T.M. Burgess to Moody, July 3, 1928

In 1928, Houston publisher Jesse H. Jones successfully persuaded the Democratic Party to hold their national convention in Houston, the first time since the Civil War that a major party convention had been held in the South. The party entered the convention deeply divided. Traditionally the party of the rural Southerners, who held dear to prohibition and Protestantism, the Democrats on the national level had become increasingly urban, Catholic, and "wet" (anti-Prohibition). The new look of the Democratic party was personified by their probable nominee as the convention opened, Governor Al Smith of New York. Smith was Catholic, backed by the New York City political machine of Tammany Hall, and aggressively anti-prohibition.

The sentiment of Texas Democrats was overwhelmingly anti-Smith, and there was great discontent in the Texas delegation when Smith received the nomination as expected. Governor Moody embodied the sentiments of the delegates when he led the fight to put a "bone-dry" prohibition plank in the party's platform. Moody became nationally known to a nation of radio listeners when the meeting of the platform committee was broadcast. However, the young governor lost the fight, and the party instead adopted a plank pledging merely "honest enforcement" of the Constitution. It was far less than the prohibitionists had hoped for. Their disappointment turned to rage when Smith's acceptance telegram called for "fundamental changes" in the prohibition laws.

Moody found himself in a no-win situation. If he campaigned for Smith, he would be accused of abandoning prohibition, which many Texans, including Moody himself, were still passionate about. If he refused to campaign for Smith, he would be accused of betraying his party loyalty. Throughout the summer and fall, Moody tried to straddle the fence, neither campaigning for Smith nor repudiating him. In the end, Herbert Hoover carried Texas, the first Republican ever to do so. The bruising fight left the Texas Democrats in tatters and facing a struggle for control of the party. Moody's career never really recovered from the election debacle.

As it happened, the election would prove to be the last stand for the prohibitionists. The arrival of the Great Depression would herald the end of their crusade, though Texans retained the "local option" that enabled individual counties to remain dry.

This letter comes to Moody from a radio listener in California.

"The Politics of Personality"

Burgess to Moody, 1928

Huntington Park, Calif.

2424 E. Live Oak St.

July 3, 1928

Gov. Dan Moody,

Austin, Tex.

Dear Governor: Heard you twice via radio at the

Houston convention. From the political aspect of the question it seemed

at the moment that you did right not to bring in a minority report

on Prohibition. I believe, however, that Gov. Smith's injecting the question

into his reply upon the nomination at the hands of the convention

has given another aspect to the question.

This morning's paper infers that you are going to stick

with Smith. I have admired your record and shall regret it,

if that is true. A man in politics has as much right to

bolt a candidate, as the candidate has to bolt the platform.

Gov. Smith has been a "nullificationist" in New York, of

the 18th Amendment. It has become a trite saying to speak of

America as consisting of the United States and New York.

For over twenty years I have voted the Democratic ticket,

but it will be necessary for me to "part company" this fall. Tennessee

is my home and Cordell Hull is a friend of mine. Gov. McMillan,

Harvey, and others have rendered valued service for democracy.

But there is a determined effort to have a "Prohibition fight"

and I think it is well that it has come this year instead of at

a later date.

As I see it, the campaign this fall is to be one of great

moral upheaval. America has set its face to better days, and will

not turn back. There is a feeling among some of our leaders that

one is at liberty to obey the laws he likes, and disobey the one he

does not. That is not democratic and it is not American.

I have confidence that you will move in the right direction during

this campaign.


T.M. Burgess

"The Politics of Personality"

T.M. Burgess to Moody, July 3, 1928, Records of Dan Moody, Texas Office of the Governor, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: March 30, 2011