Billy Williamson Papers
Scope and Contents
The Billy Williamson papers consist of materials donated to UT-Tyler by Texas State Representative Billy Williamson. Rep. Williamson was instrumental in the passage of legislation authorizing the creation of Tyler State College. Although some personal papers are contained within the collection, the bulk of the materials consists of his legislative files.
- Creation: 1964-1975
- Other: Date acquired: 1975-01-09
- Williamson, Billy (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Most documents are in the public domain. Copyright restrictions on some published materials may apply.
Biographical or Historical Information
The youngest of four children, Billy Williamson was born November 14, 1927 in Natchitoches, Louisiana to Willie May Houston and George Robert Williamson. He married Lou Ann Hale, a fellow Baylor student, in 1951. They had two sons and three daughters together. He served for two years in the Marine Corp after graduating high school. Upon being discharged, he enrolled in the pre-law program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Mr. Williamson obtained his bachelor of business administration in 1952 and his law degree in 1954. After taking a job with Humble Oil Company in 1955, Mr. Williamson was transferred to Tyler, Texas. He remained with Humble Oil for ten years before successfully running for the election as state representative for Smith County in 1964. Mr. Williamson served five consecutive terms as a Conservative Democrat. In 1974 he ran for county judge in Smith County, a position he held until 1978. Mr. Williamson received an honorable mention on Texas Monthly magazine’s Ten Best Legislators list for 1973 for" adding an ingredient of good humor to debate". He was well-known among his peers and constituents for his sharp wit. Mr. Williamson left a significant legacy behind in his home district. He set out to bring a four-year university to East Texas, in spite of significant local opposition from the junior college administrators and the local Chamber of Commerce. He spent the majority of his ten year term lobbying across the state (and within Smith County) to bring attention to the educational needs of his constituents; perhaps his most creative initiative was to send Tyler rose bushes to his fellow representatives. The result of his effort was Tyler State College (established as a two year senior college). Over time, the college expanded into a four year university offering undergraduate and graduate degrees; it is now the eastern-most component of the University of Texas System, the University of Texas at Tyler. He also helped create and secure funding for the Smith-Wood County Mental Health Mental Retardation Center during his second term (in which he served on the Mental Health and Mental Retardation committee); this facility became the Andrews Center Behavioral Healthcare System, a non-profit mental health and mental retardation clinic with four branches serving five counties (adding Rains, Van Zandt, and Henderson). When he was a child, Mr. Williamson’s mother contracted tuberculosis; her successful treatment at a Louisiana in-patient facility inspired him to take a great interest in an East Texas tuberculosis clinic. Through his efforts and sponsorship, the clinic became East Texas Chest Hospital, authorized by the Texas Legislature to treat other chronic lung diseases. It was designated the "primary referral facility in Texas for patient care, education, and research into diseases of the chest" (according to the UT Health Science Center at Tyler website). The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, as the facility is known today, ranks among the top ten percent of national hospitals for its pulmonary care. Mr. Williamson served on a number of influential committees over his legislative career, with an emphasis on public education, the criminal code and its implementation, taxation and appropriations, Texas’ natural resources, Texas highways and transportation, and mental health. In accordance with his conservative moral stance, he sponsoring legislation to regulate liquor sales and taxation, pornography, and horse-racing. He also sought to improve the quality of life for vulnerable populations across the state (including children, mentally ill and disabled, prisoners, and veterans) and lobbied to reform hospital rates in the state insurance code. He maintained extensive correspondence with individual constituents to resolve difficulties with insurance companies and state agencies. During his last term, he served on the Labor Committee (the main panel, the Subcommittee on Occupational and Industrial Safety, and the Subcommittee on Safety and Statistics). After a series of tragic deaths in and around his district, he sponsored a bill that mandated protections for private contractors working for the Texas Highway department. He also had a great interest in public education with an emphasis on preschool, higher education, and vocational-technical education; in addition to legislation sponsoring reforms and research, he helped shape state tax appraisal practices. One of his most prolific bill, HB 777 of the 62nd Regular Session, called for the creation of an Early Childhood Education division of the State Department of Education. This new division sponsored research and standardized the certification of preschool teachers. At the age of 54, Mr. Williamson passed away May 26th, 1982 at the UT Tyler Health Science Center in Smith County, Texas. He had undergone two years of treatment for adrenal cancer (although the source was unknown until after his death). Mr. Williamson was buried in Jonesboro City Cemetery, Jackson Parish, LA next to his mother in a family plot.
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66.20 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
Billy Williamson was a Democratic state legislator and judge who resided in Smith County, Texas and who was instrumental in the founding of Tyler State College (later called Texas Eastern University and The University of Texas at Tyler). Materials in this collection consist of constituent correspondence, issue research, legislative files and research, newspaper clippings from 1965-1974.
Materials are arranged in five series: (1) a Billy Williamson Oral History; (2) Issue files (arranged in two sub-series of "uncoded" and "coded" materials, designated by his legislative staff; (3) legislative files, which include bill files, legislative records and research, and files on fellow legislators; (4) files from the 1974 Constitutional Convention and (5) clippings files, including an incomplete series of scrapbooks.
Physical Access Requirements
Materials are generally in good condition. Scrapbooks contain glued newsprint that has not been restored or photocopied, needing to be handled with care.
- Samantha Winn
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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