In Memoriam: Jack E. Hightower

This blog was written by Ben Rawlins, an English graduate student at Baylor.

Four years ago, the Texas politician Judge Jack E. Hightower passed away, leaving behind an impressive legacy of public service. A longtime friend of Baylor University and the Poage Library, Hightower’s papers are a part of the Baylor Collections of Political Materials. The Hightower collection covers the spectrum of Hightower’s political career, featuring documents from Hightower’s time in the Texas legislature, the U.S. House of Representatives, and as part of the Texas Supreme Court.

Jack E. Hightower early in his political career in the Texas House of Representatives.

As a Baylor University student, Hightower worked in The Texas Collection under Guy B. Harrison and learned the value of archives. He was called to serve in World War II, and when he returned from duty, he earned his law degree from Baylor. After he graduated, Hightower practiced law before entering the Texas House of Representatives in 1953. This was only the beginning of a long, distinguished political career. Hightower then went on to serve in the Texas Senate until he became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He was the representative for Texas’s 13th District for ten years. After his time in the U.S. House, Hightower returned to Texas, becoming the first assistant attorney general of Texas in 1985. Hightower was then elected to the Texas Supreme Court in 1988.

Hightower riding in a parade as part of his re-election campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Hightower collection at Poage library includes papers from all parts of Hightower’s varied political career. The collection reveals Hightower to be a politician who cared deeply about his constituents and worked hard to represent their interests in the Texas Legislature and the U.S. House. They also show his devotion to the fair practice of law as a Texas Supreme Court Judge.

Beyond the political papers, the Hightower collection features a variety of personal items. One of the most exciting parts of the Hightower collection is the Jack E. Hightower Book Vault that features Hightower’s collection of over 3,000 signed books. Without a doubt, the book vault shows that Hightower was a bibliophile who loved to browse bookshops. From his childhood, Hightower also held a fascination with Abraham Lincoln, and the collection features Lincoln biographies and memorabilia Hightower collected over the years.

Hightower pictured with his wife Colleen (who was an accomplished church organist) and their three daughters, Ann, Alison, and Amy. Family was very important to Hightower.

Lastly, the materials in the Hightower collection reveal his commitment and love for family. Hightower and his wife Colleen had three daughters, Ann, Amy, and Alison. The personal materials in the archive show him to be a loving husband, father, and grandfather.

Because of the wide variety of political and personal materials the Hightower collection features, this collection offers a far-reaching picture of who Hightower was not only as a politician but also as a person. Through this collection, we can continue to appreciate the legacy Hightower has left for his family and the country as a whole.

“One giant leap for mankind”: Poage Library and the Moon Landing

On the night of July 20, 1969, an estimated 600 million people tuned in to watch American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the surface of the moon. As Armstrong stepped onto the lunar dust, his voice came through to listeners on earth, relaying a poetic message of triumph: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” With these words, the space race effectively ended, and the U.S. had put the first person on the moon.

The front page of The Waco-News Tribune the day after the moon landing. The newspaper dedicated most of the front page to the event. This and other newspapers connected to significant achievements in space exploration are a part of the archives at Poage Library.

Almost fifty years after the moon landing, it might be difficult to grasp just how momentous this event was. Space travel was a new phenomenon—NASA had now accomplished something that seemed possible only in science fiction twenty years before. It had been less than a decade since the first Russian cosmonaut was launched into space and only seven years after John Glenn orbited the earth. At the same time, newly developed television technology made it possible for NASA to broadcast the moon landing. This broadcast brought the spare beauty of the moon into the homes of millions, making outer space present and seeable.

In our time, we’re probably used to seeing images from space. But can you imagine the excitement and anxiety this strange new perspective brought people in 1969?

A search through the W. R. Poage papers at the Poage Library provides a glimpse into the wide spectrum of responses that came after the U.S. moon landing. Though Poage was known as “Mr. Agriculture,” several constituents sent letters to him to express their opinion on the moon landing. These letters show Poage’s profound interest in space travel during his time in office. Whether the letters Poage received expressed worry or exhilaration over the moon landing, Poage answered with fervent support for NASA’s historic achievement.

