A year and a half after introducing the Eighteenth Amendment, Sen. Morris Sheppard was reelected on November 5, 1918 with 87 percent of the vote.
Although the East Texas native had many other legislative achievements during his 28 years in the U.S. Senate, the ardent prohibitionist would always be remembered as the man who squeezed America dry. Sheppard died in office of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 9, 1941.
Jesse H. Jones, the Houston mover and shaker, turned against Harry Truman on September 16, 1948 and endorsed Republican Thomas E. Dewey for president.
The most influential Texas businessman of his generation, the newspaper publisher had his finger in every pie in the Bayou City. A lifelong Democrat, who served as secretary of commerce under FDR, Jones’ dramatic defection to the GOP during the presidential campaign of 1948 signaled a seismic shift in Lone Star politics.
His own presidential ambitions thwarted by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s unexpected decision to seek a third term, Texas congressman Sam Rayburn appealed to the Democratic National Convention on July 17, 1940 to make FDR’s nomination unanimous.
Two months later, Rayburn suddenly found himself Speaker of the House following the fatal heart attack of William Bankhead. Except for two short periods of Republican control (1947-1949 and 1953-1955) he held the powerful post until his death in 1961.
That’s what called an understatement. It’s also the title of the Wednesday, June 18 through Tuesday, June 24 “This Week in Texas History” column.
Houstonians were as pleased as Punch to host the 1928 Democratic National Convention, the first by either major party held in the South since the Civil War. But on the eve of the grand affair a group of teenagers kidnapped a suspected cop killer and left him hanging from a downtown bridge for all the out-of-town visitors to see.
New state senator Henry B. Gonzalez and colleague Chick Kazen of Laredo joined forces on May 2, 1959 to filibuster a pro-segregation bill. Kazen spoke for 15 hours and the freshman talked for 21 hours and two minutes.
Four years later, Gonzalez won a special election for a vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was reelected to 19 full terms becoming a high-profile and often controversial fixture in Congress. Gonzalez left office due to ill health in 1999 and died the next year at age 84.
Thirty-six year old Wright Patman of Hughes Springs was sworn in as the U.S. Representative from northeast Texas on April 15, 1929.
Early in his long stay in Congress, Patman introduced his most remembered piece of legislation, a bill to make good on the government’s promise to pay a “bonus” to veterans of the First World War. A Texan with remarkable staying power, he died in office in 1976 during his 24th two-year term.
On April 8, 1938, 21 year old John Connally bested the fraternity candidate in a runoff to win the presidency of the University of Texas student body.
Two days earlier, the Floresville native had finished 18 votes behind the front-runner but rebounded to win by 1,100 ballots. Twenty-four years later, Connally would be elected governor of the Lone Star State.
Republican John Tower, a pint-size college professor from Wichita Falls, did the impossible on April 4, 1961 by leading four Democrats in a special election to fill Vice-President Lyndon Johnson’s vacant seat in the U.S. Senate.
Practically everyone, including most Republicans, dismissed Tower’s surprisingly strong showing as a fluke and gave him no chance to defeat William Blakely in the runoff on May 27. Tower not only whipped his overconfident foe but went on to win three six-year terms in 1966, 1972 and 1978 before retiring from the Senate.
On March 10, 1859, Sam Houston left the U.S. Senate after 13 years and came home to run for governor — again.
The hero of San Jacinto had cooked his own political goose four years earlier with his controversial vote on the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. His plan was to resign from the Senate after winning the 1857 gubernatorial election, but he was rejected by the voters for the first time in his life. Houston bounced back to win in 1859 but could not keep Texas in the Union.
Joseph Weldon Bailey, Texas’ silver-tongued Senator, declared his opposition to the presidential candidacy of Woodrow Wilson in a statement on January 18, 1911: “I don’t think he would do at all. His revolutionary policy would make a Greek democracy of the country.”
The “golden boy” of the U.S. House, Bailey was chosen minority leader at the tender age of 34. Promoted to the Senate in 1902, he resigned under a cloud of corruption rather than face certain defeat in a 1912 bid for reelection. In his last political race, Bailey lost the Democratic primary for governor in 1920.