5he Murray Seven long years ago, this newspaper reported that Texas railroad commission chairman Bill Murray was an officer and stockholder in an oil drilling company that solicited business from oil companies. Murray acknowledged that aspects of the situation had worried him, but he had concluded that there was no conflict of interest. Believing the contrary, the Observer, while intending no reflection on Murray, an amiable and likeable man, stated editorially that he should get out of the oil business or resign from the powerful state agency that regulates the oil business. Murray did neither; the Texas daily press completely ignored the Observer’s story. In 1957, complying with the new code of ethics law, Murray filed a statement of his business interests with the secretary of state. In 1958, he became a participant in an oil drilling deal in Throckmorton county. Though he did not file a supplemental report to the secretary of state, he made no secret of this deal; his name appears in the public records bearing on it. He and his partners agreed to pay oil development costs on the property in question as their part of the investment. The wells that were drilled turned out well, and Murray made, in his words, “a nice profit.” A “couple of years ago,” the commissioner says, he divested himself of all his oil holdings to obviate any questions that might be raised. Then k oignation, came the slant-hole oil scandals. There is a great deal about these scandals, and the power structures they brought into collision, and the political pressures that bore on them, which has not yet been printed, as shall duly appear. As railroad commissioner, Murray was right in the middle of the matter from first to last, and of course he made enemies. More important, the slant hole scandals stimulated competitions for control of governmental oil policies, as these are enforced by the federal tender board and the state railroad commission. The great companies, such as Humble and Texaco, began jousting for position. Suddenly this month the Dallas Morning News, that guardian of the conscience of the state, blasted across its front page a two-line eight column headline on Murray’s 1958 Throckmorton county profit in the oil business. The coverage was accompanied by copious quotations from various provisions of the code of ethics. Gov . John Connally, long associated with the oil industry through the Sid Richardson interests, let it be known publicly that he wanted an investigation ; Atty. Gen. Waggoner Carr obliged, with public notifications that he was obliging; and Bill Murray, protesting he was innocent of any impropriety, sugesting that enemies were out to get him, vascillating between singling out these critics and simply giving up the ghost, finally walked into the capitol press room and resigned. There may be much more to this matter than appears. Murray’s Throckmorton county deal, as described to date, certainly seems less serious a matter than his 1956 interest in an oil drilling company, although, at the time it occurred, it raised the same general question. As the oil independents’ president, Johnny Mitchell, pointed out in an impassioned defense of Murray, the Throckmorton county matter was studied over by potential political opponents, but Murray was left unopposed. It is a fact that a leading Texas daily knew about the transaction a good while back and did not report it. And it is a fact that Texas dailies saw fit to pay no attention to the Observer’s 1956 reportage on related matters. With allowables cut back to eight days, the independents have taken about as much shoving around as some of them are inclined to from the international oil importers. The majors, on the other hand, have taken a harsh offensive in the legislature, driving all-out for a tract-pooling law that would snuff out the possibility of oil ventures for many small operators and landowners. With Ben Ramsey on the commission, with Murray resigned, and with the third commissioner, General Thompson, ailing, obviously the state regulatory situation is now so fluid, all major oil interests will be jockeying for position. We will expect to be edified by the House inquiries into the circumstances that underlie the Dallas News suddenly blasting off with the Murray story, Murray’s resignation, and these related matters; and if we are not, we shall try to find other ways to become edified, and to edify our readers. THE TEXAS OBSERVER An Independent Fortnightly Vol. 55, No. 10 746P Editor and General Manager, Ronnie Dugger. Partner, Mrs. R. D. Randolph. Business Manager, Sarah Payne. Contributing Editors, Bill Brammer, Chandler Davidson, J. Frank Dobie, Larry Goodwyn, Franklin Jones, Lyman Jones, Jay Milner, Willie Morris, Charles Ramsdell, Roger Shattuck, Dan Strawn, Tom Sutherland, Charles Alan Wright. Staff Artist, Charles Erickson. Contributing Photographer, Russell Lee. Subscription Representatives: Amarillo, Mrs. Imogene Williams, Rte. 3, Panhandle \(Williams Austin, Mrs. Helen C. Spear, 2615 Pecos, HO 5-1805; Dallas, Mrs. Cordye Hall, 5835 Ellsworth, TA 1-1205; Fort Worth, Mrs. Jesse Baker, 3212 Greene St., WA 7-2959; Houston, Mrs. Shirley Jay, 10306 Cliffwood Dr., PA 3-8682; Lubbock, Doris Blaisdell, 2515 24th St.; Midland, Eva Dennis, 4306 Douglas, OX 4-2825; Rio Grande Valley, Mrs. Jack Butler, 601 Houston, McAllen, MU 6-5675; San Antonio, Mrs. Mae B. Tuggle, 531 Elmhurst, TA 2-7154. The editor has exclusive control over the editorial policies and contents of the Observer. None of the other people who are associated with the enterprise shares this responsibility with him. April 18, 1963 Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them the editor does not necessarily imply that he agrees with them, because this is a journal of free voices. The Observer solicits articles, essays, and creative work of the shorter forms having to do in various ways with this area. The pay depends; at present it is token. Please enclose return postage. Unsigned articles are the editor’s. The Observer is published by Texas Observer Co., Ltd., biweekly from Austin, Texas. Entered as second-class matter April 26, 1937, at the Post Office at Austin, Texas, under the Act of March 3, 1879. Second class postage paid at Austin, Texas. Delivered postage prepaid $5.10 a year for suband $5.00 a year for subscribers living elsewhere in the U.S. Foreign rates on request. Single copies 25c; prices for ten or more for students, or bulk orders, on request. Editorial and Business Offices: The Texas Ob. server, 504 West 24th St., Austin 5, Texas. Telephone GR 7-0746. Change of Address: Please give old and new addresses and allow three weeks. Rejoice! Padre Island has been set aside for posterity. We can thank everyone who helped accomplish this, especially Ralph Yarborough. The legislature now should provide for poll tax repeal \(in a 1963 election, permanent voter registration. Any attempt to require a fee, however small, would probably invalidate the registration system under the pending federal poll tax amendment, and should be dealt with accordingly. Are House Democrats and Republi. cans united against industrial safety? Where’s the governor’s pull on this issue? In fact, where’s the governor ?
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