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Sr A Available for private parties k ry , 11% di i I rnique European Charm 0 & Atmosphere 0 0, i Special Low Spring & Summer Rates % Pets Welcome Gt . 1423 11th Street .4010′ Port Aransas, TX 78373 IS a …..”…0, ,,,*, ..4._ ir m w ,, s v mi… …. jra. ,,,,,* call for Reservations ,,1 310.”””Ntil Sea 4,1# Horse Inn I e t Kitchenet les-Cable TV .ii , Pool o e 4 e beside the G m uirorcxico .4,,,. on Mustang Island AFTERWORD The Real J.R. BY MOLLY IVINS Austin j R. PARTEN HAS DIED, leaving Texas shy of both the vision and the integrity that . have enriched our state for many years. Parten was a very old man when he died, 96, I believe; still active and clear almost to the very end. Parten was one of the great independent oilmen of Texas, and in that field alone, his knowledge and wisdom were formidable. But he was also a great citizen. In fact, when he was a student at the University of Texas, he majored in both law and government because he felt that no matter what one did in life, one always had another responsibility as a citizen, and Parten wanted to be prepared for his. President Truman also named Major Parten, who had served in World War I, as chief of staff of the U.S. delegation to the War Reparations Commission that went to Europe right after VE Day to inspect the damage and make recommendations on what the United States could do to help repair what was always referred to as “war-torn Europe.” I always liked a story Parten would sometimes tell about a big-deal industrialist who was on that commission and who was incredibly rude and condescending to our then-allies, the Soviets. “I had to send him home,” said Parten simply. “His manners were so bad.” Parten, tall, blue-eyed, erect, the soul of integrity, was also a gentleman. Of course he was a capitalist and an oilman, but his admiration for the fight the Soviets put up against the Nazis never dimmed. Parten served on the University of Texas System Board of Regents from 1935 to 1941 and was chairman for two years. His accomplishments included the hiring of Homer Rainey to head the Austin campus and Dana X. Bible to be its football coach. The pinheads and know-nothings in the Legislature later fired Dr. Rainey and Parten was in the thick of the battle to save him. I don’t know that Parten was ever liberal in his views, but he was an immensely civilized man, with a deep reverance for the Constitution. He read widely and had great faith in this country. Of course, he had himself gone from picking cotton in East Texas as a boy to the university and on to become one of the wealthiest men in the country. So he always worked to make sure others had the same kind of opportunities. Molly Ivins, a former editor of the Observer, is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Her best-selling book, Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She? was recently released as a Vintage paperback. His contempt for small-minded people who were afraid of any change or any new ideas was always gently expressed but profound. During the McCarthy Era, Parten was so troubled that the guarantees of his beloved Constitution were giving way before the waves of fear and hysteria that he was an important force behind the Fund for the Republic, which helped provide the money for scholarship and to publish the work of those who felt the Constitution was more important than the Communist Menace. Parten had three big ranches near Madisonville where he bred cattle, and those places were one of his great loves. He used to say, “The finest fertilizer any soil can have is the footsteps of its owner on the land.” His other great interests were in education, particularly efforts to broaden the University of Texas, and civil liberties and constitutional freedom, in which pursuit he consorted with the late John Henry Faulk, the Texas folklorist and humorist. Hearing the two of them talk about history and politics and the university and the Constitution and the oil bidness was an education, perhaps the best I ever received. In politics, Parten was a bridge between Democrats such as House Speaker Sam Rayburn and the liberal-loyalist wing of the party. He helped push Ralph Yarborough into the race for Governor against Allan Shivers in 1952 and again in 1954; Parten was a staunch supporter of Yarborough in his later successful Senate campaigns. His bankrolling of George McGovern’s Texas campaign in 1972 landed Parten a place on then-President Richard Nixon’s Enemies List, a distinction Parten chetished; he also was a strong supporter of Frances “Sissy” Farenthold’s campaigns for Governor. He believed that a democracy needs alternative voices. With Frankie Randolph and others he helped found the Texas Observer in 1954; he staked the fledgling newspaper when there was no other voice to balance the stridently conservative daily newspapers in the state. He was called upon to bail out the publication on several occasions. He also put up money for the Pacifica radio station in Houston and, after its transmitter was bombed out of commission by the Ku Klux Klan in 1971, helped put the station back on the air. Parten was such a striking Texas figure, so at variance with the stereotypical Big Rich Texas Oilman, that the New York Times once wrote him up as “The Real J.R.” There wasn’t an ounce of snob in him, but he simply could not bear the meretricious or cruelty in any form. I once asked him about H.L. Hunt, whom he , had known well, and after giving a balanced and indeed rather charming account of that highly eccentric man, J.R. shook his head and said, “But I never could forgive him for the way he treated his oldest son I never could.” I knew Parten only as this admirable part of Texas history; I think he was a great man, but I doubt he was an easy one to be close to. He had such extraordinarily high standards of conduct himself such integrity, he was a man of such astonishing rectitude that it was not easy for lesser mortals to be around him. I always thought part of Parten’s life was rather sad said that such a gifted man of such exceptional character, who was devoted to his country, was never given more scope to serve it. But to the best of my knowledge, Parten himself had no regrets. He never repined. I suppose he thought it was akin to self-pity, and of course that would never have been acceptable. It seems to me most of us go through life more or less knowing what is right, but not often or even usually able to measure up to our own standards, to always be what we would like to be. I never knew anyone quite as good as J.R. Parten at simply Doing the Right Thing without ever counting the cost, simply because it never occurred to him to do anything else. Rest in peace, Major Parten. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23