Baylor University, the Texas Collection

[Waco] Branch Davidians: Joe Robert Collection, Inclusive: 1932-1997, undated, Bulk: 1979-1995

Collection Summary

Creator Branch Davidians, Robert, Joe
Title [Waco] Branch Davidians: Joe Robert Collection
Dates: Inclusive: 1932-1997, undated, Bulk: 1979-1995
Abstract The [Waco] Branch Davidians: Joe Robert Collection consists of materials collected by Joe Robert concerning the Branch Davidians. This collection includes personal correspondence, photographs, negatives, pamphlets, books, legal documents, audio recordings, and secondary literature regarding the Branch Davidians and key leaders who arose within the sect.
Quantity: 5 document boxes and 1 oversized box.
Language of the Material English
Repository Baylor University, The Texas Collection


The Davidians and Branch Davidians were the offspring of a reform movement that originated within the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. In the early 1930s, a Bulgarian immigrant named Victor Houteff claimed to have had personal revelations from God and published his controversial views. His book The Shepherd’s Rod (1932) served as a challenge to traditional Seventh-Day Adventist views of the apocalypse and church practice. Houteff’s book inspired the Davidian movement within the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The new Davidians emphasized the need for the gift of prophecy among their leaders and believed that King David’s earthly kingdom would be re-established on earth prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ. Upon his excommunication from the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Houteff settled in Waco, Texas, and taught his followers until his death in 1955. This collection contains various pamphlets edited by Houteff as well as The Shepherd’s Rod.

The Roden family, whose writings are well represented within this collection, are crucial to the developments leading up to the infamous Waco Siege of 1993. Benjamin Roden became the leader of a new sect, the Branch Davidians, after the fledgling church splintered from the Davidians following Houteff's death. Roden called for obedience to the feasts and fasts found throughout the biblical text. Benjamin’s wife Lois claimed a vision of her own in 1977 when it was revealed to her that the Holy Spirit was a feminine entity. On October 22, 1978, Benjamin died. Lois assumed the mantle of leadership, much to the dismay of her son George.

The 1980's brought about division within the Branch Davidian sect. A newcomer named Vernon Howell joined the Branch in 1981. Three years later, a schism occurred within the Church, with Howell leading his own group of followers to a new site in Palestine, Texas. Lois Roden died in 1986, creating a power struggle between George Roden and Vernon Howell for control of the main Branch Davidian group. In 1987, Howell and his followers instigated a shootout with Roden. The subsequent trial against Howell was declared a mistrial. In 1989, George Roden was arrested for the murder of his roommate Wayman Dale Adair whom Roden claimed was a mercenary for Howell. For the rest of his life, George Roden was transferred to various mental institutions, and was not able to take the leadership position he wanted in the Branch Davidian Church. Vernon Howell changed his name to David Koresh in May 1990 and relocated his headquarters to Mount Carmel Center near Waco, Texas. Rumors concerning polygamy, abuse, and arms dealing within the Branch Davidian group aroused the suspicions of the federal government, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation began to monitor the group.

In response to a stockpiling of illegal weapons, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives secured a search warrant for the investigation of the Branch Davidians’ compound near Waco, Texas. From February 28th until April 19th, 1993, Branch Davidians under the leadership of David Koresh resisted federal agents’ attempts to storm Mount Carmel Center. Joe Robert, the donor of this collection, served as an eyewitness to the siege, volunteering his labor for the Salvation Army while speaking with law enforcement officers and media personnel. The fifty-day siege ended when the compound erupted in flames, killing most of the Davidians.

Joe Robert was born in Waco, Texas, as the eldest son of a Baptist minister. For most of his life, he has resided in the central Texas region. Upon graduation from high school, Robert joined the Air Force. Following an on-the-job injury in 1991, Robert devoted his free time to studying the Branch Davidian sect that had flourished in the Waco area. While undergoing rehabilitation for his injury, Robert witnessed the Waco Siege of 1993.

