Settlement reached in lawsuit over Alamo library items

HOUSTON (AP) — A group that served as guardian of the Alamo for more than a century and the Texas General Land Office reached a settlement Friday in a dispute over ownership of about 38,000 books and artifacts that had been kept at the Texas shrine.

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas filed suit in March 2015 after the agency headed by George P. Bush declared the state owned the organization's private library collection. Bush also had announced he was ending the group's management of the downtown San Antonio landmark. The Daughters began caring for the Alamo in 1905, raised money in 1945 to build the library and then donated it to the state.

Under terms of the agreement, the state agency drops any ownership claims to the library collection and pays $200,000 to cover legal fees of the Daughters.

"The Daughters held fast and our prayers were answered," said Betty Edwards, president general of the organization. "With this behind us, we can refocus on our mission to ensure the next generation of Texans understand and appreciate our unique history as a sovereign republic."

The collection of books, maps, flags and other artifacts used by researchers is being moved from the Alamo grounds to the Texas A&M-San Antonio campus. It had been at the Alamo more than 70 years.

"We are all pleased to resolve this issue in a manner that allows the DRT to continue to manage this important collection," said Mark Havens, general counsel for the General Land Office.

The Land Office would be working on its "primary goal of conserving this treasured historic site and enhancing the visitor experience at the Alamo, the cradle of Texas Liberty," Havens said.

The suit argued the items were donated to the Daughters and that the donors wanted the items maintained under the group's stewardship, not the state's.

The case had been set for trial earlier this month in San Antonio but had been postponed amid settlement talks.

The Land Office became involved with the Alamo in 2011 at the behest of the Texas Legislature. Lawmakers had grown concerned about the care of the landmark amid accusations of mismanagement and financial incompetence by the Daughters, who had continued day-to-day management even after the Land Office took control.

In 1836, some 180 defenders participating in the Texas Revolution were killed during a siege at the mission-turned-fortress by Mexican forces. Weeks later, those deaths provided Texas soldiers with their rallying cry — "Remember the Alamo!" — they carried to victory at the Battle of San Jacinto, which secured Texas' independence from Mexico.