This blog post was written by Joe Wilson, a master’s student in Baylor’s History Department.
One year ago, I began working at the W. R. Poage Legislative Library without knowing very much about what materials it housed and what sort of work went on there. Today, I am so grateful that I was able to spend this past year at Poage learning about the workings of government, Texas politics, and American history.
I have always been politically engaged. I’ve voted in every biennial election since I turned 18, and I follow news and politics fairly closely throughout the year. However, until working at Poage Library, I did not really understand how engagement with politics, especially state and local politics, really can make a difference in the world. After working with various materials and collections at Poage, I have seen how politicians engage with their constituents and how they then work with other politicians on behalf of their districts. In today’s day and age, politics is often divisive and can cause despair and anger; working at Poage Library showed me how politics can unite people and work for the good of America.
I have processed several collections while working at Poage Library, and I have learned something from each one of them. First, I processed the papers of Donald Adams, a Texas State Representative and later State Senator. From that collection I learned a lot about the workings of government at a state level, and especially about local Texas issues. I also witnessed how many constituents turned to their local representative for help with various issues, and how important that outlet is for helping people. After the Adams papers, I processed the Lola Hopper collection. Hopper was not a politician or a famous leader, but she worked behind the scenes as a secretary and campaign volunteer to support her community. Without her work and that of individuals like her, politicians and leaders would not be able to accomplish nearly as much. Finally, I worked on parts of Congressman W. R. Poage’s collections, including papers related to the Rural Electrification Act and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. In these materials, I saw two different sides of Federal bureaucracy: in some cases, it was important in helping people in many different situations; in others, the red tape and delays hurt Americans. It was interesting to consider government as a double-edged sword in its work for the American people.
Overall, my time at Poage Library has been wonderful. I’ve learned a lot about political history, gained important research and processing skills, and met many delightful people among my co-workers and the supporters of Poage Library. I will always remember my time at Poage fondly as I move forward in my journey as a historian, an academic, and an American citizen.