Robert used his vast knowledge and personal contacts to begin working on a book manuscript designed to pinpoint the origins of the Branch Davidian cult. In an effort to achieve objectivity, Robert interviewed Davidians who had survived the conflagration as well as those who had rejected Koresh’s leadership. His efforts culminated in the publishing of his book Beyond the Flames, written in 1997 under the alias of J.J. Robertson. In 1997 and 1999, Robert donated his vast collection of materials to The Texas Collection so that further research opportunities would be available to the public.

Scope and Content

The [Waco] Branch Davidians: Joe Robert Collection was acquired by gift in two separate transactions from private donor Joe Robert in March 1997 and March 1999. The chronology of the collection begins in 1932 with Victor Houteff’s controversial book The Shepherd’s Rod and concludes with writings concerning George Roden in 1997. These records include religious tracts, cassette tapes, books, magazines, photographs, negatives, and papers ranging from sermons to personal correspondence to legal documents. Transcriptions of the emergency calls made while the compound was under siege in early 1993 and various newspaper clippings that chronicle public reactions to the cult are also present. Autopsy reports of those killed in the standoff provide a comprehensive overview of how various Branch Davidians perished in the fiery siege of Mount Carmel. Much of the material is divided according to the individual persons involved: Victor Houteff, members of the Roden family, David Koresh, and the survivors of the Waco Siege.


The [Waco] Branch Davidians: Joe Robert Collection is arranged into 6 series: I. Correspondence, II. Legal Documents, III. Literary Productions, IV. Photographic Materials, V. Audio Recordings, and VI. Oversized.


Access Restrictions

All requests for copying of materials must be submitted to The Texas Collection in writing. Please use the Request Form for Copying Materials sheet. Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator (s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Physical Description

General condition: Excellent.

Index Terms

Mount Carmel Center, Waco, Tex.
Seventh Day Adventists -- History.
Waco Branch Davidian Disaster, Tex., 1993.
Branch Davidians.
Koresh, David, 1959-1993.
Cassette tape
Photo negative
Photographic print

Related Resources

Related references

Kerstetter, Todd. “‘That’s Just the American Way’: The Branch Davidian Tragedy and Western Religious History.” Western Historical Quarterly vol. 35, no. 4 (Winter 2004): pp. 453-471.
Lawson, Ronald. “Seventh-Day Adventist Responses to Branch Davidian Notoriety: Patterns of Diversity within a Sect Reducing Tension with Society.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion vol. 34, no. 3 (September 1995): pp. 323-341.
Rosenfeld Jean E., Mary Z. Stange, and Ivan Strenski. “Understanding Waco.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion vol. 62, no. 3 (Autumn 1994): pp. 919-946.
Wright, Stuart A. “A Decade after Waco: Reassessing Crisis Negotiations at Mount Carmel in Light of New Government Disclosures.” Nova Religio vol. 7, no. 2 (November 2003): pp. 101-110.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Waco] Branch Davidians: Joe Robert Collection, Accession, #3205, Box #, Folder #, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Acquisition Information

Accession No. 3205.

Processing Information

Described by Thomas DeShong. Released on 2014-04-25.

Archivist's Notes: Much of the general organization of the collection was maintained during the processing stage. Both personal correspondence and legal documents were already divided among the various authors. Series III, literary productions, was much more difficult to organize. There was no discernable organization before this finding aid was written. For this processing project, folders were organized according to prominent personalities within the Branch Davidian movement. If documents had no clear author, they were classified by the type: religious pamphlet, book, certificates, teaching manuscripts, etc. The photographic materials also lacked organization and any type of system of dating. If pictures were grouped together in albums or folders, such classification was maintained. The negatives had no labeling whatsoever. Even though half of the recordings were undated, virtually all cassettes defined who was being interviewed. The tapes were simply organized alphabetically according to the individual’s last name.

