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Ben T. Reyes Papers

Identifier:  MSS 0103

Scope and Contents

The collection covers the time span of 1970 thorough 1988, although Mr. Reyes served on Houston City Council through 1995. Reyes’ service in the House is documented in boxes 1 through folder 12 of box 8. The remainder of the collection is concerned almost entirely with his service on City Council.

The primary format is correspondence but also includes address lists, affidavit of substantial interest, applications, brochures, city ordinances, financial statements, graphs, lawsuits, legal motions, magazines, maps, newsletters, newspaper articles, notes, photographs, reports, requests for council action, subcommittee minutes, and voter analysis spreadsheets.


  • 1970-2006
  • Majority of material found in 1984-1988

Access Restrictions

Some folders are restricted because of personal information.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the Ben T. Reyes Papers must be obtained from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center or the appropriate copyright holder.

Historical Note

This collection spans 1970-1988, a period from when U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War wound down and ended in 1973, until just before the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. People of color were struggling to obtain the civil rights granted in legislation from a decade ago and to extend their political and economic power. Demands were being made for a greater voice in government and the business, employment and services that the government offered. Domestically there was political turmoil at the national level. The Watergate scandal resulted in President Nixon’s 1974 resignation and the succession of Vice-President Gerald Ford who pardoned the former president. Dissatisfaction stemming from the pardon contributed to the election of Jimmy Carter, whose administration was blamed for double-digit inflation, an oil shortage crisis, and the Iranian hostage crisis. President Ronald Reagan was elected in 1984 to deal with those problems and seemed to bring some peace to the domestic scene.

The Vietnam War ended in 1975, and many Vietnamese war refugees settled in Houston, straining social services and increasing demands for low-level jobs, competing with other non-whites. On the local level, the oil crisis of the late 1970s helped to drive the oil boom, causing a Houston building explosion until the oil bust of 1982 deflated the boom into a significant retraction of Houston’s economy. The race in Houston to erect downtown office buildings to accommodate the oil boom ended with empty structures, failed banks, many foreclosed homes and considerable local unemployment. The City of Houston had to deal with declining revenues and forced layoffs. Houston’s economy began a gradual shift to technology, away from oil field equipment production. There was considerable mistrust of local police departments, who were suspected of suppression of non-white people by abuse of power, including unlawful killings and cover-ups.

Biographical Note

Ben Torres Reyes, state and city lawmaker, was born on February 16, 1947, in Burton, Texas. After serving three years in the Marine Corps, 1966-1969, with a tour of duty in Vietnam during the War, Reyes was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1972, representing District 89 (D), and then won reelection three times, receiving over 96% of the vote in 1976. He served on the Labor, Human Resources, Reapportionment, and Judicial Affairs committees, was vice chairman of the Liquor Regulation Committee and chaired the Rules Committee. He attended the University of Houston and Texas Southern University in 1977. After completing four terms in the House he was elected in 1979 to Houston City Council, representing District I, and served for sixteen years, leaving because of term limitations. He became well known for tearing down abandoned houses, which had become havens for illegal activities. His efforts in this area were sometimes controversial. His 1992 run for Congress fell short by 180 votes out of 30,000.

Hispanic groups are represented in the Ben T. Reyes collection by such organizations as LULAC, the United Farm Workers, the Mexican American Urban League, and Union y Progreso. These organizations were concerned with the welfare of Hispanic people at the labor, political and social levels.

As a Houston City Council member, he dealt with local organizations, such as Metro, Public Works, the Houston Independent School District, and the Houston Police and Fire Departments. He was also a cofounder of the Houston International University.


27 Linear Feet (26 record storage boxes, 2 document boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection is divided into three series: Series 1, consisting of materials from Reyes’ time in the state legislature; Series 2, consisting of material from Reyes’ time on the city council; and Series 3, consisting of photographs. It is suggested that the researcher review the Container List thoroughly before proceeding.

Missing Title

  1. Legislative materials
  2. City Council materials
  3. Photographs

Acquisition Information

Acquisition of the collection was made over a period of time. Ben Reyes donated portions of the collection on September 7 and September 14, 1978, and on January 15, 1980. Mary Ann Corrion made another donation on April 28, 1988.

Processing Information

Processed by: Ron Drees, January, 2007.

Ben T. Reyes Papers
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center Repository


The African American Library at the Gregory School
1300 Victor Street
Houston, Texas 77019
Houston Metropolitan Research Center
Houston Public Library
550 McKinney St.
Houston, Texas 77002