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The Clements Texas Papers Project
Online Repository Documents Texas Gov. Bill Clements’s Career

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Clements Texas Papers Project - Homepage
Clements Texas Papers Project - Search Results
Clements Texas Papers Project - Themebook

Austin, TX — The Briscoe Center for American History has launched an online repository that documents the gubernatorial administrations of former Texas governor William P. Clements. The project curated over 14,000 documents and photographs that were selected and digitized from Clements’ state and papers. Clements was governor between 1979–83 and 1987–91.

“Bill Clements was the first Republican governor elected in Texas since Reconstruction. His career marks the period where the state effectively went from being controlled by Democrats to being controlled by Republicans,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “This new digital repository creates a much-needed resource for understanding the political shifts that Texas—and indeed America—underwent in the 1980s.”

Bill Clements Jr. was born in Dallas in 1917. An oilman by trade, he founded the Southeast Drilling Company (SEDCO) after World War II, building it into one of the world’s largest drilling firms. As deputy secretary of defense during the Nixon and Ford administrations, he helped modernize the American military. During his two gubernatorial terms, Clements keenly wielded his veto and appointment powers, essentially breaking the Democratic Party’s control over Texas politics in the process. Despite crusading for smaller government and lower taxes, in 1987 he signed into law a $5.7 billion appropriations bill, the largest tax hike in state history. Clements’ governorships proceeded against the backdrop of declining oil prices and a prolonged banking crisis as the Texas economy made the painful transition from being predominantly rural and fossil fuel-based to diversifying into the tech and service sectors.

"The beautifully done ‘Clements Texas’ project offers a unique window into the tumultuous political, economic, and social changes that rocked Texas during those remarkable decades,” said Andrew Torget, associate professor of history at the University of North Texas. “By digitizing and contextualizing the Clements Papers, this project offers a front-row seat—available nowhere else—to the transformations, debates, and controversies that remade the political landscape of Texas.”

The Clements Texas Papers project includes features designed to help users quickly access and explore the collection. “Theme-books” enable users to access material in specially curated groups of documents that are organized around the people, organizations, trends, and events that characterized Governor Clements’ two terms in office. An introductory biography by the project’s manager and creative editor, Dr. Eric Busch, provides a primer on Clements’s life and legacy. 

“The advantage of using a well-designed resource such as the ‘Clements Texas’ project in an undergraduate classroom begins with the fact that students have a full, deep archive at their fingertips,” said Penne Restad, distinguished senior lecturer in history at the University of Texas at Austin. “Multiple, relatively short assignments lead them into thinking about research as a process of exploration and allow them to experience the complex, often competing textures that make archival research so much more engaging.”

The Clements Texas Papers project team, which included 9 student interns, is particularly proud of the metadata it has created for this project. Metadata is typically defined as “data about data.” For example, the metadata of a photograph would include the date and location the picture was taken, the photographer’s name, the names of those in the picture, and so on. A letter’s metadata would include the sender, recipient, and the letter’s subject matter, among other things.

“When done properly, metadata can transform a simple collection of documents into a data-set that can be parsed, mined, analyzed and mapped,” said Busch. “Through metadata, students can identify trends, patterns, and relationships that would be impossible to see by simply examining each document individually. These features make it possible to analyze the contents of the Clements Texas Papers using many of the most exciting software tools in the burgeoning field of digital humanities.”

The Clements Texas Papers Project was made possible by a grant from the Peter O’Donnell Foundation.