East Texans who remember W. Lee (Pappy) O’Daniel will find a special
appeal in a book by Bill Crawford.
Daniel, a song-writing flour salesman who launched the musical careers
Wills and the Light
Crust Doughboys, was a politician unlike any we’ve seen in Texas.
His Texas homilies, radio broadcasts, hillbilly music and affinity
for rural Texas propelled him into
the governor’s office for two terms. He also handed Lyndon B. Johnson
his only election defeat in Texas during
a special election for the U.S. Senate and later won a full term.
Pappy decided in the spring of 1938 that selling flour wasn’t much
different than selling politicians. Even though he was a Republican
in a state controlled by Democats, Pappy ran for governor, campaigned
across Texas with his family and the
Hillbilly Boys (the forerunner of the Doughboys),
During Pappy’s cavalcade from Fort
Worth to Austin for
his inauguration in 1939, 250,000 people cheered him along the way
with a chant that became famous in his campaign, “Please pass the
governor, Pappy commandeered photographers from a state agency to
record his activities and, as a result, Texas
has an excellent pictorial history of a Texas governor. Bill Caldwell’s
book is a remarkable collection of many of these black-and-white images.
Scenes with links to East
Texas towns like Zavalla,
offer snapshots from a kinder political era in Texas.
Many of them are scenes of Pappy visiting the rural homes of Texas
legislators during a tour in the fall of 1940.
The joy of
“Please Pass the Biscuits, Pappy” lies in a close examination of
the details found in the old photographs.
At Zavalla, when
Pappy visited the home of legislator Ottis E. Lock, the photographer
caught a foreground scene of a woman sitting in a car that had been
converted into a homemade pickup truck.
In Marshall, a crowd
of Pappy supporters was snapped as one of them was wheeled down
a street in a wheelbarrow. A nearby man carries a sign, “Mountain
Music and Biscuits Got Me.”
Pappy and his wife were greeted by Alabama Coushatta Indian Chief
Bronson Cooper Sylestine, robed in full ceremonial dress, at the
home of Senator Clem Fain.
When Pappy visited the simple, clapboard home of legislator Washington
M. Whitesides in Troup,
the entire family, including a little grandmother and five children,
were included in the photo. Pappy held one of the kids.
when Pappy visited Rep. Joe Gandy’s ranch, the photographer snapped
a photo of an old black ranchhand leaning on his walking cane--a
lasting symbol of a proud, hard-working cowboy.
At Paris, the photographer
shot a scene of Pappy and his wife sitting down for supper with
Senator A.M. Aikin, Jr. and his family.
In Newton, during
a stop at the home of legislator N.O. Burnaman, Pappy paused to
pet a favorite hound dog owned by Burnaman, an editor and county
judge, and when he visited legislator Price M. Daniel at Liberty,
the two Daniel families had their photo made under a moss-covered
When Pappy’s daughter Molly married Jack Wrather, Jr. of Tyler
, a photographer caught them cutting their wedding cake in 1941
at Austin. In a radio
broadcast heard throughout Texas, Pappy
invited everyone to attend the wedding.
Some 25,000 people gathered on the lawn of the governor’s mansion
to hear the vows.
Things Historical June
1, 2005 Column, reissued May 13, 2012
Published with permission
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers