Bob Wieland Rep. John Wilson Wilson .. . law degree, but met a lady named Pinky, a registered nurse from around Elgin. They got married and arrived in LaGrange with 87 cents. Before long, Wilson inherited a couple of the family cattle spreads. After a few years he decided he needed an office, on account of whenever anyone called, he was out chasing a cow or driving a tractor, and Pinky was still working as a nurse. He thought that as long as he was going to pay a couple of girls to answer the phone, they might as well be selling blue jeans and boots when the phone wasn’t ringing and that is how he came to be in the western clothing business. Wilson was a political virgin when he decided to run for the Lege in 1972. He hadn’t even joined the Young Democrats at UT. The incumbent in the district was Charlie Jungmichael, a veteran legislator who had the political misfortune to be a close friend of Gus Mutscher’s. Wilson was active in the Southwest Cattle Breeders Association, the Brahma Breeders, and such as that. Some people urged him to run, but it was not what you could call your groundswell. He made up his mind on filing day. He had to file in five counties and started at 1 p.m. He made the fifth stop, after somewhat exceeding the posted speed limits, at five minutes ’til closing time. He spent $8,000 of his own money getting elected and says he couldn’t afford another closely fought election. 661V1 Y PHILOSOPHY of government has changed as I’ve come to know more about it,” said Wilson. “For one thing, I now have tremendous respect for the system. It disappoints me when it doesn’t work. A lobbyist friend of mine teases me by saying, ‘You keep trying to make it work, Wilson,’ like, how dumb can I be? But when I first came up here I had the philosophy I think most Texans have that it was all scandal-ridden and rotten and a terrible system and no damn good and I came with the intention of doing something about that. “But my first session, it did work, I saw it, I participated. I kept wondering how the people of Texas could have been wrong for so many years, to elect the people who had been there before, when we could have, when they could elect a group like this. But I. worry about it. I’m disappointed in the change from that two years to this. We’ve taken steps backward. Given six-eight years, it could be back to being as rotten as it was before, and all those accusations could be true again. I want to see the system work. “I’m opposed to this majority rule in committee,” he said. \(Under this session’s rules, a House committee needs affirmative votes from a majority of its membership, as opposed to a majority of those present, to act on a bill. That makes an absence, in both systems now, and I don’t like this one. The most contact people have with the governmental system is during committee hearings, and if they go away thinking they haven’t got a fair hearing, they don’t have respect for the government. Two years ago, when I went to committee hearings, I had read the bills, and had my amendments prepared and was ready to stay half the night if that was needed to give everyone .a chance. Today, I might as well .not go to hearings, unless it’s just to sit there for appearance’s sake. Even though I might be able to win for my side, I don’t like to win if the system isn’t fair, if I win because of the rules. It was a pleasure working under the rules of the constitutional convention. Even if you lost in committee, you could still bring your case before the convention as a whole and fight it out there. Now. . . . “O.K., I come from a ranching, rural background, independent businessman and all that. But government can be abused from either side and has been. The utilitites are so short-sighted. They can’t see past their profit-motivated noses. I’m for a fair rate of return for the utilities, but we all know they’re getting more than that today. They’ve abused the system and people are reacting. The utilities are fighting regulation tooth and nail. They don’t see that next time, if they keep on with these abuses, it won’t be reasonable regulation, it will be punitive regulation. You know, they’ll go too far, the big ones, and all sit down there in Houston, Enco [Exxon] and First [International] Bancshares and Bell [Telephone] and just can’t see past the short-term profit and when they provoke the reaction they deserve they’ll wring their hands and say, ‘What did we do wrong?’ ” Wilson ran across a nest of utilities lobbyists not long ago and took some flak for his role in the regulation fight. “You gentlemen should know,” he said, “that all this is the fault of the bank holding companies.” “Come again?” said the lobbyists. Well, said Wilson, the damn bank holding companies holed up my bill to regulate them in the Financial Institutions committee and there was just no way to get it moved out and so I had practically no legislative program for the rest of the session and so I was able to devote all my time to you. And Wilson beamed upon them. Wilson carried some water for the Lower Colorado River Authority this session, getting the limitation on the LCRA’s bonded indebtedness raised so it could build a big coal-powered electrical plant in Fayette County \(see Obs., thereby inundating a large portion of the county for a cooling lake. Wilson points out that his bill had nothing to do with the condemnation of property for the lake: he says the lake would have been there in any case, it was just a matter of getting the LCRA enough funds to take full advantage of it. “At least I was working for a public utility rather than a private utility,” he said. “Now, that’s not to say that all is well there. I know they’ve made mistakes. In fact, Sam Gideon [of LCRA ] should probably be hung alongside Oscar Wyatt [of Coastal States] , but what’s done is done and we have to go on from here.” Wilson is a walking reminder that dark nights of the soul are not limited to Byronic-countenanced liberals. His essence-of-Rotary-Club face screwed up with distress as he said, “My biggest inner struggle is to do what is right without the loss of being considered a good ol’ boy. Sometimes I have this revulsion against the whole business. Really, it can make you sick, you get so disgusted. You watch them voting wrong and you know it’s wrong and they know it’s wrong. You want to go up and grab them by the lapels and just scream at them. But you understand the stigma that goes with that kind of behavior. They start to call you unreliable and flakey and undependable and not one of the team. All the other words they have for it. Not a good ol’ boy. And I am a good ol’ boy, you know, naturally. So then I have to figure out some way to get done what needs to be done without being labeled, without screaming. And I LIKE those guys, you know? They are my friends. But I have to struggle not to treat them, not to approach them like enemies. And then you wonder, how much am I giving up of what I think is right in order to remain a good ol’ boy?” M.I. June 6, 19 75 5
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