Portraits of Texas Governors  > Modern Texas Part 1, 1949-1973  > Modern Texas Part 2, 1973-1991 (this page)  >  Modern Texas Part 3, 1991-Present

Portraits of Texas Governors

Modern Texas Part 2, 1973-1991

Dolph Briscoe

Dolph Briscoe

January 16, 1973 - January 16, 1979

Link - Statement on Nixon pardon

Statement to the press on President Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon






Born: April 23, 1923 in Uvalde, Texas

Early Career: Dolph Briscoe was the descendant of a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. His father was a close friend of Governor Ross Sterling, who once allowed young Briscoe to sleep in Sam Houston's bed in the Governor's mansion. Briscoe graduated from the University of Texas in 1942 and then joined the Army, serving in the China-Burma-India theater. He served in the legislature from 1949-57, where he promoted farm-to-market roads, which greatly enhanced the livelihood of rural Texans. He then left politics to manage his family's ranching and business interests, becoming one of the state's leading ranchers. He spearheaded efforts to eradicate the screwworm, a deadly menace to cattle.

Accomplishments: Briscoe was an attractive candidate to voters seeking an outsider untainted by the Sharpstown affair. As governor, he took a conservative approach, concentrating on more efficient administration of existing services rather than adding new ones. He kept his campaign promise of "no new taxes," the only Texas govenor of the modern era to hold that line. He did back increased spending for highway improvements and signed into law the Texas Open Records Act, which protects the public's right to access to government agencies and records.

He was the first governor to be elected to a four-year term with his victory in 1974 (previous governors had served two-year terms). Voters denied Briscoe another term in 1978.

Later years: Briscoe returned to Uvalde to manage his vast ranching and business interests. He served as senior chairman of the First State Bank in Uvalde and continued to be active in all phases of cattle ranching. He died on June 27, 2010.

Handbook of Texas article about Governor Dolph Briscoe

View Photographs of Governor Dolph Briscoe

Link - 1977 schedule

Schedule showing a week in the life of the governor




Jan 22 1973

George Foreman of Houston wins heavyweight championship

Roe v. Wade abortion decision

U.S. forces leave South Vietnam; 58,000 American lives lost

Aug 2 1973

Famed "Chicken Ranch" shut down in La Grange

Gas lines


Jul 24- Aug 3 1974

Hostage situation at Huntsville prison

Jul 25 1974

Barbara Jordan delivers "We the People" speech on the impeachment of Richard Nixon

President Nixon resigns

First "test-tube babies"



U.S. bicentennial

Alex Haley's Roots

Death penalty reinstated

VCR introduced

Saturday Night Fever

Star Wars

Camp David treaty between Israel and Egypt

Jonestown mass suicide in Guyana

John Paul II becomes pope

William P. Clements

Bill Clements

January 16, 1979 - January 18, 1983

Link - Schoolteacher's Prayer

"The Teacher's Prayer," 1979






Born: April 17, 1917, in Dallas

Early Career: After his family lost their farm in the Depression, Clements worked as an oil-field roughneck before attending college. The oil fields interested him more than school and he began a career in drilling. In 1947, he and two partners borrowed the money to buy two oil drilling rigs, a venture that grew into SEDCO, the world's largest offshore drilling company. Clements served as deputy U.S. secretary of defense in the Nixon and Ford administrations.

Accomplishments: Clements stunned political observers when he won an upset victory to become the state's first Republican governor since Reconstruction. He brought his business acumen to state government, insisting on sound budgeting and management policies. He also worked for tough anti-crime measures and improvements in the teaching of basics in the public schools, and made strides in improving Texas relations with Mexico. The beginnings of a severe economic downturn led to Clements' defeat for reelection in 1982.

Later years: Bill Clements became governor again in 1987, January 20, 1987-January 15, 1991.

