After all, when he attacked the DRT’s century-old position as occupiers of the Alamo, the DRT folded like Santa Anna at San Jacinto.
But when Commissioner Bush tried to capture the contents of the Alamo Research Center, housed in a building on the Alamo grounds, he was taking on more than the DRT.
He was taking on librarians.
Apparently Bush and his crew at the land office thought the Alamo Research Center — formerly known as the DRT Library — was an amateur operation.
In a sense, you couldn’t blame them.
For while the Daughters of the Republic of Texas deserve considerable respect and gratitude for taking custodianship of the Alamo at a time when the State of Texas was unprepared to do so. By the end of the 20th century they clearly were not up to the task of running what they had helped make into a world-wide symbol of Texas bravery.
But the DRT Library had always been a separate operation.
From its beginning 70 years ago it has been staffed not by the amateurs Bush and his staff imagined because of its name, but by dedicated professional librarians.
Clearly Bush underestimated these women the way Santa Anna underestimated Sam Houston.
Bush apparently was unaware of a simple fact: that librarians are the only heroic civil service class.
Over the decades I have seen them go to the ends of the earth to run down esoteric research material.
I’ve seen them stand up to would-be censors and to the federal government when it wanted records on what materials patrons had checked out.
And now I’ve seen them take on the State of Texas over a collection of more than 38,000 documents and other items — and win a decisive victory.
It’s an impressive collection. You could see why Bush wanted it.
It includes not only research material that the staff continues to gather, but historical items such as:
- An account of the decisive Battle of San Jacinto written by Texas revolutionary Thomas J. Rusk for the benefit of Texas’ first president, David Burnet.
- A letter written by 22-year-old Kentucky lawyer Daniel Cloud on his way to San Antonio, explaining to his brother why he wanted to join the Texas Revolution. Cloud died at the Alamo.
- Petticoats belonging to Susanna and Angelina Dickenson, mother and daughter who survived the Battle.
The Daughters took him to court and won a protective order.
Then, when a courtroom trial loomed, Bush and his boys folded.
Not only did Bush give up title to all but a very few items, but he agreed to pay the DRT’s legal fees of a cool $200,000, albeit with the money of us taxpayers.
You can’t blame him for crying uncle.
At trial he would have faced the testimony of a series of donors that they made their gifts to the Daughters, not to the State.
Donors like Eleanor Lamb, a San Antonio native who now lives in Chapel Hill, N.C., who in 1998 presented the library with volumes of letters, business documents and photographs from her ancestors who were among the first German settlers here.
Or Weldon Howard, whose family donated writings from his great grandfather Andrew Jackson Sowell, a historian, early Texas Ranger and nephew of an Alamo defender.
And perhaps even more powerful would have been the testimony of the highly regarded former Texas State Archivist David B. Gracy II, who in a 17-page report and in an appearance on Texas Week sliced to pieces the Land Commission’s arguments against the Daughters and their very professional librarians.
Gracy was clear on who could be trusted with the collection.
So the battle is over.
The dust is settling as the collection is moved to Texas A&M San Antonio.
And the cry goes out. Remember the librarians.