Briscoe Center Acquires the Jess Hay Papers
The Briscoe Center has acquired the papers of former University of Texas System Board of Regents Chairman Jess Hay. A successful businessman and political fundraiser, Hay was a confidant to many Texas politicians in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Just like his time, efforts, and energies, Jess Hay’s papers were donated for the betterment of higher education in Texas. They document the life and career of a generous, effective, and politically-connected Texan,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “As a UT System regent, Jess served during many important moments in the university’s history including controversies related to South African divestment, funding cuts, and initiatives to invest in supercomputing at UT Austin. After his retirement from the board in 1989, he remained active in university circles and became a powerful advocate for the Briscoe Center.”
Jess Hay was born in Forney, Texas, on January 22, 1931. In 1952 he married his wife of fifty-three years, Betty Jo Peacock Hay, with whom he had two daughters. Hay received his law degree from Southern Methodist University in 1955 and practiced law until 1965, when he became chief executive officer of Lomas Financial—a position he held until he retired in 1994. From 1977 to 1989, Hay served on the Board of Regents for the University of Texas System, acting as chairman from 1985 to 1987. When he died earlier this year, Hay was chairman of the Texas Foundation for Higher Education.
“Jess actively supported the Briscoe Center, and he was my wise and sagacious advisor on matters too numerous to list,” said Carleton. “Jess was instrumental in helping the center secure financing for our award-winning historical documentary When I Rise. He also successfully advocated for an archival position for the center’s ExxonMobil Historical Collection. It’s fitting that his papers now reside in an institution he cared deeply for.”
The Jess Hay papers include correspondence, memos, schedules, and itineraries from his time of service as a UT System regent. Also included are items that document his political work, such as ephemera from his work on Texas governor Dolph Briscoe’s 1978 campaign, and personal items such as sermons he authored as a lay speaker in the United Methodist church.
“The Jess Hay papers are complimented by numerous collections at the Briscoe Center,” said Carleton. “Notwithstanding the fact that we are the home of the University of Texas Archives, we also preserve the papers of numerous regents and governors that Hay worked with. Several of our projects are home to recordings of Hay, including the Bernard Rapoport Oral History Collection, the Frank Erwin Jr. Oral History Project, and the University of Texas Oral History Project.”
The Shirley Bird Perry University of Texas Oral History Project documented the history of UT Austin, creating an archive of interviews that captured the experiences, insights, and spirit of those who have shaped the university. Hay was interviewed in 2006.
The Briscoe Center’s University of Texas Archives preserves the non-current official records of the University of Texas at Austin and the UT System administration. Additionally, the archives include the personal and professional papers of significant UT administrators, faculty, and staff—a total of over 4,500 linear feet of material. Among the cornerstone collections are the administrative records of the Chancellor’s Office, the Board of Regents, the President’s Office, and the UT Office of Public Affairs, which help researchers trace the development of the university and the many important policy decisions it has faced.