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Lamar University Collection - Library Groundbreaking Ceremony (1973)

Lamar University

Silent | 1973

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  •  From left to right: Congressman Jack Brooks, Betty Jane Briscoe, Governor of Texas Dolph Briscoe, Mary Gray, and Lamar University President John Gray 
  •  John Gray delivers a speech. Gray served as the president of Lamar University from 1941 to 1951 and 1972 to 1977.  
  •  Congressman Jack Brooks receives a standing ovation upon approaching the lectern. A Lamar graduate himself, Brooks sponsored the bill that made Lamar a four-year institution while serving in the Texas House of Representatives. While the initial attempt failed, the legislation passed both houses in 1948 and was signed into law by Governor Beauford Jester on June 14, 1949.  
  •  Governor of Texas Dolph Briscoe speaks next 
  •  Breaking ground 
  •  Mary and John Gray, the two namesakes for the Lamar Library, were among the original 125 students to enroll at the institution in 1923 
  •  A professor leads the crowd in song and prayer 
 
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On September 17, 1973, Lamar University broke ground on the Mary and John Gray Library. The ceremony coincided with Lamar’s Golden Anniversary Convocation, with the institution opening as South Park Junior College exactly 50 years earlier. This silent footage captures the event, beginning with the speeches given by Lamar University President John Gray, Congressman Jack Brooks, and Governor of Texas Dolph Briscoe. Later, the gentlemen participate in the ground breaking itself, posing for photographs as they scoop dirt with gold-painted shovels. The library officially opened on April 26, 1976.
Politician Jack Brooks was born in Crowley, Louisiana, on December 18, 1922. His family moved to Beaumont when he was five years old. He attended Lamar Junior College and the University of Texas at Austin, earning a journalism degree in 1943. With the country in the throes of World War II, Brooks subsequently joined the United States Marine Corps, fighting in Guadalcanal, Guam, Okinawa, and North China. He did not retire from the Marine Corps Reserve until 1972, ultimately rising to the rank of colonel. 
 
Brooks began his career in politics soon after returning from combat. In 1946, he was elected to serve Jefferson County in the Texas House of Representatives. Brooks pursued a law degree at the same time, graduating from the University of Texas School of Law in 1949. 
 
After two terms in the Texas Legislature, Brooks was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1952. Under the tutelage of Speaker Sam Rayburn and then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, Brooks soon rose up the ranks of Congress. He was on the House Judiciary Committee from 1955 to 1995, serving as chairman from 1989 to 1995. He was also chairman of the Government Operations Committee from 1975 to 1988. Unlike most Southern congressmen, Brooks supported civil rights legislation. He refused to sign the Southern Manifesto, which opposed racial integration, and helped author the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. His accomplishments also included the Inspector General Act of 1978 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Losing his 1944 reelection after 42 years in Congress, Brooks became the most senior representative to ever lose a general election. 
 
Brooks died in Beaumont on December 4, 2012, two weeks before his 90th birthday. 
Fourty-first Governor of Texas Dolph Briscoe, Jr. was born in Uvalde, Texas, on April 23, 1923, to Texas cattleman Dolph Sr. and Georgie Briscoe. He attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he met Betty Jane “Janey” Slaughter. The couple married in 1942. After graduation, Briscoe enlisted in the United States Army, fighting in the China-Burma-India theater during World War II.
 
Briscoe began a career in politics in 1948, serving as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1949 to 1957. As a state legislator, he held key chairmanships for the agriculture and highway committees and co-authored the Colson-Briscoe Act, which sponsored the state’s farm-to-market road system. 
 
Upon his father’s death in 1954, Briscoe returned to Uvalde to head his family ranch rather than seek a fifth term as state representative. He became president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raising Association in 1960, the youngest person to do so. 
 
In 1968, Briscoe reentered the political arena, campaigning for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Texas. While he finished fourth in the 1968 primary race, he ran again in 1972, winning not only the Democratic nomination but also the general election. Briscoe was re-elected in 1974. 
 
During his two terms as Governor of Texas, Briscoe attempted to restore integrity to the state government following the Sharpstown scandals surrounding his predecessor, Preston Smith. He focused on the maintenance of existing government agencies rather than the creation of new ones, signing a series of ethics reform and regulation laws as well as presiding over the first revision of the state’s penal code in 100 years. Briscoe also appointed a larger number of women and minorities to government positions than any previous governor.
 
Spending much of his time at his ranch in Uvalde, Briscoe was often considered an absentee governor. Many, both in and outside the Texas Democratic Party, began to question his performance and effectiveness. (Perhaps the most well known example of Briscoe’s apparent lack of enthusiasm came when he unknowingly appointed a dead person to the State Health Advisory Commission.) With liberal Democrats increasingly dissatisfied with his administration and the political backlash against his policies over racial, educational, and economic issues, Briscoe was defeated in the Democratic primary during his bid for a third term by then-Texas Attorney General John Hill. Hill ultimately lost the general election to Bill Clements, the first Republican governor since Reconstruction. 
 
Briscoe left the Governor’s Mansion in 1979 and returned to the ranching business. He became increasingly active in philanthropy, donating sizable gifts to the Witte Museum, the University of Texas Heath Science Center at San Antonio, the Kate Marmion Regional Cancer Medical Center, and the Center for American History, the latter of which was subsequently renamed in his honor. 
 
Briscoe died on June 27, 2010, at his home in Uvalde following complications from heart and kidney failure. He was 87.