Courtesy of The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin Bob Eckhardt AFTERWORD A Fine Line BY GARY KEITH When Bob Eckhardt brought his por tf olio to the Observer offices in 1954, he was more than a novice artist. Eckhardt had been humor editor and cartoonist of the Austin High School yearbook, and at the University of Texas in the 1930s he was a contributor to, then editor of the flamboyant student humor magazine called the Texas Ranger. Eckhardt’s cartoons attracted the attention of the university and state officials he lampooned, and on several occasions he seemed close to expulsion. \(Although the administration did censor several issues of the Ranger, Eckhardt A Bob Eckhardt political cartoon appeared in the first issue of the Texas Observer in 1954. For the next thirty-six yearsas Eckhardt made his way through the Texas House and the U.S. House of Representativeshis drawings continued to be scattered through the pages of this publication. In 1939, fresh out of law school, Eckhardt and fellow political troublemaker Creekmore Fath started a law practice in Austin. Eckhardt ran a losing race in 1940 for state representative, then Fath was off to Washington to work with the New Deal and Eckhardt enlisted in the Army. By 1944, he was back in Austin, at the center of an intramural war between establishment Texas Regular Democrats and New Deal-Jimmy Allred Democrats. In 1946, Eckhardt organized Travis County for Homer Rainey, the former U.T. president who had been dismissed by regents and then mounted a quixotic campaign for governor. Eckhardt worked for the Office of InterAmerican Affairs, became a consultant with the Texas Good Neighbor Commission, then re-opened his law practice. By 1950, when he moved to Houston, Bob Eckhardt was a skilled labor lawyer. In Houston, Eckhardt and Frankie Randolph worked on building a progressive statewide Democratic party, and in 1958 Eckhardt was elected to the Texas Housewhere he served until he was elected to Congress in 1966. But as he moved from Austin, to Houston, and to Washington Bob Eckhardt never got rid of the cartooning bug. His cartoons appeared on the covers of all 137 issues of the Texas Spectator, from 1945 to 1948though many of the Spectator’s readers did not know that the artwork and commentary were his. As a federal employee \(with the Office on Inter-American political satire, and drew under the pseudonym “Jack o’ Diamonds”an arrangement that allowed him to skewer Governor Coke Stevenson on the cover of the Spectator, then entertain him at a working dinner at home. Later, his work would appear over a trademark signature based on his old family brand: E K V Eckhardt’s fingerprints were all over the inaugural issue of the Observer. Not only had his cartoons and accounts of his political exploits graced the pages of the State Ob OCTOBER 25, 1996 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.