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J. Elbert Reese Papers

Identifier: A-0119

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs, and other materials relating to J. Elbert Reese's extensive civic and community activities.


  • Creation: 1896-1985


Language of Materials

This collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Biographical or Historical Information

J. Elbert Reese was born on a farm near Chireno, Texas, November 4, 1895. One of eleven children, he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. George S. Reese. After his parents moved to Redfield, Reese went to school at North Church where he graduated as Valedictorian of the 7th grade. Determined to get a high school education, he drove a mule-drawn wagon, the first "school bus" from Redfield to Nacogdoches, on a round trip of about 12 miles. The wagon carried eight passengers.

In 1917, Reese finished high school and enlisted in the Seventh Company of the Texas National Guard. During World War I, he served overseas for eleven months as a member of the 34th Brigade of the 64th Coast Artillery. After World War I, he was transferred to Washington, D.C. as the Chief of Coast Artillery. A year later, in the summer of 1919, he was discharged as a sergeant major and returned home to Nacogdoches. On October 12, 1923 he married Edna Earl Dent. Originally from Lufkin, Texas, Edna had lived in Nacogdoches since the Third Grade.

Reese's first job was that of cashier and assistant bookkeeper for Mayer and Schmidt's, at that time one of the largest firms in East Texas. Later he worked for Ben T. Wilson, a Ford dealer, as general sales manager. After Mr. Wilson sold his business in 1926, J. Elbert Reese, in partnership with his brother, Steve Reese, went into the automobile business as the Reese Brothers Company, the local Buick dealers. Over the years, beginning in 1926, the brothers sold and serviced Buick and Pontiac cars until 1969 when they sold their agency.

An active civic leader, Reese was the first president of the Nacogdoches Boosters Club, organized in 1921 with the primary aims of cleaning up and beautifying Nacogdoches, boosting Stephen F. Austin College, improving the streets, and providing other services to the people. He was secretary of the Rotary Club from 1927 to 1932 and served as president in 1946. He served on the City Commission from 1929 to 1941, first as street commissioner, four years as mayor, and then as city secretary and finance commissioner. He was a leader of the local Boy Scout Club, and led several fund raising drives in the Nacogdoches Community.

Reese was president of the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce in 1935. He also served as director on several different committees of the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce working on various projects for the Nacogdoches Community. As chairman of the Airport Committee, Reese promoted the development of the Del Rentzel Airport in 1944. As chairman of the Water Board in 1953, he promoted the development of Lake Ponta. As General Sales chairman in 1952, Reese promoted the sale of stock to earn the funds needed to finance Hotel Fredonia of Nacogdoches.

Reese played a vital role in many other community developments. He was chairman of the board for the Nacogdoches Savings and Loan Association and the Fredonia State Bank and was one of the founders of both institutions. He served as president of the board of directors of the City Memorial Hospital, of the Deep East Texas Development Association, and of the Quarterback Club. He was an agent for the Continental Oil Company and a director of The Herald Publishing Company.

Reese was a member of the First Baptist Church from 1915 until his death, and was ordained a deacon in 1927. He served as president and superintendent of the Sunday School, served as chairman of the board of deacons, and headed the finance committee during expansion programs of the church. Outside of the church, Reese was also dedicated to unselfish service and leadership. J. Elbert Reese died May 28, 1971 and was buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery

("J. Elbert Reese Dies; Rites Sunday At 3:30." Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel 29 May 1971: p. A1).


1.30 Cubic Feet


This collection is described in 55 folders and was originally housed in four clamshell boxes. These boxes have been consolidated into a single banker's box. The original folder numbering remains in place however. The collection is organized at the folder level.

Guide to the J. Elbert Reese Papers
Jean White
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the East Texas Research Center Repository