Texas Governor George W. Bush:
An Inventory of Governor George W. Bush General Counsel Executive Clemency Files Located at the George W. Bush Presidential Library, 1961, 1965, 1968, 1974, 1983-2000, bulk 1995-2000
The governor of Texas is the chief executive officer of the state, elected by the citizens every four years. The duties and responsibilities of the governor include serving as commander-in-chief of the state's military forces; convening special sessions of the legislature for specific purposes; delivering to the legislature at the beginning of each regular session a report on the condition of the state, an accounting of all public money under the governor's control, a recommended biennial budget, an estimate of the amounts of money required to be raised by taxation, and any recommendations he deems necessary; signing or vetoing bills passed by the legislature; and executing the laws of the state. The governor can grant reprieves and commutations of punishment and pardons, upon the recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and revoke conditional pardons. He appoints numerous state officials (with the consent of the Senate), fills vacancies in state and district offices (except vacancies in the legislature), calls special elections to fill vacancies in the legislature, fills vacancies in the United States Senate until an election can be held, and serves as ex officio member of several state boards.
The office of governor was first established by the Constitution of 1845 and superseded the office of president of the Republic of Texas. The position now exists under authority of Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution of 1876 and Texas Government Code, Chapter 401. To be elected governor, a person must be at least thirty years old, a United States citizen, and a resident of Texas for at least five years preceding the election. In 1972, the term of office was extended from two to four years, effective in 1975. Since 1856 the governor has had the use of the Governor's Mansion.
In 1999 there were 198 full time equivalent employees in the Office of the Governor. Thirteen divisions outside of the Executive Office assist the governor in carrying out his functions: Administration, Appointments, Budget & Planning, Communications, General Counsel, Legislative, Policy, Scheduling, Criminal Justice Division, Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities, Office of Film, Music, Television and Multimedia Industries, Women's Commission, and Texas Council on Workforce and Economic Competitiveness.
The General Counsel position within the Texas Office of the Governor was created in October 1973 when the Executive Director of the Governor's Criminal Justice Division appointed an individual as General Counsel, to assist him in providing statute interpretations and in other matters relating to policies and procedures. Today the Office of the General Counsel is a separate division in the Governor's Office. During the Bush Administration, Alberto Gonzales served as General Counsel, succeeded in 1998 by Margaret Wilson.
Duties of the General Counsel include providing statute interpretations; tracking inmates on death row as their cases move through the judicial process including all appeals to the governor for commutations or stays of execution; handling pardon requests sent to the governor; reviewing proposed settlements, land patents, grant requests, contracts, easements, and deeds for the governor; analyzing proposed legislation and regulations for validity and legal effect; assisting appointments staff in determining eligibility and other legal issues related to proposed appointments; handling extradition and requisition matters; coordinating ethics guidelines and training for the governor's office; advising the governor on federal programs administered by the state; coordinating the governor's criminal justice policy with the governor's Policy Director; and providing legal advice and handling litigation filed against the governor or the Governor's Office, in conjunction with actions of the Attorney General on the governor's behalf.
(Sources include: Guide to Texas State Agencies, 9th and 10th eds., (1996 and 1999); the contents of the records; and versions of the Governor's Office web site during Governor Bush's term available on the Internet Archive at http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.governor.state.tx.us, accessed on March 3, 2009.)
George W. Bush served as governor of Texas from January 17, 1995 to December 21, 2000, resigning as governor in the middle of his second term to become president of the United States.
He challenged the incumbent governor, Democrat Ann Richards, running on promises to improve public education and to reform the juvenile justice system, welfare, and the state's tort laws -- the system under which an injured person may sue for damages. During the 74th Legislature in 1995, he worked with the Democrats who controlled both houses of the Texas legislature and managed to get bills passed that dealt with the four issues he had emphasized in his campaign. Bush was seen as pro-business and a consensus-builder.
Bush advocated and signed the two largest tax cuts to date in Texas history, totaling over $3 billion. To pay for the cuts, he sought (unsuccessfully) federal approval of a plan to privatize Texas' social services. Education reform was a priority throughout his terms, with legislation emphasizing local control of schools, higher standards, and a revised curriculum. Controversy has followed, with charter schools mired in financial scandals and protests against one test determining a child's promotion. After winning reelection in 1998, Bush began his bid for the presidency and was not as involved in the 76th Legislature in 1999.
George W. Bush was born July 6, 1946 in New Haven, Connecticut and grew up in Midland and Houston, Texas. He graduated from Andover Academy, and received a bachelor's degree from Yale University and a master's from Harvard Business School. He served as a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard. In 1978, Bush was defeated in a run for the U.S. Congress in West Texas. He was involved in energy exploration from the 1970s into the 1980s. From 1989 until his election as governor, Bush worked with the Texas Rangers baseball organization, leading a group of partners in purchasing the team, and then serving as managing general partner. He married Laura Welch in 1977; they have two daughters.
