restricted access Chapter 11. Politics
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v v CHAPTER 11 Politics T wo weeks after the convention, Donna and I were married in the Boys Ranch Chapel. Bobby, who was now an ordained Baptist minister, officiated the ceremony. Nine FFA vice presidents attended. That summer I worked as a bricklayer for the construction company working on the Clarendon Junior College campus. I was glad to have that job. In the fall, I drove the school bus again and did everything I could to make money while attending school. It was a relief to have the scholarship money from the HLSR. Donna graduated from Clarendon the following May and joined a carpool to attend West Texas State University, where she was a business major. As the outgoing president of the FFA, I would be a delegate to the National Convention again. Every state had only two delegates, and the delegates representing Texas were the incoming and outgoing state presidents. Texas did not support the equal two-­ delegate representation since one-­ fourth of the national enrollment was from Texas and for years had been trying to change the bylaws in favor of reapportionment so that the number of delegates was based on each state’s enrollment. This was my first big test. Could I find a way to negotiate a compromise that would allow Texas a bigger voice and larger representation at future conventions? We developed a strategy that I thought would work based on my speech that I had given when I was running for state FFA president. At that time, the FFA had been criticized for excluding girls from membership . I made a motion on the floor to allow girls as members in the 102 • The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch FFA and to modify the number of delegates to the convention based on each state’s membership in addition to the existing two delegates from each state. Delegates from New York, Ohio, Indiana, California, Florida, and other states, aware that their membership would increase, spoke in support of my motion. When the vote was finally called, our motion carried. I was thrilled. This was my first experience negotiating a successful compromise. Allowing female membership in the FFA was a turning point for the organization, increasing the membership significantly and opening doors for women in the field of agriculture, which up until that time, was male dominated. That December, Representative Bill Clayton called me to ask if I might be interested in running for the Texas state representative seat. The current incumbent, a Republican, had become very unpopular because he wanted to sell his property to the state of Texas for a lot of money. The state planned to construct a major highway through his ranch. The plan eventually drew many protesters. Clayton asked if I would come to Austin to discuss the proposition. I explained that it would have to be a one-­ day trip, so he said he would make the arrangements. He set up a meeting for me with Speaker of the House Mutscher and Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes. We met in Barnes’s private dining room in his apartment on the second floor of the state capitol. The state provided a furnished apartment behind the Senate chamber for the lieutenant governor and provided one for the Speaker of the House behind the house chamber. There was a large crystal chandelier over the dining room table, and the Texas state seal was etched on the fine china on the table. I had never seen anything like this and felt completely out of place. Lieutenant Governor Barnes was a large man with huge hands. He had curly reddish-­ brown hair, heavy eyebrows, and piercing eyes. When he entered the room, we stood. He walked straight over to me and gripped my hand, pulling me toward him. He looked straight at me, smiled, and said, “Welcome to the state capitol. I’m Ben Barnes.” Ben had been elected to the Texas House at the age of twenty-­ two and was elected Speaker of the House at twenty-­ seven. At thirty, he was the state’s youngest lieutenant governor. I remembered reading an article in Newsweek about Ben that predicted that he was one of the people most likely to become the country’s president. Unfortunately, Ben got Politics • 103 caught up in a stock fraud scandal, known as the Sharpstown scandal, while he was serving as lieutenant governor, which tainted his political career. He was very impressive and personable. I felt privileged to meet him...