Page 13


In 1938 Yarborough took a leave of absence from the bench without pay to run for attorney general of Texas. He was eliminated in the first primary and announced his support for Gerald C. Mann in the runoff against Walter Woodul of Houston, and Mann won. The campaign left no scars on Yarborough, and he made friends in every area of Texas. A world war would intervene before he would call on them againbut he would. Opal had forgotten her early resolve against politics. The day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Yarborough headed for a recruiting station. The grandson of Cap’n Harvey Yarborough wasted little time. After service in the Battle of the Pentagon, he asked for combat duty and was transferred to the 97th division, which went into action in the Rhineland in 1945. Then Lt. Col. Yarborough’s division was transferred to Patton’s Third Army, which spearheaded the drive into Czechoslovakia, liberated Cheb and other towns on the route to Pilsen, and there waited for the Russians. After VJ Day Lt. Col. Yarborough was military chief in charge of the central Honshu Providence of Japan, to which the 97th had been redeployed. Central Honshu Island had about a seventh of Japan’s land area and population. In May, 1946, Yarborough was home in Austin. HIS CLIENTS were scattered, but he built up a new clientele that included, from 1946 to 1952, the Texas State Teachers’ Assn. He joined the Legion and VFW and was a member of the Texas State Board of Law Examiners and the statewide tidelands committee. Those were the days when he began setting his goal again toward a career in politics. He was prospering personally, but modern politics had come to cost lots of money. Yarborough did a lot of soulsearching, the question being, “How do you raise sufficient funds for a statewide race without becoming indebted to some faction or a special interest?” There was, he knew, “government by lobby” in the capitol. He could sense its presence the day he met Governor Allan Shivers in the rotunda. The establishment had already decided, and Shivers was giving Yarborough the word: John Ben Sheppard, the young man who had been a leader of Jaycees in Gladewater and Longview, had been selected to follow in Shivers’ footsteps. Yarborough actually ‘ was considering, that day in the capitol, whether to run for attorney general again, but as he hustled away from the statehouse grounds, six months before election day, he was boiling mad. Texas, he was sure, was in the tightfist grip of the Brown Boys, big oil, big gas, big sulphur, big bankers. They sought control by money. Had Shivers set himself up as a god to dictate the political future of Texas? If Shivers had avoided Yarborough that day in the rotunda, Texas political history might have been different, but he did not, 4 The Texas Observer and Yarborough thought the governor was a little arrogant, too emphatic and dogmatic. By the time he reached home his decision was made. It was shored up by a word of confidence from Opal Yarborough and a few words from a friend or two who were Yarborough’s confidantes. He set up state headquarters in an old residence near the Capitol. He was without masterminds and professional assistance in that first race for governor, but he was resolute, ambitious, and optimistic, as those few who gathered around him soon learned. He was unknown compared to Shivers, and it was difficult for him to get through to the kernel of the corn. The press was against him, and so were state employees, except for the disgruntled. But dyed-in-the-wool Democrats who had begun to see the heart of their faltering governor came to Yarborough. So did liberals, members of minority groups, and labor union people. Shivers’ technique unfolded: Brand Yarborough the tool of the CIO-PAC, call him a “nigger-lover” in East Texas, stamp him “liberal,” “left-winger,” “pinko.” Use every tool you can find in the tool chest. On his tour of the state early in 1952, Yarborough had found that misgivings had been spreading about the oligarchy that had built its nest in the governor’s office. Shivers was pictured as powerful, uncompromising, ruthless. But Yarborough also found civic and business leaders he had thought would support him who had received telephone calls before he arrived, warning them against helping him. One merchant was reminded what would happen to him if loans for carrying inventory were, on reconsideration, deemed a bad risk. An insurance investor was reminded that reprisals might result if regulatory bodies became antagonistic. Yarborough learned that he was fighting an organized machine. On the stump Yarborough told people that the machine that ran state government was financially corruptthat there was stealing from the public treasury that he wanted to investigate. He convinced 488,345 Texans, a healthy number, and immediately many of his supporters decided on another race in 1954. Meanwhile, Shivers was giving the Texas Democratic Party to the Republicans. At the Amarillo state Democratic convention, Shivers and the Democratic executive committee pledged their allegiance to their supposed enemy, the Republican Party, in the 1952 presidential election. Yarborough made speeches urging election of the Stevenson-Sparkman ticket. Party loyalty vs. defense of the tidelands, \(the ostensible basis for the Texas issue in the 1954 rematch, and Yarborough lacked only 23,787 votes catching up with Shivers in the first primary of that hot summer. Shivers had 668,536, or 49.53%, to Yarborough’s 644,749, or 47.78%. Two minor candidates had forced a runoff. Shivers forces knew then they were in grave danger of defeat. Shivers campaigners got out what Yarborough called “a smear sheet” in West Texas. Featured on the front page was a cartoon of a tornado sweeping down on West Texas farmlands, titled “CIO-PAC,” and Shivers was charging that if Yarborough was elected, farm labor would be organized by the unions. This alarmed farmers. But the real message of that runoff campaign was the Port Arthur story, a 30-minute TV documentary that opened up, “This is Port Arthur, the city that is dead.” The theme, in short, was that a communist-dominated union had moved in on Port Arthur and killed the town, and Yarborough was somehow responsible. The story swept Texas like a tornado. Little did it avail Yarborough to call it “the big lie technique” used by Hitler. When the final tally was complete, Shivers was reelected, 775,089 to 683,132. Yarborough thought the Port Arthur story might have ended his political career. On the streets of Austin the Monday after the voting, a friend asked him if he would make another race in the future. “No” was his answer. But his supporters were telephoning his home: “We can’t stop now. We’re ready to start again tomorrow.” Shivers began to suffer the political consequences of a multitude of scandals in his administration. The land commissioner was sentenced to the penitentiary for misdeeds as a member of the Veterans’ Land Board, of which Shivers was also a member. The ICT empire BenJack Cage built, largely with money invested by members of unions, collapsed. A. B. Shoemake’s Waco insurance firm and many others, large and small, fell of their own weight, of financial instability, general mismanagement, or political misbehavior. After all this, Shivers surveyed the field and retired. MOVED INTO THE BREACH to oppose Yarborough: U.S. Sen. Price Daniel, who said he would quit his Senate seat if he won, since he was tired of Washington, and the weather was better in Texas. Daniel had worked on the tidelands, and by 1956 these were safely in the hands of Texas; but Daniel had gone along with Shivers for Eisenhower in 1952. The 1956 race was therefore a replay of the 1952 Shivers-Yarborough race, with a new man in Shivers’ place. Daniel had been long gone from the attorney general’s office before the scandals hit the land board, so he disclaimed any liability for the Texas scandals. The campaign was rough and tumble, bnt never like 1954, although Daniel labeled Yarborough the tool of labor unions. In the, first go-round Daniel was 165,498 votes in front-628,914 to 463,416 but minor candidates forced a runoff, and of 1,392,831 votes cast in the runoff primary, Daniel got 698,001, Yarborough 694,831. Once again Yarborough had been denied the governorship by a whisker. A special election was called to replace Daniel in the U.S. Senate. Yarborough announced, as did Martin Dies, the former congressman, and Thad Hutcheson, a Houston Republican leader. Two candidates pulled off some of Yarborough’s support,