William Walcott "Buck" Watson (1857-1932) was a Republican Party supporter, newspaper editor, insurance salesman, and one-term mayor of Barry, Pike County, Ill. From 1880 to 1898 he was the publisher and editor of the Barry Adage, a Republican weekly. At the turn of the twentieth century he was chairman of the Pike County Republican Central Committee (Pike County typically voted Democratic), as well as county manager of Richard Yates's gubernatorial campaigns of 1900 and 1904.
Though he did not actively seek political office at the state level (and in fact refused several gubernatorial appointments), Watson was active in the Republican Party in Illinois. Governors John R. Tanner, Richard Yates, Charles S. Deneen, Frank O. Lowden, and Louis L. Emmerson often consulted him during their candidacies and administrations, both to gauge the political climate in west central Illinois and to ask his opinion of suggested political appointments.
During his career Watson served as a delegate to many local, state, and national Republican conventions. He was also a member of Barry's Board of Education, an officer of the Pike County Masonic Lodge, an active member of the Liberty Loan Organization, and a founder and officer of the Home Forum insurance society. From 1901 to 1913 he was a trustee of the Illinois School for the Deaf in Jacksonville, and in 1920 he was a presidential elector, voting for Warren G. Harding.
This collection consists of Watson's political correspondence from 1875 to 1930. Correspondents include Ray N. Anderson, Joseph N. Carter, Schuyler Colfax, Shelby M. Cullom, Charles S. Deneen, L. L. Emmerson, Charles P. Gillett, H. D. L. Grigsby, Frank O. Lowden, Medill McCormick, Col. Robert R. McCormick, Ruth Hanna McCormick, William E. Mason, A. C. Matthews, John G. Oglesby, Henry T. Rainey, Andrew Russel, Guy L. Shaw, Lawrence Y. Sherman, Frank L. Smith, William H. Stead, Fred E. Sterling, John R. Tanner, William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson, Homer J. Tice, William R. Willcox, and Richard Yates. The correspondence is arranged chronologically. Watson's outgoing letters are interfiled with his incoming mail.
The Library acquired the collection in 2008 from Watson's great-granddaughter, Margaret Rutledge, of Costa Mesa, Calif.