When Texas Democrats were the state’s big operators

For more than a century uninterrupted, the big fights took place within the party.


Early on during the recent Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, a nasty fight broke out within the Texas delegation.

Historically speaking, that isn’t anything new. In fact, it has been much worse, many times before.

Following Reconstruction, the Democratic Party ruled Texas almost without meaningful Republican competition until the 1960s. By the 1990s, the Republicans had turned the tables and have since completely dominated statewide elections.

During the era when the Democrats reigned supreme in the state, the nastiest fights took place within the party. The conservative wing won most often. After World War II, when the alliance between Southern Democrats and Northern liberals began to unravel, segregationists formed the Dixiecrats, a third party.

Along the way, the Democrats spawned populists such as W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel, James E. “Pa” Ferguson and Miriam A. “Ma” Ferguson, as well as progressives, including Ralph Yarborough, Cissy Farenthold and Ann Richards.

The only politician who united Texas Democrats consistently — at times, just barely, and not at all after the Vietnam War accelerated — was Lyndon Baines Johnson. Once he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, however, LBJ is said to have told an aide, “We have lost the South for a generation.”

Make that two generations in parts of the South.

These ruminations drew us back into the deep freeze to pull out some historical pictures of Texas Democrats for the Austin Found blog. The surprise? The variety of images therein.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Austin ISD adopts 2018-19 school calendar. Here’s what changed
Austin ISD adopts 2018-19 school calendar. Here’s what changed

The Austin district board Monday night approved the 2018-19 school calendar, and students will attend school one less day than this year. Here are the highlights: • Students will be back in class Monday, Aug. 20, but summer will come early as they get out May 24, 2019, the Friday before Memorial Day. • Students will attend school 176 days...
Car strikes motorcyclist, SUV then runs over motorcycle; both flee, police say 
Car strikes motorcyclist, SUV then runs over motorcycle; both flee, police say 

Austin police are looking for two drivers who left the scene of a hit-and-run early Sunday after the first one struck a motorcyclist and the second one ran over the victim’s motorcycle.   The motorcyclist was heading north on South Congress Avenue about 2 a.m. when someone driving a black Lexus in the opposite direction hit him while...
Group takes aim at Austin schools with names tied to Confederacy
Group takes aim at Austin schools with names tied to Confederacy

Days after one Austin district trustee was criticized for publicly calling out his peers for delaying a vote on changing school names with ties to the Confederacy, more than a dozen community members Monday night announced the creation of a work group to push the changes forward. The group of 15, formed by the East Austin Coalition for Quality Education...
Austin-area federal employees expected to return to work Tuesday
Austin-area federal employees expected to return to work Tuesday

As the federal government shutdown rolled into Monday — the only business day of the three-day closure — calls to affected Austin-area agencies went unanswered, building doors were locked and employees stayed home. At Fort Hood, 40 percent of about 6,000 civilian employees were told to not come into work. When reached by cell phone, Christopher...
New panel launching effort to identify Texas school finance fix
New panel launching effort to identify Texas school finance fix

Two years after the Texas Supreme Court suggested sweeping reforms to the school finance system, a newly formed state commission will hold the first of several meetings Tuesday in an effort to find a fix to the system by the end of December. The 13-member Texas Commission on Public School Finance, composed of school district officials, lawmakers and...
More Stories