The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002

Congressman Albert Thomas and NASA's Coming
to Houston: A Study in Legislative Effectiveness,
1936-19 66
FRANCELLE PRUITT*
O N NOVEMBER 21, 1963, LOCAL, STATE, AND NATIONAL DIGNITARIES
gathered in Houston, Texas, to celebrate the career of the city's
most prestigious and productive congressman, Albert Thomas. At age
sixty-five and facing a difficult struggle against cancer, Thomas planned
to retire from political life at the end of his term. For twenty-seven years
he received wholehearted support from his constituency because of his
dedication to local concerns. Houstonians knew that NASA's coming to
the city was the result of Thomas's political skills. City leaders also recog-
nized that the region had benefited immensely over the years from his
efforts, and especially from his powerful position as chairman of the
Independent Offices Subcommittee on House Appropriations, which
greatly enhanced his power to direct federal spending.1
Thomas believed Houston had the potential to become the largest,
most productive city in the South, and that federal money could make
that happen. In many ways, this goal was the driving force behind his
thirty-year career. His philosophy toward federal funding was similar to
other southern politicians of his generation who considered regional
development of paramount importance. Southern communities actively
pursued federal contracts and grants that directly contributed to eco-
nomic improvement, all the while shunning any stipulations or interfer-
ence in social issues. However, few politicians could boast success equiva-
lent to Albert Thomas's and no area benefited more from congressional
effort than Houston.2
* Francelle Pruitt is a Ph.D. candidate at Rice University. The author would like to thank
Professor John Boles for his invaluable advice and encouragement. The author is also indebted to
Anne Lasiter of Houston for her gracious hospitality and generous contributions to this project.
' Houston Chronzcle, Nov. 22, 1963, pp. 1, 5, 22-23; Video of the Albert Thomas Dinner is
located in Fondren Library, Rice University.
2 See Bruce J. Schulman, From Cotton Belt to Sunbelt: Federal Polzcy, Economic Development, and the
Transformation of the South, I938-g98o (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991).
VOL. CV, NO. 4 SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY APRIL, 2002

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/. Accessed December 27, 2014.