Clarence Ousley to Colquitt,
September 19, 1910
Beginning in the 1840s, many Americans began to react against the damage to society and the individual caused by alcohol. There were two separate movements that crusaded against the problem. The temperance movement sought to persuade people to stop drinking, while the prohibition movement aimed to make the sale and manufacture of liquor illegal. Texas was home to many fundamentalist Christians who readily rallied to the prohibition cause, and these crusaders became known as the "drys." The Constitution of 1876 provided for "local option," which allowed individual communities to decide whether to allow alcohol sales. By 1895, 53 of Texas' 239 counties were dry and another 79 were partially dry.
Having converted most rural areas to their cause, the prohibitionists set their sights on banning alcohol throughout Texas. The number of dry counties increased, and twice the state Anti-Saloon League was able to bring referendums on prohibition to a statewide vote, losing only by a slim margin. Increasingly, only areas with relatively large concentrations of African, Hispanic, and German Americans continued to license the liquor industries. The state became offiically dry when Texas ratified the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1918 and passed a statewide prohibition amendment of its own in 1919.
In practice, prohibition was rarely enforced in Texas. In 1933 the Twenty-first Amendment repealed prohibition, and in 1935 Texas voters ratified a repeal of the state dry law. Thereafter the prohibition question reverted to the local level, and the drys had available only local-option statutes.
Governor Colquitt was against prohibition. This letter from the powerful editor of the Fort Worth Record, Clarence Ousley, discusses the impact of the prohibition question during Colquitt's 1910 campaign for governor and its impact on the Democratic party.
Clarence Ousley to Colquitt, September 19, 1910, Records of Oscar B. Colquitt, Texas Office of the Governor, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.