One letter to Poage congratulates the U.S. government on becoming the first country to land on the moon. Poage’s response echoes Armstrong’s statements from the moon: “I am proud and happy that the United States could have an important part in this undertaking, but I think that through the years this will be but another step in the advancement of mankind.” Another of Poage’s letters tells a constituent about attending the Apollo 11 launch. He asserts that members of Congress must be informed about important “public actions and expenditures,” and he believes that first-hand knowledge of the launch was vital as a member of Congress.

Taken together, these letters reveal Poage as an advocate of space travel and scientific exploration. He even helped to bring this interest in space travel to Baylor University. When moon samples were touring the U.S. in the early ‘70s, Poage wrote to NASA on behalf of Baylor’s Strecker Museum (later incorporated into the Mayborn Museum) to secure a piece of moon rock. It was displayed in February 1971.

When we think about the moon landing nowadays, it still feels like an amazing achievement, but perhaps the wonder has worn off. NASA is now looking beyond the moon, sending space crafts to Mars and other planets. Perhaps the public interest in space has also waned. But by diving into the Poage archive, one can experience the excitement and wonder the moon landing inspired in a more personal, direct way. One can understand the profound impact this event made in 1969.

God Bless Texas: Bullock and the Rise of Modern Texas Politics

This blog was written by Hannah Engstrom, museum studies graduate student.

During his announcement that he would not be campaigning for a third term as Lieutenant Governor, Bullock declared that only death could end his “love affair with Texas.”
In celebration of Bob Bullock, an exhibit is currently on display at the W. R. Poage Legislative Library that honors his long and transformational political career. Utilizing photographs, 3-D objects and archival material, this exhibit highlights Bullock’s many years as Comptroller of Public Accounts and Lieutenant Governor, as well as the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and the State Capitol.

Robert “Bob” Douglas Bullock, Sr. was born in the small Texas community of Hillsboro on July 10, 1929.

This paperweight bears Bullock’s motto, “God Bless Texas,” a motto that describes perfectly the way he felt about the state he served.
His political career began in 1956 when he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. He resigned from the legislature in 1959 and did not return to public service until 1967 as an aide to Governor Preston Smith, who eventually appointed Bullock Secretary of State from 1971-1972.

This brick with original nails was taken from the State Capitol building during one of its renovations in the 1970’s. It will be on display along with several other pieces from the building taken during the same time.

Bullock’s most significant political achievements began when he became Comptroller of Public Accounts in 1975, a position he held for four terms. After serving as Comptroller for 16 years, Bullock was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1990, and again in 1994. Bullock is considered by many to be the last giant of Texas politics. His years in the public service sector were not without controversy; but they also serve as a powerful testament to his dedicated passion for making Texas a better place for all its citizens.

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin
One of Bullock’s greatest contributions to the state he loved was his desire for Texas to have a museum where its history “can be properly displayed.” On San Jacinto Day – April 21, 2001 – a flag flew over the State Capitol to honor the opening of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Thanks to Bullock’s efforts “the Story of Texas” is now being told.

Please visit us from July 10th through August 18th to view an exhibit on Bullock’s story.

Staff Spotlight: Jonathan Tomes

Today, we’re getting to know the newest addition to the Poage Library staff, Jonathan Tomes. Jonathan comes to Poage from the Baylor Libraries Research and Engagement team, and he is now the new Graduate Research Center Operations Manager. Jonathan was kind enough to answer some questions so we could get to know him a little bit better.

Where are you from and how did you end up at Baylor?

My wife and I found our way to Waco and Baylor after working for two years as house parents at a children’s home in Glen Rose. Shawna is the studio art teacher at Harmony Science Academy, and I began at the Baylor Library shortly after we arrived in Waco. We both grew up in West Texas.

Tell me about your educational journey. What did/do you study and how does that connect to your work with Baylor libraries?

I studied psychology (B.A.) at Angelo State University, and, then, theology (M.Div) at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This past week I began a master’s in Library Science at the University of North Texas. Libraries are interdisciplinary by nature. Multiple areas of knowledge and experience feed into the work of the Library. For the past three years, I have worked reference and circulation as part of the Baylor Libraries Research and Engagement team. This has put me in close and regular contact with the academic needs of Baylor’s graduate students.

