Portraits of Texas Governors

The Politics of Personality Part 3, 1939-1949

W. Lee O'Daniel

Pappy O'Daniel

January 17, 1939 - August 4, 1941



Link - Letter on Un-American activities

Letter on "un-American activities"



Born: March 11, 1890 in Malta, Ohio

Early Career: Wilbert Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel's father was killed in an accident shortly after O'Daniel's birth. His mother remarried and the family moved to Kansas, where O'Daniel went to school and then took a job with a flour-millling company. He became a top salesman, moving around the country to work for various milling companies. In 1925, he moved to Fort Worth to become sales manager for Burrus Mills. He took over the company's radio advertising in 1928, and began writing songs, speaking on religious and inspirational topics, and performing with a Western swing band he called the Light Crust Doughboys. He organized his own flour company in 1935. Radio fans urged O'Daniel to run for governor, and he won a smashing victory.

Accomplishments: O'Daniel failed to deliver on the populist platform on which he had campaigned. The legislature scoffed at the vaudevillian atmosphere that surrounded the governor, but his popularity remained high and many of his opponents were defeated. In his second term, O'Daniel began to attack supposed communists in organized labor and academia, and packed the University of Texas Board of Regents with appointees who ushered in an era of limited academic freedom on campus.

Later years: O'Daniel ran for the Senate in a special election in 1941, defeating Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson in one of the most famous and controversial elections in Texas history. He was shunned in the Senate by his more serious colleagues, and his popularity dwindled. He did not seek reelection in 1948. He worked in business and attempted comebacks at the governorship in 1956 and 1958, basing his campaigns on crude appeals to racism and anti-communism. Time had passed Pappy by, and he continued in private life until his death on May 12, 1969.

Handbook of Texas article about Governor W. Lee O'Daniel

View Photographs of Governor W. Lee O'Daniel

Link - Radio broadcast

O'Daniel's farewell radio
address as governor




Germany invades Czechoslovakia

Gone With the Wind becomes most successful film of all time

Kate Smith sings "God Bless America"

Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

The Wizard of Oz

Frank Sinatra joins Harry James orchestra

Germany invades Poland

World War II begins

Popular radio shows include
The Shadow, Gangbusters, Fibber McGee and Molly, and The Jack Benny Show

Sam Rayburn of Bonham becomes U.S. House Speaker

Germany invades Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium

Disney's Fantasia

Winston Churchill becomes British prime minister

British evacuation of Dunkirk

Germany invades France

German U-boats dominate Atlantic

Battle of Britain

Lend-Lease agreement

Selective Service Act

FDR makes "Four Freedoms" speech

Germany invades Russia



Coke R. Stevenson

Coke Stevenson

August 4, 1941 - January 21, 1947


Link - Letter from Admiral Nimitz

Letter from Admiral Chester Nimitz



Born: March 20, 1888, in a log cabin in Mason County, Texas

Early Career: Stevenson attended a country school (seven years of three-month school terms), then went into business as a teenager hauling freight between Junction and Brady. Starting as a janitor at a Junction bank, he became a bookkeeper and cashier and studied law at night. As a young man he was involved with many small businesses in Kimble County, then served as county attorney and county judge. He entered the Texas House of Representatives in 1928 and was elected speaker of the House in 1933 and lieutenant governor in 1938. He became governor when W. Lee O'Daniel resigned to become a U.S. senator. He was overwhelmingly reelected, and his term as governor was the longest of Texas governor up to that time.

Accomplishments: Stevenson concerned himself with soil conservation, expansion of and permanent financing for a state highway system, expansion of the University of Texas, and increases in teacher's salaries. He emphasized conservative fiscal policies and converted the state's deficit into a surplus by the time he left office.

Later years: Stevenson became the center of national attention during his race for the U.S. Senate in 1948, in which he ran against Congressman Lyndon Baines Johnson. The election was the closest senatorial race in the nation's history. Stevenson appeared to be the winner when an amended return was filed from Jim Wells County giving Johnson enough to win by 87 votes. Stevenson contested the election all the way to the United States Supreme Court. He took his defeat bitterly and retired from public life. He died on June 28, 1975.

Handbook of Texas article about Governor Coke R. Stevenson

View Photographs of Governor Coke R. Stevenson

Link - Telegram on Beaumont riot

Telegram on the 1943 riot
in Beaumont




Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor; U.S. enters World War II

Apr 24 1942
Texas assigned war bond quota of $18.6 million; 750,000 Texans will serve in the armed forces during the war

May 16 1942
Oveta Culp Hobby becomes director of the WACs

Anglo-American landings in North Africa

Ration books introduced

Polio epidemic

Salvage drives

Jun 1943
Beaumont race riot

Sep 9 1943
36th Infantry Division leads landing at Salerno; fights in Italy and Germany, awarded 15 Congressional Medals of Honor

Apr 3 1944
Supreme Court rules Texas "white primary" illegal

D-Day landings

30 percent inflation

Popular radio shows include The Red Skelton Show,
The Green Hornet, Superman, Inner Sanctum, The Fred Allen Show, One Man's Family, and Queen for a Day

Victory in Europe

Atomic bombs dropped on Japan; Japan surrenders and World War II ends; 57 million killed in the war; 291,000 Americans



Beauford H. Jester

Beauford Jester

January 21, 1947 - July 11, 1949


Link - Gilmer-Aiken resolution

Resolution establishing Gilmer-Aikin Committee to reform education



Born: January 12, 1893, in Corsicana, Texas

Early Career: Jester's father, George Taylor Jester, was lieutenant governor of Texas from 1894-1898. Jester attended the University of Texas and Harvard Law School, where his studies were interrupted by World War I. He served as a captain in action and with the occupation army in Germany. After the war, he earned a law degree from the University of Texas and practiced law in Corsicana, also managing family holdings in cotton and cattle. From 1929-35 he served on the University of Texas Board of Regents, becoming the youngest person to chair the board. He was instrumental in the building expansion of the university, including the construction of the tower. He was appointed, then elected, to the Railroad Commission from 1942-47.

Accomplishments: Jester was known as a states'-rights governor, opposing federal civil rights legislation and the integration of the University of Texas. Sweeping reform and modernization of public education took place during Jester's term in the Gilmer-Akin Laws. Jester also supported the passage of a right-to-work law that abolished union shops in Texas.

Jester died of a heart attack on July 11, 1949, the only Texas governor to die in office.

Handbook of Texas article about Governor Beauford H. Jester

View Photographs of Governor Beauford H. Jester

Link - Letter from R. O'Hara Lanier

Letter from R. O'Hara Lanier,
president of Texas State University
for Negroes



Apr 16 1947
Explosion in Texas City harbor kills 600 and injures 4000

Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl published

Marshall Plan for European reconstruction

Jackie Robinson signs with Brooklyn Dodgers

Jan 4 1948
Oil discovered in Permian Basin

Alger Hiss spy case

State of Israel created

Berlin airlift

Kinsey report on sexual behavior published

Aug 1948
Lyndon B. Johnson beats Coke Stevenson for U.S. Senate by 87 votes

Formation of NATO

Communist victory in China

Creation of East and West Germany

Orwell's 1984

Bikini bathing suits introduced

<< Back - The Politics of Personality Part 2, 1927-1939  |  Continue - Modern Texas Part 1, 1949-1973 >>  

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Page last modified: June 29, 2022