OBSERVER A Journal of Free Voices A Window to the South Feb. 4, 1972 250 The curious case of Roy Orr DeSoto, Dallas, Austin “Everybody was running around asking, `Who the hell is Roy Orr?’ ” The SDEC member was recalling the October, 1971, meeting at which Orr was elected chairman of the State Democratic ,Party. “No one from outside Dallas had ever heard of him before but everyone was talking about him. Suddenly this bandy-legged little guy who looked like he’d just hitched his horse outside, comes waddling up to me in the lobby with his hand stuck out and says, ‘filth, Ah’m Roy On.’ And I thought to myself, ‘There must be two Roy Orrs and this has got to be the other one.’ My opinion of him wasn’t high when we started talking and it went downhill rapidly.” A state representative from Dallas said flatly, “Roy Orr is a fool. A clutz. A chump.” “Bull,” responded a DeSoto businessman. “Roy Orr is shrewd. He’s crafty. And he works like a dog. Twenty-four hours a day. Go, go, go.” A more balanced opinion was offered by another DeSoto businessman who has opposed On politically but who respects him. “Some people do take Roy for a clown,” he said, “but they’re wrong. It’s because for a long time he had no polish at all. In the last year or so he’s learned how to dress better and cleaned up his diction. But he was never stupid. And he does work. Boy, he just hustles all the time.” On’s diction still has a long way to go and his grammar could use some work too, but on the whole he comes off in speeches and on television as a bright and an earnest guy. \(Though he does make occasional slips: after the Jan. 12 rules reform hearing, an Austin television reporter asked On about the people who are saying that On has stacked the rules reform subcommittee so the reforms can’t get through. “That’s an utterly unfounded ORR IS NOW in an extraordinarily curious situation that has some distinctly farcical overtones. He is, more or less, both the chairman of the SDEC and a commissioner of DallasCounty. But he is not quite commissioner and is apt to soon cease being chairman and will then have a helluva fight to stay commissioner, which he isn’t yet. On Jan. 17, Dallas County Judge Lew Sterrett appointed On to serve out the unexpired term of the late Commissioner Denver Seale. Three days before he made the appointment, Sterrett told the press that he had not yet made up his mind, that he had not been contacted by anyone who wanted the position or by anyone suggesting someone else to fill the vacancy. June Seale, Denver Seale’s widow, says flatly, “Sterrett agreed to appoint Roy before Denver was dead. It was cut and dried on Monday: Denver died on Thursday: Sterrett returned from Honolulu on Sunday and he was paged at the airport to tell him how critical Denver was. He met with Orr the next morning and never did consider anyone else.” “And I’ll tell you this too,” June Seale said. “The only reason Denver ran last time was so Roy Orr wouldn’t get in. Denver wasn’t planning to run, but then he saw a story by Ron Calhoun in The Dallas Times Herald with his picture and Orr’s and a big headline saying Orr might run. And he said, `If that little so-and-so’s going to run, I’m going down to file right now.’ And he did.” Both proand anti-Orr people in DeSoto believe that Orr has long wanted the commissioner’s job. “I heard him say that once,” said a former mayor of DeSoto, “he said that he thought the county commissioner’s job was the best kind of political job you can have in this state. He wanted to run for it in ’70 against Seale but they told him they’d pound him with one thing that he couldn’t even get elected mayor in his own hometown by the folks who knew him best, that he was beat there by a complete political unknown.” In any case, On arrived in a commissioner’s seat courtesy of Sterrett, and then his troubles started. On Jan. 20, Secretary of State Bob Bullock, who opposed On’s election as SDEC chairman, gravely announced that he could not certify On as county commissioner until On resigned his SDEC post. On can’t get paid until he is certified: he will receive $27,600 a year as commissioner. On first said he would resign the SDEC post in 30 days. Then he said he didn’t say that., According to On, On is misquoted rather frequently. Meanwhile, Bullock, who has a reputation around the capitol for a sort of cantankerous independence, said that in view of On’s announced intention to quit within 30 days, he saw no reason to ask for an attorney general’s opinion on the legality of On’s holding both positions at once. Bullock just won’t certify Orr. There are multiple ironies in the situation. Although On was mayor of DeSoto when he ran against John White for the SDEC post \(he resigned as mayor after he was appointed to the commissioner’s devote full time to party affairs, whereas White already had a full time job as agriculture commissioner. On obviously cannot now devote full time to the SDEC job. So he announced that he had hired an executive director for the party. The hiree is Jack Gaubert, a 27-year-old salesman with no previous political experience. His salary is unknown. Several SDEC members expressed surprise at Gaubert’s hiring. On did not consult anyone else about it. \(Continued on
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