Outside of work/school, what do you enjoy doing? What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about theology, history, woodworking, and our growing family. Right now, we are building a dining room table, and then (next month) a crib.

What’s your favorite movie and what do you think your choice says about you?

Recently, I’ve greatly enjoyed the films of Whit Stillman. I like a movie that requires significant thought afterward in order to get at the purpose.

What will your responsibilities be with the GRC?

As the GRC operations manager, I will provide leadership and operational supervision for the GRC, to include the creation and execution of superior programming in consultation with the Director of the Poage Library.

What do you look most forward to when working with the GRC?

I’m excited to work closely with Baylor’s graduate students, staff, and faculty, for academic excellence and the advancement of Baylor’s mission through the unique vision of the Graduate Research Center.

“Three Musketeers” Assist Fellow Grad Students

The Poage Library’s Graduate Research Center welcomes three of its summer graduate workers. These ‘three musketeers’ (we won’t say who has which personality) will be lending their assistance to any graduate students making good use of Baylor’s GRC during evening hours and aiding in other parts of the mission at #PoageLibrary and #BCPM.

Malcolm Foley at a recent Baylor Presidential Scholar’s Luncheon
Malcolm Foley is entering into the third year of his PhD in the History of Christianity. His academic journey has progressed through many interests from the Christology of the Greek Church Fathers through the views of Calvin and the Puritans on the wonders of union with Christ. Ultimately that winding path has crested at a summit (or in many senses, the nadir) of the Church’s response to the widespread lynching of African Americans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. When not absorbed in scholarly pursuit or presenting at academic conferences, Malcolm loves to play Guitar Hero and watch Bob’s Burgers. One fun fact about Malcolm is his mastery of impersonation. At parties, he likes to do the voices of Mufasa from the Lion King and of the Old Spice Man. It’s not a game. You can book him at

Nathan Keil poses at his home’s Dodger stadium
Nathan Keil is entering his third year working on his Masters of Divinity at George W. Truett Theological Seminary. While he originally hails from Northwood, Ohio, Nathan has adopted the greater Los Angeles area as his home. Over the past year, he has applied his expertise in athletics (his degree concentration is in Sports Ministry) as sports writer for the Baylor Lariat. He looks forward to continuing his contribution to Baylor’s community as the Lariat’s new Sports Editor. He and his wife Amber, who is entering her second year of the Masters of Social Work program at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, have a three-year-old adopted shepherd/retriever mix named Stuart. However, as a fun fact, while Nathan has no problem with canine companions, some members of the avian community seems to have it out for him. Sure his experiences have not exactly been Hitchcock’s The Birds, but an ostrich did attack him at a petting zoo, and several experiences in LA have shown that the peacocks are definitely out to get him.

Jeremy Schmuck striking the customary academic pose in front of his bookshelves.
Jeremy Schmuck is also entering his third year as a PhD student in Political Science, concentrating in International Relations. He comes from the city of Pensacola located in the northern panhandle of Florida. One of his current research interests is the role of naval power in American foreign policy and diplomacy. Like many academics, Jeremy is an ardent bibliophile who since his youth has always spent time on any vacation perusing the local bookshops. When not engaged in his day job of graduate student, Jeremy usually can be found ensconced in his favorite reading chair engrossed in a book or indulging his alter ego of armchair military historian and board/computer game strategist.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month: W.R. Poage and the Work of Agriculture

You might not have heard, but June is National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month. Throughout the month, the United States Department of Agriculture encourages consumers to eat more fresh fruits and veggies and teaches people around the nation about the benefits that come from eating healthy. It’s also a great time to think about the people who grow, pick, and distribute the fruits and vegetables we eat every day.

Even though June gives us a special opportunity to focus on fresh fruits and veggies, we at the Poage Library have fruits and veggies on our minds quite a bit. That’s because the Baylor Collection of Political Materials houses the papers (and much more) of W. R. Poage, a longtime Texas congressman, advocate for farmers in Texas and all over the U.S., and the namesake for our library. Called “Mr. Agriculture” by many, Poage focused his energy on agriculture throughout his long political career. He served on the House Committee on Agriculture and was elected chairman of the Committee in 1967, serving in this role until 1975.

