Texas Governors: Series II by former State Sen. Carl Parker
Last updated 9/21/2021 at 8:17pm
In 1962, the year I was first elected to the Legislature, John Connally was elected governor in a very close Democratic Primary. He succeeded by narrowly defeating a young candidate named Don Yarborough. Connally, with his good looks and handsome demeanor looked the part of a governor. Ability to perform is a great benefit in the political arena. He majored in drama while at the University of Texas undergraduate school which served him well. He went on to law school and became a lawyer for several very wealthy families in the Fort Worth area, then joined the John Kennedy administration as Secretary of the Navy.
Connally was a close associate of Lyndon B. Johnson and fell right in with the conservative Democratic administration. Byron Tunnell was speaker of the House and Preston Smith, lieutenant governor. Connally arrived at the Legislature with several sweeping ideas for changes in the Texas government. One was controversial at the time; he advocated and strongly proposed that two separate entities, the Parks Commission and the Wildlife Commission be joined into one. The two had been separate with separate dedicated funding. Initially, his proposal was opposed by most sportsmen in Texas. Eventually, he persuaded lobby groups for sportsmen to change their minds and a bill was passed creating what is now Parks and Wildlife.
The other most controversial proposal advocated by Connally was to create a super board, as it was called, for universities. At the time there was no policy concerning whether or not credits would transfer from one college to another. Connally declared there was much waste and duplication in the way colleges were administered and that his super board, or coordinating board, could be more efficient and would benefit college students, particularly those who would begin their college careers at a junior college and later transfer to one of our major four-year colleges. It was universally opposed by most administrators of those colleges throughout the state, including the Boards of Regents of A&M and Texas. Slyly, Connally then pulled a good political trick to assure passage of his proposal.
In a speech to the Legislature, he advocated that we simply divide all the colleges in Texas into academic and technical. All academic colleges and junior colleges in Texas would fall under the regents of the University of Texas and all technical colleges and engineering institutions would fall under the regents of A&M. Having rattled the opposition so badly, they contacted those of us in the Legislature and the message was: “Forget about opposing the super board, just do not let Connally’s second proposal pass, whatever you do.” The “super board” i.e. Coordinating Board sailed through both houses of the Legislature and was signed into law by Connally.