“Number One Gang”: Ed Clark, Edgar H. Perry, Herman Brown, Lyndon Johnson, Aus t in His to ry Ce n te r, Aus t in Pu b l ic Library Co l lec t ion of a frame-up. We than had this line of thought advanced. Loss of revenue because of delay, and probability of collusion and higher bidding in the second go. The vote to give the contract to Brown & Root was five positive, two negative, one present and not voting, and one absent. . . . detail for two reasons. One of these is because you are the key-stone of the whole project, and you should know about everything that affects it, and the other is that if there is collusion in the higher-ups you make capital of it, and see that a good slice of the ill-gotten gains goes into the campaign to elect a good democratic president in 1940. . . . Bill and I had a conference with Bob Alsop just before we left Austin, and although he is mighty low over the recent Brown and Root raid, we left him in improved spirits with the assurance that he was going to be the last man on the construction force to go. Harley says Bob is the best construction man he has ever met or known in his entire experience. He said that if Bob could have been backed up by an engineering department and a purchasing department that had properly co-operated that we could have saved thousands of dollars. Mac admits that the Brown and Root bid on Marshall Ford power house is little more than a system of unit costs to be used in making up the final bill. He says the plans were of necessity very incomplete, and that the job is liable to cost much more than the amount specified in the bid. So it looks like you and the Senator had better get set to pull some more rabbits out of the hat. It is trite to say I love you and miss seeing you a lot. .. . Two months later, Johnson indeed had pulled more rabbits out of the hat and had secured passage of an additional $3,000,000 appropriation for the Marshall Ford dam. Poor Carl White, who was so fond of Johnson, was, it seems, little aware of Johnson’s own close relationship to the Brown brothers and the shenanigans of the higher-ups that most certainly implicated Johnson himself. The controversy over this particular appropriation by no means died down. In July 1940, the Al Johnson Construction Company, which had submitted a bid and lost to Brown and Root, smelled something fishy and asked the Comptroller General of the United States to rule on the recent award. They were concerned that Brown and Root had linked bids on two separate contracts together, so that if the first contract were to be awarded to them, so, too, should the second. The Comptroller General ruled that the Brown and Root bid for only the first contract could be accepted; eventually they got the second one, too. Hard work by many folks built the dams on the Colorado. And it helped the vision of growth to materialize. But ambition, greed and personal relations did so, too. However much we seek to make sense of the world in terms of the notion that visions can indeed become realities, the lesson of the Marshall Ford dam also must be that these other elements underlie the process as well. Upon its completion, incidentally, Johnson helped see that Brown and Root also got a nice little naval station to build at Corpus Christi. IN THE SUMMER of 1938, the last and final great act in the taming of the Colorado occurred. A great flood had occurred on the river in late July. Once again, devastation of land and crops was vast. Over $4 million in damage, it was estimated, had been inflicted on the area. Particularly downstream from Austin, thousands of acres of rice and cotton were lost to the waters of the flood, washed out into the Gulf. Entire farms were destroyed as the land was denuded one more time, and farmers were left to hope for one more miracle. Many Colorado basin citizens asked themselves a simple question: if the now-complete Buchanan Dam was all the Lower Colorado River Authority proclaimed it to be, why had the floods taken place? Wasn’t the Dam, they asked, intended to prevent such floods? Of course, these citizens were unaware of the studies by the Department of Interior that only two years earlier had revealed that the Marshall Ford Dam would be the key flood control structure. At the moment, their question certainly seemed reasonable. Yet there were a number of other people who raised the same inquiry, and who worked to create a great public outcry over the floods and the failure of the Buchanan Dam to stop them. The nature of their concern resurrected an issue thought to be long dead by everyone whether the dams on the Colorado were to be flood control devices, or structures to generate hydroelectric power. The battle between the federal government and the private utilities was not yet over. The uproar reached great proportions. As in 1934, when the passage of the Colorado River Authority bill was at issue in the Texas legislature, even national publications became involved. The Saturday Evening Post, no friend to Mr. Roosevelt and the New Deal, declared in its editorial of September 10, 1938: The fundamental dishonesty of the New Deal’s power and flood-control program had, in July, a dramatic demonstration in the flooded lower Colorado River Valley of Texas. . . . The Lower Colorado River Authority, a little TVA, was formed for the stated purpose of controlling these disasters, with the incidental purpose of irrigation and electric power. . . . High water has recurred so often in the lower valley that the lowlands of the five counties below Austin had largely ceased to be cultivated, though they are rich land as may be found in Texas. This year, under the promise of Buchanan Dam’s protection, the farmers THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17
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