Scope and Contents
Walter Gardner Hall has been a man of many parts--most of them seemingly incongruous. He has been a successful banker and a champion of the liberal wing of the Texas Democratic Party. He has had important social and business ties with the conservative Houston
establishment and at the same time has been a close friend of such
anti-establishment figures as John Henry Faulk. Through the political wars of the 1950's and 1960's, Hall managed to remain on good terms personally and politically with both Lyndon B. Johnson and Ralph W. yarborough, the oft-feuding leaders of the Texas Democrats on a national level. Within the 25 shelf feet of the Hall Papers there is a record of these diverse associations.
Contained within these papers as well is much information on the men and women with whom Hall corresponded. Among the most notable politicians are Lyndon Johnson, Ralph Yarborough, Sam Rayburn, Minnie Fisher Cunningham, Jim Wright, and Hubert Humphrey. Hall often served as an access route from the people of the Gulf Coast to these politicians, and his letters to the lesser-known folk of his area are equally interesting. Walter Hall, though, has been more than a political animal; his papers reflect extremely close ties with his sons and with friends such as J. R. Parten, George
Heap Alexander, W. A. Cooper, Fagan Dickson, and Ralph Yarborough.
Besides speaking of politics and Hall's feelings for other human beings, these papers say much about Walter Hall himself. Hall is the piece of the puzzle which makes these incongruous parts fit together into an understandable whole. His ability to accept divergent opinion if honestly held and to work within the practical limits of a situation reveal some of the reasons for his political and economic success. At the same time, his political values and his position in the midrange between political officials and the voting public illustrate why the American system of government has worked as well as it has.
There are no restrictions on access to these papers or the accompanying oral interviews.
Conditions Governing Access
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Permission to publish material from Walter Gardner Hall - Papers must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.
Walter Gardner Hall was born in Houston, Texas on May 30, 1907. His parents, Samuel Emery and Emma Belle Gardner Hall, moved from Illinois to the Texas Gulf Coast in 1898. His family farmed and ran a cafe before his father went to work as a mechanic for the Houston Streetcar Company and later the Interurban Company. In about 1913, Hall and his family moved to League City, only to return to Houston in 1915. In 1919 the Halls moved once again to League City and acquired a ten-acre farm, while Samuel Hall continued to work for the Interurban Company.
Hall enrolled in Rice Institute in 1924 as, he once said, "the greenest freshman that ever entered." When reflecting on his life, Hall has always pointed to his experiences at Rice and his association with such professors as Radoslav A. Tsanoff as vital components of whatever political and economic success he might have had in his life. After his graduation in 1928, Hall went to work for the Texas Company as cashier at a clay mine in Fayette County. Two years later, Hall was transferred to Houston. In January of 1931, in the midst of an ever-worsening depression, Hall resigned from the Texas Company because he believed that the company's management had treated unfairly a friend and fellow employee. He accepted the position of cashier of the Citizens State Bank of League City (a job he had earlier refused) and by 1935 had convinced the owners of the bank to move to Dickinson. In 1943, Hall and his wife, Helen Lewis, whom he had married in 1927, bought controlling interest in the Citizens State Bank of Dickinson. Later, as the Halls and their community prospered, they took over the Alvin State Bank, the Leaque City State Bank, and the Webster State Bank. They also invested in real estate, established several insurance agencies, and acquired controlling interest in Sentinel National Life Insurance Company.
Beginning in the late 1930's, Walter Hall took an increasing interest in politics. He supported President Franklin D. Roosevelt fervently at a time when many Texas Democrats were becoming increasingly estranged from the President. In the mid 1940's, Hall emerged as a leader of the Liberal Democrats in Texas. He helped Lyndon B. Johnson win the crucial Senate election of 1948 and later aided in the election of Senator Ralph W. Yarborough. At the historic 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, he was a strong supporter of Hubert Humphrey. Although his candidates often lost closely contested elections, Hall continued to support the Democratic Party, particularly the liberal wing of the party, throughout the 1950's, 60's and 70's. Hall died March 12, 2000.
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