Percy L. Gassaway Collection


2 cubic feet

portrait of Percy Gassaway

Biographical Sketch of the Creator of the Collection

Percy Lee Gassaway was born in Waco, Texas, on August 30, 1885.  He was one of thirteen children born to Reverend and Mrs. B. F.  Gassaway. His father was a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South and was once a missionary to the Kiowa and Comanche Indians in the Fort Sill, Oklahoma, area.  Most of Percy Lee Gassaway's early years were spent in Texas.

After two early marriages -- both of which ended in divorce -- and after traveling in the West and Mexico, Gassaway moved to Coalgate, Oklahoma, about 1914.  He was admitted to the bar in 1919.  While a practicing attorney, Gassaway married a third time, but his wife died after a few years of marriage.  Two years later he married again.  A total of fourteen children were born during the four marriages, of which seven survived to the time Gassaway ran for Congress in 1934.

For several years Gassaway served as chairman of the Coalgate Board of Education.  He ran for Coal County state representative in 1920 but was defeated in the general election.  In 1922 he was defeated in the race for Coal County judge, but he was appointed to the position the next year when the incumbent died.  He was elected Coal County attorney in 1923.  Gassaway won election as judge of the Twenty-sixth Judicial District in 1926 and was reelected in 1930.  In 1928 he made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination to Congress from the Fourth District.  He made a successful bid against the same man, Thomas D. McKeown, in 1934 and was elected in the general election to the Seventy-fourth Congress.

As a congressman, Gassaway was known as "Judge" and the "Cowboy Congressman."  He was a firm supporter of the New Deal and of Franklin Roosevelt, although he did disagree on some policy matters.  He was an early opponent of Huey Long.  A colorful character, Gassaway frequently made the newspapers and newsreels.

Gassaway was defeated by Lyle Boren for renomination to the Congress in 1936.  He retired to his ranch near Coalgate, where he died of a heart attack on May 15, 1937.

Scope and Content of the Collection

This collection consists of 2 cubic feet of material and spans the period 1924-1942. Although the collection represents only a small part of the papers which must have been generated during Gassaway's term as a congressman, it does serve as a good source of information on Oklahoma politics at the time. Materials are divided into five sections: correspondence and business papers; congressional correspondence; speeches and press releases; miscellaneous; and oversize. The congressional correspondence reflects Gassaway's distaste for Huey P. Long of Louisiana. Also included are letters indicating the congressman's interest in birth control. Another interesting feature found in the collection are Gassaway's "Dear Taxpayer" letters. These letters, printed weekly in newspapers, give updates on what was taking place in Congress, explanations of pending legislation, and information on the Roosevelt administration. The collection also includes some non-congressional and family papers and a small number of photographs.

A detailed finding aid is available. For more information on the archival holdings, please contact the Carl Albert Center.

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