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The Duval County Courthouse Dave McNeely “. :, OB SERVER A Journal of Free Voices A Window to the South April 25, 1975 500 A death n Duval San Diego The story of the Duval County Parrs reads like a cheap potboiler. It’s a case of life imitating melodrama. Archer Parr and his son George, the first and second Duke of Duval, were overblown caricatures of the South Texas patron. If Hollywood made the Parr story into a movie, the critics would say they were unbelievably violent and corrupt, that they tore passion to tatters, to very rags . . . . In this mundane era, failing politicians are supposed to fade pathetically away, abondoned by the press and ignored by the public. Not George Parr. His political organization in shambles, faced with the possibility of returning to prison, George drove out to a lonely spot on his sister Hilda’s ranch and put a bullet through his head. It was a suitably violent ending for one of the most infamous public figures of the century, and it even managed to win the old weasel one more election. GEORGE PARR’S life was never what you’d call tranquil, but in the week before he committed suicide it became an outrageous tangle of political and legal crises. Last year Parr was convicted and sentenced by a federal jury to five years in prison and $14,000 in fines for income tax evasion and perjury. It was the same old Duval County story extortion from contractors working on county projects and diverting public funds for private gain. George’s nephew, Archer Parr, the Duval County judge, was found guilty last year of lying to a federal grand jury that was looking into his uncle’s financial dealings. Archer told the grand jury that he received $121,500 over the past few years for legal services performed on behalf of the Duval County water district. But he couldn’t produce a single document to show that he had done any work for his money, so the grand jury charged him with perjury. \(George Parr, at the same time, was receiving a comfortable little $5,000 a Archer was sentenced to six five-year prison terms, two of which are to run concurrently, and he was ordered to pay court costs and fines of $63,800. Both Parrs were out on bail, awaiting the outcome of their appeals. And then, in late March, their carefully tuned political machine started throwing gears right and left. First off, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld George’s conviction. Then the Carrillo brothers, whose family has been part of the Parrs’ Old Party for 50 years, made an aggressive bid to take over political leadership of the county. State District Judge 0. P. Carrillo ordered Archer to step down as county judge, since, after all, he is a convicted felon. Two Old Party county commissioners were also removed by Carrillo. Archer countered by trying to kick 0. P. out of office. For a short time there were two county judges and two commissioners courts, and Texas Rangers arrived on the scene to check everyone entering the Duval County Courthouse for concealed weapons. The county judges were narrowed down to one when the Texas Supreme Court sided with Carrillo. At the same time he moved on Archer, Carrillo tossed four Parr people off the Benavides School Board and replaced them with his own men. Carrillo charged M. K. Bercaw, the Old Party president of the Benavides board, with misconduct and said that the board’s attorney, Marvin Foster, had received a $30,000 check from the school district for services that were not necessarily pertinent to school business. Bercaw was replaced by Morris Ashby, executive vice president of the Duval County Ranch Co. The 100,000-acre ranch is owned by Clinton Manges, a Howard Hughes-like businessman from Freer, whose name is becoming increasingly prominent in South Texas politics. \(Manges is probably best known for giving a $15,000 cash donation to Gov. Dolph Briscoe back in 1972 [see “Funny money,” Obs., Nov. 29, 1974] . Briscoe never reported the gift. When it came to