Robert L. Bobbitt

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Robert Lee Bobbitt, Sr.
Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives
In office
1927–1929
Preceded by Lee Satterwhite
Succeeded by Wingate Barron
Texas State Representative from Webb County
In office
1923–1929
Preceded by Herbert Spencer Bonham
Succeeded by Edward Mullaly
Texas Attorney General
In office
1929–1930
Preceded by Claude Pollard
Succeeded by James V. Allred
Personal details
Born (1888-01-24)January 24, 1888
Hillsboro, Texas, Hill County
Texas, USA
Died September 14, 1972(1972-09-14) (aged 84)
San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Belle Westbrook Bobbitt (married 1918-1971, her death)
Children Robert Lee Bobbitt, Jr.
Residence Laredo, Webb County, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Alma mater Carlisle Military School

University of North Texas
University of Texas Law School

Profession Attorney
Religion Presbyterian

Robert Lee Bobbitt, Sr. (January 24, 1888 - September 14, 1972),[1] was an attorney and Democratic politician from San Antonio, Texas, who served in the first half of the 20th century as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Attorney General of Texas, and chairman of the Texas Highway Department.

Early life[edit]

Named for Confederate General Robert E. Lee and called "Robert Lee," Bobbitt was born on Cobb Creek on a cotton farm and cattle ranch called Plum Hill. The specific location is near Hillsboro in Hill County north of Waco, Texas. His parents were Joseph Alderson Bobbitt (1858–1937), a native of Summersville in Nicholas County in south central West Virginia, and the former Laura Abigail Duff, originally from McNairy County in southwestern Tennessee, home of the subsequent Sheriff Buford Pusser. Joseph Alderson came with family members by covered wagon to Texas from Missouri.[citation needed] Bobbitt's mother died in December 1895. Almost exactly a year later, Joseph Bobbitt married 23-year-old Irene Ficklin. By 1913, Robert Lee Bobbitt, at twenty-five, was living in the family home and working on the plantation with eighteen other persons, including for a time his paternal grandfather, Captain James Tolliver Bobbitt (1836–1928) and grandmother, the former Malinda Catherine Alderson. Young Bobbitt worked in the cotton fields, where the crop was gathered and bailed and then loaded on a horse-drawn wagon. Bobbitt became particularly close to a younger half-brother, James Ficklin Bobbitt, later an attorney in Houston.[citation needed]

Bobbitt attended the Carlisle Military School in Arlington near Dallas, Texas. In 1911, he graduated from the University of North Texas in Denton, then a normal school for teacher training. He worked his way through college, mowing lawns, laboring in restaurants, and clerking in the library of the Texas State Capitol.[citation needed] In 1915, Bobbitt received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in Austin, having been elected president and chancellor by his law school classmates. He was affiliated with Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity.[citation needed]

On April 20, 1918, Bobbitt wed the former Mary Belle Westbrook (died 1971)[1] of Laredo, the seat of Webb County in south Texas. He first established his law office in Laredo but relocated in 1935 to the larger San Antonio.[2]

Military career[edit]

Bobbitt served in the U.S. Army during World War I, but he was not assigned to combat. He enlisted as a private and was discharged in 1919 at the rank of Captain. He then returned to his wife and legal practice in Laredo, where he was a member of the firm Hick, Hicks, Dixon & Bobbitt.[citation needed]

The Laredo years[edit]

While in Laredo, Bobbitt was a member of the fraternal organization, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. He was commander of the local American Legion post. He helped to establish Rotary International in Laredo, and in 1919, he became president of the chapter. In 1929, he was elected as Rotary district governor. He was for two years president of the Laredo Chamber of Commerce and was active in the Boy Scouts of America and the First Presbyterian Church of Laredo.[citation needed]