Congressman W.R. Poage (far right) observing a fruit tree in Ethiopa.

Congressman Poage frequently made trips, both foreign and domestic, with the Department of Agriculture and worked as an advocate for those producing and distributing fruits and vegetables. The Bob Poage collection in our archives reveals his concern for and knowledge of all aspects of agriculture. These materials also help to show the important connection between the work of growers and distributors of fruits and vegetables and the laws passed by the federal government. By exploring the letters and memos in the Poage collection, you can see how attuned Poage and his staff were to the important role the government plays in supporting those who provide the country access to healthy food.

As the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Poage fielded questions and concerns from individuals and groups from all over the U.S. Moreover, the papers in the Poage collection show that a number of his colleagues directed questions to Poage for his insight into issues surrounding fruits and vegetables.

Two of the many letters Congressman Poage received in regards to fruits and vegetables.

The variety of letters Poage received about fruits and vegetables is striking. For instance, one letter from a woman in New York asks Poage to consider the price of fresh vegetables in her area. Another series of letters, correspondence between Poage’s office and the Standard Fruit and Steamship Company, discusses the proper names for bananas on government documents. In each case, Poage and those who worked for him attend to the particular needs of the person writing his office. These materials also reveal that Poage thoughtfully considered the full agricultural process. He not only worked with growers and distributors. Poage also communicated with individual consumers who were concerned about their fruits and vegetables.

The Bob Poage papers in the Baylor Collection of Political Materials provide insight into the work that goes into the consumption of fruits and vegetables, a helpful reminder when celebrating National Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Month. As the gap between production and consumption of food becomes wider, this peek into history through Poage’s papers shows that it takes the time and effort of real people to put fresh fruits and vegetables on our plates.

Congressional Centers: Connecting and Communicating

This blog was written by Debbie Davendonis-Todd, director of the Poage Library and the Bob Bullock Archivist.

Debbie Davendonis-Todd at the Library of Congress, May 2017

The Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC) was founded in 2003 as an independent alliance of organizations and institutions that promote the study of the U.S. Congress. The W. R. Poage Legislative Library is a founding member of ACSC. ACSC draws on the talents and resources of its members to promote a wide range of programs and research opportunities related to Congress. Like many of the member institutions, the Poage Library houses archival collections of former members of Congress and other related research collections.

Every spring, ACSC members gather in various locations for an annual meeting. This year, the ACSC returned to Washington, DC, and the magnificent Library of Congress (LOC). As our nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, the LOC is home to numerous congressional collections, is the primary research arm of the U.S. Congress, and the sponsor and host of many innovative programs and outreach initiatives, making the it an ideal location to meet.

I had the honor and pleasure of serving as the Program Chair for the annual meeting, so my trip to DC was the culmination of a year’s work. With the support of terrific colleagues from the Senate Historical Office and the National Archives Center for Legislative Archives, we developed a program, “Congressional Centers: Connecting and Communicating.” We focused on incorporating Library of Congress resources into our sessions and worked on strategies for reaching new audiences and strengthening existing connections.

Archivist Deborah Skaggs introduces Majority Leader of the House Mitch McConnell.
Highlights from this year’s meeting included a session featuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his archivist, Deborah Skaggs of the McConnell Chao Archives at the University of Louisville and former Representative Barney Frank. Senator McConnell’s presence at the meeting marked the first time a sitting senator (and one with a leadership position, no less) met with our group. We also tried a couple new session formats to engage our members and shake up some of our old meeting standbys. The first was an edit to our typical keynote speaker address. This year we designed a fireside-style chat session. We were honored to have the Library of Congress’ Dr. Colleen Shogan, Deputy Director of National and International Outreach for a lively conversation. Dr. Shogan focused on the LOC’s core strategies for best practices related to the development, execution, and evaluation of outreach initiatives. Another fun element we added to the program was a speed-geeking session. Speed Geeking is a participation process used to quickly view a number of presentations within a fixed period of time. This session helped transform our member update session into a more engaged and participatory event. The meeting was a success and DC is always fun to visit, but it sure is nice to be back home at Poage!

