The Richmond State School Albany, N.Y., and Austin Dr. Floyd E. McDowell, the recentlyf i r e d director of the Richmond state school for the mentally retarded, is seeking a public hearing before the board that runs the Texas Dept. of Mental Health Dowell, who now lives in Albany, N.Y., where he works with that state’s department of mental hygiene, tells the Observer that he is anxious to make widely known in Texas his reasons for leaving the state agency. He says he will bear the expenses of returning to Texas for a hearing. Dr. Horace E. Cromer, Austin physician who is the chairman of the Texas MHMR board, says that “we have no policy on that,” referring to the holding of open hearings for discharged personnel. McDowell will be asked to state in writing his reasons for requesting a hearing, then the board will decide what to do, Cromer says. McDowell says that if he is not granted a hearing he plans to prepare a detailed account of his reasons for leaving and distribute his report to the state press and to those responsible for Texas’ mental health program. He indicates that his report will include more than just his version of the incident or incidents that precipitated his being fired; that it will present his views of Texas’ approach to mental health care. That approach is, in McDowell’s opinion, “symptomatic of a cancerous disease in the Texas society.” He says that there are many competent people in mental health work in the state but believes that they are unable to function to best effect because of the present system. Noting that the Hubert Humphreys, whom McDowell is acquainted with, have a retarded granddaughter, the doctor says, “I can’t believe that Humphrey could want such a running mate as Governor [John] Connally, a man who runs such a mental retardation care program in the year 1968.” McDowell was in the Texas MHMR department for two years. His firing occurred, he says, for refusing an order given by Dr. Charles Barnett, deputy MHMR commissioner. The order involved admitting the son of Sen. Wayne Connally, Floresville. The senator is the brother of Gov. John Connally. “The deputy commissioner told me either to admit [Senator Connally’s son] or pack my bags,” McDowell asserts. He says he objected to the admission because he was determined to prevent letting political considerations interfere with his operation of the Richmond school. He says he had many requests from county judges and other such officials for admission of persons to the school. Admissions are a problem in Texas as the state’s rather young retardation program has not been developed to an extent sufficient to institionalize those who need such care. Some of the political requests for admission came from outside the 15-county area the hospital is supposed to serve, McDowell says. An estimated 3,000 youths of that area are eligible for admission at Richmond; the school will have a capacity of 500 children this October. “This is not just one isolated. case,” McDowell says of the Connally matter. “The state department is infiltrated with the idea superintendents are naturally expected to meet these political requests. There have been many of them. This applies also to staff appointments. They let me know I had to do these things or get out. I did not want to leave the programs we started. They are wonderful.” McDowell says he was determined not to permit “jumping in front of the line” in considering admissions. He says he considered extraordinary requests for admission “dishonest manipulation and low-level dealing. I am not committed to that kind of life personally or professionally.” McDOWELL HAD several rather basic disagreements with his superiors in the MHMR department, as will be discussed later on. The incident he believes to have been climactic began developing in April when Senator Connally visited the Richmond school, saying he wanted his son to be evaluated there. McDowell says he declined the senator’s request because the Connally’s home county, Wilson, is not one of those to be served at Richmond. Connally was told that his son should be referred to a diagnostic center in either Corpus Christi or Austin, McDowell was uncertain which. McDowell says the senator did not seem to take exception to any of this during his visit in Richmond. The Connally child was later evaluated. The evaluation report was sent by the department’s central office to McDowell with instructions from Dr. Barnett that the child be scheduled for admission at Richmond. In accordance with procedures set up at Richmond by McDowell the application of the Connally child was handled routinely, McDowell says. A study was made by school staff members, who concluded that it was not in the child’s best interests to be admitted, that the school has no program for him. This was in late April, shortly after the school was opened. Two weeks after that, McDowell continues, Barnett came to Richmond. McDowell says Barnett was offered the staff evaluation report on the Connally boy but did not look at it. “He told me,” McDowell says, “‘I’m ordering you to admit this child; either you admit him or you get out of here.’ I told him, ‘You put that in writing and I will.’ ” Barnett thereupon left Richmond. The next day McDowell was summoned to Austin to the office of Dr. John KinrossWright, MHMR commissioner. The department’s legal counselor, Earl Scott, was present. McDowell says he was presented a list of complaints that had been prepared about his work; he adds that Kinross-Wright and Scott discussed the “political aspects” of his position. The order to admit the Connally boy was rescinded, McDowell says Kinross-Wright told him that day. Kinross-Wright says he suggested that McDowell should resign because he did not understand “the Texas mind.” On June 19, five or six weeks after this meeting, McDowell was given a letter while in Austin informing him that he was through with the department. A news release prepared by the agency said, in part, “In taking this action Dr. KinrossWright acknowledged McDowell’s scientific contributions and dedication to the field of mental retardation which make it all the more regrettable that he was unable to respect the administration and its rules and requirements.” K INROSS-WRIGHT and Barnett deny that McDowell was fired because of the Connally case. Barnett says McDowell was “grasping at straws” by so alleging. “That’s not correct. I’ve never ordered McDowell to admit any child.” Kinross-Wright says that in mid-June McDowell had “publicly insulted Dr. Barnett and disagreed with department policies.” This is what caused the firing. “There is nothing wrong with McDowell,” KinrossWright says, “except he is unable to recognize he is working for a state department.” Kinross-Wright has, since the firing, said that McDowell was a “visionary” who failed to follow orders and wouldn’t “join the team.” He denies that political admissions are a department practice, adding that officials do call “to provide help in emergency cases.” He says he fired McDowell “to back up” Barnett, who recommended the firing. McDowell ignored some departmental policies at times, Kinross-Wright charged, saying the Richmond director had hired two persons though having no funds to pay them and started some programs without having the necessary funds. He charges that McDowell ran the Richmond school as a separate entity rather than as a unit of the department. McDowell had “widespread, visionary programs” for communities, instead of concentrating on the Richmond school, Kinross-Wright said. “In other words, he wanted to run before he walked.” Senator Connally has denied in no uncertain terms that McDowell was fired because of the handling of the Connally boy’s case. He told United Press International that “While I do not know what [McDowell’s] other problems are with the agency, I do know that as a result of his accusation that he is a liar . . . Not one ounce of pressure was exerted by me or John [the governor] or anyone else,” Senator Connally said. July 26, 1968
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