Texas Governor Series: re-election of Bill Clements
Last updated 11/2/2021 at 9:10pm
Bill Clements was only the second governor to have served as governor, suffered a defeat and made a return. The other governor sharing this unique election experience was Ma Ferguson. Mark White was not able to survive his failure to keep several promises, including the one to grant school teachers a large pay raise. He lost his bid for re-election to Bill Clements.
Clements’ second term was fairly non-eventful as he continued his policy of retribution against those of us Democrats he chose to punish. He continued to have an inordinate number of vetoes of bills, most of which had local application, such as the one he vetoed, passed by me, having to do with the continuation of supporting various historic projects having to do with Lamar University.
Fortunately, however, even though Clements was not dedicated to fully funding public education, he was, at least, on one occasion dissuaded from cutting funds to higher education by one of his billionaire friends who at the time had a strong position with the Coordinating Board. Ross Perot was able to convince Clements to sign the numerous reform bills introduced based on the recommendations of the Perot Committee.
Clements claimed to be a great friend of higher education based on the fact that he had been chairman of the Board of Regents of Southern Methodist University. However, he was best remembered for the scandal that caused SMU’s sports teams to be banned from competition for a year or two. It seems that SMU athletes, particularly football players, were found to have received large cash payments in order to commit for SMU scholarships. The investigation also revealed that while Clements was chairman of the board two SMU football players broke into the athletic office, knowing where the cash was kept, robbed the office of several thousand dollars. When asked whether or not he was aware of payments to the athletes, Clements strongly denied he had any such knowledge. Later, as it became apparent that Clements had told a fib when denying his knowledge about illegal payments, his only retort was that there wasn’t a Bible in the room when he told his lie. Fortunately for Texas waiting in the wings to seek public office was a sharp-tongued, female activist who had gotten herself elected to the Travis County Commissioners Court.