Remembering Sam Johnson ‘51

May 28, 2020

Sam Johnson in plane

Sam Johnson, 1951

Yesterday the SMU community lost one of its distinguished alumni. Sam Johnson was an Air Force pilot, Texas legislator, United States Congressman, and proud SMU Mustang. He grew up in Dallas and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. Johnson married his SMU college sweetheart, Shirley Melton, in 1950 before earning a business degree in 1951.  After college, Johnson began his military career as a fighter pilot in the Korean War, and as a member of the Thunderbirds.


Sam Johnson with Thunderbirds

During the Vietnam War his plane was shot down, and he was captured and made a prisoner of war for almost seven years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton and “Alcatraz,” a designated area of solitary confinement for the most intransigent prisoners. Johnson’s 1992 memoir, Captive Warriors: A Vietnam POW’s Story, details his experience. After he was freed in 1973, Johnson returned to active duty and retired a colonel in 1979 with numerous military honors.

In the early 1980s, Johnson made Plano his home and he began a political career. He served seven years in the Texas legislature before running for United States Congress in 1991. Sam Johnson represented Texas’ 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives for 29 years before retiring in 2019. He was known as a conservative who supported lower taxes and smaller government.


Sam Johnson Highway sign

Sam Johnson Highway sign in his former district office in Plano, Texas

In 2018 Sam Johnson donated his congressional papers to DeGolyer Library. His extensive paper and digital files are currently being processed, and include photographs, press materials, speeches, and research for legislation. In 2014 the stretch of US Highway 75 between President George Bush Turnpike and Highway 380 was named in his honor. His papers include the large highway sign and other memorabilia that document his long political career and community engagement. In addition to the gift of his papers, Johnson’s family created the Hon. Sam Johnson Endowed Military Scholarship Fund for SMU students:


The DeGolyer Library sends its sincerest sympathies to the family and friends of Sam Johnson.


Sam Johnson in 1951 SMU yearbook

Sam and Shirley Johnson

Sam and Shirley Johnson


Please contact for questions about Sam Johnson’s congressional papers in the DeGolyer Library.

Dr. Duncan please report to the stacks…

May 21, 2020

Portrait of Dr. Clara Duncan, undated

Portrait of Dr. Clara Duncan, undated

Today was the first day back in the stacks for me as campus slowly begins reopening. Walking into my office felt strange as everything was in a perfect state of preservation from the day I left it back in March. I took a short break from responding to the avalanche of reference queries stacked in my inbox to see what I might happen upon in the archives. My hope was that I might stumble across some materials related to our current situation in any way. It did not take long, merely moments before I came across the Clara Duncan papers.

Doctor of Medicine diploma, May 31, 1919

Doctor of Medicine diploma, May 31, 1919

Dr. Clara Kocher Duncan (1878-1964) was born in White Haven, Pennsylvania and later moved to Texas where she became one of the first female medical doctors in Texas. She graduated from the Rice Institute, and the University of Texas Medical School in 1919.

Medical license, August 6, 1919

Medical license, August 6, 1919

Clara interned at Houston Memorial Hospital and received her medical license from the State Board of Medical Examiners on August 6, 1919. During this time the world was facing another pandemic. Until Covid-19, the 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. The influenza virus spread worldwide during 1918-1919. According to CDC approximately 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus with the number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million globally.

The Cactus, 1919

The Cactus, 1919

The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of this pandemic. In the In Memorium section of Clara’s 1919 University of Texas yearbook “The Cactus”, several students are listed having died of the influenza or pneumonia as a result of the influenza.

Following her internship, Dr. Duncan served as a staff member of the Houston Memorial Hospital from 1922-1948, and was the vice-president of the hospital staff organization in 1927. Clara died at the age of 86 in October 1964.



This collection includes her 1919 University of Texas yearbook “The Cactus” for which she was editor-in-chief, a photocopy of her portrait, copies of her diplomas and medical license, and typescript poems from the 1920s written by her patients.

Poem "My Doctor", undated

Poem “My Doctor”, undated

Established in 1993, the Archives of Women of the Southwest is one of the special collections of DeGolyer Library. The primary mission of the Archives of Women of the Southwest is to document the historical experience of women in the Southwest, with special emphasis on Dallas and North Texas, as well as a regional focus.

Contact Samantha Dodd, curator of the Archives of Women of the Southwest for additional information or assistance with accessing the collections.

For access to these collections or to learn more about the women of the southwest, be sure to visit the DeGolyer Library and check out our books, manuscripts, pamphlets, and photographs.

Exploring the Budner Collection on Theodore Roosevelt from home

May 15, 2020

Southern Methodist University is refining plans for the eventual reopening of campus, following the Covid-19 campus closure.  In the meantime, history enthusiasts can browse our extensive digital collections,  including the Doris A. and Lawrence H. Budner Collection on Theodore Roosevelt.

Painting of Theodore Roosevelt hunting


The Budners spent more than 20 years building their collection of books, photographs, and ephemera related to the 26th president.  The couple were Dallas civic leaders, involved in public healthcare access, social welfare, and the Jewish community. 

Both were historians of President Roosevelt, with Lawrence writing his SMU master’s thesis on Roosevelt and how his time in the American West shaped his progressive social politics. 



Theodore Roosevelt giving a speech in Kansas

The Budner collection is comprehensive, ranging from Roosevelt family correspondence to campaign ephemera.  One of the more memorable items for DeGolyer staff was a Roosevelt matchbook.  If your job was to store and preserve large amounts of paper, how would you safely house a matchbook? The archivist processing the collection decided on (according to best practices) cutting off the match tips, and keeping the book. To get an idea of the scope of the collection, click here to view its finding aid.  

The immense project of making the collection available digitally begins with the photographs, which you can browse by clicking here. Also digitized is the smaller print collection, which you can view by clicking here.

If you’d like to learn more about the Budner Roosevelt collection, contact Head of Public Services Christina Jensen at

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