A Visit to the Capitol – Past and Present

One Friday morning in July, I paid a visit to the state Capitol. There were some important bills being heard in committee that day, so my friend M F and I headed out to do our civic duty and register our opinions. 

After completing our task, we walked around a bit to reminisce. We both worked at the Capitol years ago, but not at the same time.

Portraits of all the former governors of Texas hang in the rotunda. I stopped for a photo with my favorite former governor and asked Ann to haunt the building as needed during this “special” session. 😉

Many years ago, I worked during an interim for Senator Lindon Williams (R-Houston). My father-in-law helped me obtain this much-needed job and I was thankful to have it. I’m trying to remember the exact chain of events… I think I first worked at a preschool during the year between college and graduate school. If that is correct, I must have worked for the Senator during the summer after my first year of grad school. Since it was a part-time job, it’s possible I continued to work into the fall.

Since I worked during the interim, there was not a lot of excitement. I mostly did filing and answered phones and worked on mailings. Sometimes there was nothing for me to do except be a warm body in case the phone rang or someone came by the office, so I think I even did a little crafting. I have a vague memory of two specific Christmas decorations and being in that office. Maybe I just brought in some of the Christmas crafting I was working on to show the Administrative Assistant. I no longer remember.

The walls of the lowest level of the Capitol are hung with “class” photos of former members of the legislature. Below, Senator Williams is pictured right there above my hand.

M F worked for Senator Farabee – fourth from the bottom right above Senator Williams. On his left is Senator Lloyd Doggett. When we eventually joined the church we now attend, I remember that he and his family sat up in the left side balcony of the church. Lloyd Doggett is now a U.S. Representative from Texas. He recently held a town hall meeting in our church Family Life Center. I served as a hospitality representative from the church to assist those in attendance. Getting to sit in on the town hall was a nice benefit.

The Texas Capitol has been remodeled since the time of our employment, but M F and I wandered around, looking for the familiar. M F pointed out that many original features of the building remain although functions have changed. An etched window above a door still identifies the Treasury Office, for example, even though that office is no longer in the building. Even the hinges on the doors are beautiful and detailed. M F has a framed rubbing of one.

It was nice walking around the Capitol with a friend who once worked there and is also a history buff. She didn’t mind at all that I wanted to walk around the grounds on this very hot day to see the newest monument – The Texas African American History Memorial. It traces the history of African Americans in Texas from the 1500s to the present. M F could name several of the figures without reading the plaques! Impressive! My knowledge of Texas history is limited. I didn’t arrive in Texas until I was a junior in high school, so I never studied Texas history.

The center of the monument depicts Juneteenth in Texas: June 19, 1865 – when African Americans in Texas received the news of the end of slavery.

The monument was unveiled November 19, 2016. It is really quite impressive and moving – especially recognizing that black slave labor was integral in building the Capitol building that sits behind this monument. It is unfortunate that a “White Lives Matter” protest was also scheduled on the Capitol grounds the morning of the unveiling (the group insisted it was a coincidence) and there was also a counter protest to the protest. 🙁

We were getting really hot, so I didn’t take the time for a photo of the back side. This video provides some compelling close ups and a view of the back.

It was also my first time to view the  Tejano Monument. It didn’t draw me in emotionally in the same way as the African American History Memorial, but it is well done. I especially like the setting of the statues on the native granite boulders.

I posted some of these photos from my day to Facebook and several friends chimed in. One friend said her great-grandfather’s photo also hangs in the lower level where I stood by the Senator’s photograph. Another friend worked for Lloyd Doggett. Another friend said her aunt was friends with Lindon Williams and she remembered talking to him. She thinks her aunt tried to get him to fix a speeding ticket for her, but it didn’t happen. She paid her ticket herself. I felt like we were playing a game of 7 degrees of Lindon Williams!

I haven’t spent much time at the Capitol since I worked there – just a couple of tours with out-of-town friends or a school field trip. This year, however, I have had occasion to visit several times.

1/16 -MLK Jr. March. 1/21- Women’s March.

     

1/31- Standing as a Peaceful Observer to protect Muslim neighbors on Muslim Capitol Day.  2/25 – No Ban, No Wall rally. And there have been a couple more.

  

I am thankful to live where I have easy access to my state government and can participate in a variety of ways in the democratic process and the vibrant life of this community.

We have a beautiful Capitol filled with history. It is well worth a tour and a celebration of the diversity that makes Texas, Texas.

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