Former Texas Secretary of State donates documents, personal letters to SFA

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The documents and personal papers of a judge of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have a new home at Stephen F. Austin's East Texas Research Center.

Judge Thomas M. Reavley is a Nacogdoches native, a former Texas Secretary of State and a former Texas Supreme Court judge, but he got his start in homemade potato chips.

Reavley joked he's at the age where he likes to reminisce. So it's a good thing the 92-year-old was shown a Reavley Café menu, a business his parents opened in Nacogdoches to survive the depression.

Reavley read off some of the prices from the menu.

"Hamburger steak, 35 cents … oh, that's way too high," he joked.

A sack of salty Reavley potato chips, made in the family's backyard, could be purchased for 25 cents. Second graders all grown up remember it well.

"We used to go over to his dad's house where they made Reavley potato chips, said Dr. Travis Mast, a family friend. "And I would help Mr. Reavley make potato chips."

Such is the foundation for a federal judge. On Friday, he was reunited with Kyle Ainsworth, the special collections librarian who pored over hundreds of the judges' official papers.

"He knows more than my wife knows about me," Reavley said.

What stands out is the former First United Methodist Conference leader's bold speeches encouraging equal rights for all races.

"And then there were a lot of people who said, ' hey, this is very progressive,'" Ainsworth said. This is 1956 Texas."

More than 55 years later the judge sharply remembered his message.

"You can't afford to ignore and not use a fourth of the people, if they're black, or half of the people if they're women at that time," Reavley said. "And so I started to hear myself talk about that subject."

Reavley believes the talk of equal justice is just as important today.

The judge continues to write and tells the SFA Research Center if they want more he can provide it.

Reavley holds a senior position on the 5th U.S. Circuit of Court of Appeals. His wife, Carolyn King, is also a judge on the same court. The couple currently lives in Houston.

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