President Harry S. Truman’s career and legacy was closely connected to those of Vice President John Nance Garner, House Speaker Sam Rayburn and President Lyndon B. Johnson. As the operator of museums dedicated to the lives of Garner and Rayburn—as well as being a frequent collaborator with the LBJ Presidential Library—the Briscoe Center was delighted to sponsor the 40th anniversary of the Truman Scholars. The anniversary event, which took place in June at the State Department in Washington, D.C., was comprised of both celebration and discussion.
The center’s role was three-fold. We were the sole sponsor of the event, we curated an exhibit of photographs from the center’s archives that documented Truman’s career and connections, and we organized a panel discussion outlining Truman’s relationships with Garner, Rayburn and Johnson. You can watch the discussion below:
I am grateful to the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation, which provided support to help make our sponsorship possible. I am also indebted to Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Library; Nancy Beck Young, professor of history at the University of Houston; and H. W. Brands, professor of history here at UT Austin, for participating in our panel discussion. Finally, it was a delight to be able to work closely with Andrew Rich, Truman Scholars secretary, and my friend Max Sherman, dean emeritus of the LBJ School and vice president of the Truman Scholars program, to make this event happen.
The Truman Scholars anniversary represented a great opportunity for us to meet new friends and connect with old ones within the Beltway. It was a pleasure to speak with the former and present secretaries of state, Madeleine Albright and John Kerry, about the center’s work. 25 years since the center’s founding, I can confidently say that our reputation and reach have grown as impressively as our collections.
To highlight that growth, in September we’ll be presenting the exhibit, 25 Years/25 Treasures: A Celebration of UT Austin’s Briscoe Center for American History. 25 Years/25 Treasures celebrates the center’s quarter centennial, as well as more than a century of collection and curation at the university since its founding in 1883, by displaying some of the center’s most valuable historical objects. From letters to photographs, flags to chairs, recordings to rare books, items on display will vary greatly from each other But they will have at least one thing in common—they each make a unique and important contribution to our understanding of the past.
In closing, I would like to invite you to join us next week for several important events. First, on Monday, July 25, KUT will air a one-hour oral history-based documentary to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the UT Tower shooting. The center is both a partner and supporter of this project. Second, on Friday, July 29, the center will host a book signing at the Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe for Neil Leifer. Leifer’s memoir, Relentless, was recently published by UT Press as part of the center’s Focus on American History series.
Finally, Comfort and Glory, on display at the Sam Rayburn Museum from July 29 to August 13, showcases some of the center’s most historically important quilts. The exhibit takes its name from the forthcoming book Comfort and Glory: Two Centuries of American Quilts from the Briscoe Center, written by Katherine Jean Adams. Kate, the center’s quilt curator, is retiring this fall. We have worked together in various ways during the past four decades, and she has been at the center from its beginning. For many years, Kate has provided encouragement and wisdom, as well as institutional knowledge. Her book represents a seminal treatment of the center’s Winedale Quilt Collection. I wish Kate all the best in the next chapter of her life!
Don Carleton, Ph.D.
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History