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Baylor Alumni

Library Landmark

By Meg Cullar

On Thursday, October 15, visitors to Baylor's W. R. Poage Legislative Library will get a special treat when the library celebrates its thirtieth anniversary by unveiling some special exhibits. The open house will be from 2-4 p.m. The library building, with its distinctive slanted glass exterior wall, was dedicated in 1979 after several local businessmen and politicians encouraged Baylor to create a library honoring Congressman Bob Poage—a 1921 Baylor graduate and 1924 law graduate who represented Waco and Central Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1937 to 1978.

Poage (pictured) had already donated his political papers to Baylor's Texas Collection, and the new library took over as the repository for those and for collections of other political materials. Today, the library houses the papers of twelve former congressmen, seven Texas legislators, Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, and four judges—plus editorial cartoon collections, a collection of presidential campaign materials, and numerous ancillary collections. It is also building research collections dealing with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the events related to September 11, 2001.

The Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibit in the library's main foyer will include artifacts from the permanent collection to highlight the politicians who have donated materials to the library. A multi-media exhibit will feature video interviews with Poage. Also on display will be a recreation of Poage's home office and the desk from his D.C. office.

Visitors to the anniversary exhibit also will get the rare opportunity to tour the Hightower Book Vault, which was recently constructed to house the three-thousand-volume rare book collection donated to Baylor by former U.S. Rep. Jack Hightower '49, LLB '51. All the books in Hightower's collection are signed either by the author or by a famous person who owned the book, and the earliest in his presidential collection is a book signed by John Quincy Adams. The vault, which is climate-controlled to protect the books, is not normally open to the public.

Also on display for the anniversary will be items from the Bob Bullock Collection and the collection of materials on the John F. Kennedy assassination, presidential campaign memorabilia, and artifacts from a newly acquired collection of LBJ materials.

"If you're going to come over here, we're going to make it worth your while," said Ben Rogers, director of the Baylor Collection of Political Materials. "As hard as we are to find, we don't want you to just walk in and walk out."

The dedication of the library in 1979 was a significant event, Rogers said. "Baylor President [Abner] McCall held a big luncheon, and there were numerous Washington, D.C., dignitaries—including the Secretary of Agriculture—in attendance," he said.

After the library opened, Rogers said, Poage kept an office there, where he worked on occasion until his death in 1988 at the age of eighty-seven. Prior to serving in the House of Representatives, Poage was a Texas state representative, elected in 1924, and a state senator from 1931 to 1937. His Texas legislative papers are also housed at the library.

Several private events for donors and library supporters will be held on Saturday, October 3. The Hightower book vault will be dedicated that day, with one of Hightower's daughters representing him, as his health prevents his attendance. Also that day, there will be a reunion of former student workers in the Poage Library.

The October 15 festivities are free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served. For more information on all the events surrounding the Poage Library Thirtieth Anniversary, go to Poage Library.

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