Pete Geren, a former member of Congress from Fort Worth and former Secretary of the Army, has been elected chairman of the Sam Rayburn Foundation, replacing longtime chairman Dee Kelly, a Bonham native and Fort Worth attorney who worked as a clerk for Rayburn while attending law school in Washington.
Rayburn was a Democratic lawmaker from Bonham who served as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives for 17 years, the longest tenure in history. Rayburn was a mentor to many aspiring political figures in the Lone Star State, including Lyndon B. Johnson, who rose through the ranks of Congress to become president of the United States.
The Sam Rayburn Foundation, a charitable trust formed in Bonham in October 1949, was started with a $10,000 gift from Rayburn, who had received the money in conjunction with an award from Collier’s Magazine recognizing Rayburn’s service to the nation. The Foundation’s Rayburn Museum, including a library that currently houses Rayburn’s papers, was acquired by the University of Texas at Austin in 1991 and is currently operated by the Center of American History of the University of Texas Library System.
According to The University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO), the initial amount recorded for the Sam Rayburn Library Endowment in 1990 was $3 million. The initial gift from the Sam Rayburn Foundation included the property and contents of the Sam Rayburn Library. According to the 2013 annual report from UTIMCO, the current value of the Rayburn Endowment is $5.2 million.
Geren succeeded former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright as Fort Worth’s congressman in 1989 and served until 1997. He was appointed Acting Secretary of the Air Force in 2005 and Secretary of the Army in 2007. He currently serves as executive director of the Sid Richardson Foundation in Fort Worth. Kelly is a founding partner of the Kelly Hart & Hallman law firm. Kelly, who joined the Rayburn Foundation board in 1976, will continue to serve alongside other trustees, including Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Bonham, the longest serving member of the House of Representatives. Other trustees include Don Carleton, executive director of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History in Austin; Sharron Cox of Bonham; Carmen Craig of Dallas; and Cindy Kelly Barnes of Austin.