A Guide to the Donald Wayne Taylor Papers, 1974-1996
Prison reform advocate Donald Wayne Taylor, born March 24, 1939, was raised by his mother following the death of his father, a severely disabled World War I veteran. In 1952, Taylor stole a car and drove it across the Arkansas state line, an offense for which he was committed to the National Training School for Boys in Washington, D.C. Upon his release, Taylor began using illegal drugs and would ultimately serve three prison terms, totaling 11 years, for drug-related offenses. Taylor attended prison schools and, after leaving prison in 1969, enrolled in college, earning credits from the University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas at Arlington, and St. Edward’s University, before receiving his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Southwest Texas State University in 1983.
From 1976 to 1978, Taylor worked as a rehabilitation counselor at Development Assistance for Rehabilitation (DAR). Beginning in 1977, Taylor served on several committees, task forces, and coalitions pertaining to jail issues including inmate rights, juvenile justice, and jail conditions. In 1979 Taylor served simultaneously as the Chair of both the Austin and Texas chapters of Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), a national grassroots organization founded by Charles and Pauline Sullivan that sought to prevent and reduce crime through reform of the criminal justice system and promotion of education and rehabilitative programs. Taylor remained active in these local chapters while serving as National Chairman from 1984 to 1991. In 1981, Taylor received a full pardon from Governor Bill Clements, Jr., for the crimes he committed as a young man.
Taylor began working as a research assistant at the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), the agency that administers Texas’s juvenile corrections system, in 1983, eventually becoming accreditation manager, a position he held from 1986 to 1989. During his employment at TYC, Taylor enrolled in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned his Master of Public Affairs degree in 1988. While at the LBJ School, he interned at the office of Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby, researching criminal and juvenile justice issues and parole policy, as well as the landmark suit of Ruiz v. Estelle, which significantly reshaped the criminal justice system in Texas. In the final years of his life, Taylor moved from his role as a reformer/advocate to a professional policy researcher. He left TYC in 1991 and began work at the Texas Senate Research Center, where he remained until his death.
Donald Taylor died following heart surgery at St. David’s Hospital in Austin on January 13, 1997; he was survived by his former wife, art curator Lynn Adele.
Correspondence, printed material, minutes, reports, creative works, legal documentation, photographic material, and ephemera document the academic and professional life of Donald Wayne Taylor, illuminating his dedication to prison reform in Texas, 1974-1996. The material is arranged into two series: Professional and Personal. Professional material, further arranged according to individual organizations, presented alphabetically, constitutes the bulk.
Professional material bulks with Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), the majority being clippings, CURE newsletters, and correspondence with Charles and Pauline Sullivan, founders of CURE, and Wally Ellinger, Executive Director of CURE. The materials illuminate Taylor’s efforts, through CURE, to monitor the criminal justice system, build awareness of CURE solutions, serve on boards related to criminal justice, speak to community groups, and clarify criminal justice positions. Material documenting the long-standing and intimate relationship between Taylor and the Sullivans is included in the CURE subseries. The CURE subseries is arranged into two sub-subseries, which distinguish between Taylor’s function at CURE and materials generated by the organization.
Beyond CURE, the bulk of the Professional series includes correspondence, reports, and printed material documenting Taylor’s work for state agencies and task forces, including the Texas Youth Commission and Travis County Jail Overcrowding Task Force, as well as for non-profit reform organizations such as the Texas Coalition for Juvenile Justice.
Notable among Texas Senate Research Center material are a note to LBJ School Dean Max Sherman (March 15, 1990) in which Taylor relates his early incarceration to his professional commitment to reforming juvenile rehabilitation policies, and a report compiled by Taylor, "Kids and Crime: Texas Juvenile Arrest and Incarceration Statistics, 1983-1993," June 1994.
The Personal series includes materials relating to his educational career, several copies of his resume, alumni publications, and religious materials, including a heavily annotated Bible study workbook. Letters of recommendation, arranged under the St. Edward’s University sub-subseries, and resumes offer particular insight into Taylor’s professional trajectory.
Donald Wayne Taylor Papers, 1974-1996, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Jessi Fishman, Sarah Potvin, Kevin O’Sullivan, and Robert Gates, November 2007.
Detailed Description of the Papers