campaign for a third term in the Senate, and the 1972 primary and runoff against Barefoot Sanders for a shot at John Tower’s U.S. Senate seat, because I firmly believe that we do not need a sanitized Ralph Yarborough. Those of us who adhere to the Houston-Hogg-Allred-Yarborough tradition can best serve the cause and the ideals they upheld, by avoiding the uncritical memorialization that comes so readily upon the death of a titan, and attempting to learn from themanalyzing their triumphs and their defeats, so that we can continue the vital and on-going work of democracy. Yarborough’s greatest political legacy is not his legislative program in the U.S. Senate, but, rather, his fierce tenacity and refusal to be subsumed bymuch less to surrender tothe Establishment forces of the business elite and their political surrogates he fought all of his life. George Christian, press secretary to Governors Price Daniel and John Connally, and to President Lyndon B. Johnson, once observed that Ralph Yarborough’s reputation in Establishment circles was that he would charge the gates of hell with a bucket of water on behalf of the cause he represented. It was not that Yarborough was a zealot or a fanatic. Many will recall him quoting Adlai Stevenson’s memorable statement, “I believe in the principle of compromise, but not the compromise of principle.” But Yarborough disdained the summer soldiers and sunshine patriots of democracy, who preferred comfortable accommodation with the Establishment to bruising battles that might be won but were too often lost. In this regard, he might have been a better exemplar of the Sam Houston tradition than was either Hogg or Allred, though he revered them all. The late Tiger Jim Sewellwho led Yarborough forces through the 1950s”and ’60s, served as a state representative, county judge, and district judge in my native Navarro County, and was described by Yarborough as “one of God’s noblemen”would often say: “I love my friends, but I hate my enemies better.” That saying suggests an attitude that Sewell, Yarborough, and many of their contemporaries shared. And though I worshipped at their feet and owe both men an immense debt of respect and gratitude, I suggest that the hope of the future lies in our commitment to their tenacity in fighting the good fight, while we disengage ourselves from the emphasis on personality that was too large a focus of their era. In that regard, I refer the reader to what Madison wrote in Number 10 of The Federalist Papers, and add a few critical observations, not meant to detract from the life and work of Ralph Yarborough. It has been my distinct impression that the education of Ralph Yarborough and his generation took place in an era when the academic emphasis was on the “great man” theory of history, and not much was either taught or understood about the institutional forces at work in history. To hear this grandson of two Confederate veterans speak of the Civil War, was to listen to someone who had studied a great deal about the life and the character of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis and their contemporaries but who, as best as I can recall, never addressed the root causes of the conflict. And when he spoke of his experiences in World War II, he understood the roles played by Churchill, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and MacArthuryet I never heard him make even a casual remark about the political, economic, or social forces that gave rise to that war. Yarborough seemed to filter all observations and thoughts about tactics and strategy, as well as goals and objectives, through an analysis of the personalities of those involved. IN 1957, A SMALL BAND of us began II to advance the argument for a two-party system, in what was then as rigidly a oneparty state as ever existed behind the Iron Curtain. We were Yarborough followers alla few staffers and several county campaign leaderswho shared the goal of destroying the Texas one-party system, a post-Reconstruction relic. At the time, there was rarely a Republican primary election in Texas, and even when there was one, something like ninety-eight percent of all votes would be cast in the Democratic primary, thus ensuring defeat for any liberal or progressive Democrats. A Republican Party, we believed, would provide a home for those conservative voters and make for a more progressive Democratic Party. We received encouragement from Yarboroughand we succeeded in several campaigns, especially in the 1961 special election to fill LBJ’s Senate seat \(when John Tower defeated Yarborough’s 1958 opponent, William A. “Dollar Bill” 1962 general election, between thenDemocrat John Connally and Republican Jack Cox. Yet it was my strong impressionand I will yield to those who have evidence to the contrarythat Ralph Yarborough was doing the right thing for the wrong reason. His distaste for Blakely and Connally and everything they represented was an inspiration to all of us, but Yarborough never seemed to come to grips with the institutional forces at work in Texas. He seemed unaware that our goal was not merely the personal defeat of his arch-enemies, but nothing less than a massive political realignment. In the 1968 Democratic primary race for governor, Yarborough was an ardent sup porter of Don Yarborough of Houston in his race against mossback Lieutenant Governor Preston Smithjust as Yarborough had been in 1962, when Don Yarborough came within twenty-two thousand votes of defeating John Connally in the runoff against all of the odds, and all of the money, newspapers, and corporations in Texas. And yet in the 1968 general election, Ralph Yarborough publicly endorsed Preston Smith, and was a thorn in the side of those who argued that the election of Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul Eggers would almost certainly ensure a large enough shift into the Republican primary to assure Don Yarborough’s victory in the Democratic primary two years later. But Preston Smith had never publicly opposed Senator Yarborough, was not overbearing or threatening in the manner of Shivers and Connally, and had as his emissary a staffer named Bob Bullock, who had endorsed Yarborough in the 1954 race against Shivers. These personal connections made it easy for Yarborough to revert to his preferred public stance, that of a party loyalist. But the consequence of Preston Smith’s victory in the 1968 general election was that the size of the 1970 GOP primary votewhich had been steadily increasing since Tower’s election in 1961was diminished to a level that was insufficient to overcome the Lloyd Bentsen onslaught. “Hoist on his own petard,” was what I thought of Ralph Yarborough after his defeat in the 1970 Democratic primary. In the aftermath of Preston Smith’s 1968 victory, it would take ten years before William P. Clements Jr. could barely defeat John Hill in the 1978 general election and the march toward a two-party system could resume. If anyone who studies the election returns in old volumes of the Texas Almanac wants to argue with my propositionthat a Preston Smith defeat in 1968, if not assuring Ralph Yarborough’s nomination, would have at least given him a fighting chance of defeating Bentsen in the 1970 Democratic primaryI will gladly accept the challenge. In the 1970 general election, while the late Tom Bones and I and a few others attempted to convince liberals that the election of Paul Eggers and George Bush over Preston Smith and Lloyd Bentsen would be far better for our side’s future, Yarborough again publicly endorsed Smith. And our cause collapsed. Yet only four years after Clements’ election as the first Republican Governor of Texas since Reconstruction, the vote in the 1982 GOP primary was at the two hundred and sixty-five thousand leveland Jim Mattox and Jim Hightower, not to mention Ann Richards and Garry Mauro, won the Democratic primaries, in the first such triumph for so many candidates who were in fact carrying the Yarborough banner. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13
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