A Guide to the Good Neighbor Commission Records, 1949-1950
In 1943, Governor Coke R. Stevenson established the Good Neighbor Commission in response to requests by Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA) agent Tom Sutherland, among others. The OIAA was established by President Roosevelt in 1940 with the goal of improving cultural and economic relations with Latin America. The Good Neighbor Commission was originally requested because of the Mexican government’s ban on moving workers into Texas because of discrimination against Mexicans. The purpose of the six-person commission was to handle, solve, and improve social, cultural, and economic relations and problems among Mexican Americans living in Texas. The commission also aimed to ease relations between Texas and Mexico, and between Texas and other Latin American countries. Specifically, the commission intended to improve education, housing, and health measures for migrant workers and other Mexicans living in Texas.
The Good Neighbor Commission was officially designated a paid state commission in 1945. In 1947 Mexico lifted the ban on movement into Texas. Poor living conditions and discrimination were still in effect, however, but eventually most discrimination issues were turned over to the Texas Council on Human Relations, formed in 1950 under oil magnate Neville Penrose. The next few years saw varied effects of the commission depending on who was working for it at the time. For example, in 1949 state representative J.F. Gray made a claim against the commission when access to a funeral home was denied to the family of Felix Longoria, a Mexican who was killed during World War II. The commission responded to the claim, and, with help from Lyndon B. Johnson, enabled Longoria to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
The Texas Council on Migrant Labor, which had been established in 1957, disbanded in 1965, transferring its work to the commission, which resulted in an increased budget and staff force for the commission. The commission was reviewed once more for relevance in 1977, and over the next ten years, its duties were incrementally taken over by other agencies. The official abolition of the Good Neighbor Commission took place in 1987.
Source: Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "Good Neighbor Commission," http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/GG/mdg2.html (accessed June 23, 2010).
The Good Neighbor Commission Records, 1949-1950, contain manuscripts pertaining to Mexican discrimination in Texas, labor and human relations and problems between Texas and Latin American nations, and intercultural education and history. Items of note in the records include summarized proceedings from the Southwest Council on the Education of Spanish-Speaking People, 1950, English and Spanish versions of the history of the Good Neighbor Commission, and an address delivered at the National Convention of the League of United Latin American Citizens, by Lyle Saunders, 1949. These manuscripts outline the functions and purposes of the Good Neighbor Commission, as well as address the discrimination, housing, and education issues of the time in Texas.
The collection is open for research.
Good Neighbor Commission Records, 1949-1950, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s "History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light" project, 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers