Special Collections Spotlight

Nancy Sims Papers

In honor of Women’s History Month (March 1 – 31), University of Houston Libraries featured a recorded conversation with Nancy Sims. A native Texan, Sims is a well-known public relations professional and pundit who grew her career in Texas business and politics. She is the owner of Nancy Sims LLC, a PR agency that specializes in government relations, media relations, crisis communications, and community relations. Prior to starting her own firm, Sims spent sixteen years with Pierpont Communications as senior vice president of public affairs. Sims also serves as a lecturer in political science at UH.

In 2019, Sims donated her papers to UH Special Collections, which include photographs, scrapbooks, correspondence, personal journals, news clippings, political surveys and reports, files on political strategy and communications for clients, reference books on politics and strategy, awards and certificates, campaign posters and signs, and political ephemera. The interview, conducted by Polina Kharmats, a political science PhD candidate and lecturer, features notable items from Sims’ collection and covers her enduring career in politics and business, memorable campaigns, teaching, and the inspiration to gift her papers to UH Special Collections.

photos of Nancy Sims badge and ID from U.H. Police Department
photo of Nancy Sims displaying artifacts to Polina Kharmats on Reading Room table in U.H. Special Collections
photo of a tax receipt from Nancy Sims Papers Collection

The following are excerpts from the interview which can be viewed in full at UH Libraries YouTube.

Kharmats: You began your career as a political consultant in a time when women were not traditionally involved or even welcome in this line of work. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?

Sims: I began my life as a staffer. I worked for elected officials, the steelworkers’ union, I worked on the staff for a state rep, and on the staff for Kathy Whitmire, one of the top women mayors at the time. I had a good experience as a staffer, but I worked on campaigns in between the legislative sessions. One day, I was bemoaning the state of the political consulting industry in Houston. There were two gentlemen who were very prominent and who everybody hired on the Democratic side. My friend said to me, ‘you’re smarter than those guys; why don’t you just go do it?’ So with a two-week paycheck and gumption, I quit the mayor’s office. Even Kathy laughed at me and said ‘if it doesn’t work out you can come back to City Hall.’

Kharmats: What inspired you to donate? What stories come out of your collection?

Sims: My whole career has been about telling stories of others. I hope people get from the collection what the life of a woman who started her career in the eighties, in a male-dominated field was like, and how she made it through.

Kharmats: What message do you have for women today, particularly those who are interested in getting into politics, political consulting, and public relations?

Sims: Just go for it. Pursue your dream. I had a sticker that I picked up at the International Women’s Convention in 1977 and it sat on my desk for decades. It said ‘only she who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible.’

The collection is currently being processed. For questions about materials in this collection or to request access, contact curator Vince Lee.

photo of a young Nancy Sims as a political staffer standing with a group of colleagues