University of Texas San Antonio

A Guide to the Laura Burleson Negley Family Papers, 1880-1973 (bulk 1912-1947)

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Negley, Laura Burleson, 1890-1973
Title: Laura Burleson Negley Family Papers
Dates: 1880-1973
Dates (Bulk): 1912-1947
Creator Abstract: Laura Burleson Negley was the first woman from Bexar County elected to the Texas legislature. Richard Negley founded Negley Paint Company and was director of Alamo National Bank in San Antonio. The couple had 3 sons, two of whom lost their lives in World War II.
Content Abstract: The collection primarily consists of correspondence between Laura Burleson Negley and her immediate family members. These papers show the social and business ties that the family maintained in San Antonio, and illustrate the etiquette and social customs of the time. The papers also personalize the war experience (WWII) and its impact on families in San Antonio.
Identification: MS 84
Quantity: 3.3 linear feet (approximately 2,500 items)
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections

Biographical Note

Laura Burleson Negley was born into a politically prominent family in 1890 in Austin, Texas. Her great grandfather fought in the Texas Revolution, was Vice-President of the Republic of Texas and was a member of the Republic's congress and legislature. Laura's mother, Adele Lubbock Steiner Burleson (1863-1948), was a well-known author and playwright. Laura's father, Albert Sidney Burleson (1863-1937), represented Texas in the U.S. Congress from 1898-1912 and later was appointed Postmaster General by President Woodrow Wilson.

In her youth, Laura spent time in both Washington, D.C., and in Austin, Texas. She attended the University of Texas in Austin where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1911. Laura became active in Democratic Party politics and in suffrage work in the early 1910s. She gave her first public speech advocating women's suffrage in 1912 at one of the largest pro-suffrage rallies of the day in Washington, D.C. This speech was a precursor to the political stands she would take on behalf of equality for women.

In 1912, after a lengthy courtship, Laura married Richard Van Wyck Negley, Sr., and moved to San Antonio, Texas. Richard Negley, her equal in age, was an engineer who founded and operated Negley Paint Company. He later became director of Alamo National Bank in San Antonio. Together Laura and Richard had three children: Albert in 1913, William (Bill) in 1914 and Richard, Jr. (Dickie) in 1915. All three boys were schooled at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. Albert, the eldest son, attended Yale Law School and Richard, the youngest, graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1939. Tragically, the two brothers lost their lives while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II. Albert was taken a prisoner of war by the Japanese in 1943 during the Bataan Campaign. He died early in 1945 of illness while in captivity. Richard was a combat pilot and died in air action against the Japanese on Feb. 8, 1942. Both brothers were honored posthumously and designated bomber aces. William, the only son to survive, graduated from law school at the University of Texas and spent the war years in Caracas, Venezuela, working in an essential industry for Standard Oil Company. He married Carolyn Brown in 1942. Outside of his successful career, William became a world-class crossbow hunter.

In 1928, at the age of 38, Laura became the first woman from Bexar County elected to the Texas legislature. During her first year in office she served the committees on education, state affairs, and criminal jurisprudence. Laura worked on several measures and bills that were of vital importance to women. She successfully sponsored a bill making separate property of the husband and the wife part of the couple's community property. Under the previous law revenues from the husband's separate property remained his, while the wife's income became community property.

As a forceful proponent of solidarity in the Democratic Party, Laura co-piloted the Wirtz bill through the House. The bill gave state executive committees the power to decide voter and candidate qualifications in primaries. She also co-authored legislation that sought equitable taxation of the state's mineral wealth.

After her term in the legislature ended in 1931, Laura did not pursue further elected office. However, she did remain informed on political issues, and encouraged her children to inform themselves on issues and candidates. In honor of their father's political achievements, Laura and her sisters endowed the Albert Sidney Burleson professorship at the School of Law at the University of Texas. In addition, Richard and Laura endowed scholarships at Exeter Phillips Academy in honor of their sons Albert and Richard. Mrs. Negley passed away at the age of 83 after succumbing to sudden illness in 1973. Surviving her was her husband, Richard, and son, William.

Scope and Content Note

The Laura Burleson Negley Family Papers span three generations of the Burleson and Negley families in Texas, but primarily consist of the correspondence of Laura Burleson Negley, her husband Richard Van Wyck Negley and their sons Albert, William and Richard.

The collection primarily consists of correspondence between Laura Burleson Negley and her immediate family members, but also includes speeches, memorabilia, clippings and photographs. Collectively these papers show the social and business ties that the family maintained in San Antonio, and illustrate the etiquette and social customs of the time. The papers also personalize the war experience and its impact on families in San Antonio. The collection is arranged into six series that largely reflect the family structure: Early Family History, Laura Burleson Negley, Richard Van Wyck Negley, Sr., Sons, Parents, and Photographs.

The bulk of the collection documents Laura Burleson Negley from her engagement in 1912 through the pain of the deaths of her two sons in the mid-1940s. Both personal and business correspondence provides insight into Mrs. Negley's political views, values, lifestyle and societal status. Personal correspondence traces the close relationships between Mrs. Negley, her husband and her children over time. The almost weekly correspondence with her sons documents the challenges and successes they faced throughout preparatory school, college and young adulthood. The sons' letters also reveal how Laura and Richard's status, values, and expectations influenced their children's lives. A significant number of letters written during World War II recount the sons' opinions of and experiences during the war. Correspondence also clearly shows an outpouring of community support for Richard and Laura as they grieved the loss of their eldest and youngest sons who died in service to their country. Laura's relationships with her parents and siblings are documented through personal correspondence as well.


The collection is organized as follows:
Early Family History
Laura Burleson Negley
Richard Van Wyck Negley, Sr.


Access Restrictions

This collection is housed at UTSA's Main Campus and must be accessed via the John Peace Library Special Collections reading room. To request access, please use the Collections Request Form.

Use Restrictions

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Index Terms

Burleson, Adele Steiner, 1863-1948.
Burleson, Albert Sidney, 1863 -.
Negley, Albert,1913-1945.
Negley, Laura Burleson, 1890-1973.
Negley, Richard, 1915-1942.
Negley, Richard Van Wyck, 1890-.
Negley, William, 1914.
Women--Texas--San Antonio.
Women legislators--Texas.
Women in politics-- Texas.
World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives, American.
World War, 1939-1945--Prisoners and prisons.
Texas--Politics and government--1865-1950.
Local Subjects
Family Collections
San Antonio History

Related Collections

Items related to the Negley family and their extended family members can be found in the Rupert Neely Gresham, Jr. Family Papers and in the Anacacho Ranche Papers, both of which are housed at University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Laura Burleson Negley Family Papers, MS 84, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

Acquisition Information

Materials were donated by Laura Negley Gill in 1999 (Acc. 1999-010).

Processing Information

Initial arrangement by Jill Jackson, processed by Toni Jeske, Processing Archivist, October, 2000.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Early Family History, 1890-1948

Series Description
Although limited in its coverage, this series provides information on the Negley family line through early family correspondence with genealogical information dating back to the grandparents of Richard Van Wyck Negley. Most of the correspondence dates between 1884-1918 with correspondence between Richard's parents and extended family members offering a personal look at early members of the Negley family. Memorabilia highlights important events of the Negley family such as births, graduations, and social happenings. Also included is a chart on six generations of the Burleson family.
Arranged by type.
Box Folder
1 1 Genealogy material, 1915-1923, undated
Box Folder
OM1 1 Genealogy chart of Burleson Family line, undated
Box Folder
1 2 Negley Family Correspondence, 1884-1918, 1973
3 Memorabilia, 1910-1948

Laura Burleson Negley, 1908-1947

The correspondence is primarily from Laura's family. In the nearly weekly letters written to Laura by her sons, the boys discuss politics, sports, grades, finances, hometown news, updates on friends and family, courtship and parental opinions and expectations. Especially poignant are the numerous condolence letters received by Laura after the deaths of her sons in service during WWII.
Insight into Laura's political career is found in General Incoming Correspondence. Letters from other politicians like Raymond Dickson of Houston discuss legislation and strategies. These letters also reveal constituent opinions on bills, and requests and thanks from women for Laura's support of specific legislation. In addition to legislative issues, General Correspondence also contains personal wedding wishes, social invitations, and letters from neighbors and friends. Business correspondence concerns the legalities and considerations concerning the family's involvement in oil, gas, and mineral leasing in Upton and Crockett counties.
Notably, very few of Laura's outgoing letters are represented in the collection. The researcher must rely heavily on responses to Laura's letters in the form of incoming correspondence to glean insight into her legislative style, stances on issues, and her working relationships with other political figures. Newsclippings offer insight into the media's portrayal of Laura in her role as the daughter of a prominent political figure, and as a political figure herself.
These materials are arranged by type. Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent.
Box Folder
1 Correspondence
4 Outgoing, 1931, 1934, 1941, 1942
5 Adele Steiner Burleson (Mother), 1913, 1921-1940
Albert Burleson Negley (Son)
6 At Phillips Exeter Academy, 1927-1931
7 At Yale, 1932-1933
8 At Yale,1934-1938
9 In Philippines, 1940-1942
10 Albert Sidney Burleson (Father), 1908, 1920-1931
11 Lucy Burleson Grimes (Sister), 1910-1943
12 Mary Burleson Bee (Aunt), 1914, 1922, 1942
Box Folder
2 Richard Van Wyck Negley (Husband)
1 1908-1912
2 1914, 1924, 1927
3 1929-1931, 1942
Richard Van Wyck Negley, Jr. (Son)
4 At Exeter, 1925, 1930-1931
5 At Exeter, 1932-May 1933
6 At West Point, July - December 1933
7 At West Point, 1934
8 At West Point, 1936-1937
9 At West Point, 1938
10 At West Point, 1939
11 1940-1942
12 Undated
13 Sidney Burleson (Sister), 1904-1942
William Negley (Son)
14 At Exeter, 1925-1929
15 At Exeter, 1930-1931
Box Folder
3 1 1933-1939
2 1940-1943
3 1910-1913
4 1920-1929
5 1930-1939
6 1940-1946
Business (To Laura and Richard V.W. Negley)
7 1939
8 1943
9 1944
10 1945-1946
Box Folder
4 Condolences Regarding Sons
Richard V.W. Negley, Jr.
1 February 1942
2 March 1942
3 April-December 1942
4 Telegrams, 1942
Albert Negley
5 POW, 1942-1945
6 Death, 1945-1947
7 Social life, 1912-1940
8 Political career, 1927-1929
Box Folder
OM1 2 Article: "Women in Office Uphold Suffrage", 1929
Box Folder
4 9 Student articles (sons co-authored), [1930s]
10 Speeches, 1919, 1929

