The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002 Page: 584
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
This article examines Thomas's congressional career to show how he
honed his skills and focused his efforts on behalf of his district, culmi-
nating in the winning of the NASA plume for his city. When NASA
announced the decision in 1961 to build a new Manned Spacecraft
Center (MSC), Houstonians and Texans lionized Thomas as the force
behind the NASA deal. Two years later they were still expressing their
appreciation. Houstonians organized a banquet in his honor that
became the social event of the year. President John F. Kennedy and Vice
President Lyndon B. Johnson, along with their wives, flew to Houston to
attend the banquet. Johnson was a close associate of Thomas. Their
friendship stretched back to the late 1930s, to their days as freshmen
representatives and neighbors in the same Washington apartment com-
plex. As fellow Texans, the two had collaborated on various projects of
mutual interest. Although political competitiveness occasionally sur-
faced, the two maintained a strong friendship and productive working
relationship. Each of them wielded considerable power in Washington,
and their combined efforts were invaluable to the Texas delegation.3
The Kennedy-Thomas connection was also strong. Although their
friendship was less intimate than between Thomas and the vice presi-
dent, the congressman could still be described as "a great pal of the
President's." Certainly, Thomas had proven to be a valuable ally to the
White House. Kennedy was already considering a campaign trip to
Texas when he received the invitation to the testimonial dinner. He tele-
phoned Thomas to accept the invitation, saying that he would schedule
his political tour to coincide with the banquet date. Meanwhile,
Kennedy recruited Thomas to help mend the rift in the Texas delega-
tion between Johnson and Senator Ralph Yarborough and tried to per-
suade him to seek reelection. Kennedy and Johnson both believed that
since the death of Sam Rayburn, Thomas was the only person capable of
holding the delegation together."
s Transcript, Mrs. Albert (Lera) Thomas Oral History Interview I, Oct. 11, 1969, by David G.
McComb, internet copy (LBJ Library, Austin, Tex.), (cited hereafter as Lera Thomas Interview).
Additional personal information provided to the author by Albert Thomas's daughter, Anne
Lasiter. Lady Bird Johnson and Lera Thomas remained close friends until Mrs. Thomas's death
" Robert Dallek, Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, z961-1973 (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1998), 47 (quotation); Lera Thomas Interview, 13-14; Houston Chronicle, Feb.
15, 1966, m Albert Thomas, Late A Representative from Texas: Memonal Addresses Delivered in Congress
(Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1966), 122-123 (cited hereafter as Albert
Thomas Memorial Addresses); transcript, Hale Boggs, Oral History Interview I, Mar. 3, 1969, by T.
H. Baker, internet copy (LBJ Library, Austin, Tex.), 18; transcript, Lawrence F. O'Brien, Oral
History Interview I, Sept. 18, 1985, by Michael L. Gillette, internet copy (LBJ Library, Austin,
Tex.), 74; Jack Bass and Walter DeVries, The Transformation of Southern Politics: Social Change and
Poliztcal Consequence Since 1945 (New York: Basic Books, 1976), 311-312; and O. Douglas
Weeks, Texas in z964--A One-Party State? (Austin: Institute of Public Affairs, University of Texas,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/m1/640/: accessed June 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.