Texas Senate All-Nighter a Sissie

March 12, 2009

The Texas State Senate pulled an all-nighter in Austin this week to debate the merits of Voter ID legislation. But while groggy Senators might not agree, the 22-hour vigil did not compare with the all-time record marathon filibuster in the mid 60s when Fort Worth Senator Don Kennard stood in the chamber for 44 hours with the aid of Senator Babe Schwartz of Galveston to debate a bill sought by Texas Board of Regents Chairman Frank Erwin to create a two-year university at Arlington. Kennard  wanted a four-year school.

Former Senator Schwartz, still hard at work at the Capitol every day as a sought-after lobbyist, shares his memories of those historic hours.   

                                                                                                      —Julian Read


“In the Senate’s best years between 1960 and 1981, we had half a dozen all -nighters during filibusters by me and several others. Don Kennard was the most fun. He and (Board of Regents Chairman) Frank Erwin were fighting over whether UT would have a two-year or four-year school at Arlington. Of course, Frank won, but Kennard holds the valid filibuster record of 44 hours bacuse of his dedication to the cause.  (Lt. Governor) Ben Barnes also wanted to keep him on his feet without any vodka for the sobering influence he would gain from the experience. It worked well for Don.

“As I recall, Don began to imagine a great university at Arlington, having a Hall of Fame loaded with wax busts of famous Texans meriting recognition of their accomplishments and convictions. The rascal I remember best who deserved conviction, but only gained notoriety, was Frank Sharp (Sharpstown Bank scandal). Kennard proposed a wax bust commemorating the Frank Sharp School of Crooked High Finance. Then there was the West Texas fertilizer king who was convicted for his high finance deals, and that would be the Billy Sol Estes School of Manure Finance, of course, with appropriate bust. Woodrow Bean of El Paso was indicted for failing to file income taxes for 12 years.  He was convicted and served a little time, which entitled him to a bust and the honor of a school named the Woodrow Bean School of Income Tax Evasion Tactics.

“We had great fun with ideas for 50 or 60 others. But nothing else equalled the discussions betwen Don and me over fertilizer finance, income tax evansion, or Frank Sharp’s avoidance of indictment by throwing all of his best friends and lobbyists to the wolves. The lobbyist, John Osorio, later became fmous for having won a $22,000,000. Texas lottery.  Better luck than being Sharp’s lobbyist.

“I remember asking several questions of an hour or two duration each during the night  to which Kennard replied after a moment of consideration by asking me to ‘please repeat the question’, which I did.

“It is important to note that several years later, Senator Bill Meier received recognition in the Guinness Book of Records for fraudulently breaking Kennard’s record. (Lt. Governor) Bill Hobby let Meier leave the Senate floor for a restoom break in the Ladies Room, which was in the hallway close to his desk.  Hopefully, that correction can still be made in the Book of Records to give Kennard the credit he is due.”

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2 Responses to “Texas Senate All-Nighter a Sissie”

  1. Meghan Butler Says:

    Julian – first allow me to express my sincerest congratulations on this new adventure! I’ve enjoyed it all so far and can’t wait to see what you reveal next. Second, during my time at The Senate during the 77th Legislature, I worked with Babe’s grandson Justin and had the privilege of spending time with Babe. He’s a RIOT and I so enjoyed his stories. Most of all, though, I enjoy yours. You’re one of my most favorite people.

    P.S. Blog-shmog. Where’s your scandalous tell all?? 🙂

    • texasofftherecord Says:

      Hey, Meghan,
      great to hear from you and appreciate your kind words.
      Paul has beat up on me for so long that I had to do the blog.
      Still not sure that anyone cares, but it will help keep me off the streetss.
      Since you have been around the Lege, you may enjoy one I just posted about Bob Bullock.
      Hope all is well with you. Thanks much for writing. We miss you!


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