Appendix A:

Roden Family Tree

As a point of clarification, it is important to note the familial relationships that existed between the Rodens mentioned above. Benjamin Roden and Lois Roden were a married couple who proved to be quite influential in the leadership of the Branch Davidian sect. Their son, George Roden, had a very contentious personality. He had complex relationship with Lois and struggled against her for power throughout the early 1980s. George married Amo Paul Bishop in 1987. Like the situation with his mother, George’s relationship with his wife also soured over time to the point of divorce. Amo was quite vocal about the Waco Siege, writing two books and an essay that appear in a related collection.

George Roden’s poor relationship with his mother has been explained in light of the alleged sexual relations that developed between Lois Roden and Vernon Howell. In the trial that occurred in 1987, George Roden told the jury that Howell had raped his mother and sought every opportunity to turn her against George.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Correspondence 1936-1988, undated

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Excellent.
box folder
1 1 David Koresh 1985
2 V. Houteff 1936-1946
3 Benjamin Roden 1959-1964
4 George Roden 1983-1988
5 Tom Street 1965-1966
6 Hebrew Language 1961-1983, undated
7 General 1970-1984, undated

Legal Documents 1965-1997

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Excellent.
box folder
1 8 David Koresh 1988
9 David Koresh 1993
10 George Roden: Court Papers 1973-Mar 1984
11 George Roden: Court Papers June 1984-1988
12 George Roden: Court Papers 1989-1997
13 George Roden: Medical Papers 1990
14 George Roden: General Papers 1988-1997
15 Tom Street 1965-1968
16 Occupancy Agreements 1985-1986
17 Criminal Case 1992-1993
18 Roden v. Howell 1987
19 Roden v. Howell: Notes (1 of 3) 1987-1988
20 Roden v. Howell: Notes (2 of 3) 1987-1988
21 Roden v. Howell: Notes (3 of 3) 1987-1988

Literary Productions 1932-1995, undated

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Excellent.
box folder
1 22 David Koresh: Pamphlets 1983-1993
23 David Koresh: Pamphlets 1993
24 Gladys Ottman: Poems 1993
25 Amo Paul Bishop Roden: Book: Crime and Coverup 1993
26 Amo Paul Bishop Roden: Essay: “The Politics of Murder” 1995
27 Amo Paul Bishop Roden: Book: Cracking the Coverup 1994
28 Benjamin Roden: Pamphlets 1962-1965
box folder
2 1 Benjamin Roden: Pamphlets 1967-1977
2 Benjamin Roden: Pamphlets 1978-1979, undated
3 Benjamin Roden: Printed Materials 1965-1978
4 Benjamin Roden: Sermons 1955-June 1959
5 Benjamin Roden: Sermons Sept 1959-1960
6 Benjamin Roden: Sermons 1962, undated
7 George Roden: Printed Materials 1976-1984
8 George Roden: Printed Materials 1985
9 George Roden: Sermons 1981-1983
10 George Roden: Sermons 1984
11 George Roden: Sermons May 1986
12 George Roden: Sermons Oct 1986
13 George Roden: Sermons undated
14 Lois Roden: Pamphlets 1978-1983
15 Lois Roden: Pamphlets 1984-1986, undated
16 Lois Roden: Periodicals: Shekinah Feb-June 1981
17 Lois Roden: Periodicals: Shekinah Aug 1981- Mar 1982
box folder
3 1 Lois Roden: Periodicals: Shekinah Apr-Sept 1982
2 Lois Roden: Periodicals: Shekinah Oct 1982- Dec 1983
3 Seventh-Day Adventists: Pamphlets 1950-1968
4 Pamphlets 1984, undated
5 Printed Materials: Secondary Feb-May 1993
6 Printed Materials: Secondary July 1993-Feb 1995
7 Manuscripts: Teaching Documents (1 of 2) undated
8 Manuscripts: Teaching Documents (2 of 2) undated
9 Publicity Materials 1993-1995
10 Book: Autopsy Reports (1 of 5) 1993
11 Book: Autopsy Reports (2 of 5) 1993
12 Book: Autopsy Reports (3 of 5) 1993
13 Book: Autopsy Reports (4 of 5) 1993
14 Book: Autopsy Reports (5 of 5) 1993
15 Certificates undated
16 Livingstone Fagan: Book: Mount Carmel 1994
17 Victor Houteff: Pamphlets 1938-1955
box folder
4 1 Victor Houteff: Book: The Shepherd’s Rod 1932
2 Clifford Cotton 1993
3 Brochures 1993
4 Research Notes undated
5 Clippings May-Aug 1993
6 Clippings undated
7 AP News: Transcriptions Apr 20-22, 1993
8 AP News: Transcriptions Apr 23-26, 1993
9 AP News: Transcriptions Apr 27-May 19, 1993
10 AP News: Transcriptions May 20-July 14, 1993
11 AP News: Transcriptions July 23, 1993
12 AP News: Transcriptions July 29-Aug 26, 1993
13 AP News: Transcriptions: Copies Apr 21-June 8, 1993
14 Bible 1972

