A Letter to an Old Friend, Sam B. Hall, Jr.

This blog post was written by Archivist Sylvia Hernandez. The Sam B. Hall, Jr. papers were the first collection she processed at Baylor. Sometimes, when archivists process collections they feel an intimate connection with the creator of the collection. Sylvia expresses this sentiment through this letter. 

Mr. Hall,

It has been an honor to work on your papers over the last few years. As I began a new opportunity, your work allowed me a chance to learn about you as well as my profession. As an archivist, people often wonder what it is I do. I didn’t really understand until you came around to teach me to look at the big picture.

Often, I describe archivists as “librarians for old things.” But we are more than that. We are organizers, memory keepers, teachers, and researchers to start. Our passion is to share the stories of others. Your story, Mr. Hall, started as many others in our library.

As young man you attended college and followed your servant heart into battle during World War II. After your time in the Army Air Corps you returned to Texas and earned a law degree in 1948 at Baylor University. It wasn’t long after that you returned home to Marshall, Texas. Home has a way of calling us back, no matter how far we may wander.

Once again following your heart, you ran your first campaign for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in 1962. Although the run was unsuccessful, you continued to work in Marshall and fulfill civic responsibility close to home, notably as head of the school board. Sometimes we fail, but failure helps prepare us for greater things. With a second chance at Congress in 1976, you were elected to fill the seat of the 1st Congressional District and did so until 1985.

Your tenure in congress was filled with experiences so few of us can imagine. Serving on the Judiciary and Veterans’ Affairs Committees, as well as the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, you returned overseas on several occasions. Travelling with CODELS to France and Southeast Asia allowed you to serve your brothers in arms, memorializing those who never made it home and working to free several POWs. You, my friend, have touched so many lives.

Those lives, just as yours, began in Marshall, Texas. In 1985 I’m sure it was very much an honor to return home as the newly appointed United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Texas. One of my favorite quotes comes from a speech you gave at your robing ceremony, “looking out over this audience … I see people I’ve known all my life … And there are no strangers here at all to me.” Sam, if I may call you that, you are no stranger to me. You are my friend.

I am glad to be a part of your story, sharing it for others to know you as I do. I was recently reminded that as an archivist, what I do is not about me, but what I can do for others. I’m sure you understand.

All the Best,

Sylvia

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