Not Just in Tennessee
Last updated 4/11/2023 at 6:15pm
For the last few days the press has had a lot to say about three members of the Tennessee Legislature being expelled by their fellow members. Allegedly the reason for their expulsion was that they had severely damaged the decorum of that august body. What they, in fact, did was enter the chamber using a bullhorn in an attempt to get the attention of the Speaker.
During my fourteen year tenure in the Texas House there was more than one occasion that detracted from the decorum of proceedings. The one that sticks in my mind, however, involved a gentleman who at the time was the only Black member of the Texas House of Representatives. Curtis Graves was from Houston, Texas and was, without a doubt very outspoken on issues dear to him. At time, the furnishings in the Texas House included a long press table located in the dead center of the House chamber with a microphone at either end. The microphone up front near the Speaker’s podium was to be used by one presenting a motion, the one in the rear was reserved for those who had questions or who wished to enter into debate with the presenter of a bill. Graves tried unsuccessfully for quite a while to gain the attention of the Speaker whose permission he needed in order to enter interrupt the presenter for a question. Being unsuccessful, Graves, a rather large, long-legged individual in one leap placed himself on top of the press table, running its length and shouting at the top of his voice, “Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker.” Pencils, note tablets and reporters went in every direction and a complete hush fell over the House over Graves conduct. The only one unflustered was the gentleman who was also waiting permission to ask a question at the rear of the chamber as he commented, “There is a monkey on the press table.”
Although there was a lot of talk about some appropriate punishment for Graves’ sin for disrupting the sacred decorum of the House, nothing was ever done and the House survived with only a few more attacks in that particular session.