Bobbitt served on the Texas State Democratic Executive Committee from 1920–1922, when he was elected to the first of his three terms in the Texas House of Representatives from Webb County. He aligned himself with the anti-Ferguson forces in the Democratic Party. He fought to block a bill granting amnesty and restoring full political rights to impeached former Governor James Edward Ferguson, a bill that passed the legislature during the first administration of Ferguson's wife, Governor Miriam A. Ferguson, who served from 1925-1927. Bobbitt rose to the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee before being elected Speaker in 1927. Under Bobbitt's leadership, the House reformed the state appeals court system and passed a law repealing the earlier political amnesty granted Ferguson.[3]

While serving his last days as Speaker, Bobbitt won election as district attorney for the 49th Judicial District, which then covered Webb, Zapata, Jim Hogg County, and Dimmit counties but is now restricted to Webb and Zapata counties.[citation needed]

Austin politics[edit]

In 1929, Governor Dan Moody of Taylor, Texas, who had unseated Miriam Ferguson in the 1926 Democratic runoff election, appointed Bobbitt to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Claude Pollard as Texas state Attorney General. Moody had also held the position himself from 1925-1927. Bobbitt, however, was defeated in 1930 for a full term as attorney general by fellow Democrat James V. Allred of Corpus Christi, who four years later was elected governor.[citation needed]

Bobbitt thereafter endorsed Allred in the 1934 and 1936 gubernatorial elections. The News-Tribune in Mercedes in Hidalgo County in south Texas, editorialized, accordingly:

"A few years ago Judge Bobbitt was running for election to the Attorney-Generalship, after having been appointed by Governor Dan Moody. He was opposed by a young man named Jimmie Allred. Young Allred proceeded to give Judge Bobbitt a thorough trouncing at the polls. Usually, a politician becomes sore at his opponent when he is defeated.

"Judge Bobbitt realized that the office belonged to the people and not to him. He realized that young Jimmie Allred had simply beat him as a campaigner. He rather admired the young man for it. Judge Bobbitt told the 'News-Tribune' editor that Jimmie Allred has a through ticket to the Governor's chair.

"In the recent election Mr. Bobbitt actively and effectively supported Attorney General Allred for Governor. Mr. Bobbitt won many new friends by showing that he could take it.[citation needed]

Highway department chairman[edit]

Bobbitt's next public office was an Associate Justice of the Fourth Court of Civil Appeals, a position that he assumed after he moved to San Antonio. He subsequently served at a reduction in pay[citation needed] as a member and chairman of the Texas Highway Commission under appointment from his former rival-turned-ally, Governor Allred. On the commission, Bobbitt worked to expand the number of highway miles available in his state.[2] He held the chairmanship from 1937–1943, having been retained by Allred's successor as governor, W. Lee O'Daniel. O'Daniel turned over the governorship to Coke Stevenson in 1941, after defeating Lyndon B. Johnson in a special election for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Morris Sheppard of Texarkana. In 1942, Allred and Moody both unsuccessfully challenged O'Daniel for a full term in the Senate. Johnson won the seat in a disputed vote in 1948.

Upon leaving the highway department, Bobbitt became the senior partner in the San Antonio firm, Bobbitt, Brite, Bobbitt & Allen. He was an active elder in the First Presbyterian Church of San Antonio.[citation needed]

Bobbitt chaired the board of directors of Texas A&M University-Kingsville, then Texas A&I College, in Kingsville.[2]

Loyal Democrat[edit]

An active Democrat, Bobbitt in 1934 delivered a stirring speech to the party faithful at the Texas State Democratic Convention in Galveston. James Allred was the Democratic nominee for governor, having defeated Miriam Ferguson in the preceding primary election. Here is an excerpt from his address, which urges party unity though the Democrats were not politically threatened in Texas, or nationally, in 1934:

"Yes, we honestly desire and with confidence expect harmony, and the full co-operation of all real Democrats, particularly during this most disastrous period in our state's history [apparent reference to the Great Depression]. But we demand the kind of political sportsmanship and co-operation and that character of party and governmental harmony which will bring to the people of the state the real relief and the genuine respect to which they are so justly entitled."[citation needed]