Next year, ACSC heads to the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

Honoring the Honorable: Sam B. Hall, Jr.

Written by Sylvia Hernandez, MLIS

Today we celebrate the nomination of Sam B. Hall Jr. as United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Texas. On April 17, 1985, President Ronald Reagan selected Sam Hall to fill the vacancy that would return him home to his beloved Marshall, Texas. This honor, among others, studded his career as lawyer, Congressman, and Judge.

Sam B. Hall, Jr. Army Air Corps Portrait, circa 1943

Sam B. Hall Jr. led a life of service dedicated to his community and country. After completion of his studies at the College of Marshall (now East Texas Baptist University), Hall joined the Army Air Corps during World War II, serving from 1943-1945. He studied at Baylor University and obtained a Law Degree in 1948. After passing the bar, he began practicing law in his hometown of Marshall, Texas. Sam Hall spent the next 28 years building upon his local upbringing and endearing himself to the area.

In 1976, a special election for the 1st Congressional District of Texas was held after the passing of Wright Patman. Hall ran a successful campaign and was voted to further serve his country and community as United States Congressman. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Veteran’s Affairs Committee, and several Select and Subcommittees, Hall made quite the impact throughout his tenure. This was recognized by Texas Business magazine in 1980 as he was voted “Best Conservative” for his efforts in regards to the business community.

Sam Hall (left) receives the Special President’s Award from Aubrey Bullard (right) of the National Association of State Directors of Veteran’s Affairs, 1985

As a proud Baylor University Alum, it was only fitting that Congressman Hall was selected as one of the Baylor Distinguished Alumni in 1984. Hall held his time at Baylor in high regard as he stated in his interview with the Baylor Line Magazine, “…[M]y education at Baylor sounded moral principles in harmony with my own. In the atmosphere Baylor creates, I was able to confirm the perception that religious values are not something you keep in a compartment of your life for Sunday mornings. Those values guide all your actions and words.”

Official portrait, 1991

His values consistently guided his actions. The National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs awarded his work with Veterans with the organization’s “Special President’s Award” and his constituency awarded him in five elections as Representative of the 1st Congressional District.

Hall’s consistent contact with his district, and continued interest in law, made him an ideal candidate for United States Judge for the Eastern District of Texas. He was nominated on April 17, 1985 by President Ronald Reagan and officially installed as a Federal Judge on May 10, 1985. His dedication to his community was evident in the speech he gave that day as he noted, “looking out over this audience … I see people I’ve known all my life … And there are no strangers here at all to me.” Over 250 members of his community attended a reception in his honor at the Marshall Civic Center following the installation ceremony.

Baylor once again honored Sam Hall in 1991; this time the Law School selected him as “Lawyer of the Year.” That same year he also witnessed the unveiling of his official portrait to hang in the courthouse in which he served. Sam Hall’s faith in God carried him throughout his life and career. In the moment, he was sure to give praise as he read the following passage:

I give you thanks, oh, God, for those who mean so much to me, those to whom I can go at any time, those with whom I can talk and keep nothing back, knowing that they will not laugh at my dreams or my failures, those in whose presence it is easier to be good, those who by their warnings have held me back from mistakes I might have made. Above all, I thank you for Jesus Christ, Lord of my heart, and savior of my soul.

Unveiling of the plaque naming the “Sam B. Hall, Jr. Federal Building and United States Court House. May25, 1995

Sam B. Hall, Jr. spent many years in the Marshall, Texas Court House. It was his home as he practiced law, housed his Congressional District home office, and provided a bench as he presided over court as Federal Judge. On May 25, 1995, the building was officially named the “Sam B. Hall, Jr. Federal Building and United States Court House.” A befitting honor to the man who served his community, constituents, and country until his passing on April 10, 1994.


This blog was excerpted from the Congress Week website introduction written by Dr. Jay Wyatt, president of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC) and Director of Programs and Research, Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History & Education, Shepherd University.

