A Guide to the W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel Papers, 1911-1951
Politician and businessman Wilbert Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel (1890-1969) was born in Malta, Ohio, one of two children of William Barnes and Alice Ann (Thompson) O’Daniel. Following his father’s death, shortly after O’Daniel’s birth, his mother remarried and moved the family to Reno County, Kansas. A 1908 graduate of Salt City Business College, O’Daniel became a stenographer and bookkeeper for a flour milling company. In 1917, he married Merle Estella Butcher, with whom he had three children. O’Daniel rose through the ranks of the flour industry, becoming sales manager of the Burrus Mills in Fort Worth, Texas, by 1925.
In charge of the company’s radio advertising, O’Daniel began writing songs for a hired group of musicians, the Light Crust Doughboys, and discussing religion on air. In 1935, he organized his own flour company, Hillbilly Flour. Relying heavily on his radio popularity, O’Daniel drew huge crowds in his 1938 Democratic campaign for governor, posing as a hillbilly and extolling the Ten Commandments, his flour, tax cuts, and industrialization. He easily won the election and another in 1940. His administration’s actions included attacks on organized labor, domination of the University of Texas Board of Regents, and continued radio showmanship. In 1941, O’Daniel won a seat in the United States Senate, barely defeating future president Lyndon Johnson. During his seven-year tenure, he introduced a number of unsuccessful anti-labor bills and was a dedicated supporter of the Republican-Southern Democratic coalition. Retiring to Texas, O’Daniel bought a ranch near Fort Worth and founded an insurance company, returning to politics in unsuccessful runs in the 1956 and 1958 Democratic gubernatorial primaries.
Green, George N. “O’Daniel, Wilbert Lee [Pappy].” Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed January 13, 2011.
The scrapbooks and manuscript material of the W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel Papers, 1911-1951, document the life and career of O’Daniel as a politician, businessman, and entertainer. Scrapbooks (1938-1949) include newspaper and magazine clippings, as well as photographs, brochures and other printed material, correspondence, and radio transcripts.
The correspondence, subject files, financial records, photographs, legal documents, printed items, literary productions, and transcripts (1933-1951, bulk 1941-1944) were created during O’Daniel’s Senatorial career. Correspondence includes letters from and replies to O’Daniel’s constituents. Subject files concern fellow congressmen (primarily Texan) and other prominent figures and issues of the time, such as Lyndon Baines Johnson, John D. Rockefeller, Will Rogers, and World War II. O’Daniel’s business interests are documented through financial records from flourmills and news clippings related to and transcripts from radio broadcasts. The collection also contains poems, some by O’Daniel for use as songs by the Light Crust Doughboys or the Hillbillys. Additional unprocessed material relates to property holdings of Marion and Ruth Dyer (1911-1940).
This collection is open for research use.
W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel Papers, 1911-1951, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection contains unprocessed materials.
Detailed Description of the Papers