Past South Texas Governors

  • Dolph Briscoe

    Dolph Briscoe
    Term: January 16, 1973 - January 16, 1979

    Dolph BrisoceBorn: April 23, 1923 in Uvalde, Texas

    Early Career: Dolph Briscoe was the descendant of a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. His father was a close friend of Governor Ross Sterling, who once allowed young Briscoe to sleep in Sam Houston's bed in the Governor's mansion. Briscoe graduated from the University of Texas in 1942 and then joined the Army, serving in the China-Burma-India theater. He served in the legislature from 1949-57, where he promoted farm-to-market roads, which greatly enhanced the livelihood of rural Texans. He then left politics to manage his family's ranching and business interests, becoming one of the state's leading ranchers. He spearheaded efforts to eradicate the screwworm, a deadly menace to cattle.

    Accomplishments: Briscoe was an attractive candidate to voters seeking an outsider untainted by the Sharpstown affair. As governor, he took a conservative approach, concentrating on more efficient administration of existing services rather than adding new ones. He kept his campaign promise of "no new taxes," the only Texas govenor of the modern era to hold that line. He did back increased spending for highway improvements and signed into law the Texas Open Records Act, which protects the public's right to access to government agencies and records.

    He was the first governor to be elected to a four-year term with his victory in 1974 (previous governors had served two-year terms). Voters denied Briscoe another term in 1978.

    Later years: Briscoe returned to Uvalde to manage his vast ranching and business interests. Today, he serves as senior chairman of the First State Bank in Uvalde and continues to be active in all phases of cattle ranching.

    Source: Texas State Library and Archives Commission ( (External Site))

  • John Connally

    John Connally
    Term: January 15, 1963 - January 21, 1969

    John ConnallyBorn: February 27, 1917, near Floresville, Texas

    Early Career: Connally distinguished himself at the University of Texas, where he received a law degree in 1941. He had already passed the bar examination before graduation and begun his career in politics on the staff of Congressman Lyndon Baines Johnson, the beginning of a life-long association. Connally was commissioned in the U.S. Navy Reserve during World War II and served as a fighter director aboard aircraft carriers in the Pacific, enduring nine major battles. Leaving the service as a lieutenant commander, he became known as a political mastermind, running LBJ's political campaigns from Congress to the White House, and also serving as legal counsel to oilman Sid Richardson. He served as secretary of the navy in President John F. Kennedy's cabinet before winning the governorship.

    Accomplishments: Handsome, shrewd, and dramatic, Connally personified Texas as many Texans liked to see themselves. Connally saw education as the most important way to address Texas' social problems, and succeeded in financing higher teacher salaries, better libraries, and improved research and doctoral programs in the universities. He continued the reformation of state government, worked on developing Texas as a tourist destination, and established cultural initiatives ranging from the arts to history to the Hemisfair '68 world's fair in San Antonio.

    Later years: After leaving the governorship, Connally joined the powerful law firm of Vinson and Elkins and became a foreign-policy advisor to President Richard Nixon. In 1971 he became Secretary of the Treasury. He officially switched parties from Democrat to Republican after LBJ's death, and there was wide speculation that he would be appointed vice-president after the resignation of Spiro Agnew, which would have put him on track to become president.

    Connally's reputation as a “wheeler-dealer” squelched the appointment, which went to Gerald Ford. In the 1970s, he was involved with business dealings that contributed to this image, especially a milk-price bribery scandal, for which he was tried and acquitted. He ran for president in 1980 but was soundly defeated for the nomination.

    In the 1980s Connally went into real estate development with his protege, Ben Barnes, during a boom time in the Texas economy. When the price of oil collapsed in the late 1980s, Connally and Barnes went with it, along with many other wealthy Texans and most of the state's major financial institutions. Connally was forced to declare bankruptcy and hold a highly publicized auction of his belongings. He died on June 15, 1993.

    Source: Texas State Library and Archives Commission ( (External Site))

  • John Ireland

    John Ireland
    Term: January 16, 1883 - January 18, 1887

    John IrelandBorn: January 1, 1827 in Kentucky

    Early Career: While in his 20s, Ireland was constable and deputy sheriff of his home county, and he studied law. In 1853 he moved to Seguin, Texas, where he was elected mayor in 1858. After serving in the Secession Convention of 1861, he joined the Confederate army where he rose in rank from private to lieutenant colonel. Ireland was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1866, and a district judge until removed by General Philip Sheridan as "an impediment to reconstruction" (1867). In 1872 he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, and in 1874 to the Texas Senate. While legislator (and later as governor), Ireland was known as "Ox Cart John" for his opposition to railroad subsidies on the grounds of their encouraging monopoly and privilege. He was briefly a Supreme Court justice until the Constitution of 1876 eliminated his seat. He was then defeated in a race for U.S. Senate (1876) and again in a race for U.S. House of Representatives (1878). Ireland won the gubernatorial race in 1882 over strong opposition from the Independent candidate George W. “Wash” Jones.

    Accomplishments: As governor, Ireland reversed Oran Roberts' policy of rapid sale of public lands, arguing instead for a minimum price and sale to the highest bidder. The proceeds from these sales went into permanent funds for public schools, the state university, and state institutions. The constitution was amended to provide school districts with taxing power, and a state superintendent of education was created. Ireland reduced the number of pardons, and called a special session of the legislature in 1884 to deal with the fence-cutting war. That same year, Ireland was reelected by a greater margin than before. Ireland's suggestion to establish a railroad commission failed to pass and he had to contend with strikes by the Knights of Labor in 1885 and 1886. He refused to sign a contract to rebuild the capitol unless native Texas stone was used.

    Later years: Upon retirement in 1887, Ireland unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate against John H. Reagan. He then resumed the practice of law in Seguin. Ireland died in San Antonio on March 15, 1896.

    Source: Texas State Library and Archives Commission ( (External Site))

Past Texas Governors (External Site)

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