Montgomery County Republican Party
Walter D. (Wally) Wilkerson, Jr., MD
In early 1965, a group of a half dozen Montgomery County Republicans met to review the 1964 election returns and chart the course for the Party moving forward. The group was proud to learn the 38% of the Montgomery County presidential vote won by Barry Goldwater was 2% higher than the statewide total. A conclusion was reached that a full time Party Headquarters was needed to establish the Republican Party’s credibility and permanent presence in the county. Norman Imler, a professional photographer, Precinct #10 Chairman and owner of the State Hotel (circa 1931) at 306 Collins Street (now Metcalf) in Conroe, offered to allow the Party to use a room adjacent to the lobby to house the Headquarters. The room had an outside entrance perfect for identity signage. The Hotel was constructed to house oil field workers by Dr. Paul Hicks, Sr. who filled the lobby at night with cots to meet the needs of workers. The lobby area was constructed on a concrete slab foundation while the remainder of the building was built on a pier and beam.
A surprise was in store for the Party faithful when they could not locate a sign painter willing to paint the “Republican” sign. Finally, a painter agreed to paint the sign but only if someone picked up the sign. He was quoted as saying: “I cannot be caught with a “Republican” sign in my truck”. Today that sign proudly hangs from the ceiling above the entrance of the Headquarters as a reminder of the tenacity and dedication of all those brave enough to be called a Republican. Initially, the Headquarters had only one volunteer but now the Party had a location with signage, a telephone number for the phone book and a Post Office box, a sign of presence in those days. At first a meeting of Precinct Chairs met in the cramped space. There was no copy machine. Communications and flyers were reproduced on a Mimeograph machine. The first computer was purchased in 1982.
Phone banks could not be held in the Headquarters due to its size but with the successful campaigns of 1988, 1990 and 1992, adequate funds were made available to permit the Party to locate in the former lobby of the Hotel in 1994 when it ceased to be an active hotel. The initial room was retained to house computers, copy machine and other equipment and the lobby was utilized for meetings, phone banks and other activities. “Miss Ellie”, the seven-foot tall paper mache elephant, constructed by Republican women, occupies a corner of the room along with the large paper cut-out of the President. Both make good background for photos. A small room adjacent to the lobby has been used as a storeroom and space to house the archival collection dating back to 1950s. The Party has accumulated thousands of political items, many which have been catalogued by volunteer librarians. The archival collection is registered with the County Library as a political memorabilia collection. The wall of memories is covered with historical photos and other items. Now, over fifty volunteers man the Headquarters 9 am to 5 pm, Monday thru Friday except for holidays and an annual month of July vacation closure for the volunteers. The Headquarters has become the window through which the public views our Party, and a welcome site to visit and become acquainted with the Republican Party. Those pioneer Republicans would be proud of what they set in motion in 1965!