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Dolph Briscoe, Jr.


In office
January 16, 1973 – January 16, 1979
Lieutenant William P. Hobby, Jr.
Preceded by Preston Smith (D)
Succeeded by William Perry "Bill" Clements, Jr., (R)

Born April 23, 1923 (1923-04-23) (age 86)
Uvalde, Texas
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Janey Briscoe
Profession Politician

Dolph Briscoe, Jr. (born April 23, 1923) is a wealthy Uvalde rancher and businessman who was the 41st Governor of Texas between 1973 and 1979.

Because of his re-election following an amendment to the Texas Constitution doubling the Governor's term to four years, Briscoe became both the last governor to serve a two-year term and the first to serve a four-year term.

Contents

Early years

Briscoe graduated from the University of Texas in 1943, where he was a member of the Nu chapter of the Chi Phi Fraternity and the Alpha Rho chapter of Alpha Phi Omega. While at UT, Briscoe was selected a New Man in the Texas Cowboys in the spring of 1940. He was also a member of the Friar Society. He then joined the Army, serving in southeast Asia during World War II.

Briscoe was elected to the state legislature in 1949 and served until 1957. He then returned to Uvalde to manage his family's ranch and other businesses. In 1968, Briscoe competed unsuccessfully in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. There was a runoff between the more liberal contender, Don Yarborough of Houston (no relation to U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough), and Lieutenant Governor Preston Smith of Lubbock. Smith won the runoff and then defeated Republican Paul Eggers of Wichita Falls and later Dallas in the first of two consecutive general elections for governor.

Political career

In 1972, Briscoe returned to politics, seeking and receiving the Democratic nomination for governor of Texas over incumbent Preston Smith, whose latter tenure was marred by the Sharpstown scandal, a bank fraud case exposed by the "Dirty 30" lawmakers including Joseph Hugh Allen and Robert Gammage. After he defeated liberal activist Frances "Sissy" Farenthold of Corpus Christi for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in a heated runoff primary, Briscoe narrowly defeated the Republican candidate, State Senator Henry Grover of Houston, in the November 1972 general election. The final tally was 1,633,493 (47.9 percent) for Briscoe and 1,533,986 (45 percent) for Grover. The Hispanic candidate, 29-year-old Ramsey Muñiz, received 214,118 votes (6 percent), nearly all believed to have been at Briscoe's expense.

As governor, he focused on the maintenance and efficiency of existing government agencies as opposed to the creation of new ones. As a veteran rancher, Briscoe also worked to help the farmers and ranchers of the state during his tenure. This included the eradication of the screw worm on both sides of the Rio Grande River.

In the 1974 general election – the first for a four-year term in Texas since 1873 – Briscoe defeated the Republican nominee, former Lubbock Mayor Jim Granberry, by a wide margin, 1,016,334 to 514,725 in a heavily Democratic year. Granberry earlier had defeated Odell McBrayer, a "New Right" candidate, in the Republican primary. In the Briscoe-Granberry race, there were also 93,295 votes for the Hispanic La Raza candidate and another some 30,000 ballots for assorted minor candidates.

In 1974 and 1975, Briscoe undercut two attempts to write a new constitution for the state of Texas. He said that the proposals before the legislature, acting as a constitutional convention in 1974, and later, in 1975, before the voters, would cause expansion of government and weaken the executive branch, already considered too weak by most political scientists.

Briscoe was defeated in the Democratic primary in 1978 by former Chief Justice John L. Hill, who was in turn very narrowly defeated in the general election for Texas governorship by Republican Bill Clements.

Briscoe has won many political and civic awards over the years, including the designation of "Mr. South Texas" in Laredo. He is the largest individual landowner in Texas.

Philanthropy

The former Governor has also been active in the philanthropic community, giving several million dollars to various Texas institutions, mostly centered in and around the San Antonio area. In 2006, he gave a sizeable gift to the Witte Museum, a local gallery which features exhibits specifically geared towards Children. In 2008 he donated $5 million to the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in support of cardiology research and women's health. This gift was made in honor of his late wife, Janey.[1] Also, that year, he donated $15 million to the Center for American History, which was subsequently renamed the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and for which he serves on the Advisory Council.[2] The Briscoe Center holds the Briscoe Papers, which include his gubernatorial records as well as Briscoe family business records.[3]

Election history

1972

Texas general election, 1972: Governor[4]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Dolph Briscoe 1,633,493 47.91
Republican Henry Grover 1,533,986 44.99
Raza Unida Ramsey Muñiz 214,118 6.28
Majority 99,507 2.92
Turnout [5] 3,409,591 100.00
Democratic hold

Bibliography

  • Briscoe, Dolph Briscoe: My Life in Texas Ranching and Politics. 2008. ISBN 978-0-976-66972-2

References

Texas House of Representatives
Preceded by
Britton T. Edwards
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 77 (Uvalde)

1949–1953
Succeeded by
A. J. Bishop, Jr.
Preceded by
Ligon L. Holstein
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 79 (Uvalde)

1953–1957
Succeeded by
Jack Richardson
Political offices
Preceded by
Preston Smith
Governor of Texas
1973–1979
Succeeded by
Bill Clements
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