(Sources include: Versions of the Governor's Office web site during Governor Bush's term available on the Internet Archive at http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.governor.state.tx.us, accessed on March 3, 2009.)
The general counsel handles pardon requests submitted to the Texas Office of the Governor. These are clemency applications presented to Texas Governor George W. Bush by his General Counsel's office for prisoners or convicted felons out on parole wishing a pardon, asking to have their sentence commuted, asking for an emergency medical reprieve, or asking for a pardon/commutation under Senate Concurrent Resolution 26 (passed by the 72nd Legislature in 1991), which requires the Governor to focus special consideration upon pardon applicants whose crime arguably was a response to severe spousal abuse. The files contain a pardon application tracking form; an executive summary from the General Counsel (GC) to Bush stating a summary of the facts, evidence, proceedings, the Board of Pardons and Paroles recommendation, the GC recommendation, and the Governor's decision - deny or grant (these are initialed by the Governor); or memos with facts about the applicant, not including voting information. Dates covered are 1961, 1965, 1968, 1974, 1983-2000, the bulk dating 1995-2000. There are voting memos present for most cases, some that list multiple cases. These memos were sent to the governor and contain a minimum of facts about the case with the GC's recommendation (deny/grant). Also present may be notes about the case, pardon proclamations, correspondence of trial officials and attorneys with the governor and/or the Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP), court records, BPP voting summaries, BPP case file materials, Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) inmate records, criminal histories, law enforcement records, press releases, clippings, and petitions for pardons based on innocence, such as DNA testing in old rape cases that exonerates the inmate. The petitions often include medical reports, crime summaries (which may include the name of a rape victim), victim impact statements, etc.; most of those materials are confidential, as well as TDCJ inmate files, letters to the BPP, BPP case file material, law enforcement records, and criminal histories. See the Restrictions statement for further information about confidential records.
Files of prisoners denied pardons usually just have the pardon application tracking form, a voting memo, notes, and/or the executive summary from the GC to the governor. Usually multiple cases are filed together under the date the pardon was denied with all such cases being listed on the governor's voting memo.
Restrictions on Access
Because of the possibility that portions of these records fall under Public Information Act exceptions including, but not limited to: social security numbers; common law privacy (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Section 552.101); names of recipients of social services (V.T.C.A., Human Resources Code, Title 2, Section 12.003 and/or V.T.C.A., Government Code, Section 552.101); email addresses (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Section 552.137); driver's license numbers (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Article 552.130); names of victims of sexual assaults (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Section 552.101); criminal histories prepared by the Department of Public Safety, information about inmates incarcerated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice received from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and information created by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Section 552.101 (information confidential by law, Texas Government Code, Section 508.313)); crime victim impact statement (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Section 552.1325); and autopsy photographs (V.T.C.A., Code of Criminal Procedures, Article 49.25 [989a]), an archivist must review these records before they can be accessed for research. The records may be requested for research under the provisions of the Public Information Act (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Chapter 552). The researcher may request an interview with an archivist or submit a request by mail (Texas State Library and Archives Commission, P. O. Box 12927, Austin, TX 78711), fax (512-463-5436), email (Dir_Lib@tsl.state.tx.us), or see our web page (https://www.tsl.state.tx.us/requestgovernorbushrecords.html). Include enough description and detail about the information requested to enable the archivist to accurately identify and locate the information requested. (Note: The Governor's Office has requested that the State Archives contact the Public Information Coordinator for the Governor's Office when we receive a Public Information Act request for these records.) If our review reveals information that may be excepted by the Public Information Act, we are obligated to seek an open records decision from the Attorney General on whether the records can be released. The Public Information Act allows the Archives ten working days after receiving a request to make this determination. The Attorney General has 45 working days to render a decision. Alternately, the Archives can inform you of the nature of the potentially excepted information and if you agree, that information can be redacted or removed and you can access the remainder of the records.
Restrictions on Use
Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
(Identify the item), Texas Governor George W. Bush General Counsel executive clemency files. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession number: 2002/151
In December 2000, Governor George W. Bush designated the George Bush Presidential Library as the repository for the records from his tenure as Governor of Texas, under authority of Texas Government Code, Section 441.201. Shortly after he left office, the records were shipped to the Bush Library in College Station, Texas. Texas Attorney General John Cornyn ruled the records are state records subject to the Texas Public Information Act and the management of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission even after transfer to a federal facility (Opinion No. JC-0498, May 3, 2002). In July 2002 the records were transferred from the Bush Library to the Texas State Archives in Austin for preparation for research use. In June 2003, a memorandum of understanding signed by representatives of the National Archives and Records Administration, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and George W. Bush replaced a January 2002 interim memorandum of understanding. The records were moved to the George W. Bush Presidential Library in February 2013.
Laura K. Saegert, February 2004
Finding aid updated and made DACS compliant by Tonia J. Wood, April 2013
Detailed Description of the Records