Collection to honor SHSU alum and political figure

There will be a special collections presentation of Robert A. Gammage’s materials that document the personal and political life of the late public servant on March 23 at the Thomason Room 401 in the Newton Gresham Library at 3:00 p.m.

Gammage was a well- known political figure and scholar who received his master’s degree at Sam Houston State University in 1965. He continued to guest-lecture after his political career and was inducted into the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Wall of Honor in 2012.

Gammage served in the Texas House of Representatives, Texas Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, acted as the Texas Third Court of Appeals Justice and as Texas Supreme Court Justice throughout his long and well-respected political career.

One of the key contributors involved in the appearance of the collection was political science professor John Domino, Ph.D.

Domino met Gammage in 1989 and sustained a long friendship with him. Domino said after Gammage passed in 2012, the idea to have a special collection came from his wife, Lynda Gammage.

Domino said there was a lot of outreach to accomplish this collection.

“I put Director of Library Services Ann Holder in touch with Lynda,” he said. “From there, Lynda, Ann and Felicia Williamson made it happen.”

Domino is certain Gammage would have liked the idea of a collection of his professional and personal items over the years to share with SHSU.

“He loved Sam Houston State University,” Domino said. “I believe he would feel they are in a good home, a fitting place.”

The collection is made up 52 boxes of materials. The collection includes letters, photographs, campaign materials, videos and newspaper clippings.

Special Collection Associate Trent Shotwell processed the collection and said the collection spans from 1956 to 2012. The collection took five months to sort and digitalize.

“[We] sort it and identify things in it, bring a description to it and then we create an online finding aid,” Shotwell said. “That is an online data base for people to go search through the collection and see if there is anything they would like to research in it.”

There is much to look at in this collection but Shotwell described a few of his favorites, some of which include the photos. Shotwell estimates there to be 500 or more photos in the collection.

“Personally I think that the photographs are really neat and important,” Shotwell said. “I mean there is great stuff that you can research from his early political life and a lot of that is really interesting.”

There are five large scrapbooks compiled of old newspaper coverage during Gammage’s career in the collection as well.

“If anybody is interested in his political life it is all there,” Shotwell said. “If you like political stuff, it is impressive.”

Other unique items that are in the collection are Gammage’s old desk plate, a caricature and old campaign signs and materials.

One of Domino’s favorite pieces was a part of Gammage’s campaign during a Texas state judge election.

“It is a red and white campaign poster from one of his judicial races, urging voters to choose a slate three candidates: Tom Philips (Republican), John Cornyn (Republican), and Bob Gammage (Democrat),” Domino said. “I could write a book about the events surrounding that poster.”

This special collection is a viable addition to the school and will be useful for many students to come, Domino said.

“A collection of this importance obviously enhances the university’s reputation for supporting scholarship,” Domino said. “Students who are interested in Texas history will have an opportunity to conduct research using these primary sources.”

This viewing is an opportunity for people to see who Gammage was and what he did in his successful career.

“The event is important because it raises awareness not only of this valuable collection, but of this influential man,” Domino said. “I hope that it will also draw attention to the library staff of experts who make this collection possible by methodically preserving, cataloging, scanning and creating online finding aids. Without them, any collection would be more or less just boxes of documents collecting dust.”

The Gammage collection is one of 117 special collections. Shotwell encourages students to come back to the Thomason room throughout the school year to do research.

Additionally there will be a reception that follows the viewing in the Lowman Student Center in room 310, the President’s dining room.

“By the people coming out and viewing this collection, they could get turned on by other collections we might have,” Shotwell said. “I would like people to see everything, come back and want to look through it, and want to use it for research.”


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