Today in Texas History – August 4

From the Annals of Mr. Texas –  In 1941, Lt. Gov. Coke Stevenson was sworn in as  Governor of Texas when Pappy O’Daniel resigned to take office as a United States senator. Stevenson’s story is rather remarkable.  He grew up in hard scrabble land of the western Hill Country and had almost no formal education.   He began work in his teens running mule teams that hauled freight between Junction and Brady. He educated himself on the trail studying history and bookkeeping at night.  He worked his way up from janitor to bank cashier and continued to study – this time tackling law under the tutelage of Judge Marvin Blackburn.   He passed the bar exam in 1913 and continued his banking career while practicing law.  Stevenson organized and became president of the First National Bank in Junction and also aspired to politics.  He was elected Kimble County Attorney and County Judge.  He later was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1928 and became Speaker of the House in a remarkable short five years.  In 1939, he was elected lieutenant governor. After succeeding Daniel he was elected governor on his own in 1942 and served until 1947.  Unfortunately, he may be most famous for his loss to Lyndon Johnson in the   1948 Democratic Primary.  It was a race filled with controversy and scandal and revealed LBJ as a politician who would stop at nothing to win.  The race and Stevenson’s own remarkable rise to power  is brilliantly chronicled in Robert Caro’s Path to Power volume of his series on LBJ.

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