51 Years Later: the JFK Assassination and the Congressman George Mahon Papers

JFK-Tx BreakfastLast year, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Southwest Collection installed an exhibit of our materials related to the tragedy. Although no exhibit is on display this year, we have dug up more related books, documents, photographs, and other materials from the papers of then-Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr and Congressman George H. Mahon .Connally letter-darkened sentenceThis letter from Texas Governor John Connally and the accompanying tickets are from our George Mahon Papers. After a long legal career, in 1934 Mahon won the congressional seat for Texas’ Nineteenth Congressional District. Below is also a picture showing a White House greeting between President Kennedy and Mahon in 1962, not an uncommon sight in Washington at that time given that Mahon served as Texas’ Representative for over forty-four years. Because he ranked as one of the most influential Texas Democrats, Mahon joined the Texas delegation that traveled with the President throughout Texas and attended the event held the night before the assassination, for which the tickets above provided admission.  JFK + Mahon cropt

Ntbk p.1+++On November 22, 1963, Mahon found himself riding through Dealey Plaza only five cars behind the President. During the flight back to Washington, D.C. after the assassination, Mahon recorded his recollections of the event. “I heard the shots fired which killed the President of the United States,” begin these notes, a sample of which can be seen above. Correspondence and other documents related to the event are a significant part of our collection of his papers.Jackie Kennedy note 12.17.63Lastly, we have this thank you from Jacqueline Kennedy that was mailed to Mahon after he had provided to her and her family his condolences. Although it is a small, simple item, it was one that Mahon kept for the rest of his life and was generously included among his papers as a unique token of this pivotal moment in United States history.

Those interested in other archival collections related to the JFK assassination might also take a look at our Waggoner Carr Papers. The Attorney General of Texas in 1963, Carr was a key figure in the early days of the assassination investigation. For a look at his papers, Mahon’s, or any of our other many collections, feel free to contact our Reference Department. They are always happy to get you set up.


Painstakingly Preserved Political Paraphernalia


Election Day is coming up (or might have just passed, depending on when you’re reading this!) The SWC has a tremendous number of political collections, but some of the coolest parts of those aren’t correspondence or signed proclamations or whatever else it is politicians wind up gathering during their careers. No, the best things are the memorabilia!

Take these buttons and pamphlets attempting to drum up support for Gordon Barton McLendon. “The Maverick of Radio,” McClendon nailed down the Top 40 radio format in the 1950s and through that made a fortune. He didn’t stop there, though. As an offshore pirate radio broadcaster, he bombarded the coasts of Scandanavia and Great Britain with the music he loved, whether they wanted to hear it or not. Most of this is documented in his papers (which we have), as is his heavy involvement in politics during the 1960s. In 1964, for example, he ran in the Democratic primary against U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough. He lost, but on the trail he managed to bring along some famous folks, including John Wayne! The buttons above are from that campaign. 2AFL1398Scattered cross various collections are campaign relics related to four-term U.S. Congressman Lloyd Bentsen, Jr. From 1948 to 1955, Bentsen served Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives, and then in the Senate from 1971-1993. While a Senator he chaired the Senate Finance Committee, which he parlayed into a position as U.S. Treasury Secretary during Bill Clinton’s early years as president. He even accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for Vice President of the United States in Michael Dukakis’ failed campaign against George H. W. Bush in 1988. But to do all that, he first had to get elected, and so his understated buttons and bepamphleted, smiling face grace the SWC’s collections.catalystV2I4-1-2Here’s an alternative view of campaigning, presented by Texas Tech’s own The Catalyst, a controversial, underground student newspaper during the 1960s and 70s. It contained articles, reviews, editorials, satires, parodies and political statements about the Vietnam War, racial discord, and drug use, among other topics. It was also the cornerstone of a 1970 lawsuit that became one of the most notable court cases in the area of freedom of the press for school newspapers. Legal problems aren’t surprising, given the anti-establishment tone of the articles in this October 22-November 5, 1970 issue. Check out the decidedly irreverent account of Spiro Agnew’s visit to Lubbock. They also editorialize on the senatorial contest between George H. W. Bush and Lloyd Bentsen. Those parts are good, but the rest of it is even better, rambling across a boycott of Purex products, campus police acquiring tear gas, and the benefits of hallucinogens.2AFL1401 We’ve saved the Presidential stuff for last, and boy do we have a slew of it! First up is a message card from LBJ’s 1964 campaign. It’s hard to tell whether or not this item is arguing for or against a vote for him. We’re open to your interpretation, if you’d like to comment below. Next, in direct opposition to The Catalyst’s viewpoints, we have a small button supporting the Nixon/Agnew ticket. Lastly, a run-of-the-mill bumper sticker for Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign against Gerald Ford. Our American Agricultural Movement Papers suggest some definite opposition to Carter after his election, but the owner of this bumper sticker, at least, felt that Jimmy was the man to beat.

