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Dallas Morning News: House approves Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s bill to memorialize long-forgotten Texas Legation in Washington

September 21, 2020

WASHINGTON – Six weeks out from what’s slated to be one of the most contentious elections ever, Texans in the House have achieved the monumental task of uniting that chamber in bipartisan agreement over the need to honor a long-forgotten piece of Texana.

So far back is that history, in fact, it predates the Lone Star State itself.

At issue are the diplomats who arrived from the Republic of Texas, the then-independent nation, to Washington, a then-foreign capital, in the mid-1800s to establish a legation – an outpost along the lines of an embassy – that ultimately helped secure Texas' annexation by the U.S.

While Texas' entry to the U.S. in 1845 is well-known, those vital diplomatic efforts are not.

So the Democrat-run House on Monday unanimously approved a bill authored by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, to authorize a commemorative work, paid for by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, that would honor the Texas legation somewhere on federal land in D.C.

“With this commemoration, those who visit our capital will have the opportunity to learn about a turning point in the history of Texas and in the history of the United States,” said Doggett, who secured a bipartisan group of Texans to co-sponsor the legislation.

The bill will now head to the GOP-run Senate, where Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz will likely be leaned upon to get the act to President Donald Trump’s desk by the end of the year.

Its prospects there are uncertain, in part because of the weightier topics on the Senate’s agenda. But it’s difficult to count out the effort, so long as there’s the involvement of Kitty Hoeck, a retired preschool teacher in the D.C.-area chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

kitty

Kitty Hoeck, a retired Virginia preschool teacher, is the unlikely heroine reviving the all-but-forgotten sites of the Republic of Texas Legation in Washington. She is a member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. (Ting Shen / Special Contributor)

Hoeck first sized up the Texas Legation in Washington as something of a historical curiosity.

But then she learned about the full significance of the Texas' emissaries' work. Then she found out that Texas' legations were honored in Paris and London, but not in D.C. Then, through extensive research, she tracked down sites where the diplomats lived and worked in the capital.

She’s since become the driving force behind the commemoration effort, using her cheerful persistence to practically will the legislation through Congress.

“She has led the way,” said Doggett, who’s explained that Hoeck is an example of how “one person can make a difference with their tenacity and determination.”

Even if the bill becomes law this year, it could be some time before Texans have a marker or memorial to look at in Washington.

It’s still undetermined what the commemoration would look like. Ditto for its location, though Hoeck has identified a number of boardinghouses – there were no fixed compounds like today’s embassies – where the Texans set up shop in close proximity to the National Mall.

All of that would need to be cleared by various planning authorities in Washington.

But Doggett still highlighted the House passage – which was done through a rules suspension, which is used for uncontroversial bills with broad support – as an important step toward honoring both Texas' fledgling-nation past and the state’s modern-day form.

“The history of the Texas Legation did not end with the annexation of Texas in 1845,” he said. “Today, it lives on in the strength of multicultural and multilingual communities across the Lone Star State. They make our state so dynamic.”

Among the Texans to co-sponsor the bill were Rep. Ron Wright, R-Arlington; Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano; Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell; and Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas.