To Love the Beautiful: The Story of Texas State Parks
A Parks and Wildlife Department is Born
By the early 1960s, the Game & Fish Commission owned two airplanes, used for law enforcement and game census. The Skimmer was piloted by J.R. Palmer.
Annual report of the Game & Fish Commission, 1960-61. Administrative files, Publications, Texas Game & Fish Commission Records, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission
To deal with the growing popularity of hunting and fishing, the Texas Game & Fish Commission had been reorganized and expanded in 1961. The agency was hardly recognizable as the tiny stepchild that had to beg for credit to print the first hunting licenses back in 1907. Now the commission had more than 600 employees, including five biologists and a staff attorney. Revenues exceeded expenditures by more than $2 million, and the department occupied 30,000 square feet of office space in downtown Austin.
Texas Governor John B. Connally, who was determined to modernize Texas state government, proposed to merge the Parks Board into the Game & Fish Commission. Bluntly, Connally called the Parks Board “sick to the point of dying.” Sportsmen were horrified. After years of struggle, the Game & Fish Commission had finally matured into a solvent and efficient operation. Now it would be asked to take on the problems of the long-neglected parks. Connally’s critics accused him of bad motives, saying he just wanted to consolidate his own power by getting rid of two commissions and creating a new one that would answer only to him.
The funding objection was overcome when the legislature provided that money would not be diverted from game and fish funds to rescue the parks. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) was officially created on August 23, 1963. A three-member commission would oversee the operations of the new agency.
Redfish reared from fingerling size in inland waters, 1962.
Annual report of the Game & Fish Commission, 1961-62. Administrative files, Publications, Texas Game & Fish Commission Records, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.