by Thomas DeShong, Project Archivist
As a student of history and an archivist, I am oftentimes awestruck by the rich and diverse collections I have had the privilege to process at The Texas Collection. During my brief time here, I have worked with materials relating to a wide range of topics including the Branch Davidians, Baylor University presidents, Texas governors, the American Civil War, World War II, and Baptist organizations, just to name a few. Needless to say, I find great satisfaction in my job. I never know what I might encounter on any given day. For instance, just a few months ago, I stumbled upon one of my most exciting finds yet: the Joe Lett Ward, Jr. papers.
Joe Ward, a fifth-generation Wacoan, was known throughout the city for his public service and community involvement. He served four years on the Waco City Council and was later appointed the Mayor of Waco from 1959 to 1960. Despite all of his accolades, however, one of the most fascinating aspects of Joe Ward’s service was also quite secretive.
The Joe Ward papers are not extensive by any means; they are housed in a single document box. Yet the papers within shed light on part of Waco’s history that has long been shrouded in mystery. One-third of Joe Ward’s materials are products of his tenure on the Waco Community Relations Committee and its predecessor, an un-named subcommittee operating under the Committee of Fifty. Initially, this nine-man committee was comprised of some of Waco’s leading entrepreneurs and citizens including Chairman Joe Ward and Baylor University President Abner McCall. They worked in conjunction with the Progressive Community Council, a group of prominent African American leaders led by Reverend Marvin C. Griffin, to integrate Waco’s schools, restaurants, and businesses.Continue Reading