A Guide to the Texas Speakers Oral History Collection, 1992, 2004-2006
In November 2003, in cooperation with Speaker Tom Craddick and his wife Mrs. Nadine Craddick, the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin launched "A Speaker from Its Own Members: A Project Documenting the History of the Speakers of the Texas House of Representatives." From its inception to April 2005, Center for American History historians Dr. Patrick Cox and Dr. Michael Phillips have interviewed Speaker Craddick and nine former Texas House speakers.
The speaker of the Texas House, along with the governor and the lieutenant governor, ranks among the three most powerful officeholders in Texas politics, yet speakers have enjoyed relatively limited visibility. Few Texans are fully aware of the office's significance. As documented in these interviews, the powers of Texas House speakers expanded greatly following the expansion of the Texas economy in the aftermath of World War II. In this time, speakers began to shape the state’s budget, its tax policies and the quality of Texas public schools and universities.
The era covered by the project, beginning in 1951, marks a particularly dramatic time in Texas history. In this period, speakers reacted to the Brown v. Board of Education decision and the subsequent desegregation of Texas public schools. Speakers responded to the rise of the space industry and other modern technologies that transformed the economy of Texas. Speakers dealt with the state's explosive population growth following World War II even as they coped with a more complex economy and a rising demand for government services in education, transportation and health care.
Speakers rose and fell with the rising fortunes of conservative and liberal factions within the Texas Democratic Party and with the ascendancy of the state Republican Party, culminating in the GOP's eventual capture of the state government in the 2000 elections. They also struggled with the Sharpstown political scandal, subsequent attempts to limit the power of the speaker's office, the failed effort to rewrite the state Constitution in the 1970s, and the dramatic growth in the power and influence of the Speaker in the modern era. Readers and researchers will learn not only how modern Texas was created in the mid-twentieth century, but also the motives, reactions, celebrations, regrets and fears of those most involved in the state’s tumultuous political upheavals in the last half century.
The collection contains interviews, cassette tapes and transcripts, with Reuben Senterfitt, Jim T. Lindsey, James "Jimmy" Turman, Ben Barnes, Gus Mutscher, Rayford Price, Bill Clayton, Gibson D. "Gib" Lewis, and Pete Laney. In addition, Nadine Craddick, wife of Tom Craddick, as well as Pat Senterfitt, Joanie Turman and Nelda Laney were interviewed for this series. Additional interviews include Jan Tunnell, wife of the late former House Speaker Byron Tunnell, and Dr. David Carr, son of the later former House Speaker and state Attorney General Waggoner Carr, as part of this series. Further interviews were conducted with Bo Byers, Sam Kinch, Jr., Dave McNeely, and John Moritz, veterans of the Capitol press corps. Alice Turley and Doug Young of the State Preservation Board were interviewed regarding the history of the speaker's official residence in the Capitol and preservation efforts at the Capitol since a devastating fire there in 1983. Furthermore, the collection contains additional material, such as news clippings and printed materials. Interview transcripts not yet available are marked on the inventory.
This collection is open for research use.
Texas Speakers Oral History Collection, 1992, 2004-2006, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Detailed Description of the Papers