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Nadine Eckhardt

A Guide to the Nadine Eckhardt Papers

Circa 1920s-2009, Bulk: 1944-2009
Collection 105


Descriptive Summary

Creator:                     Eckhardt, Nadine

Title:                          Nadine Eckhardt Papers

Dates:                         Circa 1920s-2009, Bulk: 1944-2009

Abstract:                    Correspondence, photographs, personal papers, and other research materials represent the life of Nadine Eckhardt, author of Duchess of Palms.  The materials were collected over the life span of Eckhardt, born in 1931, and were used in research for her memoir.  The materials are arranged into five series: Personal Papers, Correspondence, Photographs, Printed Materials, and Duchess of Palms.                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Identification:           Collection 105

Extent:                       14 boxes (6 linear feet)

Language:                  English

Repository:                Southwestern Writers Collection, The Wittliff Collections, Texas State University-San Marcos


Administrative Information

Access Restrictions: Open for Research.

Preferred Citation: Nadine Eckhardt Papers, Southwestern Writers Collection, Texas State University-San Marcos

Acquisition Information: Donated by Nadine Eckhardt in 2010.

Processing Information: Processed by Buck Cole, Megan Galindo, Sarah Marshall, and Stacey Wilson, 2011

Notes to Researchers: For additional Nadine Eckhardt or Billy Lee Brammer material, see the Billy Lee Brammer Papers located in the Southwestern Writers Collection.

Additional Bob Eckhardt papers can be found at the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.

Biographical Sketch


Nadine Ellen Cannon was born in McAllen, Texas on January 20, 1931. After graduating from high school in 1948, Eckhardt enrolled in North Texas State College in Denton, Texas to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. While there she met her first husband, writer Billy Lee Brammer, whom she married in 1950 when she was nineteen years old.  In 1951, she and Brammer moved to Austin where she worked for the University of Texas and briefly at the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. Two daughters, Sidney and Shelby were born during this time. After several years in Austin, she and Brammer moved to Washington D.C. in 1955 to work on the staff of Texas Senator Lyndon B. Johnson.  The marriage to Brammer began to deteriorate, and she moved back to Austin pregnant with their third child, William. The couple eventually divorced in 1961. During this time, Brammer released his critically acclaimed, but controversial book, The Gay Place, a fictional account of Texas politics.

Now single and working at the State Capitol, Nadine met Robert “Bob” Eckhardt, a Texas state representative from Houston, whom she married in 1962.  The couple moved to Houston, Eckhardt’s hometown, and the birthplace of their only child, daughter Sarah. In 1966, Bob Eckhardt ran for Congress. Eckhardt won, and Nadine moved to Washington, D.C.  There she performed the duties of a congressman’s wife as well as helping to manage Eckhardt’s congressional staff.  She became involved in women’s rights issues and the Civil Rights movement of Dr. Martin Luther King. The Eckhardts separated in 1976 and divorced in 1977. Nadine moved back to Austin, Texas.

After her divorce from Bob Eckhardt, Nadine eventually opened a restaurant in east Austin – Nadine’s, and she ran it for a year and a half. She moved to New York City and worked for another restaurant, also named Nadine’s, owned by her daughter Sarah’s boyfriend. In 1991, Nadine moved back to Austin permanently.

While living in Austin, Eckhardt worked as an assistant to writer Molly Ivins, in real estate, and worked on Ann Richards’ gubernatorial campaign in 1992. In 2009, Eckhardt released, Duchess of Palms, a memoir of her life and work in Washington D.C. and Austin, Texas.  The title was inspired by a beauty pageant she had won as a teenager. 


Scope and Content Note

The Nadine Eckhardt Collection spans from the 1920s-2008. The collection is comprised of photographs, correspondence, business materials, newspapers clippings and early and final versions of Duchess of Palms. The original order of the Nadine Eckhardt Collection was maintained with minimal changes. The collection was originally arranged chronologically by Duchess of Palms materials, correspondence between Nadine and Billy Lee Brammer 1956-1968, correspondence between Bob, Nadine, and her family 1970s-1983, and Nadine’s personal correspondence, 1944 through 1999. The chronological order was maintained, but the materials were organized into five series, which also contain subseries: Personal papers-restaurant and scrapbook materials, family papers-Billy Lee Brammer, Bob Eckhardt, family, and personal, Photographs-organized chronologically at item level, Print Materials-newspapers and Duchess of Palms Materials-drafts, timelines and notes.

Original folder tiles are in quotation marks. In this collection you will find materials related to Billy Lee Brammer, Bob Eckhardt, and Duchess of Palms.


Series Descriptions


Series I: Personal Papers, 1950-2008

Box 1

The first series includes papers related to the life of Nadine Eckhardt.  There are invitations for Bob and Nadine Eckhardt, drawings by unidentified sources, and documents relating to the restaurant Nadine’s. 

Series II: Correspondence, 1944-2008

Boxes 1-7

The second series is divided into four subseries: Billy Lee Brammer, Bob Eckhardt, Family, and Other/Unidentified.  All correspondence is arranged chronologically within the subseries.  Included are many letters that Nadine Eckhardt wrote to someone else and photocopied for her own records.  The largest of the subseries is Other/Unidentified, and within this contains correspondence with acclaimed journalist, Bob Sherrill and several of Eckhardt’s high school boyfriends.

Series III: Photographs, Circa 1920s-2000s

Box 8

The photographs are arranged in chronological order by decade.  Many of the earlier photographs include her mother and stepfather.  There are some photographs of Nadine Eckhardt during the time she modeled.  There are also numerous photographs of Nadine Eckhardt’s children, Shelby, Sidney and Sarah, and many of Bob Eckhardt.

Series IV: Printed Material, 1955-2008

Box 9

The fourth series mainly consists of news clippings and magazine articles.  These are arranged into subseries: Billy Lee Brammer, Bob Eckhardt, Nadine Eckhardt, Family, and related resources.  There are documents, event programs, and articles related to travel included.


Series V: Duchess of Palms, 1970-2009

Boxes 10-14

The fifth series is related to Eckhardt’s research, writing, and publishing of her memoir Duchess of Palms.  It includes timelines of Eckhardt’s life and several working copies of the manuscript.

Click here for a PDF of the complete inventory including the box/folder listing