Richard Van Wyck Negley, Sr., 1911-1952,

This series primarily documents Richard's relationship with and involvement in the lives of Laura and his sons. Personal files that Richard maintained document his actions taken on his sons' behalves during WWII. Included is significant correspondence with the War Department in efforts to locate his sons while they were in service overseas. Subsequent correspondence pursues details of Albert and Richard's deaths and documents to settle their affairs. Particularly poignant are Prisoner of War postcards from son Albert as well as letters from servicemen recounting Albert's final days. Incoming correspondence in this series is largely from the sons. This series also identifies Richard Van Wyck Negley, Sr.'s role in keeping the family's financial records and important documentation.
Arranged by type.
Box Folder
4 Correspondence
11 Outgoing, 1913, 1941
12 General, 1911-1941
13 Condolences Regarding Sons, 1942-1946
14 Albert Negley, 1927-1934
15 Richard V.W. Negley, Jr., 1930-1939
16 William Negley, 1929-1940
Personal Files
17 Adele S. Burleson Estate, Penn Field Property, 1938-1951
Albert Sidney Burleson Negley (Son)
18 1939-1943
19 1944
Box Folder
5 1 1945
2 1946
3 1947-1952
4 Richard V.W. Negley, Jr. (Son), 1942-1947
5 William Negley, 1941-1945
6 1926-1933
7 1936-1939
Box Folder
6 1 Personal telephone directory, undated
2 Will and testament, 1945

Sons, 1918-1945

The correspondence in this series offers insight into the brothers' close relationships with one another. Also included are incoming and outgoing correspondence from the sons to their grandparens (granny and papa grande).
Arranged chronologically.
Box Folder
6 Albert Burleson Negley
3 Incoming, 1918-1941
4 Outgoing, 1927-1942
William Negley
5 Incoming, 1927, 1934, 1942
6 Outgoing, 1931-1943
Richard Van Wyck Negley, Jr.
7 General, 1921-1932
8 West Point appointment, 1933, 1935
9 Academic Memorabilia, 1928-1943
10 Clippings regarding death, 1942

Parents, 1880-1937

The Parents series provides insight into Albert Sidney Burleson as both a politician and a father, but is limited in its coverage of Adele Steiner Burleson. In addition to newsclippings that highlight Mr. Burleson's political career, the series contains a limited amount of correspondence from his prominent colleagues. Correspondence of Adele Burleson includes letters from the Aztec Club of 1847 and a 1937 letter from her husband's former colleague discussing his assessment of the current political sceneThis series also contains legal documents concerning land transactions, as well as documentation of a lawsuit over the will of Mr. Burleson's sister, Mary Burleson Bee, in 1923.The personal papers of Albert Sidney Burleson are located at the Center for American History at the University of Texas-Austin.
Arranged chronologically.
Box Folder
6 Albert Sidney Burleson
11 Newclippings, 1915-1937, 1978
Incoming Correspondence
12 1889-1912
13 1913-1924
14 1927-1936
Legal Matters
15 Lawsuit over will of Mary Burleson Bee, 1907-1923
16 Legal Documents, 1880-1929
Adele Steiner Burleson
17 Incoming, 1926-1937
18 Outgoing, 1921

Photographs, 1910-1935

Notable examples in the Photographs series include photographs of a 1910 nature outing described in detail by Richard V.W. Negley. Other photographs show Mrs. Negley and her sons at leisure. Several photographs are unidentified.
Arranged alphabetically by subject.
Box Folder
7 1 Richard V.W. Negley and family, 1910
2 Children of Laura Burleson Negley, 1913-1935
3 Albert Sidney Burleson, 1914, undated
4 Unidentified, undated