The House Liberals: Sketches of Eight AUSTIN Politicsthat garbled tangle of power, ego, the general welfare, and the general ignoranceis all the more enigmatic because of the nature of its principal ingredient, politicians. The human filter through which all political theory is strained, they are as a breed rarely able to rise above the level’ of the public environment which gives them their succor and their opportunity. Their role in history is almost always exaggerated because of the penchant of historians to write of personalities, reigns, and tenures of office rather than of the more complicated and less measurable aspects of human society. Once in office, they are likely to be an indecisive lot, their actions circumscribed by their fears a tendency balanced somewhat by their ambition, the politician’s ultimate resource against inaction ; they are abused by their enemies and their enemies’ press agentry, hurt by the apathy of their friends, and done ill by the unpredictability of events. They are motivated by uncomplicated hungers such assometimesthe search for justice andalwaysthe satisfaction of the ego; theirs is generally an unappreciated calling,, lonely and underpaid, no place at all for men acutely sensitive to criticismwhich they usually are. For all this, their roles often transcend the personal, for, to the extent they symbolize a given set of political ideals, they are the fleshly manifestations of mankind’s divergent hopes and prejudices. They give color and animation to lifeless theory and their struggle is the arena in which we may test our beliefs. THE STRUGGLING young liberalism of 1959 Texas this week finished its first full scale swim in the mainstream of our provincial society. For seven months, liberal ideals bounced of f the sounding board of the 56th legislatureabolition of capital punishment, a 50-cent mini Exclusive! by the clauses here and there that salaries shall “not exceed the prevailing wage”not that they shall be at least the prevailing wage, but that they shall not be any more than the prevailing wage. If some sucker will sell his labor cheap, take it, man, we’re in business, aren’t we? The bill says the state can’t hire aliens unless they undertake naturalization. Say the British sent over their top expert on the control of brucellosis. He couldn’t work for us unless he became a Texan. Then there’s the education gimmick, that none of the school money can be spent for higher teachers’ pay or “enriched benefits, or additional programs” without the Comptroller’s permission. And the gimmick that will prevent Texas Tech from building an educational TV station. And the gimmicks that require Texas A&M to investigate the salinity of water on the High Plains, and why cattle are poisoned “by shinnery oak in the Panhandle and Plains area.” And the gimmicks that tie down the college money so it can’t be used for this, or this, or thatexcept that the Athletics Program is exempted from these gimmicks, because obviously the Athletic Department is more important than the english or the physics departments. For the migrant labor council, serving hundreds of thousands of Mexican migrant workers : $10,000. For the Texas Animal Health Commission: $641,935. IF the legislature only had a writer, the appropriations bill could be as good as Les Miserables; or Charles Dickens; or Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or Tobacco Road. But they don’ttheir masterpiece doesn’t even have a good ending: if … and said Rule is hereby suspended, and this Act shall take effect and be in force from after September 1, 1959.” R.D. mum wage, a public utilities commission, preservation of public beaches, a juvenile parole system, greater investment in higher education, an industrial safety law, protective legislation for REA, and, in the area of taxation, corporate net income taxes and graduated levies on the major oil and gas companies. Facing the dogmatism of 19th Century laissez-faire that still prevails as the conservative posture in Texas, almost all these liberal proposals were shunted aside. Kilgarlin got less than 40 votes for the minimum wage and the public utilities commission ; Eckhardt less than 60 for the graduated tax on natural resources; Jamison’s REA bill and Hughes’s industrial safety code were embalmed in committee ;, Kennard’s last gasp effort for a juvenile parole system failed on the final day of the session. Thus Social Darwinism and survival of the fittest continued unrefined as the Texas approach to the 20th Century. But the ideas behind these defeated measureslong since accepted elsewhere in western civilizationwere advanced by the young liberals with an elan and a competence that can be described as heartening. Perhaps long overdue reform has a