View Photographs of Governor William P. Clements

Link - Bill McNutt to Clements

Letter from Bill McNutt on GOP gains in Navarro County




Three Mile Island nuclear accident

Apr 10 1979

Tornadoes kill 53 in West Texas and devastate Wichita Falls

CNN begins broadcasting

Spiraling inflation

Iranian hostage crisis

Pacman video craze


Saddam Hussein takes power in Iraq

Walkman introduced

Eruption of Mt. St. Helens

Fuel-efficient cars popular

Sadat assassinated in Egypt

First space shuttle flight

First reports of AIDS

First personal computers

Jun 15 1982

Supreme Court overturns Texas law denying education to children of illegal aliens


Governor's Mansion completely renovated

Mark White

Mark White

January 18, 1983 - January 20, 1987

Link - Ruiz prison overcrowding letter

Letter on Ruiz prison overcrowding suit






Born: March 17, 1940, in Henderson, Texas

Early Career: White attended Houston public schools and Baylor University, earning a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1962 and a law degree from Baylor Law School in 1965. White worked briefly in a private legal practice in Houston before serving three years as an Assistant Attorney General. In 1969, he returned to Houston to a private practice until 1973 when Governor Dolph Briscoe appointed him Secretary of State. White resigned as Secretary of State in October 1977 in order to run for Attorney General. After being elected and serving as Attorney General from 1979 to 1983, he ran against and defeated Governor Bill Clements in the 1982 governor's race.

Accomplishments: During his term in office, White focused his energies on education reform (including no-pass/no-play) and utility rate regulation. White also concentrated on economic development and the appointment of minorities to positions on his staff and in the government. Texas' Sesquicentennial occurred in 1986, and the Governor attended and hosted a number of events. The Goddess of Liberty was restored and planning for Capitol restoration began during White's term in office.

Later years: White was defeated by Clements in the 1986 election and returned to private life after his term ended in January 1987. He ran for governor in the Democratic primary in 1990 but lost to Ann Richards. Today, he is an attorney and president of GeoVox Security, Inc. He serves on the board of trustees for Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene.

View Photographs of Governor Mark White

Link - "No pass, no play" press conference

Transcript of press conference on no-pass/no-play law




Global warming demonstrated

Sally Ride is first U.S. woman in space

Aug 18 1983

Hurricane Alicia hits Houston, kills 21; Texas's first billion-dollar hurricane

Terrorist bombing kills 237 Marines in Lebanon

U.S. invasion of Grenada

First appearance of crack cocaine



No-pass/no-play law enacted

Apple Macintosh computer introduced

The Cosby Show

Mikhail Gorbachev comes to power in USSR, introduces glasnost and perestroika


Savings and loan crisis begins, leading to prosecutions, a massive federal bailout, and the demise of many Texas thrifts


Lonesome Dove

Chernobyl nuclear disaster

Challenger disaster

Hole in the ozone layer reported

U.S. bombs Libya

William P. Clements

Bill Clements

January 20, 1987-January 15, 1991


Link - Press release on abortion

Press release on abortion issue


William P. Clements had previously served one term as governor from January 16, 1979 to January 18, 1983. In the interim, he had served as chairman of the board of governors of Southern Methodist University, a time at which the school was rocked by a scandal in the football program.

Clements spent much of his second term dealing with the continuing prison overcrowding problem. He also was an enthusiastic supporter of the War on Drugs and other national crime prevention efforts. The recession in Texas continued to be severe, and Clements focused his attentions on job creation, economic diversification, and the recruitment of out-of-state companies. Texas was ordered by the courts to find a more equitable way of funding public schools between rich and poor districts, and considerable effort was spent trying to find a solution.

Later years: Clements retired from public life and made his home in Dallas. He operated two ranches in Forney and Kaufman where he raised black Brangus cattle. Clements died on May 29, 2011.

View Photographs of Governor William P. Clements.


Link - Poem on the beauty of Texas

Poem from constituent on "The Beauty of Texas"




Iran-contra scandal


Houstonian George Bush is elected president

Pan Am 103 explodes from terrorist bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland

Exxon Valdez spills 11 million gallons of crude on Alaska coast

Tiananmen Square demonstrations and massacre in China

Berlin Wall falls


Communist rule collapses across Eastern Europe

U.S. invasion of Panama

First virtual reality games

Nelson Mandela released from prison in South Africa

Clean Air Act

Iraq invades Kuwait

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Page last modified: June 29, 2022