This post was written by Graduate Assistant Emma Whipkey.
I have been working with the Clark Thompson papers in various capacities since my arrival at the W. R. Poage Legislative Library in 2018. Thompson’s collection includes legislative documents, personal papers, scrapbooks, and a significant amount of correspondence. My first project at the Poage was to sort Thompson’s correspondence into categories by subject. Correspondence can often be an overwhelming portion of a collection to tackle, but I had help sorting the letters. This summer, a group of us here at the Poage held “sorting parties.” Each week, we would all grab a large stack of unsorted letters and sort them into the appropriate category. The process moves so much faster with a group of people working together.
You never know what you are going to find while sorting through piles of correspondence! We found homemade recipes, thank you letters for sending gifts of cheese, letters that discussed the Civil Rights Bill which gave insight into how constituents and political leaders in Texas were reacting to the new legislation, and letters that praised and critiqued President John F. Kennedy during his administration. Thompson’s correspondence gives us an interesting glimpse into the early 1960’s, a time of incredible change in the United States.
After President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Clark Thompson began receiving letters from people all over Texas and the nation. In a letter dated December 9, 1963, only a few weeks after President Kennedy’s death, Clark Thompson pondered his friendship with the late President. Thompson remarked how difficult it had been for the whole state of Texas to have allowed such a tragedy to happen in their state and admitted how deeply it had affected him and his wife due to their long friendship with the Kennedys. This letter, like many others, was written while the country was still in mourning over the loss of a young, promising leader. It was a tumultuous time, but Clark Thompson expressed his faith in President Lyndon B. Johnson as a well-trained and capable successor.
The 1960’s was a decade of change. Looking back, we see it as important and exciting, with new music, media, and politics. It remains an incredibly interesting time in history to study, and the Clark Thompson correspondence has given me new insight into one of the most fascinating decades of the 20th century.