J. Lovic Bullard to Shivers, May 10,1956

From the earliest days of American settlement until 1952, the Democratic party was the only viable political party in Texas. Over the decades, the party had split into a progressive wing (with members such as Dan Moody, James Allred, and Lyndon Johnson) and a conservative wing (including Pappy O'Daniel, John Nance Garner, and Coke Stevenson). Historical factors including the Depression and World War II delayed the evolution of this conservative wing into a Texas Republican party.

The 1952 presidential election marked a turning point. After becoming governor, Shivers had taken control of the Democratic party machinery, purging the executive committee of the party and stacking it with his own supporters. He also instigated a change in election laws which allowed candidates to run in both the Democratic and Republican primaries. Conservative Democrats, called "Shivercrats," thus ran as candidates for both parties, giving Shivers effective control of both parties while inducing many voters to cast their first Republican votes. The Tidelands controversy also weakened Texans' allegiance to the Democratic party. Anger in Texas against President Truman and his chosen successor, Adlai Stevenson, culminated in Governor Shivers' endorsement of Republican candidate Dwight Eisenhower for president and Eisenhower's victory in the state.

A passionate internal struggle took place for control of the Democratic party in the 1950s and 1960s among conservatives such as Shivers, moderates such as LBJ and Sam Rayburn, and true liberals such as Ralph Yarborough. It was not until the 1970s, with the breakthrough of a viable Republican party as a home for conservatives, that partisan in-fighting subsided.

This letter from a Shivers supporter refers to several interesting issues of the day, including states-rights and "interposition" (the idea of a state resisting federally mandated desegregation). It also refers to Ace Reid, the well-known "cowpoke" cartoonist, with a sarcastic jibe at ranchman Lyndon Johnson and his ally George Parr, the so-called Duke of Duval, who ruled Democratic party politics in the Rio Grande Valley for decades and whom Shivers had unsuccessfully tried to destroy.

"Modern Texas"

J. Lovic Bullard to Shivers

"Modern Texas"

J. Lovic Bullard to Shivers, May 10 ,1956, Records of Allan Shivers, Texas Office of the Governor, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: March 30, 2011