Category Archives: governor

Governor Dolph Briscoe and the Chicken Ranch

Dolph Briscoe, Jr. was the 41st governor of Texas.  He was born April 23, 1923 in Uvalde County, Texas to Leigh Adolphus (Dolph) and Georgia M. Garvey Briscoe.  His grandparents were Leigh Adolphus (the first of his Briscoe ancestors to be born in Texas) and Lucy A. Briscoe.  Going further back on the Briscoe side, his great grandfather was Robert Permenias Briscoe and his great grandfather was Andrew Briscoe, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence and a settler in the old Fort Bend area.

Dolph grew up on the family ranch in Uvalde.  Upon his graduation as valedictorian of Uvalde High School, he entered the University of Texas at Austin.  There he met Janey Slaughter.  In 1943, Dolph enlisted in the United States Army as a private, serving in the China-Burma-India theater and rising to the rank of officer.

Dolph, Jr. had considerable exposure to Texas politics via his father who was acquainted with Gov. Ross Sterling.  Dolph, Sr. was appointed to the Texas Racing Commission by Gov. James Allred. Dolph, Sr. also served on the board of First State Bank of Uvalde with John Nance Garner, also a long time Uvalde resident.  Dolph, Jr. recalled the family being invited to stay at the Governor’s Mansion in Austin by Gov. Sterling when Dolph was still a boy.  An early memory was being invited to sleep in Sam Houston’s bed in the Governor’s Mansion.

He won his first election when he ran for State Representative in 1948, serving from 1949 to 1957.  Dolph, Sr. died in 1954, leaving Dolph, Jr. to run the ranch, and Dolph, Jr. left politics for a time.  The family ranch was an operation of considerable size.  At one time, the Briscoe family were the largest land owners in Texas.  Dolph was a long time member of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and in 1960, became the youngest person to serve as president of the organization.  While heading up the ranching industry Association, he helped raise $3 million dollars in voluntary contributions to assist in the eradication of the screwworm infestation in Texas and the Southwest.

Dolph, Jr. ran for Governor in 1968 in a crowded field of candidates trying to follow Gov. John Connally, but only finished fourth in the Democratic primary.  He ran again, four years later.  This time, he successfully defeated Rep. Frances (Sissy) Farenthold for the Democratic nomination and Republican Hank Grover for the Governor’s seat.  The state had been previously rocked by a political scandal known as the Sharpstown scandal and Dolph was considered to be a reform candidate.

Among his accomplishments were adding $4 billion dollars for public and higher education, increasing Texas teacher salaries along with salaries for state employees, expanding services for needy residents.  He appointed many African Americans to state boards along with the appointment of the first African American district judge.  He was known as being fiscally responsible, as he accomplished this without increasing state taxes.

Briscoe was known for favoring law enforcement.  The Chicken Ranch was the name of a long time brothel outside La Grange, Texas.  It was a successor to an earlier entity that had operated for decades inside La Grange.  The last operation is thought to have been set up around 1915 by a woman using the name of Jessie Williams.  Although the business was illegal, local and state law enforcement ignored it and allowed it to remain in operation.  Williams stayed in relatively good favor with the city and Fayette County officials by donating to worth causes and otherwise doing good deeds in the area, also supposedly informing local law officers of other illegal activities that she or her employees may have learned.  Local legend had it that during the Great Depression that the owner would accept chickens in exchange for services, which contributed to the name The Chicken Ranch.  During the world wars, the business was known for sending care packages to area troops.

Running of the business eventually passed to Edna Milton, a former sex worker at the Ranch.  Milton later acquired the property and business from Williams’ heirs and is said to have continued her predecessor’s relationship with local law enforcement.

In 1973, Houston journalist Marvin Zindler published an exposé that focused attention on the Chicken Ranch and during the tenure of Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe, it was closed once, reopened briefly and after another piece by Marvin Zindler, it was closed this time for good.

After being shut down as a brothel, the real estate changed hands a time or two, with some of the buildings and furnishings being moved to Greenville Avenue in Dallas as the site of a restaurant owned by William Fair III, which was only open a few months.  There was also later a bar on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas that briefly operated from around 1979 to 1980 under the same name.  Both businesses had in common the involvement of Milton who served as hostess of the restaurant and supposedly had an interest in the bar.  The story of the brothel was the subject of a book, a Broadway musical, and a song by the Texas band Z. Z. Top.

