For those of you who can’t get enough Jim Hightower (he’ll be on Ring of Fire this weekend), and happen to be in the area, we encourage you to attend:

Exhibit reception, lively panel discussions, great Texas music, local food, and other populist-related festivities—plus Jim Hightower speaks—on May 1, 2010. (Exhibition on view in San Marcos, TX at Texas State University’s Wittliff Collections now through the end of July 2010).

Jim Hightower will be the featured speaker for a day of festivities celebrating his archive. Former American-Statesman cartoonist Ben Sargent will sit on a panel with Fred Harris, Linda Chavez-Thompson, and Alan Pogue discussing Texas’s progressive past and future.

Look for the all-important live music, food. The event is free, but space is limited. To secure admission, RSVP to (512) 245-2313

Jim Hightower is considered America’s #1 populist, a man admired as a radio commentator, syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and sought-after public speaker. Hightower believes the true political spectrum is not right-to-left, but top-to-bottom. He is dedicated to battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the “Powers That Ought To Be”: working families, farmers, consumers, environmentalists, small business owners, and “just plain folks.”

In December 2008, Hightower named the Wittliff Collections as the official repository for his archival legacy, and now his papers are the focus of the next exhibition from the Southwestern Writers Collection at the Alkek Library on the campus of Texas State University in San Marcos. On May 1, Hightower will be the featured speaker for a full day of festivities celebrating the gift of his archive and the exhibition. Participants discussing our populist past and future include such grassroots champions as Fred Harris, Ben Sargent, Linda Chavez-Thompson, Carolyn Mugar, and Alan Pogue. In addition, the event will feature live music, food, and more—all open to the public.

The exhibition traces the life and work of Hightower, from the beginning with his experience in the 1960s as an aide to the U.S. Senator, Ralph Yarborough (D-TX) to his first organizing efforts on behalf of family farmers and farm workers in the early 1970s to his statewide campaigns for office in the 1980s, to his successful post-government work as a syndicated daily radio commentator, speech-maker, prolific best-selling author, and all-around populist agitator. The collection will continue to grow as Hightower’s career moves forward.

One of the earliest pieces among the papers is a small document from 1964: a Certificate of Exemption From Poll Tax issued to a 21-year-old Hightower, then a junior at the University of North Texas, because he was a first-time voter. Finally abolished in Texas in 1966 as unconstitutional, the poll tax was designed to deter poor people, especially blacks and Latino Americans, from voting, an issue in the Civil Rights Movement that inspired the young Hightower to set out on a populist political path.

The archive also includes:

· A wealth of paper documentation (draft copies of his radio commentaries, speeches, and The Hightower Lowdown – his monthly political newsletter)

· 1,964 photographs and 4,613 audio/visual materials.

· Various awards, including his 2009 Puffin/Nation prize.

· Papers from his work as the national campaign coordinator for U.S. Senator Fred Harris’ crusade for president in 1976.

· Numerous campaign photos and memorabilia from Hightower’s own runs for office, including his eight years as Texas Commissioner of Agriculture where he implemented many of his populist ideas including consumer protection, worker safety, organic production and direct marketing by small farmers.

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Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com. He also hosts the weekly DeSmogCAST and serves as co-host for Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced