Dolph Briscoe

Briscoe with Sam Rayburn and Jack Brooks

Briscoe with Sam Rayburn and Jack Brooks in 1959.

Like his father before him, Briscoe became interested in politics at an early age. He served in the legislature from 1949-57, where he was a leader in the development of farm-to-market roads, an innovation that had an impact on rural communities second only to rural electrification. Though he left office to take over management of the Briscoe ranch after his father's death in 1954, he remained keenly interested and involved in politics, supporting the moderate faction of the party in its fight with the "Shivercrats."

Sam Rayburn was one of the most powerful Texans of all time. He was also legendary for his fairness, candor, and personal integrity. Born in 1882, he grew up in Bonham. He entered the Texas legislature at age 24 and was speaker of the Texas House by age 28. In 1912, he was elected to the U.S. Congress and began 48 years of continuous service. In 1940 he became speaker of the House. Rayburn participated in the passage of most of the significant legislation of the first half of the 20th century. He was a leading supporter of the New Deal, and contributed significantly to legislation such as public utility and railroad regulation, the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and rural electrification. During World War II, he helped secure congressional support for the war effort, and in the postwar era he played a key role in getting funding for the Marshall Plan and other foreign-assistance programs. In the 1950s, he worked in partnership with Senate majority leader Lyndon Johnson both in the passage of legislation and in the power struggle within the Texas Democratic party. He died in 1961.

Jack Brooks was born in 1922 and grew up in Beaumont. After serving in the Marines during World War II, he was elected to the Texas legislature in 1946, where he and Briscoe served together. In 1952, he was elected to Congress, where he continues to serve today. Over the years, Brooks has been instrumental in securing funding for extensive improvements to Texas deep water shipping channels. He also played a major role in writing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and in the Nixon impeachment hearings in the 1970s. In recent years, Brooks has chaired the Judiciary Committee and overseen the passage of numerous pieces of legislation.

As for Briscoe, he achieved great success as a rancher. By the time he became governor, he had tripled the size of the ranch. He and his family controlled a million acres worth $40 million, and Briscoe personally was the largest individual land holder in Texas. He led the industry in the eradication of the screwworm, an effort that saved livestock producers millions of dollars per year. But he still longed to return to politics. In the 1960s, he began to plan a run for governor.

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Courtesy The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Page last modified: March 30, 2011