Release Date: March 26, 2001
Houston Harte Papers Donated to West Texas Collection
The papers of late West Texas newspaper publisher Houston Harte, one of the most influential Texas journalists of the 20th century, have been donated to Angelo State University's Dr. Ralph R. Chase West Texas Collection where they will be available for scholarly study for generations to come.
From 1919 when he acquired the San Angelo Standard-Times until his death in 1972, Harte became one of the most prominent journalists in Texas with his influence spreading far beyond the circulation area of his flagship newspaper. As a result, the names that are sprinkled through the personal and business correspondence include some of the most recognizable of the 20th century, including Lyndon Baines Johnson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sam Rayburn and Bill Moyers, to name just a few.
The papers were donated to the West Texas Collection, which is housed on the second floor of the Houston Harte University Center, by Harte's sons, Edward Harte of Corpus Christi and Houston Harte of San Antonio. The donation includes nine banker's boxes of personal and business correspondence and assorted photos as well as 23 scrapbooks. The papers cover the period from 1941 through 1972, the period when Harte's influence was at its peak. The materials relate to a variety of areas, including state and national politics, the newspaper business, San Angelo, the oil and gas industry, West Texas' water needs and personal correspondence.
"It is particularly meaningful to the university that these papers will be housed in a building that bears his name and on a campus that owes much of its very existence to his influence and support," said Michael P. Ryan, vice president for university relations and development at ASU. "We at the university owe a debt of gratitude to Ed and Houston Harte for making possible this important and historically significant addition to the Ralph Chase West Texas Collection."
Typical of the correspondence is a telegram to LBJ sent by Harte from Boston where his wife was having surgery the day President Kennedy was assassinated. It reads: "All the Hartes pray for you tonight with the conscienceness that you take this office in these perilous times with the best preparation ever enjoyed by a vice president or any other man who moved into the office in our lifetime. With the superb preparation which you have enjoyed in Legislative, administrative and business life, there is no reason why you cannot give our nation and the world the hope of freedom and peace which are the universal longings of all men of good will everywhere."
LBJ's response was dated four days later. Wrote the president, "Nothing has meant more to me during these hours of sorrow after the death of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy than the message from friends like you. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I shall cherish your prayers in the days ahead."
Harte, along with Bernard Hanks, publisher of the Abilene Reporter-News, created Harte-Hanks Newspapers Inc., which by the time of Harte's death in 1972 operated 19 newspapers in six states.
West Texas Collection Head Suzanne Campbell said the donated materials are filled with correspondence and records that document the public and the private side of Harte's significant journalism career. There are details in the papers that often get lost with the passing of history.
For example, materials in the Harte papers include details of President Eisenhower's Jan. 13-14, 1957, visit to San Angelo to inspect the damage of the drought. Among the items will be found a guest list as well as a menu of what the President had for breakfast Texas Red grapefruit, bacon, eggs, toast and coffee.
"This is a collection of great historical significance not just for San Angelo, but for the state and nation as well," Campbell said. "We feel fortunate that the papers have come home to San Angelo where Mr. Harte lived and worked and that they will now have a permanent place for scholarly research in a building named in his honor."