room for pres­i­den­tial per­son­al­ity

Govern­ment money al­lows LBJ Mu­seum to think big­ger

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Pa­trick Ge­orge

SAN MAR­COS— In 1997, the Lyndon Baines John­son Mu­seum of San Mar­cos was a non­profit char­ter from the state govern­ment that had no home and only $50 in a check­ing ac­count.

It would be nine years be­fore the mu­seum would open to the pub­lic, af­ter spend­ing $230,000 to ren­o­vate a for­mer theater build­ing on the Hays County Courthouse square in San Mar­cos.

The mu­seum packs into a small space the story of Pres­i­dent John­son’s early years at what is now Texas State Uni­ver­sity and his bur­geon­ing po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, and much of the build­ing on Guadalupe Street re­mains un­used. Ex­hibits are mostly in the front of the build­ing, while a spa­cious ware­house in the back and an en­tire sec­ond floor lie va­cant.

That’s about to change, mu­seum of­fi­cials say, thanks to two re­cent al­lo­ca­tions from lo­cal govern­ment in June — $90,000 from the City of San Mar­cos and $225,000 from Hays County — that will go to­ward ren­o­va­tion and ex­pan­sion projects.

The mu­seum also se­cured a $10,000 grant from the Texas Pi­o­neer Foun­da­tion and $5,000 in do­na­tions raised through a re­cent golf tour­na­ment.

“I’m ex­traor­di­nar­ily ex­cited,” said Ed Mi­halka­nin, a Texas State po­lit­i­cal sci-

Con­tin­ued from B1

Tence pro­fes­sor and mem­ber of the mu­seum’s board of di­rec­tors. “The mu­seum has raised more money in the last 30 days than in our en­tire his­tory.” here’s no ques­tion that even though nearly 40 years have passed since John­son’s death, Cen­tral Texas re­mains his coun­try

he pres­i­den­tial li­brary on the Uni­ver­sity of Texas cam­pus, the Texas White House at the LBJ Ranch near Stonewall, the stu­dent cen­ter at Texas State, the Lady Bird John­son Wild­flower Cen­ter and Lady Bird Lake in Austin all sig­nify the fam­ily’s im­pact.

The San Mar­cos mu­seum’s mis­sion is to show that the legacy be­gan there. John­son grew up in Stonewall and bor­rowed $75 to en­roll at South­west Texas State Teach­ers Col­lege, where he prac­ticed de­bate and worked on the stu­dent news­pa­per, then called the Col­lege Star, said Bill Cunningham, the mu­seum’s di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions.

The mu­seum show­cases some of John­son’s early for­ays into jour­nal­ism at the paper, now called the Uni­ver­sity Star. It chron­i­cles his teach­ing job in Co­tulla, south­west of San An­to­nio, where his ex­pe­ri­ences teach­ing poor His­panic stu­dents formed his ideas on elim­i­nat­ing poverty. And it has ar­ti­facts from his early runs at pol­i­tics, in­clud­ing press pack­ets, pho­tos, vot­ing ma­chines and cam­paign mem­o­ra­bilia.

It also fea­tures the desk where he signed the fed­eral Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Act of 1965 at Texas State. The bill ef­fec­tively cre­ated fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for stu­dents seek­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion.

“John­son al­ways main­tained his con­nec­tion to the uni­ver­sity,” Cunningham said. “He was even here a week be­fore he died.”

A cur­rent ex­hibit shows the evo­lu­tion of the cam­pus news­pa­per from the early 1900s to the present. It in­cludes doc­u­ments that show how its editors and re­porters — Cunningham in­cluded, when he was a stu­dent in the 1960s — were caught up in the con­tro­ver­sies of the civil rights move­ment and the Viet­nam War, much of which oc­curred dur­ing John­son’s ten­ure.

Cunningham was fired from his job as man­ag­ing edi­tor of the paper in 1969 for as­sign­ing his staff to cover the anti-war move­ment. Pat Murdock and Bill Cunningham talk on the va­cant sec­ond floor of the mu­seum, which will be con­verted into an au­di­to­rium that can host events and pub­lic meet­ings. The changes should be fin­ished by next spring. To­day, he rec­og­nizes it’s some­what ironic that he helps run a mu­seum ded­i­cated to a pres­i­dent whose time in of­fice was tainted by that war.

“I didn’t re­ally get in­volved in the LBJ years,” Cunningham said. When he left of­fice, “I re­ally started to won­der about the war. But I never burned my draft card.”

At a Hays County Com­mis­sion­ers Court meet­ing June 8, San Mar­cos Mayor Su­san Nar­vaiz expressed sup­port for the mu­seum, say­ing much of John­son’s legacy be­gan in the area.

“I would like to think back to the Great So­ci­ety and what Pres­i­dent John­son did for our coun­try,” Nar­vaiz said. “I’d like to think it was grounded here.”

Mem­bers of the court agreed and com­mit­ted county money to sup­port the mu­seum as well.

“It’s an in­spi­ra­tion for what you can be­come as a coun­try boy out of Cen­tral Texas,” Com­mis­sioner Will Con­ley said.

The mu­seum has am­bi­tious plans but is limited by its cur­rent space — about one-third of the build­ing. The mu­seum never had the funds to ex­pand into the en­tire build­ing.

Hays County owns the build­ing, and the mu­seum has a 50-year lease. It pays $1 a year, said mu­seum board Pres­i­dent Pat Murdock.

Mi­halka­nin, the po­lit­i­cal sci­ence

Larry Kolvo­ord pho­tos AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

The LBJ Mu­seum of San Mar­cos packs a lot of his­tory into a small space, but it soon will have more room for ex­hibits and stor­age. Bill Cunningham, the mu­seum’s di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions, and Pat Murdock, mu­seum board pres­i­dent, look at an ex­hibit on LBJ’s fa­mous Stet­son.

The mu­seum will use more than $ 00,000 in lo­cal govern­ment funds to ren­o­vate its build­ing on the courthouse square.

Larry Kolvo­ord

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.