20 Documents Uncovered in Records Search Reveal Snapshots of Texas Life and Legends

Sep 26, 2011, 15:00 ET from The Texas Court Records Preservation Task Force

AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 26, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- In Bexar County, a district court minute book covers life in the area during the period when Santa Anna's troops captured the County Courthouse in 1842.

A Jack County district court minute book contains the only surviving record of the criminal trials of the Kiowa Chiefs Satanta and Big Tree, one of only two times in American history that Native American chiefs were put on trial.

From the Bell County case files there are details concerning murders that involved Bonnie and Clyde.

In McLennan County, there is a lawsuit that Pappy Lee O'Daniel filed against Bob Wills to keep his Texas Playboys off the radio.  The file contains information on the first honky tonks and dances that the Texas Playboy played in the early 1930s.

And Jim Wells County has the injunction that a young Lyndon Johnson filed against Coke Stephenson and Texas Ranger Frank Hammer to keep them from opening up the ballot box for Precinct 13, which contained questionable votes for Johnson that caused him to win the 1948 U.S. Senate Race for Texas.  A case that changed history.  

These records were among 20 historical documents unveiled today during a hearing before the Supreme Court of Texas and at a post-hearing reception at the Texas Law Center in Austin. They were uncovered during a year-long search of Lone Star State courthouses by The Texas Court Records Preservation Task Force.

The 19-member Task Force, created by the Texas Supreme Court, started its work last November. It is populated with lawyers, judges, county clerks and archivists. Bill Kroger, a partner at Baker Botts L.L.P., and Mark Lambert, Deputy Commissioner of Archives and Records for the Texas General Land Office, are co-chairs of the group.

"Texas has a reputation as a unique and colorful place to live," Kroger said. "These documents and the thousands of other pages of historical information discovered during the Task Force's work on this project, confirm that reputation, and enhance it in many cases. However, more important than reading about our past during the past year, is discovering that many of these links to our state's past were either lost, about to be lost or in a state of great disrepair.

"The challenge going forward is to find ways to preserve these records for generations to come."

Last month, the Task Force released its initial report concerning the condition of important historical documents found across the state. The report also recommended steps that needed to be taken in order to preserve these invaluable informational links to the state's past.

During the hearing and reception, Kroger unveiled many records never seen by the public before.  In addition to those mentioned, Kroger discussed records pertaining to rancher Richard King; Texas Ranger and rancher Charles Goodnight, Sam Houston, the blues singer Leadbelly, the outlaw John Wesley Hardin, and the boxer Jack Johnson.  Kroger also discussed newly preserved and unseen records concerning the Republic of Texas, slavery, the Civil War, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, and immigration records (with pictures and other records of immigrants found in the archives of the Galveston District Court).

One of the documents available for public viewing for the first time today was the Galveston County district court minute book that detailed civil and criminal cases during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras of what was then Texas' largest city.

The presiding judge during the Civil War years? Judge James A. Baker, great-grandfather of James A. Baker, III, former U.S. Secretary of State and senior partner at Baker Botts.

"The preservation of these court documents will provide Texans with a great resource because history matters," Baker said. "It connects people and gives us a sense of place, of identity, and of purpose. We honor our forefathers by preserving the memories of their accomplishments. And we give those who follow us a gift to make sure the lessons and wisdom contained in our court documents are available to them."

Snapshots of the 20 documents made public today area available at the following link: https://bbtransfer.bakerbotts.com/pickup/UW4PZi3vECOawIQ2/HOU01-_1199645-v1-Twenty_Historical_Texas_Court_Records.PPT

Baker Botts and the State Bar of Texas helped fund the work of the Task Force.

SOURCE The Texas Court Records Preservation Task Force