John Hill for the State of Texas : About the Book
Briscoe's financial support also made it possible for the Center to publish the memoir of Ross Sterling , the founder of the Humble Oil Company and a former governor of Texas. Briscoe directly supported the acquisition of key items for the Briscoe Center's collections, including an daguerreotype of the Alamo chapel , the oldest datable photograph taken in Texas. Briscoe graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in and subsequently enlisted in the U.
He married Betty Jane "Janey" Slaughter in and they had three children. The couple went on to become the largest single landholders in the state of Texas, amassing some , acres.
In , Dolph Briscoe was elected to the Texas State Legislature and was a strong proponent of building the state's farm-to-market roads, an important development for rural Texas. He left the legislature in to devote more time to the family business, becoming one of the state's leading ranchers and president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. Briscoe was active in the Democratic Party of Texas throughout the s and the s.
In the wake of the infamous Sharpstown scandal, Briscoe was seen as a welcome political outsider with a conservative Democratic agenda that would bring stability to the Texas governorship.
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He was elected in and remained governor through the oil-boom years of the s, during which he increased spending for highway improvements, signed into law the Texas Open Records Act, and streamlined state agencies. His office also pressed forward with 78 pollution lawsuits that had been lingering in the previous administration. He settled 44 pollution suits and brought 35 new ones.
On a lighter note, in he also was the catalyst for rookie Houston television crusader Marvin Zindler 's expose' of the famed Chicken Ranch bordello in La Grange. He had a subordinate tip off Zindler, who did a series of explosive stories about the long-running house of prostitution that led to pressure on Gov. Dolph Briscoe. I just felt in my own heart and mind the sheriff would be responsive to a call from the governor.
In , Hill challenged Briscoe in the Democratic primary for governor.
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Briscoe, a Uvalde rancher, was vying for re-election with an eye on becoming the first governor to serve 10 consecutive years in office. Hill a decade earlier had first pursued his dreams of becoming governor in an unsuccessful race that saw him come in a dismal sixth in a field of But the hard-fought primary resulted in Hill's dreams replacing those of Briscoe.
And at any earlier point in the history of modern Texas politics, the Democratic nomination for governor would have been tantamount to Hill taking the oath of office. Times had changed, though, and Hill would become the first Democrat to surrender the governor's mansion to a Republican in years, losing the election to Dallas millionaire Bill Clements. Texas had become a two-party state.
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An amusing sidelight of the election occurred when Hill and Clements attended the same dinner function. Clements — who had been saying he was going to hang dislike of President Jimmy Carter around Hill's neck like a dead chicken — threw a rubber chicken at the attorney general. The plastic fowl landed on the plate of a prominent woman, splashing food on her. For the next six years, Hill played a background role in Texas politics, practicing law and serving as a critic of Clements during his first administration.
In , Hill won election to a four-year term as chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court and presided during two of its most tumultuous years. A legislative committee investigated ethics on the court, and the State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly chastised two associate justices. Then CBS television's 60 Minutes focused on the large amounts of money that lawyers who practice before the court pour into judicial campaigns.
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That prompted Hill to resign to seek judicial reform, but Democrats criticized him for giving a judicial appointment to Clements. Hill returned to public service in when then-Gov. George W.
Bush appointed him to the Texas Lottery Commission , which was embroiled in scandal and partisan bickering. John Luke Hill Jr. Photo: Winstead Law Firm.