Briscoe served as Governor from January 16, 1973 to January 16, 1979.  Following his final term as Governor, Briscoe retired from politics and returned to Uvalde.  Dolph and Janey were quite active in philanthropy, and were known for their support of the Witte Museum and University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.  Dolph had a long time interest in Texas and American history and donated $15 million to the Center for American History, now known as the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and also served on its Advisory Council.  Dolph also made a founding contribution to the Kate Marmion Regional Cancer Medical Center in memory of their late granddaughter.


(Image credit: Findagrave)

Janey had always actively campaigned with Dolph and the couple was known around the state for their support of charitable causes.  She is credited for the campaign to have the Texas Governor’s Mansion named as a National Historical Landmark.  Gov. Briscoe passed away in 2010, having been predeceased in 2000 by Janey.  Both are interred in the Brisco Frio Ranch Cemetery in Uvalde.

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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in biography, governor


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Governor Beauford H. Jester


(Image credit:, the Legislative Reference Library)

Governor Beauford Halbert Jester was born in Corsicana, Texas on January 12, 1893.  His parents were George Taylor and Francis Paine Gordon Jester.  His father George Jester had served as Lieutenant Governor of Texas under Governor Charles Allen Culberson.  Beauford was also descended from the Hampton McKinney family, thought to be the earliest settlers in Corsicana in the 1840s, as his great grandfather was Hampton McKinney and his grandmother was Diadema McKinney, the daughter of Hampton McKinney.  Beauford graduated from Corsicana High School in 1911 and University of Texas in Austin in 1916.  He had attended Harvard Law School for around two years but enlisted in the United States Army when the U. S. entered World War I in 1917.  He was only a month or so from being eligible to graduate when he enlisted.

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Posted by on May 30, 2019 in biography, governor


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Governor Pat Morris Neff

Pat Neff was the son of Noah and Isabella Eleanor Shepherd Neff.  Noah was the descendant of German immigrants to the United States.  Noah came to Texas in 1849, but returned home to Virginia several years later to marry Isabella.  After the wedding Noah and Isabella rode in a carriage all the way from Virginia, a trip that took fifty-two days, with the newlyweds traveling six days and resting on Sunday.

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Posted by on October 25, 2018 in biography, governor


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Governor Ann Richards

Ann Richards was the 45th Governor of Texas, succeeding Governor Bill Clements.  She was born Dorothy Ann Willis on September 1, 1933 to Robert Cecil and Mildred Iona Warren Willis.  She grew up in the Lacy Lakeview area, just north of Waco, Texas.  Her father worked as a truck driver for a pharmaceutical company.  During World War II, the family briefly moved to San Diego, California before returning to live once more in Waco, Texas.  She attended and graduated from Waco High School in downtown Waco.  Her family was not wealthy, but she took piano and elocution lessons.  Once when she was a senior at Waco High, she and classmate Marilyn Reese played a piano duet and took third place in a city-wide musical talent contest.  Foreshadowing her later political career, Ann also was on the high school debate team and was selected to be a representative to Girls State, an American Legion Auxiliary leadership organization that mirrors each state’s government.  She was attracted by the process and was selected as a representative to Girls Nation, a group select individuals from from among the Girls State representatives.  Richards entered Baylor University in Waco after high school graduation on a debate scholarship.  The future governor married her high school boyfriend, David Read Richards, in 1953 during her junior year in college, and Ann went on to graduate from Baylor University in Speech and Government the following year.

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Posted by on October 4, 2018 in biography, governor, texas women


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Mirabeau B. Lamar

Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar was the second president of the Republic of Texas. He was born in Georgia in 1798 to John Samuel III and Rebecca Lamar.  One of the youngest of eight children, Lamar was self educated, having been accepted to Princeton University, though he declined.

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Posted by on October 19, 2017 in biography, governor, poetry, republic of texas


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The Texas Supreme Court Bible

There are two Texas traditions involving state governors and the Bible.  They are referred to as the “Supreme Court Bible” and the “Governor’s Bible.”  The following is the story of the Supreme Court Bible.

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Posted by on July 6, 2017 in governor


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Governor James V. Allred and the Texas Rangers

The 1935 election of James V. Allred as governor of Texas marked a turning point for the Texas Rangers as a law enforcement organization.  For several decades, the force had not kept up with the growth of crime in the Lone Star State.  There were a few bright spots, however, such as former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer’s 1934 stakeout and ambush of outlaws Bonnie and Clyde.  Although it had the effect of boosting the image of the Rangers that had deteriorated under earlier governors, the crime problems in the state still existed.

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Posted by on June 28, 2017 in governor, texas rangers


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