Texas Observer article sent to you by Greg Cannon.
Ralph Yarborough's Ghost
By A.J. Bauer
A few years after being defeated in his final run for the U.S. Senate in 1972, Ralph Yarborough found himself sitting in a driver�s education class in Austin. James Nowlin, Yarborough�s friend and former aide, doesn�t remember exactly what landed him there, though Yarborough reputedly had a heavy foot when he was behind the wheel. Regardless, Yarborough sat in a room filled with younger people. None of them, he told Nowlin, had any idea who he was other than �just an old guy who was there.�
�That always boggled my mind,� said Nowlin, now a federal district judge in Austin. �His name was on the ballot every two years for many years, many elections.�
Indeed, before serving as U.S. senator from 1957 to 1971, Yarborough ran unsuccessfully for governor (back when Texas elected a governor every two years) in 1952, �54, and �56.
Even before his name became commonplace on Texas ballots, Yarborough made headlines. In the 1930s, as an assistant attorney general under mentor James Allred, Yarborough pursued big oil companies that neglected to pay royalties on oil pumped from public lands. His legal victories channeled millions of dollars into the state�s Permanent School Fund, which continues to help fund public schools.
As a senator, and privately until his death in 1996, Yarborough achieved dozens of policy successes. He was the only Southern senator to vote for the 1964 Civil Rights Act and one of th... ...