In 1944, Bobbitt was a successful elector candidate for U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, with running-mate Harry S Truman, who defeated the Republican ticket of Governor Thomas E. Dewey and Governor John Bricker of Ohio. Like Governor Allred, Bobbitt was a leading FDR supporter in Texas. In 1958, Governor Marion Price Daniel, Sr., named Bobbitt to the regents of the University of North Texas, his alma mater.[2]

Bobbitt was personally friendly with Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Sam Rayburn, Presidents Truman and Lyndon Johnson as well as the Republican chief executives, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon.[citation needed]

Last years and legacy[edit]

From 1946-1970, the Bobbitts attended extended family reunions held annually at Camp Caesar in rural Cowen in Webster County, West Virginia. There he discovered the Nicholas County roots of his grandfather and father and met and maintained contact with many distant relatives that he otherwise would not have known. Toward the end of his life, Bobbitt wrote of the importance of family reunions:

"Time marches on, and in the not-too-distant future most of the members of our family of our day and time will be gone. That is why it is good to have these reunions, in the hope that they may inspire the younger members of the family to continue an interest in the family history and tradition, and to keep in touch with one another in the days ahead, and bring the families together for visits as often as possible."[citation needed]

After the death of his wife, Belle, in 1971, Bobbitt resided at the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio. He fell in his hotel room in August 1972 and entered Nix Hospital, where he died a month later at the age of eighty-four of a stroke and gall bladder failure. The couple had one son, Robert Lee Bobbitt, Jr. (born 1922), also an attorney in San Antonio. Bobbitt, Jr., and his wife, the former Elizabeth Calhoun (deceased), had three sons.[citation needed] Bobbit grandson Galloway Calhoun "Cal" Bobbitt (born 1950) practices law in the firm Drought, Drought & Bobbitt in San Antonio.[4] Another grandson, Robert L. Bobbitt, III (1946–2005), received a Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University and was employed in New York City by Standard and Poors.[5] The third grandson is John Galloway Bobbitt, also of San Antonio.[citation needed]

The family website notes Bobbitt's "willingness to be useful. He was interested in people, their problems, and in helping them to see their way through life. He rarely forgot a face or name of anyone whom he had met. He became a leader for justice for the Mexican Americans. Their confidence in him and their loyalty to him, led to his early political success. He championed causes that others were afraid to touch."[citation needed]

Dr. Ozro H. Bobbitt (1885–1978)[1] of Charleston, West Virginia, and later St. Petersburg, Florida, described his cousin and friend, accordingly: "It is more than being intelligent, more than being personable, more than hard work, more than being educated, that made Robert Lee great, it was his 'instant willingness to be useful.' Of course he had all the qualities necessary for being useful, but the key word is 'willingness.'"[citation needed]

Coincidentally, while Bobbitt began his legal career in Laredo, former Governor Allred, later U.S. District Judge Allred, died in 1959 in Laredo, where on temporary judicial assignment he was stricken while presiding at a trial.[6] While Bobbitt was practicing law in San Antonio, his friend, former Governor Moody, who was opposed to the fourth-term nomination of Franklin D. Roosevelt, was similarly engaged in his own legal practice in Austin. At that time, Bobbitt had been an FDR elector.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Social Security Death Index". ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved October 7, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d Texas Historical Commission, historical marker, near Lytle, Texas, 1974
  3. ^ Biographies of Speakers of the Texas House of Representatives
  4. ^ "Calhoun Bobbitt". ddb-law.com. Retrieved October 8, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Robert Lee Bobbitt, III, July 30, 2005". porterloring.com. Retrieved October 8, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Ex-Governor Allred Dies After Seizure," Dallas Morning News, September 25, 1959, sec. I, p. 1
  7. ^ "Moody, Daniel James, Jr.". Handbook of Texas on-line. Retrieved October 8, 2010. 
Texas House of Representatives
Preceded by
Herbert Spencer Bonham
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 75 (Laredo)

1923–1927
Succeeded by
Edward Mullaly
Political offices
Preceded by
Lee Satterwhite
Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives
1927–1929
Succeeded by
Wingate Barron
Preceded by
Claude Pollard
Attorney General of Texas
1929—1930
Succeeded by
James V. Allred