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On Politics and Parks

People, Places, Politics, Parks

George Lambert Bristol; Foreword by Andrew Sansom

Publication Year: 2012

When George Bristol first saw the mountains surrounding East Glacier, Montana, in the early summer of 1961, he was, in his own words, awed to his depths. Thus began a love affair with nature and public parks that has endured for more than fifty years. This same love affair would lead Bristol to become a crusader for America’s national parks and, later, to be largely credited for the rescue of the ailing public park system in his home state.? In On Politics and Parks, Bristol tells his own story in lively prose that includes many intriguing peeks at behind-the-scenes events in Washington, Austin, and elsewhere. Beginning with his upbringing by a widowed young mother with a passion for music and literature, he narrates the converging of influences that led him to an influential political career, including active involvement in national campaigns for Lyndon B. Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Lloyd Bentsen, and Jimmy Carter. After working for the Democratic National Committee and Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, Bristol was asked to join President Clinton’s administration.? However, what he really wanted was a place on the board of the National Park Foundation (NPF). With decades-old images of Glacier still burning brightly in his memory, he helped spearhead efforts to elevate the image of the National Park Service and helped establish a highly successful fundraising strategy for the NPF, giving both organizations greater national awareness and stature.? Having acquired a well-earned reputation for fundraising and effective advocacy, Bristol soon began to do for his home state what he had done for the NPF: solidify support and funding for the Texas park system. Over ten years and five legislative sessions, Bristol, through the Texas Coalition for Conservation, the nonprofit organization he founded, fought for the full claim of Texas state parks to the sporting goods tax. Utilizing his many contacts, his well-honed political sense, and his dogged patience, he forged an alliance that would win the day for everyone who loves the state’s public lands. In 2007, in the last bill passed on the last day of the session, the Texas legislature nearly doubled the operating budget for parks.? On Politics and Parks is at once a lesson in conservation history and a captivating personal memoir that will inform, entertain, and inspire all those who share Bristol’s love for the unspoiled beauty of the outdoors and his commitment to preserve that beauty for future generations.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Kathie and Ed Cox Jr. Books on Conservation Leadership, sponsored by The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Texas State University

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I first met George Bristol when I worked for the Texas Nature Conservancy in the early 1980s. At the time George served as chairman of The Texas Conservation Foundation and we worked together to add several key parcels to the San Jacinto Battleground, site of the victory which won Texas its independence from Mexico. I...

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pp. xi-xvi

Sometime late in the spring of 1961, when I was twenty years old and attending the University of Texas, I learned that a prospective summer job with an oil company would not materialize. That was fine with me, because I really wanted to go to Washington to aid President Kennedy in his work addressing problems at “the...

Part I: Small Towns and Growing Horizons

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pp. 1-2

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1. Early Memories and Influences

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pp. 3-16

I became aware of politics during the latter years of World War II to the chorusing of cicadas and by the light of fireflies at the Texas State College for Women (TSCW) camp on Lake Dallas in Texas. That’s not to say that I had heard nothing of politics before then. Politics had always been there. My family, on both sides...

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2. Denton, Texas

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pp. 17-21

Our first home back in Denton was a summer-vacated girls’ dormitory near campus. It was perfect. It had a piano in the lobby and a great kitchen and was just down the hill from the college swimming pool. Because Granddaddy Donoho was a faculty member, we had pool privileges and it seemed every afternoon we swam there...

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3. Orange, Texas

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pp. 22-24

Orange, Texas, was a brief one- year stopover for us. The town is located near the Gulf of Mexico in Deep East Texas on the Sabine River. My snapshot memory says our time there was about crawdads, Brooks and Nellie Conover, a near hurricane, Korea, and “the bomb.”...

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4. Weatherford, Texas

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pp. 25-31

Weatherford, Texas, in 1950, was about one hundred honky-tonks, body shops, and revival tents west of Fort Worth. Back then I don’t think moral standards dictated that honks and the canvas crowds had to be zoned five miles apart. The bar owners knew there would be backsliders and the bible thumpers knew that dancers...

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5. Austin

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pp. 32-44

For a twelve-year-old, Austin seemed to have everything: more than a few movie theaters—maybe a dozen, including drive- ins; public parks all over town, capped by Barton Springs, a spring- fed, cold- water gem in the middle of hot Texas; a great university with a then- not- so- great football team; University Junior High...

