University of Texas Sets Sights on Bush Library

Sat March 05, 2005 - West Edition

AUSTIN (AP) The eyes of the University of Texas System are on getting the next presidential library and archives, its board of regents announced.

The UT System is aiming to be the first in the nation to house two presidential libraries. It already is home to the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Archives

A handful of institutions are seeking to house the President George W. Bush’s presidential library and archives. UT System Board of Regents Chairman James Huffines said he is determined to win the bid with a UT proposal that will likely include multiple campuses.

“We intend to win because we feel like the University of Texas is one of most treasured assets in this state, and the library belongs within the UT System,” Huffines said. “We’re going to use all of our resources to win this competition.”

Huffines said a committee of eight to 12 people will develop a proposal to bring the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum to at least one of the 15 UT campuses around the state. He said he expects a “unique and visionary” proposal.

The UT System waited so long to join the competition, Huffines said, because others interested in hosting the presidential library have already laid their cards on the table.

“People that just think in the box never get anywhere,” he said.

The committee will be co-chaired by former U.S. Rep. Tom Loeffler, who also is a former chairman of the Board of Regent, and Peter Flawn, president emeritus of the University of Texas at Austin and former president of UT-San Antonio.

Loeffler is a personal friend of the Bush family. In Congress, he represented the Midland district in which the president grew up. He said he shares Huffines’ enthusiasm to win the president’s approval of a library for the UT System.

“I look at this as my swan song,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I possibly can to support them one more time.”

Loeffler said a committee will be assembled and begin meeting within two weeks. A final recommendation to the board of regents is expected within six months.

Other entities that have shown interest in the library are Baylor University, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, Midland College and the city of Arlington.

The University of Texas at Austin submitted a proposal to house the library on its campus in 2001, but UT Austin President Larry Faulkner said it was discarded after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Faulkner said there are at least two areas available in Austin for a library. One site is near the main campus in downtown Austin. It is a state-owned property, but Faulkner said Gov. Rick Perry agreed to allow the university to offer the land. The other is near the J.J. Pickle Research Campus in North Austin.

The Johnson library and archives opened on the University of Texas at Austin campus in 1971. Faulkner said the experience of hosting the LBJ library provides an advantage for UT in the bidding process.

He said technological advancements also make collaboration among multiple sites possible.

Gerald Ford’s presidential library is the only other housed in two sites. The museum is in Grand Rapids, MI, and the library is in Ann Arbor, MI.

While the president will make the final decision as to the location of the library, the National Archives and Records Administration will operate it after it is built and sets guidelines for construction, said NARA spokeswoman Susan Cooper.

White House spokesman Taylor Gross said President Bush has made no indication of preference for the location of his library and has not announced a timeline for bids.

Private funds are used to pay for initial construction of the library. The potential cost of the UT System proposal is unknown, Huffines said.

Former President Clinton’s library, which opened in Little Rock, AR, in November, cost $165 million.

The builders must also raise an endowment to offset costs of operating the facility. Endowments for the libraries for Clinton and former President Bush were $7.2 million and $4.4 million, respectively, said NARA assistant archivist Sharon Fawcett.

Cost seems not to be an issue for the UT System. Huffines said he’s going to do whatever it takes to win, even if he has to deploy the UT Austin Longhorn football team’s mascot.

“We may have Bevo deliver the proposal,” he said.