Harry Hopkins to Ferguson, January 3, 1935

While on the national level Texans such as John Nance Garner, Sam Rayburn, and Jesse H. Jones were playing leadership roles in fighting the Depression, back in Texas Governor Ferguson was not so effective, and her involvement and that of her husband in the dispersement of federal relief money led to scandal. In May 1933, Congress created the Federal Emergency Relief Adminstration (FERA) to make grants to the states. In Texas, the legislature created the Texas Rehabilitation and Relief Commission to administer the FERA money through county boards. Mrs. Ferguson saw to it that Pa Ferguson was made head of the commission, and he in turn filled the county boards with constituents and friends.

Much of the money from the federal government was contingent on the state providing matching funds. The Fergusons engineered an election in which voters were persuaded to vote for $20 million in relief bonds with a raft of questionable tactics. Lawrence Westbrook, director of the Texas Relief Commission under Pa Ferguson, later admitted, "I know that in some instances outright fraud has been committed, forgeries, misapplication of funds." As a result, the legislature replaced the leadership of the Texas Relief Commission and deprived the Fergusons of further opportunities to funnel FERA money for their own purposes.

This letter from FERA director Harry Hopkins shows some of the areas towards which relief money was directed. From 1933 to 1935, FERA distributed a total of $3 billion for relief. In 1935, the work of FERA was taken over by the Social Security Board, and Hopkins moved on to become director of the Works Projects Administration, one of the most famous of all New Deal programs. The WPA employed more than three million people and was responsible for the building of highways, bridges, public buildings and parks.

"The Politics of Personality"

W.D. Hopkins to Gov. Ferguson

"The Politics of Personality"

Harry Hopkins to Ferguson, January 3, 1935, Records of Miriam A. Ferguson, Texas Office of the Governor, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: March 30, 2011