Maverick Foresees a Rosy-Fingered Dawn

July 3, 1955 — I will not say that the dawn of a new era is with us in Texas, but I will say that the dawn of a new era is within the foreseeable future in Texas, and I would not have said that as much as a year ago.

Much has happened in the last year, and even more has come to pass since Jan. 20, 1953, when Governor [Allan] Shivers said in his inauguration speech: "Ineptness or corruption in the administration of a democratic government can and will be corrected by the people, if they are given the facts and opportunity to act upon them. This is a responsibility we must all share."

Yes, much has happened in recent times, and especially since the time when the words I just quoted were uttered — for we have seen shame and disgrace come to the good name of Texas. We have seen 25 insurance companies go broke with creditors and policy holders suffering untold economic disasters. We have seen our [oil-rich] tidelands leased to powerful men and corporations at royalty figures far less than what the Federal Government got for its tidelands, and worst of all we have witnessed the theft of the people's money from the Veterans Land Board.

In the latter part of 1953, the Texas School Land Board consisted of Bascom Giles and stand-ins for Governor Shivers and Attorney General John Ben Shepperd, who did not attend that board's meetings any more regularly than they did those of the Veterans Land Board. The School Land Board leased about 20 percent of the tidelands on a one-eighth royalty basis with minimum cash bonuses of $5 per acre.

It is interesting that when Price Daniel was Attorney General, he demanded that any bid of a lease within two miles of a producing [oil] well had to contain what is known as a high-royalty bidding feature, which meant that the bidder who offered the highest royalty got the bid. This excellent practice was discontinued when Price Daniel left the office of Attorney General and was only re-activated the month before last after the light of publicity turned toward the land office.

Now the important thing about all this is that the Federal Government — unlike the State of Texas — demanded and received bids starting on a bisis of one-sixth royalty and with a minimum cash bonus of $15.00 per acre.

In May of this year — for the first time — the State of Texas demanded royalties and bonuses on an equal par with Uncle Sam — and in fairness a good deal of the credit for this must go to Earl Rudder, the present Land Commissioner.

An important point to remember about the School Land Board is that its members were exactly the same members who made up the Veterans Land Board, one of whom was Mr. Bascom Giles. It is my thought — and prediction — that a great deal can be found out if we really have a thorough investigation of the School Land Board.

An effort was made to have such an investigation during the last session of the Legislature. The State Auditor, a man by the name of Cavness, testified before a committee that it would be necessary that he receive an appropriation of some $80,000 to thoroughly and adequately investigate the Land Board. Through the efforts and leadership of Rep. D.B. Hardeman, such an appropriation was made in the House, but it disappeared when it got to the Senate.

These factors — the veterans' land scandal, the insurance scandal, and what I think will ultimately be an equally important factor — the leasing of the tideland — are contributing issues toward what I believe will be a new era in Texas politics.

But there are other things which must be considered.

It is my opinion that in my six years in the Texas Legislature the immediate past session — with all its limitations and disappointments — was the finest session that I ever served in.

For example, session before last the bill which would have meant repeal of cross-filing under which a man could run as a Republican and a Democrat was defeated in the Senate after a hard and bloody fight. This last session, as lead author, I introduced the cross-filing repeal bill thinking that again we would have a bloody fight on our hands. To my pleasant surprise the bill sailed through the House and Senate with complete ease. Legislators who had once fought and defeated the bill changed their tune and this time voted for it.

That was a good sign. It meant that somehow, someway, the people were making it clear that they wanted intellectual honesty in party affairs — that perhaps we should have a two party state, as I think we should, but above all, let us be Democrats or Republicans and openly make a stand for what we think is right.

In the last session of the Legislature there was no book burning legislation like we had session before last, when a bill was introduced to remove all books from public libraries which degraded Texas history, American history and so on. Much of the credit can be attributed to Texas newspapers editorializing in a way which made it clear that no longer would they tolerate bush-league McCarthys. Thus the atmosphere was devoid of fear, suspicion, and censorship. . . .

Probably the most pleasant surprise of the session for me was the calm manner in which the members of the House and the Senate reacted to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on education [Brown v. Board of Education]. Frankly I thought that we would see an onslaught of bills all aimed at causing racial tensions and perhaps including features which would attempt to do away with public schools as was done in Mississippi. Yet only on one occasion was the subject mentioned — and that was two days before final adjournment. Not one unfriendly bill, of an anti-racial basis, was even introduced.

Much is taking place in the political thinking of Texas and even more will take place if you who belong to this proud and patriotic organization — G.I. Forum — will only re-double your efforts.

Up and down the Rio Grande and in connected areas, old dynasties which were the perfection of the so-called patron system are beginning to crumble. Anglo politicians are saying with increasing frequency that you can't hood-wink the Latin-American vote, you can't fool or intimidate them into voting for you, and you cannot take advantage any longer of the lack of education which often so grossly existed. Old time Latin American politicians, who so long contributed to what I called the patron system, are well on the road to being men who are no longer with great influence and power.

As I said I am not quite sure just what all these things mean, but I am convinced, completely convinced, that we are now solidly on the way to better days, to a greater harmony and to the acquisition of more rights for all of mankind in Texas.

Maury Maverick, Jr., Fifty Years of the Texas Observer

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