Tuesday, June 29, 2010

RIP, Dolph Briscoe

I never met the late Gov. Dolph Briscoe, but we all have a soft spot for governors of large states during the 1970s, don't we? I would say that I hadn't thought about him in years, but it isn't so. In terms of posthumous notice, he's had the misfortune to pass at about the same time as Sen. Byrd, also a politico but more of a national figure. (Groucho Marx was likewise eclipsed in death by Elvis Presley.)

Late last summer, after posting about Gov. Briscoe and his part in the song "Freeze a Yankee," Helen V., whom I went to high school with, added this to the Facebook copy of my posting: "My husband, Terry from Vermont, used to be an AP reporter, and had an assignment to meet and interview Gov. Briscoe at his ranch in Uvalde about the soon-to-open Cactus Jack Garner Museum. I sang what I could remember from the song and asked Terry to ask Gov. Briscoe if he remembered it. Terry did and the governor politely chuckled."

Whatever Briscoe did as governor -- signing the Texas Open Records Act, for one thing -- his lasting legacy isn't that. Instead, he co-wrote the legislation that gave Texas its Farm-to-Market system of roads that remains of enormous value to agriculture and Briscoe's own cattle industry, but also good for those of us who enjoy buzzing down rural roads. From his Daily Texan obit: "Before he was governor, Briscoe served as a member of the Texas Legislature from 1949 until 1957, where he co-authored legislation creating the farm-to-market road system, which linked rural farmland to major Texas cities."

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