“Governor Coke Stevenson: Mr. Texas” – An Exhibit at the Southwest Collection

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The Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library will soon be exhibiting portions of the papers of Texas Governor Coke Stevenson. Documenting his life and career from childhood to retirement in Junction, Texas, the exhibit will run from mid-spring to mid-summer.

Coke Stevenson was born on March 20, 1888, at his grandparents’ home between the little towns of Katemcy, Fredonia, and Pontotoc, in Northeast Mason County, Texas. Throughout his life Stevenson was an entrepreneur and civic leader: a cowboy at ten; the owner of a freight-line between Junction and Brady, Texas, at sixteen; a janitor who worked his way up to bank clerk by 18. Ultimately, he became a member of the bank’s board, and later became president of several banks. He was part owner of grocery, drug, and, hardware stores, the Junction Eagle newspaper, the Fritz Hotel, and Llano River Irrigation and Milling Company, along with water, electricity, ginning, grist mill, and irrigation businesses. He apprenticed under a former state judge, and the Fourth Court of Civil Appeals admitted him to the bar in 1913. Remarkably, he only completed twenty-two months of formal education.

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Stevenson served two terms as Kimble County Attorney and County Judge, but soon was was elected to the Texas House or Representatives, where he became its first two-term Speaker.  In 1938 he was elected Lieutenant Governor and was reelected in 1940 before assuming the governorship in August 1941, when W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel resigned to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the deceased Morris Sheppard.  Stevenson served two gubernatorial terms during World War II, during which time he supported the war effort and President Roosevelt, and inspired the Good Neighbor Commission.

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Affectionately known as “Mr. Texas,” after the war he ran for O’Daniel’s vacated U.S. Senate seat against Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson.  He lost a contested run-off when George Parr, the so-called “Duke of Duvall County,” allegedly had Voting Box Number 13 stuffed with 202 ballots that tilted the election to LBJ.

Politics wasn’t the entirety of Stevenson’s life. In 1913 he married Fay Wright, and soon they were blessed with a son, Coke Robert Stevenson, Jr. Fay died in 1942 while Stevenson was governor. After leaving public office he married in 1954 the Kimble County District Clerk, and widow, Marguerite King Heap, with whom he had a daughter, Jane Stevenson. After the failed Senatorial campaign, Stevenson returned home to his Kimble County law practice, friends, and ranch. There he cowboy’d for a while, and took extensive road trips with his family, visiting all 48 contiguous states. He died at 87 years of age on June 28, 1975.

That’s the biography, but the exhibit is so much more! Come by and take a look at it if you have the opportunity. Also, if you’d like to view the Coke Stevenson Papers, they will be available for research use before the exhibit ends. Our Reference Staff will always help you find what you need.

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The Southwest Collection’s 10 Millionth Item

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The 10 millionth item received by the Southwest Collection was a letter donated in 1976. It was dated July 11, 1933, and was addressed to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt from Marvin Jones, an Amarillo lawyer and twelve-term U.S. Congressman from Texas’ 13th Congressional district. In this letter Jones recommends that the Federal Government assume control of the Federal Reserve Banks. He also suggests that while farms and city housing have been subsidized, homes falling outside of these categories should also receive government aid. Both of these suggestions were key items of debate during the New Deal Era.

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The announcement of the item in For Your Information: A Newsletter to the Faculty and Staff of the TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY COMPLEX, VOL. 7, No. l, Sept. 1, 1976, p. 31, courtesy of the TTU University Archives

Jones’ first vote as a Congressman was for the declaration of war against Germany prior to World War I. Beginning in 1931, he chaired the House Committee on Agriculture during which time he wrote the letter above. In 1940 was nominated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to serve as associate judge–and later as Chief Justice under President Harry S Truman–of the United States Court of Claims.

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Marvin Jones, ca. 1920, courtesy of Wikipedia

The Marvin Jones Papers, 1905-1976 and undated consists of 41 boxes of archival material including correspondence, political materials such as drafts and official copies of legislation, office files, financial and legal material, speeches, photographs, scrapbooks, and other materials related to his life and career. The letter described above is one item among many in the Southwest Collections’ growing digital archives, and can be found here: http://ow.ly/mPLG3.

This item was most recently shared as a part of Texas Tech University’s Charter Day celebration. Charter Day marked the anniversary of Texas Governor Pat Neff signing Senate Bill 103 to establish Texas Technological College on February 10, 1923. In celebration of the 90th anniversary of Charter Day, the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library highlighted unique items from its vast holdings. Many of the materials featured during the celebration reside in TTU’s University Archives, the digital holdings of which may be found here: http://collections.swco.ttu.edu/handle/10605/48 Finding aids for its collections may be found on Texas Archival Resources Online: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/browse/browse_tech1.html