San Marcos, Texas – Texas State University’s Wittliff Collections celebrate Hightower’s Archive

May 1, 2010


Time : 2:00 PM


“Populism is a historically grounded doctrine and movement that supports ordinary folks in their ongoing democratic fight against the moneyed elites.” äóñ Jim Hightower

Exhibit reception, lively panel discussions, great Texas music, local food, and other populist-related festivitiesäóîplus Jim Hightower speaksäóîon May 1, 2010. Exhibition on view in San Marcos, TX at Texas State University’s Wittliff Collections now through the end of July 2010.

AUSTIN äóñ Jim Hightower is considered Americaäó»s #1 populist, a man admired as a radio commentator, syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and sought-after public speaker. Hightower believes the true political spectrum is not right-to-left, but top-to-bottom. He is dedicated to battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the äóìPowers That Ought To Beäó: working families, farmers, consumers, environmentalists, small business owners, and äóìjust plain folks.äó

In December 2008, Hightower named the Wittliff Collections as the official repository for his archival legacy, and now his papers are the focus of the next exhibition from the Southwestern Writers Collection at the Alkek Library on the campus of Texas State University in San Marcos. On May 1, Hightower will be the featured speaker for a full day of festivities celebrating the gift of his archive and the exhibition. Participants discussing our populist past and future include such grassroots champions as Fred Harris, Ben Sargent, Linda Chavez-Thompson, Carolyn Mugar, and Alan Pogue. In addition, the event will feature live music, food, and moreäóîall open to the public. (See full schedule below.)

The exhibition traces the life and work of Hightower, from the beginning with his experience in the 1960s as an aide to the U.S. Senator, Ralph Yarborough (D-TX) to his first organizing efforts on behalf of family farmers and farm workers in the early 1970s to his statewide campaigns for office in the 1980s, to his successful post-government work as a syndicated daily radio commentator, speech-maker, prolific best-selling author, and all-around populist agitator. The collection will continue to grow as Hightower’s career moves forward.

One of the earliest pieces among the papers is a small document from 1964: a Certificate of Exemption From Poll Tax issued to a 21-year-old Hightower, then a junior at the University of North Texas, because he was a first-time voter. Finally abolished in Texas in 1966 as unconstitutional, the poll tax was designed to deter poor people, especially blacks and Latino Americans, from voting, an issue in the Civil Rights Movement that inspired the young Hightower to set out on a populist political path.

The archive also includes:

äó¢ A wealth of paper documentation (draft copies of his radio commentaries, speeches, and The Hightower Lowdown äóñ his monthly political newsletter)
äó¢ 1,964 photographs and 4,613 audio/visual materials.
äó¢ Various awards, including his 2009 Puffin/Nation prize.
äó¢ Papers from his work as the national campaign coordinator for U.S. Senator Fred Harris’ crusade for president in 1976.
äó¢ Numerous campaign photos and memorabilia from Hightower’s own runs for office, including his eight years as Texas Commissioner of Agriculture where he implemented many of his populist ideas including consumer protection, worker safety, organic production and direct marketing by small farmers.

Contact: Laura Ehrlich
Executive Director, Hightower & Associates
512-477-5588, ext. 1
[email protected]

MAY 1, 2010

The Wittliff Collections present JIM HIGHTOWER and
äóìThe Living Spirit of TEXAS POPULISM: In Our Politics, In Our Cultureäó
from 1:00 to 7:00 pm

Jim Hightower is the featured speaker for this day of festivities celebrating the gift of his archive to the Wittliff Collections.

The first of two panel discussions, äóìPopulism in Texas Politics,äó will feature former Senator Fred Harris, Jim Cullen, editor of the national newspaper Progressive Populist, Linda Chavez-Thompson, former executive VP of the national AFL-CIO, and Bob Moser, editor of the Texas Observer, who will serve as moderator.

Discussing äóìPopulism in Texas Cultureäó will be Carolyn Mugar, executive director of Farm Aid, editorial cartoonist Ben Sargent, photographer Alan Pogue, and Tom Pittman, lead man for the Austin Lounge Lizards and host of KUTäó»s äóìFolkways.äó The moderator will be Dr. Bill Stouffer, Texas State professor of Political Science.

A public reception and talk by Jim Hightower will follow, then performances by Jimmy LaFave, Carolyn Wonderland (with Shelley King), and the Austin Lounge Lizards add live music to the mix.

There will be local food and drink throughout the day, sponsored in part by St. Arnoldäó»s Brewery and the Cool Mint Cafí©, whose staff works to support area growers whenever possible. The Wittliff Collections are located at the Alkek Library, Texas State University-San Marcos. Directions and parking instructions are online: The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. To secure admission, attendees are asked to RSVP early to 512-245-2313 or [email protected].