Eckhardt: There Once Was A Congressman from Texas by Gary A. Keith, with a foreword by Al Gore, is the latest book in the Center for American History’s Focus on American History series, Dr. Don Carleton, series editor, published by UT Press. In this biography of Robert Christian Eckhardt (1913-2001), Gary A. Keith tells the story of Eckhardt’s colorful life and career within the context of the changing political landscape of Texas and the rise of the New Right and the two-party state. He begins with Eckhardt’s German-American family heritage and then traces his progression from labor lawyer, political organizer, and cofounder of the progressive Texas Observer magazine to Texas state legislator and U.S. congressman. Keith describes many of Eckhardt’s legislative battles and victories, including the passage of the Open Beaches Act and the creation of the Big Thicket National Preserve, the struggle to limit presidential war-making ability through the War Powers Act, and the hard fight to shape President Carter’s energy policy, as well as Eckhardt’s work in Texas to tax the oil and gas industry. The only thorough recounting of the life of a memorable, important, and flamboyant man, Eckhardt also recalls the last great era of progressive politics in the twentieth century and the key players who strove to make Texas and the United States a more just, inclusive society.
The Center has also opened the exhibit “Crusade in Caricature: The Political Cartoons of Congressman Bob Eckhardt,” which spans Eckhardt’s life and depicts his vision of a liberal and intellectually enlightened political environment through his cartoons, caricatures, and sketches. The exhibit is free and open to the public through December 21, 2007, at Sid Richardson Hall Unit 2 on the University’s Austin campus. exhibit hours and directions
The Center’s collections include the papers of Bob Eckhardt and those of his political associates and supporters such as Ralph Yarborough, Bernard Rapoport, and J. R. Parten.
Gary Keith is Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. Visit the University of Texas Press for more information or to purchase the book.