Congress Week is the creation of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress, an organization of more than 40 institutions which has a goal of promoting a better public understanding of Congress as the branch of government closest to the people. We want to encourage a focus of Congress each year during the month of April, the month in 1789 when Congress first got down to the business of governing the United States under its new Constitution.

While Congress is a co-equal branch of government, the action today seems to be embodied in the president, not Congress. We have President’s Day every year, we conduct grand inaugural events when presidents are sworn in, and the news tends to focus on the president as the one individual who should govern the nation. Yet when each new Congress convenes every two years, the public pays hardly a nod to the event. So Congress Week is a devise, a non-partisan reminder, that Congress bears co-equal responsibility for governing the nation. Its rich and colorful history needs more of the nation’s attention.

In coming years we hope Congress Week will spark a closer examination of the First Branch of government, encourage schools to develop programs to highlight the work of Congress, and stimulate more scholarly research into Congress by a wide range of disciplines.

Congressman Chet Edwards with a group of Johnson County 4-H students

Congress has governed the nation for 226 years, and we hope it will survive and thrive for centuries to come. It can only do so if the nation continues to understand and appreciate the Constitution of the United States and the meaning of representative democracy. James Madison and other founders believed strongly that an informed citizenry was the best hope for good government. We hope Congress Week will contribute to an informed citizenry.

To read more about Congress Week and see the way others around the country are celebrating it, go to

Poage Library and the Lesson of Scope

This blog was written by Travis Snyder, PhD candidate and a Poage Library Teaching Fellow from Summer 2016. To apply for the 2017 program, go HERE.

The first day, I didn’t know anything. After being named a Poage Library Teaching Fellow, I showed up to the library at the end of June, ready to start my work—whatever it was to be. It didn’t help that I am no scholar of politics; I was an English major and am an English graduate student, here as a Teaching Fellow because I teach composition. The first day there I was oriented, given a desk and then left to my devices. A brief overview of all the material available to me did not help me narrow my ideas. My desk itself was situated so I could see the materials stretching all the way to other side of the room. Where to even start?

Some context: I have been teaching English 1302 and 1304 at Baylor for three years. ENG 1302 is a neatly packaged class; I can look at every individual day and tell you how it corresponds with course goals. ENG 1304 is a bit more shaggy, with room to improvise and make connections at will. ENG 1304 deals with research writing, and my students set their own topics. Given this, there are many more variables in how I plan the curriculum throughout the semester.

One of the difficulties of ENG 1304 is helping first-time researchers pick topics. They tend to be intimidated by the idea of a ten-page paper and try to pick topics that they think will help them write that much. This sends them to familiar topics: they want to write about gun control or abortion or paying student athletes—all worthy intellectual pursuits, but they are in fact much too large to attempt in ten pages. That’s what they don’t know, and that’s what the archive can demonstrate to them.

Trying to confront a large topic is like staring down a hall of boxes, like I was on my first day in Poage. If you want to write a paper about a topic like gun control, you have to imagine the largest room imaginable and then imagine it filled with boxes full of fascinating material on the subject. Confronted with this fact, you realize you have to narrow down and pick a more specific starting place. Good research is focused.

The challenge for students is that they don’t get this physical experience of being overwhelmed. There is no actual big room of boxes for them. Their experience is opposite. They plug their topic into a search engine and are met with relief when “gun control” turns up millions of hits—surely they will be able to get ten pages out of this. What I realized, overwhelmed on that first day, was that the archive can help me turn it around for them. That is when I got to work.

What I did was this: I split my students into pairs and gave them one small research question to answer. Each research question had a few boxes of material from the Poage Library that went along with it. They had only an hour to sort through gobs of material to gather information that would help them answer the question. It is quite literally an impossible task. The students realized quickly that they wouldn’t be able to cover everything, so they zeroed on a few specific materials and sought to understand them more fully. They turned in reports about what they were able to find in their time in the archive.

As I see it, my students were taught the following lessons: a lot can be said about a very specific thing; research can be overwhelming, and that this is a good thing; topics that sound uninteresting can still turn up interesting material; physical material has some advantages over digital materials; and—finally—they got to see first hand what it is to be researchers.