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Lee Govatos Family Papers

Identifier: Coll-278

Lee John Govatos was the son of John and Marisk Govatos who opened three successful restaurants in Corpus Christi during the first half of the 20th century. The papers are comprised of four boxes of photographs, correspondence from Lady Bird and President Johnson, and newspaper articles pertaining to the Govatos Family history and John Govatos' Pier Cafe on the pier in Corpus Christi.


  • 1910-2009


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These papers are open for research

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This material is made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user assumes full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to taking precautions against infringement of copyright and respecting the publication rights of reproduced materials. All rights are reserved and retained regardless of current or future development or laws that may apply to fair use standards. Any materials used should be fully credited with their source according to the example given in the Preferred Citation note. Requests for assistance with citations and images of publication quality should be directed to


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The Lee Govatos Family Papers focus on the life and work of his father, John Govatos and the family restaurant business from 1925 though 1960 in Corpus Christi. The business fostered friendships between the Govatos and many local and state politicans and prominent people. The papers reflect those friendships and the growth of Corpus Christi.

Biographical / Historical

A native of Greece, John George Govatos arrived in Boston in 1907, traveled to Birmingham, Alabama to work with relatives in their restaurant business. In October of 1912 Govatos traveled back to Greece to fight against the Turkish army in the First Blakan War. He returned to the states in 1914. In 1925 he came to Corpus Christi with his brother Clem. He purchased and renovated a fisherman's shack and operated the Old Pier Cafe on Pleasure Pier until a new Pier Cafe was built at the foot of the Municipal Pier with a deck extending out over the water in 1933. He also owned and operated the uptown Nixon Cafe with Clem, and a cousin, John Nichols, until 1964, and later, the Wilson Building Sandwich Shop.

While at the Pier Cafe, John Govatos made friends with many prominent local and area personalities including Dick Kleberg, Johnny Kenedy, General Miller Ainsworth from Luling, and Lyndon Johnson. Johnson and Govatos became good friends and shared political views. The Nixon Cafe was the meeting place for businessmen, oilmen, and was the location where members of the Round Robin met. The Round Robin was established by Robert Dougherty Bluntzer and was a letter writing group to inform servicemen of local news stationed at the "front" in World War II.

John Govatos returned to Greece in 1936 and met Marika Manolkakis, a year later they married on January 9, 1938. They had two children, a girl Patricia and a son, Lee. Patricia married Thomas Whitehurst and had two sons, Thomas, and Robert. Lee never married. Marika Govatos was known for her kindness, gracious manners, and beautiful gardens. She was a world traveler and collector of antiques. She and her husband were among the founders of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Corpus Christi.

In 1964 Govatos and his wife, Marika, visited President Johnson at the White House and attended a luncheon there for Queen Fredericka of Greece and her daughter Irene.

John Govatos was active in starting and contributing to the growth of St. Nicholas Church in Corpus Christi. Hhe was a 32nd Degree Mason and an early member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce. He was a member of the Elks Lodge and the Texas Restaurant Association.

His son Lee John Govatos grew up in Corpus Christi and spent summers at Camp Stewart in Kerrville, Texas. He attended and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture. His passion was history and love of architecture, especially of historic buildings. He was a member of the Landmark Commission and the Nueces County Historical Commission and Society. Lee Govatos made friends easily and supported many historical and political projects throughout the state of Texas.


The papers are organized into seven series:

Lee Govatos Family Papers

Series I: Biographical Information Series II: Correspondence Series III: Nueces County Historical Commission Papers Series IV: Landmark Commission Papers Series V: Photographs Series VI: Artifacts Series VII: Newspaper Clippings Series VII: Drawings by Lee Govatos

Related Materials

Gigi Starnes Historical Corpus Christi Research Papers

Processing Information

Papers were organized and processed by Lori Atkins and Eric Christensen, Finding Guide created by Lori Atkins, all items digitized and uploaded by Deepika Rani Balam and Sylvia Sanchez in 2021.

Guide to Lee Govatos Family Papers
Lori Atkins
July 2021
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Repository

6300 Ocean Dr.
Unit 5702
Corpus Christi TX 78412 United States
361-825-5973 (Fax)