The William A. Bernrieder Collection has a great deal of information about the history of the USS Houston (CA-30) as well as the USS Texas and Franklin Roosevelt's visit to Houston in 1936. Bernrieder corresponded with many of the leading businessmen and politicians in Houston during his lifetime, as well as officers in the Navy. The collection dates from 1917- 1988, with the bulk of the material dating from 1929-1936 and from 1970-1986.
Bernrieder kept a considerable amount of material from his early work regarding having a ship named for the city of Houston and added additional materials to his files throughout his life. There are also a number of items from A. D. Simpson, who was heavily involved in the Cruiser Houston Committee as well.
For the most part, arrangement has followed Bernrieder's subject files with some modification. File folders that could be subdivided chronologically or by sub-topic have been refiled. Also, folders with materials covering the same topic which had originally been filed separately have been brought together. Because Bernrieder followed a subject arrangement for his files, correspondence is scattered throughout the collection.
There are a number of series within the collection, based on subject with the exception of the Correspondence series. The series are: Correspondence, Democratic Party, Franklin Roosevelt's Visit, USS Houston Campaign, USS Houston, USS Texas, Publications, and Miscellaneous. Within each series are additional topics, arranged alphabetically by subject heading. The largest series is the USS Houston series, which chronicles the history of the USS Houston.
Later additions to the collection have been incorporated into the subject files arrangement where possible. However, large amounts of correspondence which were donated after the initial gift of materials in 1979 have been given a simple chronological arrangement. Most of the correspondence in those files discusses the USS Houston and related matters, although there is one letter, dated August 23, 1977, which includes Bernrieder's recollections of the Camp Logan riots in Houston in 1917.
Open for research.
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8.60 Linear Feet
William Anton Bernrieder was born on June 22, 1900. He attended St. Joseph School in 1906, then Annunciation Church School. He then attended St. Thomas College (now St. Thomas High School) after a period at St. Mary's Seminary. William Bernrieder completed three years of law school at Houston Law School.
In 1923, William Bernrieder began six years of service to Oscar Holcombe, the mayor of Houston. During this time he began his work toward having a ship in the U.S. Navy named after Houston. In 1927 he was appointed to the Cruiser Houston Committee, which coordinated the drive towards obtaining a cruiser named "Houston." Thousands of letters and telegrams were sent to Washington as part of the crusade, which was successful. A heavy cruiser named for the city of Houston was launched on September 7, 1927. Once Bernrieder and the other members of the committee had succeeded in having a ship named for the city, the committee worked toward supporting the ship and its crew through gifts and other means.
From 1930 to 1933 Bernrieder served as the assistant to Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd. As part of his duties, he accompanied Byrd on a nationwide speaking tour. During this period, however, Bernrieder paid careful attention to the Cruiser Houston and continued to be involved in supporting the vessel.
Bernrieder was also involved in politics, serving as Executive Secretary for local arrangements for the National Democratic Convention, held in Houston in 1928. He was also involved in arrangements for President Franklin Roosevelt's trip to Houston in 1936.
Receiving his commission in 1926, Bernrieder served for 22 years in the Naval Reserve. He spent five years on active duty with the Navy during World War II, serving on the staffs of five admirals.
Following World War II Bernrieder was involved in the real estate business in Houston, although he continued his interest in the history of the USS Houston (CA-30), which had been lost in the Battle of Sunda Strait on February 28-March 1, 1942. Bernrieder collected information related to the history of the ship as well as efforts to retrieve items from the sunken vessel.
Bernrieder died on October 18, 1993.
The collection was given to the library by William A. Bernrieder, Executive Secretary of the Cruiser Houston Committee, in 1979. Additional items were given by Mr. Bernrieder throughout the 1980s.
Andrea Bean Hough, 1995
Part of the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections Repository