O.H. "Ike" Harris

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O. H. "Ike" Harris
Texas State Senator from District 8 (Dallas County)
In office
1967–1995
Preceded by George M. Parkhouse
Succeeded by Florence Shapiro
Texas Senate President Pro Tempore
In office
1973–1973
Preceded by Oscar Mauzy
Succeeded by Max Sherman
Texas State Representative from Dallas County
In office
1963–1965
Preceded by Bill Jones
Succeeded by John Wright
Personal details
Born June 1932 (age 82)
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Residence Austin, Travis County, Texas
Alma mater University of North Texas

Southern Methodist University Law School

Occupation Lawyer
Lobbyist
On more than one occasion, Harris was voted among the "Worst Members of the Legislature" by Texas Monthly magazine during his state senate tenure from 1967 to 1995. The magazine in 1975 referred to him as "a sad case of unapplied talent."

O. H. "Ike" Harris (born June 5, 1932) is an attorney and lobbyist in Austin, Texas,[1] who served from 1963 to 1965 and 1967 to 1995 as a Republican member from Dallas County in both houses of the Texas State Legislature. He was elected to his single term as a state representative in 1962. His Senate tenure in District 8 ran from 1967 to 1995. In his final 1993–1995 biennial term, Harris was the dean, or senior member in tenure, among all of the state senators.

Harris is particularly remembered for having authored legislation that permits parimutuel betting at horse race tracks in Texas.[2] On October 10, 2009, the racing industry honored him with its JoAnn Weber Distinguished Service Award during induction ceremonies of the Texas Racing Hall of Fame held at Retama Park in Selma near San Antonio, Texas.[3] He also worked to implement interstate banking, insurance reform, and the expansion of the University of Texas at Dallas to a four-year institution. In 1973, he was Senate President Pro Tempore in the 63rd Legislative Session.[2]

Early years and education[edit]

In 1954, Harris received his Bachelor of Science degree in political science from University of North Texas in Denton. Upon graduation, he entered the United States Air Force, where he was an instructor pilot until his honorable discharge with the rank of captain in 1957. He then entered Southern Methodist University School of Law, since known as the Dedman School of Law, where he served as president of the law school and the student body. Harris assumed the nickname "Ike" from an older brother while he was seeking the SMU student body presidency. This may have been in acknowledgement of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a native-born Texan also referred to by the appellation.[4] Harris was affiliated with Cycen Fjodr, a men's honorary society; Barristers, a legal honorary society, and he was listed among Who's Who Among American Colleges and Universities.[2]

Legislative service[edit]

In 1962, Harris won his single two-year term in the Texas House, having succeeded the two-term Democrat Bill Jones of Dallas. Two years later, Harris was unseated by John Wright of Grand Prairie,[5] as the Democrats swept Texas and Dallas County, then previously one of the state's more Republican-leaning areas. President Lyndon B. Johnson won a huge margin nationally and in Texas over the Republican nominee, U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona. Even the lone Dallas County Republican U.S. representative, Bruce Alger, along with colleague Ed Foreman of Odessa, were unseated that year. Alger had served since 1955; Foreman only for the 1963–1965 U.S. House term.[6] Harris' elevation to the state Senate occurred in a special election after the death in August 1967 of Democratic state Senator George M. Parkhouse.

Texas Monthly magazine more than once named Harris among the "Top Ten Worst Legislators." In 1975, the publication called him "a playboy . . . a double zero as a legislator . . . a sad case of unapplied talent; he's perfectly capable of being an outstanding member (he's not dumb), and his colleagues like him though he doesn't care enough to try. Sits through committee meetings looking bored and restless, as though he were daydreaming at a sermon. Regards attendance at Senate sessions as a burden to be tolerated for the sake of the after-hours fringe benefits. . . . Seems to operate on the principle that if you have enough special interests, eventually you'll have a majority of the people behind you."[7]

In the 1975 legislation session, Harris supported legislation that delayed the time from seven to fifteen years that uncashed traveler's checks revert to the Texas state treasury instead of the coffers of the express companies. The measure cost the state approximately $150,000 per year. Harris also favored requiring citizens to pay a fee for seeking access to public records. Another Harris measure, supported by building contractors, weakened measures requiring fire escapes in new buildings.[7]

During his twenty-seven years in the Senate, Harris served for a time as chairman of the (1) State Affairs, (2) Economic Development, and (3) Jurisprudence committees. He was vice-chairman of the (1) Committee of the Whole on Redistricting, Ethics and Elections, (2) Nominations Committee, and the Sunset Advisory Commission, which recommends over a 12-year cycle the elimination of certain useless state bureaucracies.[2] As a legislator, Harris held membership in the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Texas Judicial Council, Legislative Natural Resources Board, and the Legislative Budget Board.[2]

Partisan matters[edit]

Texas Monthly found Harris more interested in social parties than his own Republican Party. Texas Monthly said that Harris "has a long history of talking like a Republican back home but voting compliantly with the Democratic Senate leadership.".[7] Harris referred most GOP matters to his Tarrant County colleague, Betty Andujar of Fort Worth.[7] In 1976, Harris joined U.S. Senator John G. Tower of Texas in supporting President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., for nomination to a full term in the first ever Texas primary in which presidential convention delegates were chosen by voters.[8] Ford, however, was defeated 2-1 in the primary[9] by a coalition supporting Ronald W. Reagan, headed by cochairmen Ernest Angelo of Midland, Ray Barnhart of Pasadena, and Barbara Staff of Dallas, as well as Betty Andujar. Ford ultimately still defeated Reagan at the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri.

In his last Senate election in 1992, Harris had no Democratic opponent and polled 83 percent of the vote against the nominee of the Libertarian Party.[10] He did not run again in 1994.

Lawyer and lobbyist[edit]

In his legal and lobbying work, Harris represents clients before the legislature. His expertise is in taxation, economic and industrial development, oil and natural gas, education, and private property interests.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hired Guns". projects.publicintegrity.org. Retrieved April 18, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Speaker Biographies: O.H. "Ike" Harris". texasimpact.org. Retrieved April 18, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Texas Racing Commission awards 2010 racing dates". texasthoroughbred.com. Retrieved April 18, 2010. 
  4. ^ ""It Was the Best of Times; It Was the Worst of Times", June 14, 2007". politicalhottubparty.blogspot.com. Retrieved April 18, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Legislative Reference Library of Texas". lrl.state.tx.us. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 
  6. ^ Texas Secretary of State, General election returns, November 3, 1964
  7. ^ a b c d The Ten Worst:. Google Books, July 1975. Retrieved April 18, 2010. 
  8. ^ "The Daily Diary of President Gerald R. Ford, April 9, 1976". ford.utexas.edu. Retrieved April 18, 2010. 
  9. ^ Texas Secretary of State, Presidential primary election returns, May 1, 1976
  10. ^ Texas Secretary of State, General election returns, November 1992
Preceded by
George M. Parkhouse
Texas State Senator from District 8 (Dallas County)

O.H. "Ike" Harris
1967–1995

Succeeded by
Florence Shapiro
Preceded by
Oscar Mauzy
Texas State Senate President Pro Tempore

O.H. "Ike" Harris
1973

Succeeded by
Max Sherman
Preceded by
Bill Jones
Texas State Representative from Dallas County

O.H. "Ike" Harris
1963–1965

Succeeded by
John Wright