Governor Coke Stevenson vs. The Communists!

commie book002

Born in 1888, Coke Robert Stevenson was a prominent Texas politician. How prominent? First off, he was Texas’ Governor from 1941 to 1947, but before that he served as a Kimball County Attorney and Judge, member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1929 to 1939 (four years of which he served as Speaker,) and also did a stint as Lieutenant Governor under Pappy O’Daniel. He was the only 20th century Texas politician to hold all of those statewide offices during a career. More importantly (to us!), the SWC is currently processing his papers. Among them we found a couple of small items concerned with a pressing issue in the United States during Stevenson’s years: communism.

The pamphlet above is one example. “A White Paper on the Black Pages of the Red Menace;” that’s one heck of a subtitle, and a stern indictment of communism to say the least. It does make sense to find it among Stevenson’s possessions. He consistently and vocally opposed communism and its attempts to creep into the U.S. But this pamphlet wasn’t by far the wildest material tucked into his papers.

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First, a story: in 1948, at the end of his governorship, Stevenson ran for a U.S. Senate seat against Lyndon B. Johnson. Although Stevenson had lead the race by a small margin, he ultimately lost by only 87 votes. He immediately cried “foul,” and challenged the results, claiming that Johnson had stuffed the ballot. By an equally narrow margin (29-28,) Texas’ Democratic Central Committee declared the election for Johnson despite Stevenson’s appeal. And so Coke retired to his ranch near Junction, Texas, and left elections (but not politics, per se) behind.

Communism was probably not involved in the ballot box issue, but one riled-up citizen of Pampa, Texas, thought otherwise, and in the above letter explained how communists had “stole, or feloniously miscounted” votes. His “facts, true facts!” were one voice among many concerned about America’s future. For example, Pappy O’Daniel, under whom Coke served as Lieutenant Governor, had hunted communists as well, focusing particularly on suspicious academics at the University of Texas. Lt. Governor Stevenson had supported that policy, and this letter writer knew it. Sadly, LBJ did not, and in Senatorial campaign speeches he accused Stevenson of being soft on the “red menace.” One more bit of evidence that one man in Pampa, Texas, believed pointed toward the Democrats’ “subservience” to the “COMMUNIST PARTY.”

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Setting election controversy aside, we turn again to Jack Gardner’s booklet. First, it’s signed to the governor by the author. That’s an exciting find in any collection! Gardner wanted to place it in the hands of those who could best prosecute the communism that he so despised. The booklet was actually written in the form of a speech to be given by the President of the United States, or “some patriotic statesman.” Because this item is dated 1964, however, it’s unlikely that Gardner’s dream of the “preservation of the sacred fire of liberty” in memory of George Washington, to whom the pamphlet is dedicated, was within the retired Stevenson’s power.

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The rhetoric in the pamphlet is intense. Whether by President or patriot, the words should be delivered at the United Nations. If “made available to all citizens of the Planet Earth,” Gardner’s rhetoric would send commies running and reignite the fires of liberty worldwide. Drawing from previous presidential speeches ranging from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to those of Franklin Roosevelt, the dozen or so pages of this pamphlet suggest a world of concentrated, fanatical anti-Communist sentiment in the mid-20th century.

The Coke Stevenson Papers are not yet available, as they are copious and have to be arranged, described, and inventoried correctly to be of any use to researchers. In the meantime, interested folks can feel free to take a look at the papers of other prominent politicians in our collection, such as Representative George Mahon and Governor Preston Smith. Our Reference Staff would be happy to facilitate that.

“Mad Trends: Found Ads of the 1970s” – An Exhibit at the Southwest Collection

We love poring through old issues of Texas Tech’s student newspaper, The Toreador (or the University Daily, depending on the vintage.) In blogs past, we shared the phenomenon of streaking that overtook campus, and therefore its newspapers, during the 1970s. But naked folks weren’t the only entertainment on the Toreador’s pages. Newspaper advertisements got pretty innovative, and we’ve installed an exhibit full of examples to prove it. Check these samples out.

thor ladies night

In February 1974 The Comix Club bar was a popular institution. Students and locals gathered there regularly to drink and carouse, yea like unto the fallen warriors of Valhalla. Now, we won’t delve deep into the details of their storied parties, but we can confirm that Norse god of thunder and Marvel Comics staple, Thor, endorsed their neverending parade of ladies’ nights.

gandalf

Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novels were hugely popular in the 1960s and 70s. It’s unsurprising therefore that stores such as Gandalf’s Staff would take advantage of that popularity to sell items that featured prominently in the books. Such as…water beds? Note also that, just in case you struggle to identify wizards on sight, or were confused by the name of the store, they captioned the picture of Gandalf.

king kong

King Kong debuted in theaters in 1933, and after a two-decade hiatus got an original, uncut screening in February 1974 at Lubbock’s Backstage Theater. We love that the woman is screaming the title of the movie, rather than for, you know, help. Stylistically, though, it made sense, as the poster was drawn in the style of Robert Crumb’s Zap Comix of the late 1960s. Those were the cartoons that proclaimed “Keep on Truckin’” – another fad appropriated by the Toreador from time to time.

flash gordon

In 1974, you could rest assured that the universe was safe from Ming, Mars, and planets full of outlaws. Featuring “the latest in modern electronic space equipment,” the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers films had been wowing audiences for over 40 years, and did so again in December 1974 at the Backstage Theater. Buck and Flash were true heroes, the kind that save maidens from deaths worse than fate! Whatever that means. Heroes don’t have time to keep clichés straight.

Enjoy these? You might also enjoy the rest of our exhibit, which features 1970s mustache products, Gene Roddenberry, plagiarism from Jaws intended to sell hamburgers, and a Martian death ray! Or just check out issues of the University Daily/Toreador among our digital collections. Either way, you’ll be entertained.