Interested in taking a peek at any of our numerous political collections? That’s what our Reference Staff is here for. Give them a call, before or after you’ve voted. They’d be happy to help you out.

“Assassination of a President: An Exhibit to Mark the 50th Anniversary of the Tragic Death of John F. Kennedy” at the Southwest Collection

SWCPC 473 (A) E3

President John F. Kennedy and Congressman George H. Mahon at a event during Kennedy’s November, 1963 visit to Texas.

Friday, November 22nd, 2013, is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. To mark this occasion, the Southwest Collection has installed an exhibit in our east gallery displaying books, documents, photographs, and other materials from several of our collections that relate to the tragedy. We currently house over 200 books about the assassination, ranging from academic publications to explorations of conspiracy theories. Two of our finest manuscript collections–the papers of Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr and Congressman George H. Mahon–contain a wealth of documentary evidence related to this moment in American history.

Waggoner Carr, born in 1918 in Fairlie, Texas, moved with his family to Lubbock, Texas, as a young man. After serving as a pilot during World War II, he completed a law degree at the University of Texas, went into private practice, and soon after involved himself in local politics. He served as Lubbock Assistant District Attorney and Lubbock County Attorney before setting his sights on Austin. There he represented Lubbock in the State Legislature (1951-1961), eventually rising to Speaker of Texas House of Representatives (1957-1961) before moving on to serve as Texas Attorney General (1963-1967).

sound reels

These are the envelopes containing reels of sound recordings gathered by Waggoner Carr’s investigative team in the aftermath of the assassination.

Because he was the state’s Attorney General when Kennedy was assassinated, Carr oversaw the initial investigation into the murder, gathering evidence that he would later provide to the Warren Commission. Testimonies, police reports, photographs, and correspondence with investigators, witnesses, and government officials at all levels, as well as sound and movie recordings such as those in the above image, can be found among the many other fascinating items in his papers.

Ticket BEST

This Admission Ticket for the dinner to be held in Kennedy’s honor on the night of the shooting is among the many artifacts available in the George Mahon Papers.

George Herman Mahon’s papers are another key component of our Kennedy-related holdings. Mahon practiced law in Colorado City, Texas, in the 1920s before serving as Mitchell County attorney from 1926. In 1934 he won the congressional seat for the Nineteenth Congressional District and remained in that office forty-four years. He retired in 1978 as the then-longest sitting member of Congress.

Mahon notes1

Because he served as Texas’ Representative during Kennedy’s tragically shortened term, and because he ranked as one of the most influential Texas Democrats, Mahon joined the Texas delegation that traveled with the President throughout Texas. He found himself riding through Dealey Plaza only five cars behind President Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally. During the flight back to Washington D.C. after the assassination, Mahon recorded his recollections of the event. These notes–a sample of which can be seen above–as well as copious correspondence and a host of other documentation, are a part of our collection of his papers.

telegram to Mahon re attending funeral

This is a telegram inviting the Congressman to the President’s funeral. Mahon’s papers are replete with such correspondence.

The John F. Kennedy exhibit will run through February, 2014, and is open to the public from 8am to 5pm on weekdays. Interested researchers may contact our Reference Department to take a look at the prized collections mentioned above, as well as the many other collections we make available.