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Texas political life


Governor Allen Shivers
Governor Allen Shivers

The political landscape of Texas changed dramatically with the New Deal, World War II, and its aftermath. When Roosevelt won the presidency in 1932, U.S. congressmen from the South, who had possessed little power under Republican administrations, began to have national influence. In 1936 Texas representatives chaired nine congressional committees, and Texan John Nance Garner was vice president. Democrat Sam Rayburn also became a national figure, serving as Speaker of the House of Representatives three times (1940-1947, 1949-1953, and 1955-1961) during his 48 years in Congress. This political power obtained defense contracts, military bases and New Deal relief money for the state. A number of young Texan politicians, notably future U.S. president Lyndon Baines Johnson, adopted a national outlook. These people believed that the future of Texas, because it was now connected to the national economy, was no longer either predominately rural or Southern. Opposition to the New Deal centered in third-party activity, and it remained there throughout the 1950s. In Texas, the third-party factions called themselves Texas Regulars in 1944 and Dixiecrats in 1948. Their strategy was to vote for third-party electors in presidential elections and vote for Democratic candidates for state and local office. That way the elites could retain local and state political influence.

The third-party strategy had little success in Texas. Roosevelt won in 1940 and 1944 with more than 70 percent of the popular vote, and President Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) defeated the Dixiecrats just as soundly. In 1952 and 1956 more traditional Democrats, led by Governor Allen Shivers, voted for the Republican Dwight David Eisenhower for president rather than Democrat Adlai Ewing Stevenson.

The success of President Eisenhower failed to create support for the state Republican Party, however, and Democrats retained control of local, state, and congressional offices. Throughout the 1950s, the Texas Democratic Party became more moderate. Traditional Democrats were challenged by a liberal wing of the party that supported government-directed social programs and complete integration of public facilities.

Although they could only muster about 40 percent of the popular vote, liberals could defeat any very conservative candidate who ran for statewide office. Under their pressure, however, the state government provided more money to education, established minimum salaries for school teachers, and expanded and improved colleges and universities. The state government reduced its own costs, updated the prison system, and improved the highway system.

Shivers is considered the first of the modern Texas governors; yet he opposed racial integration. His successor, Price Daniel, Sr. (1957-1963), reorganized the agency responsible for welfare, and during his term the legislature enacted a sales tax, guaranteeing a dependable source of revenue for the state.

More importantly, no Texas governor after Shivers ever considered passing legislation that would interfere with integration. Both Texas senators and most Congress members refused to sign the infamous Southern Manifesto, a pledge never to support Brown v. Topeka Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court ruling that ordered desegregation of public schools. "Texas" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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