The Texas Observer OCT. 16, 1964 A Journal of Free Voices A Window to The South 25c THE YARBOROUGH STORY Elton Miller Austin The Neches River, named for a docile Indian tribe, meanders peacefully from its headwaters in Van Zandt through the rich timberlands of the iron-ore laden East Texas countryside into Lake Sabine, midway between Port Arthur and Orange. Never subject to the wild overflows of its sister stream to the west, the Trinity, or the Sabine on the east, it was a good place for a country boy like Ralph Webster Yarborough to cast his bait, catch a mess of channel cat, and daydream. At Chandler, the Neches River village where Yarborough was born June 8, 1903, one of eleven children in the Charles Richard andNannie Jane Yarborough household, the Neches is little more than a good creek, but at “Big Eddy” and “Little Eddy,” the good fishing holes in the upper reaches of the Neches, there were plenty of catfish and perch for many a countywide Henderson County fish fry. Just to be sure, the older boys would go over there about two days beforehand and seine the stream. This was the land of clay and sand, the rich loam and the pineywoods, that spawned the fabulous Sid Richardson, multimillionaire Clint Murchison, cotton man Arch Underwood, and Rupert Craig, most famous editor of his time in East Texas. Only a few miles away grew up Billy White, who became president of Baylor University, and a firebrand preacher by the name of “Cowboy” Crim. The strip of land between the Trinity and the Neches also gave Texas politics a hangout at Stirman’s Drug Store on the north side of the square in Athens. For a half century candidates for governor and U.S. senator gathered there to test the weathervane. They could feel the pulse of . Elton Miller, a Texas newspaperman, has been acquainted with Senator Ralph Yarborough many years and writes here of the senator’s youth, education, and legal, military, and political career that culminated in his election to a six-year term in the U.S. Senate in 1958. In the Oct. 30th issue, our last before the general election, the Observer editor will seek to summarize Yarborough’s philosophy and performance as senator. the countryside through Doc’s deft fingers. Yarboroughs are old timers along that Henderson-Smith County line. Just across the Neches, Grandfather Harvey Yarborough owned a parcel of land. In 1858 he donated the site for the Hopewell Baptist Church. He and a neighbor surveyed the church site by the light of the moon, using the north pole for bearings. Harvey YarboroughCaptain Yarborough it wasled the first company of infantry out of Smith County to join the Confederate armies. The Yarborough homestead stood not far from the old battlefield where General Bowles was defeated and the last Indian resistance in East Texas to the white man’s invasion took place. In the days of Ralph Yarborough’s youth lads around Chandler used to visit the battlefield to pick up arrowheads and trinkets from Bowles’ last stand. The first dollar Ralph Yarborough ever earned outside his home was in turning the old hand press that printed the Chandler Times when that paper was operated by Rupert Craig. In 1929, after he had moved over to the Athens Daily Review, Craig told me, “You’ll find Ralph Yarborough’s name on the mailing list back there. Keep an eye on him. He’s going places.” Yarborough posSessed the vigor of a President Kennedy in his prime, the youth that appeals to youth. He hadthe courage of his convictions. He stood pat for the things he believed. He denounced those things he knew were false. Finishing what school his home town had to offer in April, 1918, young Yarborough went on to Tyler High School, there to graduate in 1919. A year later he became a cadet in the U.S. Military Academy, but Congress, weary of war expenditures and war debts, decided to cut down appropriations for the academy, and Yarborough, after a year, abandoned the Army as a career, enlisted in the 36th division of the National Guard, and at the age of. 17 began teaching school in the rural communities of Delta and Martin Springs. Between terms he attended classes at Sam Houston State Teachers’ College in Huntsville. Wanderlust took him then, and he worked his way across the Atlantic on a French cattle boat out of New Orleans and applied for admission to the Sorbonne. He didn’t have enough credits, so, broke but determined, he moved on to Berlin. He wrote a want ad for an English language newspaper, whose editor liked it and hired him before it went into print. The Texan studied German and attended an academy in Stendal, Germany, for a year, and then he was ready to come home. Working his way across the channel, he found the docks in Britain crowded with young men anxious to get home on the first boat they could. One day a ship’s agent called out, “Anybody here know anything about horses?” He said, “I’m from Texas,” so he got the job and took care of a shipload of horses en route to the states. Jobs were hard to find in 1923, and Yarborough joined a threshing crew making its way across the hot plains of Oklahoma and Kansas. He worked at a boarding house that fall in Austin for “all I could eat for all I could do.” That, and the money he’d saved as a harvest hand, put him through the first year at the University of Texas school of law. He worked as librarian and quiz master and in the summer helped build oil tanks in the wild days of ’26 in the old Borger oil field. He graduated from the University with highest honors. Years later, as he sat among the hundreds of books that line the walls of his study on Jarratt Street in Austinhe is an expert on the civil war and can tell you how each battle was won and losthe would recall his boyhood days on the banks of the Kickapoo, nights when he slept out under the stars in Oklahoma as a harvest hand, the 1926 oil boom at Borger before Gov. Dan Moody declared marshal law. EARLY IN HIS LIFE, too, Yarborough developed an admiration for Governor James Hogg, who was raised on a hill at Mountain Home, east of Rusk, and was the great Texas warrior against the railroads. When Ralph first heard his dad talk about Hogg, he was still young enough to be playing under a huge sycamore tree that stood between the Yarborough home and the home of the Warrens. Mr. Warren
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.