Renaming of Briscoe-Garner Museum in Uvalde Approved by Board of Regents
Nov. 23, 2011
AUSTIN, Texas – The Board of Regents of The University of Texas System has approved the renaming of the John Nance Garner Museum in Uvalde, Texas to the Briscoe-Garner Museum, in honor of the late Governor Dolph Briscoe. Both Garner and Briscoe were Uvalde natives and historically important political figures from Texas. The Briscoe-Garner Museum is one of five divisions of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, an organized research unit of The University of Texas at Austin.
“We want to establish an exhibit program in Uvalde, Governor Briscoe’s beloved hometown, that documents his legacy,” said Dr. Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “I’m confident that Gov. Briscoe would be pleased to have his name forever linked with his friend and mentor, John Nance Garner. By expanding the museum’s focus to include the life and career of Dolph Briscoe, our goal is to create a fitting tribute to Uvalde’s two most historically significant political leaders to date.”
The Briscoe-Garner Museum is located in the house that served as Garner’s home for more than thirty years, a two-story brick house on 333 North Park Street in Uvalde. Its exhibit documents the remarkable life and career of “Cactus Jack” Garner, the first Texan to serve as speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives and as vice president of the United States. The Briscoe Center plans to maintain the existing exhibit space devoted to Garner on the museum’s first floor, and create new exhibits dedicated to Briscoe on the second floor, which previously had been closed to the public.
The Briscoe-Garner Museum is currently undergoing major structural renovations, including considerable expansion of available exhibit space. Current plans call for the completion of the renovation in early 2012. As the museum is currently closed for renovations, temporary exhibits are on display at the First State Bank in Uvalde.
“The Garner house served as important touchstone for Gov. Briscoe throughout his life, from roller skating on the front porch as a child to announcing his candidacy for governor on that same porch,” Carleton added. “Gov. Briscoe often spoke of how he learned so many political lessons while visiting Garner at his home. In addition to his personal connection to the house, he was instrumental in having ownership of the Garner Museum transferred to the University in 1999, and consistently recognized and supported its educational mission. By expanding the scope to include two of the region’s most important political figures, we believe we can fulfill Gov. Briscoe’s vision for the museum and enhance the museum’s educational content for the Uvalde community.”
In 1952, Garner donated the structure to the City of Uvalde, but continued to reside on the property until his death in 1967. The house served as the city’s public library for several years after Garner’s death. The house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1972. Since 1973, it has been the Garner Museum’s mission to educate the public about one of the most important and colorful political figures in Texas and American history. In 1999, the City of Uvalde transferred ownership of the museum to The University of Texas at Austin to become a division of the university’s Center for American History.
As speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives during the last two years of Herbert Hoover’s presidency (1931–1933) and vice president during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first two terms (1933–1941), Garner was a dominant national political figure who played a critical role in the passage of much of the New Deal legislation aimed at alleviating or ending the most severe economic crisis in U.S. history. The Briscoe Center archives include the extensive John Nance Garner Scrapbook Collection, the only significant body of Garner papers that exists.
Garner served as a political inspiration and mentor to Dolph Briscoe, who was a member of the state legislature from 1949 until 1957. Briscoe was elected governor in 1972 and served through the oil-boom years of the 1970s, during which he increased spending for highway improvements, signed into law the Texas Open Records Act and streamlined state agencies. Briscoe was seen as a welcome political outsider with a conservative Democratic agenda that brought stability to Texas government. He was one of the state’s leading ranchers and president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. In 2008, The University of Texas at Austin announced the naming of its Center for American History after Gov. Briscoe, in recognition of his support for preserving and promoting Texas and U.S. history.