|Richard K. Armey Collection Box List
Biographical Sketch of the Creator of the Collection
Called a “think tank in cowboy boots,” Richard Keith “Dick” Armey served as the congressman from the 26th District of Texas from January 3, 1985, to January 3, 2003. A Republican, Armey was born in Cando, North Dakota, on July 7, 1940. The middle child in a family of seven, Armey was the first in his family to attend college. He reminisced that he knew he was college-bound when as a power company employee he had to fix a power line in minus 30 degree weather at 3 a.m. Armey received a B.A from Jamestown (North Dakota) College; an M.A. from the University of North Dakota; and a Ph.D.in economics from the University of Oklahoma. As a member of academe, the future congressman taught at several colleges and universities ultimately heading the economics department at the University of North Texas. He once remarked that he taught until he was too tired to “listen to myself lecture.” Politics then beckoned. A U.S. News & World Report story noted that Armey might have been the first congressional leader who discovered politics through C-SPAN. According to political legend, Armey and his wife Susan were watching Congress on television. He supposedly said, “Honey, these people sound like a bunch of damn fools.” To which, Susan Armey replied, “Yeah, you could do that.”
The 26th District of Texas primarily covered the area north of Dallas. A largely urban area, voters tended to be conservative both socially and economically. When Armey launched his first campaign in 1984, the only politician he knew was his opponent, Tom Vandergriff. He defeated the Democrat 51 percent to 49 percent. In his subsequent races, he easily won victory.
As a freshman congressman, Armey tried to take on everything and everyone but often ended up on the periphery. Some, perhaps, saw him as a novelty. After all, he slept in the House gym and later in his House office. In 1987, he enjoyed legislative success with the creation of the bipartisan plan to close surplus military bases. He began to take on other issues, including ending agricultural subsidies; leading the fight against the comparable worth bill; and calling for an end to funding the National Endowment for the Arts. On this last issue, Armey answered critics who called him a “censor” with the remark that while all were free to express themselves, they were not free to spend taxpayers’ funds as they wanted. During his early terms in office, he served on the Education and Labor Committee, the Government Operations Committee, and the Joint Economic Committee. In addition, he founded and chaired the House Trade Expansion caucus; chaired the House Grace Caucus’ Privatization Task Force; founded the B-2 Stealth Caucus; and founded the “budget commandos,” a group focused on amending appropriations bills to cut spending.
In December 1992, Armey ascended to the leadership of the House Republican Conference—the third-ranking leadership position for the House GOP. Although his victory over Republican colleague Jerry Lewis was slim, many saw Armey’s triumph as that of a feisty conservative over an old-line moderate. Many Republicans realized that they needed to develop a different strategy to confront the issues of a Democratic-controlled White House and Congress. In a National Journal article published shortly after the 103rd Congress convened, Armey commented, “You cannot deal with the Democratic majority. Every time we get invited to the prom, we end up in the backseat fighting for our lives.” One with a penchant for detail, Armey saw his chairmanship of the Conference as one of overseeing a policy think tank. Indeed, one of his first strategies was to form the rapid-response team to answer policy statements from the Bill Clinton administration.
As the election of 1994 beckoned, the House Republicans saw an opportunity to become the majority party. In September 1994—six weeks before the general election—the Republican Party issued the Contract with America which listed the actions that the party promised to take if they were successful in November. Armey and other GOP leaders crisscrossed the country in an effort to raise money and support for the party’s candidates. The effort was successful and for the first time in forty years, the party won control in the Congress. The House rewarded Armey for his work and elected him as majority leader. He would hold this office for his remaining terms in Congress.
In the first hundred days of the 104th Congress, Armey skillfully led the House in passing every plank of the Contract with the exception of term limits. As the Republican leader, Armey soon realized that he had to soften some of his ideas in order to gain passage of legislation. For example, while he continued his quest to end farm subsidies, he also knew that Republican members from Southern cotton districts would never support such legislation. Always a staunch fiscal conservative, Armey continued to strive for cutting taxes and balancing the budget. During his time as majority leader, Armey joined with colleague W. J. “Billy” Tauzin in a pursuit to end the tax code. While Armey emphasized the flat tax, Tauzin called for a national sales tax. Armey and Tauzin appeared in several venues across the country on the so-called “Scrap the Tax Code” tour. Leader Armey also worked for passage of lower cost automobile insurance, for school choice, for campaign finance reform, and for efforts to reduce big government. In addition, he led the GOP in challenging the Clinton health care plan. Following the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, Armey chaired the Select Committee on Homeland Security.
Armey lives in Texas with his wife. A devoted family man, he enjoys his five children and several grandchildren. And he always finds time for his hobby of fishing.
Scope and Content of the Collection
The Richard K. Armey Collection comprises 78 cubic feet of documents as well as videocassettes, audiocassettes, and memorabilia. The collection spans the period 1939-2002 although most materials date from 1985 and after. Documents contained here include correspondence, legislation, publications, clippings, Internet material, press releases, reports, proceedings, invitations, and scheduling files.
Congressman Armey deeded his congressional papers to the University of Oklahoma in 2003.
