Rita Crocker Clements Personal Papers

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TxAM-CRS 1322

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Rita Crocker Clements Personal Papers



72 boxes

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Biographical history

Rita Joan Crocker, daughter of Mason and Florabel Crocker, was born in Newton, Kansas on October 30, 1931, and moved to Brady, Texas with her parents in 1941. She began school in Newton, Kansas and then attended school in Texas after father sold his ranch in Kansas and bought a ranch in Texas. Her father served as Republican county chairman in McCulloch County for an undetermined time that included 1963. She graduated from Hockaday School in Dallas in 1949. After attending Wellesley College, she enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin where she majored in Spanish and minored in government and history. One has to wonder if even then she had an idea that she would spend so much of her time and effort on politics and history.

In 1952 Rita Joan Crocker married Richard Daniel Bass of Fort Worth at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brady. The couple met while they were students at the University of Texas. They had four children, two sons, and twin daughters. This first marriage ended in divorce in 1974. On May 5, 1975, she married William P. Clements, Jr. who was then Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Rita’s long and active political career before she married William P. Clements Jr. As well as the major role she played in each of his three campaigns for Governor of Texas as well as in his leadership role as Governor of Texas 1979-1983 and 1987-1991 is documented in her papers. Her political activities began in the fall of 1952 while she was a junior at the University of Texas when she rang doorbells to seek support for Dwight Eisenhower who was seeking re-election as President of the United States. She remained active at least through the end of William P. Clements's second term as Governor in 1991.

During the late 1950s, she served as a precinct chairman in Dallas. Beginning in 1962 she was a delegate to every Texas Republican State Convention until at least 1975. In 1963 she was named National Chairman of Campaign Activities for the National Federation of Republican Women and held that position for a few years. She co-chaired the Texas Goldwater for President Committee in 1964 and also served as door-to-door canvas chairman for the Republican National Committee. She was also an alternate delegate to the National Republican Convention in 1964 and again in 1972. In 1968 she served as a Delegate to the Republican National Convention. The Texas State Republican Committee named her to its Executive Committee in 1971 and in 1973. In 1971 Rita was also appointed to the Finance Committee of the Republican National Committee. She was chosen Texas National Committeewoman in 1973 and served until 1975.

Mrs. Clements also had numerous other public interests including historical preservation, improvement of education, providing training for and employment of women, and the promotion of tourism in Texas. Her private interests included her family, tennis, golf, skiing, and the arts.

Her most important historic preservation project was the restoration of the 1857 Texas Governor’s Mansion, and there is a considerable amount of information in her papers on this major effort. She was deeply involved in research about what changes had been made to the house over time, in the raising of funds to supplement the one million dollars the Texas Legislature appropriated toward the restoration project, in monitoring the progress of the restoration, and in acquiring the appropriate furniture to fill the house when the restoration was completed. The fundraising was done through the Friends of the Governor’s Mansion which Mrs. Clements helped establish.

Mrs. Clements was also involved in the celebration of the centennial of the Texas Capitol building and in the early stages of the planning for the total restoration of that building and the construction of the underground expansion of that building to preserve both the interior and exterior integrity of this historic structure. Thus one can say that Mrs. Clements was involved in varying degrees in the restoration of what may well be the two most important state-owned buildings in Texas.

The Main Street Program to restore the historic downtown areas of small to medium-sized cities was inaugurated while Governor Clements was in office. This was a program in which communities competed for grant funds to assist with the restoration of their downtown areas. Each year new cities were selected based upon competitive applications for grants to help fund the cost program administrators. Business owners in the selected cities restored their buildings. Mrs. Clements also played a significant role in overseeing that program by helping to promote the concept of historical preservation and by visiting each of the cities chosen for the program. She participated in each annual Main Street Tour and spoke briefly at each of the newly chosen cities.

Throughout both of Governor Clements’ two terms in office, Mrs. Clements was in demand as a speaker at a wide variety of functions including Republican and other types of women’s organizations, educational groups or activities, tourism events and conferences, drug prevention conferences and events, men’s professional organizations as well as women’s auxiliary groups, building openings, historical marker dedications and other historical events, and many Republican party groups.. She typically spoke about those topics that were of particular importance to Texas at the time or to her own special interests. Thus she spoke often of historical preservation (especially of the Governor’s Mansion), education, voluntarism, various women’s issues, women in politics, the changing role of women, the Texas economy, and the drug problem. During each of her two terms as First Lady of Texas, Mrs. Clements spoke on over 200 occasions. For most of her speeches, there are full texts, but on some occasions, she spoke from an outline or from brief notes. Most speeches were prepared to be particularly relevant to the audience she was addressing rather than being the same speech on a single topic given to every group. Copies of most of her speeches are included in her papers.

Between 1969 and 2000 Mrs. Clements served actively on over a dozen local, state, and national boards, committees, and task-forces that included the Center for Human Nutrition at Southern Methodist University, Crystal Charity Ball, Dallas County Heritage Society, Dallas Heritage Society, Dallas Historical Society, Dallas Woman’s Club, Junior League, Junior League of Dallas, President’s Task Force on International Broadcasting, St. Michaels and All Angels Church, State Department Fine Arts Committee, Texas State Aquarium, White House Endowment Fund, and Willis Tate Distinguished Lecture Series at Southern Methodist University. She also served between 1970 and 1999 as a board member and a member of several committees of the Hockaday School which she and both of her daughters attended.

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Scope and content

The Rita Crocker Clements papers include considerable correspondence, clippings, speeches, daily schedules, block calendars, reports, brochures, pamphlets, leaflets, photographs, and a variety of other types of materials that document the her career as an active Republican Party member and club member as well as an advocate for education, historical preservation, women’s issues, and other matters during nearly fifty years of the 20th century.

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Open for resarch.

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These materials are stored offsite and require additional time for retrieval.

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Immediate source of acquisition

These materials were donated to Cushing along with the William Clements Gubernatorial Papers, Personal Papers and Campaing Records.



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  • Processing information: Fully Processed

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Archivist's note

Finding Aid Authors: Charles Shultz.

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