Painstakingly Preserved Political Paraphernalia

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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.

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