Part II: A Freeing of the Mind and Spirit

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pp. 45-46

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6. College

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pp. 47-55

It was ironic that one of the principal reasons Mother moved us to Austin was to be near a first-class public university, and that I would then go away to college. For most of my early Austin years, I thought I would eventually attend the University of Texas. Starting in the seventh grade I went to University Junior High, which was...

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7. Moving into My Mountains

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pp. 56-82

I’m sure to some sophisticates the scene, freeze- framed from behind, would have looked like an Edward Hopper or Norman Rockwell painting: a boy silhouetted in the door frame and an Olympia beer sign blinking in the window, while lights from the jukebox cast an eerie blue into the night and human forms milled about in...

Part III: Early Political Years

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pp. 83-84

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8. Washington, DC

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pp. 85-96

I’d had a longing to go to Washington for years. With the election of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, though, this turned to near- obsession. Much has been written about how President Kennedy attracted the nation’s youth to public service. It was true. I had to go to serve my country—to be a part of the New Frontier. I...

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9. Jake

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pp. 97-107

I never met a person more suited to be a member of Congress than Jake Pickle. I didn’t realize that until after his win in a special election on December 21, 1963. I knew about Jake, but because he had such a reputation as being a mainstay of the conservative Democrats I was prepared not to like him...

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10. In Preparation for Defeat

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pp. 108-140

Although suspect due to its alarming wrapping, of all the gifts Jake Pickle gave me, the most meaningful was his suggestion in 1965 that I go to work for Walter Jenkins.
The year before, in October 1964, Walter Jenkins, who many considered to be the second most powerful man in Washington because of his unrivaled position as President...

Part IV: A Political Master’s Degree

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pp. 141-142

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11. The Democratic National Committee and Bob Strauss

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pp. 143-167

My work for Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and at the Democratic National Committee in 1969 brought me in contact with Bob Strauss, but the relationship was casual. He was the Democratic national committeeman from Texas. Bob’s counterpart as committeewoman was the gracious B. A. Bentsen of Houston, whom I will have...

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12. With Strauss and On My Own

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pp. 168-190

I would need every bit of recharging because August 1972 through the election in November was a blinding blur of activity. Even with the best lists and Rolodexes it took time to organize this national campaign, because we had to plan and execute trips involving multiple senators and representatives. The good news was that...

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13. Lloyd Bentsen

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pp. 191-234

The insightful letter reproduced above was written in 1944 by a young US Army Air Corps officer and pilot, Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Writing about a bombing run over the Mediterranean, he mentions the things most important to him, then and throughout his life: God, family, country, and duty, and he does so with clarity and...

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14. Lowell Lebermann—In Praise of Friendship

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pp. 235-244

Lowell Lebermann and I should have met in late 1976 or 1977, discussed the fact that both of us were considering running for state treasurer of Texas, then walked away. But there was chemistry between us that immediately transcended our differences. We decided without conversation that we wanted to be friends. Somehow the...

Part V: America’s Best Ideas

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pp. 245-246

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15. The National Park Foundation

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pp. 247-261

On the occasion of the presentation of the 2009 Pugsley Medal for my years of conservation and park advocacy, I had to prepare an acceptance speech to a prestigious national audience, many of whom were past recipients of the award. The principal guideline for my speech was the long list of my life’s work to appear in the...

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16. Parks in a Changing Texas

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pp. 262-304

I rotated off the National Park Foundation with deep regret but fi red up with knowledge gained during my time on the board. In the summer of 2000 I sought out my friend Andy Sansom, who was executive director of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), serving with great distinction and vision. I explained that...

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pp. 305-318

The last decade of the twentieth century meant more than national parks and poetry to me. I would have been satisfi ed feasting on only the two, but I always had other agendas on my plate.
After a bruising primary, primary runoff, and general election, Ann Richards won the governorship of Texas by the narrowest of margins in 1990 over a Republican who...


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pp. 319-322


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pp. 323-346

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781603447775
E-ISBN-10: 1603447776
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603447621
Print-ISBN-10: 1603447628

Page Count: 432
Illustrations: 70 b&w photos. Index.
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Kathie and Ed Cox Jr. Books on Conservation Leadership, sponsored by The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Texas State University

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Subject Headings

  • Political consultants -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Bristol, George Lambert.
  • Conservationists -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Democratic Party (Tex.) -- Biography.
  • Texas -- Politics and government -- 1951-.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1945-1989.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1989-.
  • Parks -- Political aspects -- Texas.
  • National parks and reserves -- Political aspects -- United States.
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