way, in itself, of raising up its articulate , spokesmen ; perhaps at such times democracy is cleanest and most vigorous. In any event the ideal bearers of Texas liberalism are hardy, intelligent, and growing in stature as politicians. As the efficacy of their ideas spreads in Texas, some among them will fill the offices of Speaker of the House, Lieutenant Governor, and . Governor. So much has been written about Eckhardt in the state press as a result of the beach bill, his promise needs no elaboration. But many of the House liberals=as people and as politiciansneed introduction, the individuals who ploughed the new ground and planted ideas for a more civilized future. Here are some of them: Charles Hughes, 32, Sherman lawyer. He is content with his role as the acknowledged leader of the House liberals ; once he turned down an opportunity to run unopposed for the Senate. His law partner, Judge Bob Slagle, was Yarborough’s statewide campaign manager in the Senate race against Blakley. An eight-year veteran of the House, he has the arduous duty of foiling the parliamentary ploys of a conservative opposition that traditionally owns all the command poststhe Speaker’s chair, the chairmanships of key committees, and the public relations assistance of the lobby. His relaxed leadership contributed greatly to the almost friction-free relationships among House liberals that contrasted sharply with the bitter personal dissension among conservatives. Malcolm McGregor, 30, El . Paso. Son of a well-to-do El Paso rancher, he was originally elected to the House AUSTIN The new appropriations bill makes something of a farce of all the hoopla, flapdoodle, and other kinds of jazz about “advertising Texas.” Appropriating not even enough money to buy an ad in Life Magazine, and prohibiting the payment of any state funds to public relations firms, the bill suggests to the Observer Stanley Walker’s account, in the New York Herald-Tribune, of a conversation he had with some politicians over coffee at the Driskill’ Hotel in Austin. Wrote Walker : “May I ask,’ inquired this scholarly killjoy, “just what it is about Texas that you intend to advertise?’ He went on roughly as follows: ” ‘You might, of course, advertise that we have superb floods and terrifying droughts, and that Sen. Lyndon Johnson himself has hired Dr. Walter Prescott Webbprobably the greatest certified brain in Texasto come to Washington and help him do some in 1955 with strong conservative backing. His voting record has become progressively more liberal, and he has acquired a reputation as a fighter. His capacity for indignation is boundless. In his passionate distaste for the organized lobby, he has almost no rival in Austin. From his front row center desk that provided easy access to the microphone, he became, as the sessions wore on, a thorn deeper and deeper in the side of Waggoner Carr, whose rulings he didn’t hesitate to challeng e. He steered his bill establishing a pre-school English program for Spanish-speaking children through tortuous parliamentary seas to House and Senate passage. An integrationist. He is considering running for Senate against Frank Owen. Don Kennard, 30, Fort Worth. Tact and aggressiveness apply here. Probably one of the two or three most accomplished politicians in the legislature, his long-range prospects are considered excellent. An almost certain candidate forthe Senate seat now held by Doyle Willis. A close friend of TIPRO and oil independents generally, he is almost wholly appropriations oriented and is one of the few acknowledged sales tax advocates among the liberals, though he has voted against the selective and general sales taxes these sessions. A leader in the fight for more appropriations for higher education, mental hospitals, and the juvenile boy’s school at Gatesville, he also stepped out for TIPRO in the successful liberal drive to remove the new tax on Texas oil and gas independents and place it on the major companies. Could have his hat in the Governor’s ring before the 1960’s are done. Alonzo Jamison, 39, Denton. A farmer, Jamison is an articulate spokesman for the cause of’ higher education and REA’,. Co-gponsored with McGregor a modified state income tax that was deeply entombed in the revenue and , tax committee.. Quiet and dignified, he is respected on both sides of the aisle. Has not discouraged speculation that he may run for the Senate against incumbent conservative Floyd Bradshaw of Weatherford. Like most liberal Senate aspirants, his big problem is getting enough money to finance a campaign. Max Carriker, 38, Roby. Resigned as president of the liberal farm organization, Farmers Union, after his election to the House. Carriker was content to play out quietly his role as a freshman legislator. An excellent and forceful speaker, he rarely appeared on the microphone. He would probably be surprised to learn how often he has been mentioned by liberals as a possible future candidate for state-wide office. Has a good grasp of fundamental economic issues. J. C. “Zeke” Zbranek, 29, Liberty. Schooled in past legislatures that were overwhelmingly conservative, Zbranek has Aveloped an incredibly deft touch as a rear-guard fighter against thing about the uncertain Texas water supply. ” ‘You might also allude to the fact that scores of the smaller Texas municipalities are withering away, their population and business being taken over by the larger cities. ” ‘While you are about it, you might say something about the homicide rate, especially in Houston, the relatively low rating of the educational system, the crowded prisons and substandard jails, the inadequate library facilities, the. insurance and land scandals and other matters, the prevalence of loan sharks, the depletion of some of the state’s best agricultural land, the hard fried cow steaks, the awful mortality on the highways, the medical quacks, the fact that more than half the counties are dry and” “Un-Texan !” yelped a wounded legislator. ‘Not at all,’ said the old realist. ‘I love Texas. Nice folks. Good sunsets now and then. More quail this year than I ever saw. The Gulf shrimp is good.’ ” unwanted legislation and can demolish a bill through ingenious amendments and beautifully timed arguments. Together with Hughes and Korioth, he has fought the long, lonely, and so far futile battle to regulate loan sharks. Is set for an allout campaign for the Senate seat of Neveille Colson, Navasota conservative. Bill Kilgarlin, 26, Houston. Pound for pound, the .biggest liberal of them all and by any standard an uncompromising idealist. Sometimes frightens old guard conservatives with his sweeping generalizations in favor of monopoly regulation. A high school debate coach, he is an orator in the 19th Century tradition. One of the most hilarious moments of the session : an after-hours debate between Kilgarlin and Frates Seeligson, the unbending conservative from San Antonio. They both were shocked. Franklin Spears, 27,_ San Antonio, lawyer. The only independent to crack the conservative legislative ticket in San Antonio, Spears is now accounted the ,surest bet for re-election. A moderate who defends Lyndon Johnson to liberals, Spears comes from a family steeped in the liberal tradition. His father served as state senator from San Antonio. With the San Antonio conservative legislative delegation in trouble at home over the sales tax issue, Spears could head an all-liberal delegation to the 1961 Texas House. Articulate and ambitious, he’s always “there” on economic issues, but he also has an authoritarian outlook that favors harsh moralistic legislation. A SKETCH OF EIGHT. There are others in more House who m have been featured ore ‘or less prominently in Observer legislative accountsJohnston, Clements, Daily, Korioth, Cannon, Whitfield, Wheeler, Mullen, Gladden, Laurel, Maud Isaacks, Rosas, Wells, McIlhany, and more. A fit clan. L.G. A MOTHER’S VENGEANCE AUSTIN Since we stood in the courtyards -and cheered the public hangings we have become a little more sophisticated about ourselves ; but not much. The cries for the blood of wrong-doers rise from too deep in our hates and insecurities to hope soon to be rid of. Surely the cries that went up against the gang of Negro boys who brutally attacked, sexually abused, and murdered a young Houston white boy who had been bicycling home from a swim in the afternoon were as angered and frightened as any. The mother of the dead boy, Mrs. Doris Bodenheimer, wrote the Houston Post: “Since my son’s death I have been largely sustained by the sincere sympathy of the whole community, but the attitude on the part of some has alarmed me. I have felt from the beginning that some abstract evil force had killed my son. The person or persons responsible is ill and to find a scapegoat will not absolve society from its share of guilt. “People who are oppressed and deprived by society hit back. Finding my son’s murderer will not keep alive some child who now livesmore murderers will be bred by the conditions which bred his Murderer. “As long as we foster the sickness of slums and segregation we shall all be infected by it. “This is not to say that I am convinced of the guilt of current suspects, but merely that the anger directed against them would be put to better use if turned toward those conditions which breed crime. “Mrs. Doris Bodenheimer, 1312 Willard.” THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 5 \\ August 8, 1959 Coffee at the Driskill
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