This blog post was written by Joe Wilson, a master’s student in Baylor’s History Department and a Graduate Assistant here at Poage Library.
One of the state collections held at W. R. Poage Legislative Library is the Donald G. Adams papers. Adams was a Texas State Representative and State Senator from 1968 to 1978, serving the people of the Jasper-Lufkin-Nacogdoches area in east Texas. The Adams papers provide us with a unique insight into Texas government during the 1960’s and 1970’s, a time of great change in Texas and throughout the nation.
Donald G. Adams was born in 1938 in Jasper, Texas. His parents were T. Gilbert Adams and Dess Hart Adams. He was a Baylor alumnus, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Laws between 1957 and 1963. After graduation, Adams practiced law on his own in Lufkin for a couple of years before coming home to Jasper to join his father’s law firm.
However, Adams did not remain in the private sector for long. In 1968, he announced his candidacy for the Texas House of Representatives, and was elected unopposed as the Democratic Party nominee. After spending two terms in the Texas House, Adams ran for the Texas Senate in 1972, this time facing a fierce primary battle against local radio station owner J.C. Stallings. Stallings tried to link Adams to the Sharpstown Bank scandal and disgraced politician Gus Mutscher, but Adams emerged victorious from the primary and ran unopposed in the general election. Adams served as Texas Senator from 1973 to 1978, resigning to become the Chief Legal Counsel for the Governor of Texas. He was appointed to the Texas Industrial Commission in 1979, serving on that commission until the late 1980’s, when he returned to private practice.
Adams had a few priorities during his time in the Texas legislature. One of these was education. Adams was interested in the quality of public schools in Texas, especially in rural areas. He often hosted tours of the Texas Capitol in Austin for school classes, encouraging civic engagement among the youth of his district. Adams was also concerned about the teachers in Texas schools, working to get them better benefits and increasing their retirement pensions.
Another legislative priority of Adams’s was regulation of public utilities. Adams was concerned that the unregulated utilities were allowing telephone and electric companies to take advantage of rural areas where there were few or no competitors to drive prices down. Many of Adams’s constituents wrote to him asking for utility regulation, and Adams worked to craft regulations that would help the people of his district without stifling businesses and slowing the spread of telephone and electric access to rural areas.
Agriculture was another area of interest for Adams. He was a supporter of increasing funding for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service administrated by Texas A&M University, and he received dozens of letters from employees of the Extension Service thanking him for fighting to give them raises and more funding for their programs. The Extension Service conducted agricultural research and provided education about new farming techniques to rural areas. Adams’s work to increase funding for the Agricultural Extension Service helped to continue modernizing Texas agriculture and help rural communities.
Adams was also concerned with the health of his constituents. He was instrumental in getting legislation passed to help patients who were victims of medical malpractice, holding doctors and hospitals more accountable for their mistakes. Adams tried to protect his constituents from exploitation by unscrupulous physicians when they were most vulnerable.
Donald Adams was an active member of the Texas Legislature throughout the late 1960’s and 1970’s. His papers and correspondence give us a unique look into state government at that time from a man who did not have national political aspirations but rather worked to improve life for the people around him in his district and in all of Texas. Come to Poage Library and learn more about 1970’s Texas through the Donald G. Adams papers.