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following is a detailed listing of series, boxes, folders, and documents that can be found in this collection.
Series 1: Clippings, 1983-2002 (8 cubic feet)
Arranged chronologically, this series includes materials from national and Texas newspapers on a variety of topics.
Series 2: Press, 1985-2002 (2 cubic feet)
Arranged chronologically, this series includes newsletters, weekly columns, news releases, and proceedings from press conferences. The news releases came from both Armey’s office as well as the Office of the Majority Leader.
Series 3: Briefings, 1985-1998 (1.3 cubic feet)
Arranged alphabetically by topic and then chronologically, this series includes correspondence, notes, reports, memos, and charts to assist Armey not only in preparation for press conferences but also for meetings in his office as well as in the district. Some of the briefing material was drafted by Armey’s staff. This series would serve as a good companion to both the press series as well as the legislative series.
Series 4: Internet, 1991-2002 (1.7 cubic feet)
Arranged alphabetically and then chronologically, this series primarily concerns the development and use of Armey’s web site. There is information on how constituents could contact the congressman by e-mail as well as how Armey used the Internet to distribute information on various topics.
Series 5: Schedules, 1985-2002 (19 cubic feet)
Arranged chronologically, this series includes files not only for the congressman’s work in the 26th district but also on Capitol Hill. There are also materials on travel undertaken by Armey interfiled with the general schedules. While this series is one of the largest in the collection, users will find a wealth of information on a variety of topics of interest to the congressman. There is often background information on individuals, organizations, and companies who sought meetings with Armey. Typed schedules for each day (and occasionally for weeks) add to the usability of this series.
Series 6: Correspondence: 1985-2002 (7.3 cubic feet)
Arranged alphabetically by topic and then chronologically, this series consists only of outgoing correspondence sent by Armey. For the most part, the correspondence is the form response issued by the congressman’s office in reply to a constituent. Although not all of the correspondence was dated, every effort was made to approximate a date. While users will not have the incoming letters to gauge a constituent’s thoughts on a particular issue or issues, they will be able to determine what Armey’s stance was.
Series 7: District, 1986-2002 (0.2 cubic feet)
Arranged alphabetically, this small series includes materials on topics or organizations of interest in the 26th District of Texas. Information on key people in the district as well as budget concerns can be found here.
Series 8: Campaign, 1986-2002 (0.5 cubic feet)
Arranged alphabetically, this series primarily has clippings, correspondence, reports, and transcripts of television programs. There is very little campaign memorabilia. Also included in this series is a folder on the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). Primarily, the material on the NRCC includes memos and correspondence regarding schedules and workshops hosted by the committee. There is also a folder of clippings on the 1990 Texas gubernatorial campaign.
Series 9: Personal, 1972-2002 (0.3 cubic feet)
Arranged alphabetically by type of document, this series primarily contains correspondence from a variety of people from the political arena. The series also has biographical material, awards and certificates, and a few speeches and writings. Also included in this series is a notebook and correspondence on Armey’s retirement.
Series 10: Miscellaneous, 1985-2001 (0.4 cubic feet)
Arranged alphabetically by topic, this series has material on a variety of topics. Of particular interest are the folders on Texas issues (including the Texas Exile Program) as well as the folder on the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Award.
Series 11: Departmental, 1985-2002 (2 cubic feet)
Arranged alphabetically by name of the department or agency, this series has a variety of information. Of particular interest are the folders on the Alliance Corridor Foreign Trade Zone as well as folders on defense contractors and various defense projects. Also, a group of folders on a Justice Department probe of election activities involving the Teamsters Union are included. Several departments and agencies included reports on management issues facing their particular entity.
Series 12: Legislative, 1939-2002 (20.6 cubic feet)
Arranged by topic, this series is the largest in the manuscript collection. Major topics found in this series include agriculture, automobile insurance (auto choice legislation), budget and the economy, campaign finance reform, the Capitol Visitor Center, congressional reform, B-2 Stealth bomber, base closure and realignment, school choice, health care, Wright amendment, aviation, privatization, tax reform, flat tax, and transportation.
Also in this series are groups of folders on the Office of the Majority Leader as well as the House Republican Conference. While there is correspondence and news releases in both groups of leadership folders, those from the Conference include numerous reports and internal publications.
Series 13: Videocassettes, 1985-2002
This series consists of 289 videocassettes on a wide variety of topics. For the most part, Armey is shown in all. Many of the tapes were taken from news shows such as Meet the Press or the Washington Report. Timely topics are usually discussed. There are also numerous tapes taken from C-SPAN which covered floor activity from the House on a variety of legislative issues. Of particular interest are the proceedings of the Select Committee on Homeland Security as well as hearings concerning the BCCI scandal.
Series 14: Audiocassettes, 1984-1999
This series consists of 23 audiocassettes on a variety of topics. Of particular interest are tapes on Armey’s first campaign against Tom Vandergriff.
Series 15: Memorabilia
This series consists of plaques, trophies, and paper weights given by various civic groups and others to Armey for his conservative stance in Congress.
Series 16: Maps
This series consists of seven maps mainly showing congressional districts in Texas.