamed direct to local television news studios; and assorted news segments, television appearances and the occasional long-form video.

Of these, the unedited satellite feed videos show Rep. Edwards in the most unexpected way, especially for a long-serving politician: a friendly, unscripted gentleman interacting with unseen board operators and journalists half a continent away. Between readings of prepared statements and answering questions from the press, Rep. Edwards shows an easy banter with members of the press, asking genuinely after their well-being and showing concern that all is comfortable for the listeners on the end of the line. It’s easy to see how his charm on the campaign trail went beyond the surface “smiling for the cameras” attitude worn by other politicians and touched on the core of a man who showed genuine interest in his constituents.

While there are many excellent clips in this collection, we wanted to feature two in this post. The first is the oldest clip in the collection: Rep. Edwards, who had only begun his career in the House in January 1991, appeared on a call-in show to discuss gun control on October 19 … the weekend after a gunman opened fire on a crowded Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas. Killeen was part of Edwards’ congressional district, and his appearance on the show, where he discussed a change in his opinion on the subject of gun control, shows his ability to project calmness in the aftermath of a tragedy, a skill that would serve him well in the years to come. (Clip below is just under 90 seconds long. Click here for the full video.)

The second clip is a brief floor speech delivered by Rep. Edwards in 2002 on the subject of support for President George W. Bush’s approach to the “War on Terror.” In it, he quotes a portion of President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address:

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

View all of the videos – and the rest of the Chet Edwards Collection – at our digital collection site. For more information on the Chet Edwards Papers, visit the Poage Library’s site.

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