Chet Edwards hosts Congress collection, exhibit will be at W.R. Poage Legislative Library

Former Texas congressman and Poage Distinguished Chair of Public Service Chet Edwards sits in his new office located in the Poage Legislative Library on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 14, 2012. The office and its contents originally belonged to the late Texas congressman Bob Poage. Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

Former U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards will be speaking at the opening of the Thomas Chester ‘Chet’ Edwards Papers exhibit at 3:30 p.m. today in the W.R. Poage Legislative Library. President and Chancellor Ken Starr and previous Baylor football coach Grant Teaff will also be featured before the ribbon -cutting ceremony.

A collection began in 2012 at the library, but was not made into a fully accessible research database and exhibit until now. The event is expected to be well-attended, said Debbie Davendonis-Todd, a Bob Bullock Archivist at the legislative library. Davendonis-Todd said the library is grateful for the opportunity to be the keepers of Edwards work.

“Because we have already a large collection of political materials, it really was a natural fit,” Davendonis-Todd said. “Baylor is all about preparing students for service, and our particular flavor of service is to engage students in that if they so choose.”

Edwards has a local connection with Baylor, as his wife is an alumnus. Edwards also served Waco and McLennan County as the Central Texas representative for 19 years. Prior to that, he served as a representative for Texas’ 11 congressional district.

Edwards was recently named the W.R. Poage distinguished chair for public service, which includes a stay in Waco while he teaches for two weeks.

“Our papers belong at Baylor, in Waco and McLennan County, because if not for this community, I wouldn’t have had the honor to represent the families of Central Texas,” Edwards said at a media event in February.

The library now possesses records from Edwards’ 28 years in public service as a senator and representative for Texas. The collection includes congressional records of documents generated by his office, emails, photos and speeches.

“It really is a cross-section of who we are as Americans. There is stuff in Chet’s collection related to health care and transportation and education, so I think a variety of disciplines will find a connection to stuff not only in Chet’s materials but our other congressional and legislative collections as well,” Davendonis-Tod said.

A large number of digital archives are also being uploaded, and can be accessed through the Baylor Archival Repositories Database (BARD). The database will allow for students and researchers to narrow down their searches before visiting the library.

“It’s really important to continue the study and engaging in that conversation between ‘we the people’ and the government,” Davendonis-Todd said. “Congressional collections are kind of one-stop shopping for that very thing, and the fact that the Baylor Collections of Political Materials now has 13 congressional collections, including Chet’s, is something we are pretty proud of, and we welcome folks to come and do research.”