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may , God Bless Texas By Dave McNeely and Jim Henderson University of Texas Press 272 pages, $27 A Turning Point In History Bullock was appointed secretary of state in 1971 by Gov. Preston Smith on the heels of the Sharpstown banking scandal. II nside the secretary of state’s office, longtime employ ees greeted the arrival of their new boss with trepidation. After the surprise announcement was made, Sybil Dickinson, who had worked there for more than twenty years and often behaved as though she were the secretary of state, walked into [Buck] Wood’s office with an unhappy look. “Randall she said, “we’ve got a problem. Bob Bullock doesn’t know anything about secretary of state.” “Well, there’s not much to know,” Wood said. True. It was the highest appointive position in state government, but one of the least demanding. The office practically ran itself. “Oh, this is going to be horrible,” she said. “I know Bob,” said Wood, who was then director of elections. “We get along fine.” His reassurances only calmed her a little. Because of his work for Smithraising funds and attacking the governor’s political opponentsBullock had gained a reputation of being somewhat unsavory, a bagman, a hatchet man. His mood swings, his erratic veering from project to project, his growing practice of calling associates and underlings at three or four o’clock in the morning, created the perception of a loose cannon. Wood had come to know him well, and even as he tried to soothe his anxious co-worker, he sensed that the office was about to change, that Bullock, now running his own show, was not one to preside over a sleepy hollow. It was an accurate perception. Bullock hit the door with a frenzied thirst for information. He wanted to know everything at once. He constantly pumped employees for information about their jobs, quizzed the attorneys about the range of laws that affected the office, and, drawing on advice he had picked up earlier from H.C. Pittman at the auto dealers, he believed an education came in with each day’s post. He would spend hours reading the mounds of mailmuch of it dull and routine, such as Uniform Commercial Code submissions or mundane corporate filings. As much mail went out as came in, and it was far too much for one man to sign personally. As had been the custom, an employee asked Bullock for copies of his signature to be etched into a printing block. Bullock tersely refused. Bullock called Wood and his assistant, Don Ray, into his office and asked about the signature stamp business. “Bob, there’s a lot of stuff that goes out of here every day. Most of it is just routine. It’s cover letters. You know, ‘Here’s your corporate charter’ kind of stuff,” Wood said. Bullock bristled. “I’m going to sign the stuff that goes out of here,” he said. “You bring it in here and put it on that table right over there, and I’ll sign it.” Bullock was proud of his signature. Over the years, he had spent countless hours practicing and perfecting it. He didn’t just dash off a quick scribble; he created art. For a week and a half, he was mostly sequestered in his office, signing stacks of documents and falling further and further behind while his amused underlings speculated on the life expectancy of this new policy. Wood arrived for work one morning and had just sat down at his desk when he heard Bullock bellow, “Buck!” Wood walked to his door. “Tell somebody to get in here and get this shit off my desk and get it out of here,” Bullock said. “I don’t want to see any more of this stuff ever again.” Wood broke into laughter. “I know you and Don are sitting out there watching me and knowing this wasn’t going to work.” “Yeah, Bullock, we tried to warn you,” Wood said. “You weren’t interested in listening, so we figured we would let you find out on your own.” Wood braced for one of Bullock’s explosive tirades, but it never came. Instead, he joined in laughing at his own folly. o the dismay of his friends, he was revealing another streak, one that they interpreted as the classic symptoms of manic depression. Besides chain-smoking and polishing off a fifth of Old Charter a day, he was beset by mood swings that reached soaring highs and abysmal depths. One day he would be withdrawn and morose, and steep himself in problem solving. The next, he would JANUARY 11, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5