7
“God Bless Texas”

“God Bless Texas”

TEXAS IS 12 MILLION
PEOPLE WHO ARE
BRIGHT AND DUMB,
CONSERVATIVE AND
LIBERAL, TALL AND
SHORT AND SLIM AND
FAT, COURAGEOUS AND
COWARDLY—JUST
LIKE THE PEOPLE IN
CONNECTICUT AND
OREGON. UNLIKE THE
PEOPLE IN THOSE TWO
STATES, THEY DON’T
KNOW HOW TO BEHAVE
WHEN IT RAINS; AND
THEY HAVE CERTAIN
OTHER ENDEAR-
ING AND ANNOYING
CHARACTERISTICS.

Joe B. Frantz, from his
presidential address
to the Western History
Association, San Diego,
California,
October 19, 1979

During the last decades of the twentieth century, when Bob Bullock (1929–1999) was comptroller and then lieutenant governor of Texas, he ended every speech with the words “God Bless Texas.” Since the gruff Bullock was not known for his piety, there is some question about his purpose for using the phrase. Were the words a benediction, or a prayer, or an admonition, or a simple expression of state patriotism? Indeed, he cherished Texas history and when the new Texas State History Museum opened in 2001 it was named in his honor. “The Bullock,” as the museum became known in Austin, thus preserved the memory of a crusty Democrat politician from Hillsboro who brought reforms to the Texas tax system and mentored George W. Bush. His political tenure from 1956 to the end of the century also measured the remarkable Republican takeover of Texas politics, which began with the elections of Bruce Alger in 1954 and John Tower in 1961.

The incoming Republican politicians, mostly white, embraced the conservative nature of a majority electorate that was generally anti-government, anti-taxes, anti-school funding, anti-poverty programs, anti-union, anti-environment, antiabortion, pro-business, pro-gun, and pro-English-languageonly education. The roots of this conservatism can be found in the Texas mystique, fundamentalist religion, anti-communism, libertarianism, and the backlash against Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program. Also, the political temper in Texas reflected an attempt to preserve a manner of life that was under assault by the forces of a relentless urbanization that brought new ideas, different people, and changing technology. It was symbolic of these shifting politics when John Connally, who had been Governor of Texas from 1963 to 1969 and an LBJ follower, hearkened to his presidential ambitions, switched parties, and became secretary of the treasury under Richard M. Nixon. Connally was followed as governor by conservative Democrat Preston Smith, whose reputation was tainted by the Sharpstown scandal, and then by Democrat Dolph Briscoe, the largest landowner in the state, who at first recommended

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