Photographic Materials 1985-1993, undated

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Excellent.
Index Terms
Photo negative
Photograph Albums
Photographic print
box folder
4 15 Photographs: Memorial Ceremony Apr 1995
16 Photographs: Memorial Stones and Trees undated
17 Photographs: Compound Burning Apr 19, 1993
box folder
5 1 Joe Robert: Photo Album (1) (1 of 3) undated
2 Joe Robert: Photo Album (1) (2 of 3) undated
3 Joe Robert: Photo Album (1) (3 of 3) undated
4 Photo Album (2) (1 of 3) undated
5 Photo Album (2) (2 of 3) undated
6 Photo Album (2) (3 of 3) undated
7 Photographs: Standoff Mar-Apr 1993
8 Buttons: Mt. Carmel Center Feb-Apr 1993
9 Photographs: Mt. Carmel: General Apr 1993; undated
10 Photographs: Mt. Carmel: Prior to Raid 1985-1993
11 Photographs: Mt. Carmel: Post-Raid 1993-1994
12 Photographs: Tree-Planting Service Feb 1995
13 Diagrams: Treasury Department 1987-1993
14 Diagrams: Treasury Department 1993
15 Diagrams: Treasury Department 1990-1993
16 Negatives (1 of 7) undated
17 Negatives (2 of 7) undated
18 Negatives (3 of 7) undated
19 Negatives (4 of 7) undated
20 Negatives (5 of 7) undated
21 Negatives (6 of 7) undated
22 Negatives (7 of 7) undated

Audio Recordings 1993, undated

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Excellent.
Index Terms
Cassette tape
box folder
6 OVZ 1 Clive and Edna Doyle: Audio Recording Tape undated
2 Edna Doyle: Audio Recording Tape: Item 1 of 2 undated
3 Edna Doyle: Audio Recording Tape: Item 2 of 2 undated
4 Bob and Janet Kendrick: Audio Recording Tape: Item 3 of 3 undated
5 Livingstone Fagan: Audio Recording Tape undated
6 Sheila Martin: Audio Recording Tape Sept 24, 1993
7 Sheila Martin: Audio Recording Tape Oct 6, 1993
8 Sheila Martin and Catherine Matteson: Audio Recording Tape: Item 1 of 2 Oct 6, 1993
9 Sheila Martin and Catherine Matteson: Audio Recording Tape: Item 2 of 2 Oct 6, 1993
10 Catherine Matteson: Audio Recording Tape undated
11 Gladys Ottman: Audio Recording Tape undated
12 Janet Kendrick and Gladys Ottman: Audio Recording Tape Oct 5-12, 1993
13 Gladys Ottman: Audio Recording Tape Nov 30, 1993
14 Brother and Sister Roden: Audio Recording Tape Mar 25, 1978
15 George Roden and (Glady?): Audio Recording Tape Oct 12, 1993
16 911 Call: Audio Recording Tape Feb 28, 1993
17 911 Call: Audio Recording Tape: Item 1 of 2 undated
18 911 Call: Audio Recording Tape: Item 2 of 2 undated
19 Georgia Jenkins Interview: Audio Recording Tape undated