A headline on April 1, 1975 in the El Paso Herald-Post read “‘Duke of Duval’ dead; Body Found on Ranch.” The article continued as follows: “CONCEPCION, Tex (UPI) – George B. Parr, longtime political boss of South Texas, was found dead on his ranch today by Texas Rangers and officers of the Department of Public Safety, the DPS reported. The cause of death was not disclosed.”
George B. Parr was born on March 1, 1901 to Archer “Archie” Parr and the former Elizabeth Allen in San Diego, Texas. As a youth, Parr acted as his father’s page as Archer served in the Texas State Senate. George Parr attended several colleges and at least one trade school before studying law at University of Texas. Although he did not earn a law degree, he was able to pass the Texas bar examination in 1926 and was soon chosen to serve county judge, succeeding his great uncle Givens Parr who had resigned due to ill health.
Raised on Matagorda Island and having worked as a cowboy in his young adulthood, Archer Parr had become a leader in the Democratic Party in the early 1900s, being elected to serve in the Texas Senate from 1915 to 1934 from sparsely populated Duval County and neighboring Jim Wells County. The Parr reputation was one of paternalism toward toward the largely Mexican-American constituency. The era was also characterized by rumors of coercion, political favoritism, election irregularities and fraud alongside the benefits that Archer Parr was able to obtain for the area. Archer was finally defeated in 1934 when he lost the Democratic primary in his campaign for the state Senate seat. His opponents had taken advantage of an ongoing income tax case against the elder Parr. Archer Parr retired from politics and moved to Corpus Christi. He passed away in 1942 and his political mantle was taken up by his son George.
George B. Parr likewise was involved in a number of controversies, including allegations of fraud and tax evasion as early as 1934. As a consequence, he served time in prison. After his release he was again imprisoned for under a year for a probation violation. Once freed, George Parr resumed his careers although for a few years, he was not allowed to run for public office. He was pardoned by President Harry Truman in 1946 and resumed running for election, serving as sheriff and county judge in Duval county at various times.
Parr was strongly believed to have been involved in influencing the outcome of Lyndon Johnson’s 1948 United States Senate victory over Coke R. Stevenson. Over one million votes had been cast and on election day, Stevenson was the apparent winner over Johnson. Then, six days after the election, a precinct in Jim Wells County reported amended election returns in which 202 additional votes were added to the tally, 200 of which were for Johnson. This turned the election to a small majority for Johnson rather than Stevenson. The election results as revised were challenged, but allowed to stand and Johnson went on to serve in the Senate.
The rest of George Parr’s career was characterized by more controversies. From the 1950s on, Parr and his organization survived many investigations. However, in late March, the 5th United States Circuit Court of Appeals and upheld Parr’s conviction for income tax evasion and perjury. Parr was facing a prison term of ten years of which five years were suspended. On April 1, 1975, after his conviction, Parr committed suicide on his ranch. He was 74 years old.
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