Waggoner Carr

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Vincent Waggoner Carr
Waggoner Carr
Texas State Representative
In office
1951–1961
Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives
In office
1957–1961
Preceded by Jim T. Lindsey
Succeeded by Jimmy Turman
Attorney General of Texas
In office
1963–1967
Preceded by William Reid Wilson, Sr.
Succeeded by Crawford Martin
County attorney of Lubbock County
In office
1949–1951
Personal details
Born (1918-10-01)October 1, 1918
Fairlie in Hunt County, Texas, USA
Died February 25, 2004(2004-02-25) (aged 85)
Austin, Travis County, Texas
Resting place Texas State Cemetery

Austin, Texas

Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Ernestine Story Carr (born 1920)
Children David William Carr, D.D.S.
Occupation Attorney; Author
Religion Methodist
Military service
Service/branch United States Army Air Corps
Years of service 1941–1945
Battles/wars World War II
(1) Waggoner Carr and his brother, Warlick Carr, were prominent Texas attorneys who graduated together from Lubbock High School and Texas Tech University.

(2) As attorney general of Texas, Carr was involved in the prosecution of swindler Billie Sol Estes and Jack Ruby, the assassin of Lee Harvey Oswald.

(3) Carr conducted his own investigation into the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy though federal officials discouraged his activities.

(4) Carr was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for the United States Senate in 1966, having been defeated by the incumbent Republican John G. Tower.

(5) In 1968, Carr ran for governor but was undercut by his fellow Lubbockite, Preston Smith, who went on to win the Democratic nomination and the general election.

(6) Carr was implicated in the Sharpstown scandal but cleared of wronging and hence penned the book, Waggoner Carr: Not Guilty.

(7) At the time of his death from cancer, Carr was penning books on the outlaw Jesse James and the former attorneys general of Texas.

Vincent Waggoner Carr (October 1, 1918 – February 25, 2004) was a Democratic Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and Attorney General of Texas.

Early years, education, military service[edit]

Carr was born to Vincent Carr (1892–1983) and the former Ruth Warlick (1897–1985) in Fairlie in Hunt County east of Dallas. In 1932, when the family bank in Fairlie closed, the Carrs moved to Lubbock just in time for Carr to graduate from Lubbock High School in 1936. The senior Carr found work at Stubbs Feed Seed Company and decided that he wanted his sons to attend college. As a youth, Carr worked as a farm hand, magazine salesman and theater usher.

In 1940, he completed his bachelor of business administration degree at Texas Tech University (then Texas Technological College) in Lubbock. Although he immediately began his legal studies after Texas Tech, Carr did not graduate from the University of Texas at Austin law school until 1947. The delay came from his service in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a pilot during World War II.

After they obtained their legal credentials, Carr and his brother, M. Warlick Carr (1921–2008), established a law office in Lubbock. In 1948, Carr was appointed assistant district attorney for the 72nd Judicial District in Lubbock. He was also the elected county attorney for Lubbock County from 1949 to 1951.

Ten years in the legislature[edit]

Carr was elected to the Texas House of Representatives from Lubbock District 19 in 1950. During his ensuing ten years of service, he focused on West Texas water quality and availability. Under his leadership, the legislature proposed a constitutional amendment and passed enabling legislation to establish the Texas Water Development Board. At its creation, the board was authorized to issue up to $200 million in water development bonds for the purpose of funding local water projects. Carr also helped to establish a code of ethics for legislators and lobbyists. He promoted tourism and industrial development.

He was also Speaker of the House for two consecutive terms, having served from 1957-1961. In his first election as Speaker, he won by eight votes 79-71 over his fellow Democratic member Joe Burkett, Jr. Through 1958, he was only the third person in Texas history to have been elected to two consecutive terms as Speaker. In the legislature Carr pushed for the creation of the Texas Youth Council and the recodification of juvenile laws, the modernization of workers' compensation statutes, the reorganization of the State Insurance Board, and the authorization and financing of a new State Library and Archives Building in Austin.

Attorney General of Texas[edit]

In 1960, Carr ran, not for a sixth two-year term in the Texas House, but for attorney general. He lost the Democratic nomination to the incumbent Will Reid Wilson, Sr., a native of Dallas who since relocated to Austin. Wilson later became a Republican and in 1969 joined the Richard Nixon administration as an assistant U.S. attorney general in charge of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Justice Department. Carr was elected attorney general in 1962—he defeated Tom Reavley in the Democratic primary. He was reelected in 1964, as all statewide Republican candidates in Texas were again defeated in the Johnson-Humphrey landslide. As attorney general, he was involved in the prosecutions of swindler Billie Sol Estes of Pecos, and Jack Ruby, or Jack Rubenstein, the Dallas nightclub owner who murdered Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy assassination[edit]

On the morning of November 22, 1963, Carr and his wife, the former Ernestine Story (born April 22, 1920, in Wylie), were among the dignitaries who ate breakfast with President and Mrs. Kennedy in Fort Worth. The president went on to Dealey Plaza in Dallas, and the Carrs flew to the Texas Panhandle for a speaking engagement. Carr learned of the tragic consequences in Dallas as his plane landed.

Carr participated in the investigation of the JFK assassination. He led the state probe and cooperated with the Warren Commission, which was appointed by President Johnson to determine the circumstances leading to Kennedy's death. Carr said that the combined state-federal probe was a success and that both teams worked well together. Years later, at the dedication of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, Carr recalled that the investigation into the Kennedy assassination was thorough and professional: "It makes me sad that it [the assassination] happened, but it doesn't make me sad to share with the interested people of Texas about what this investigation revealed and how thorough it was and how nonpolitical it was."[1]

U.S. Senate campaign, 1966[edit]

As the sitting attorney general in 1966, Carr challenged Republican incumbent John Goodwin Tower (1925–1991) for the United States Senate. In doing so, Carr was unable to seek a third two-year term as Attorney General. Carr was defeated, and was only the second Texas Democrat in state history to lose a statewide general election since Reconstruction; the first having been William A. Blakley of Dallas in his 1961 loss to Tower. Senator Tower received 842,501 votes (56.7 percent) to Carr's 643,855 (43.3 percent). In winning, Tower lost the majority of the rural districts to Carr, who had the strong support of both President Lyndon B. Johnson and Governor John B. Connally, Jr., while Connally was still a Democrat. Tower, though, ran strongly in the larger urban areas. At the time of his loss to Tower, Carr had been voted the nation's best state attorney general by his peers.

Last campaign, 1968[edit]

After leaving public office in January 1967, Carr went into private practice and eventually joined the law firm of DeLeon and Boggins in Austin. In 1968, however, he was bitten again by the political bug and ran for governor in the Democratic primary in a race to succeed his friend, the retiring John Connally. He ran third in the primary, and the nomination and the election eventually went to his fellow Lubbockite, Preston Smith, who defeated the Republican attorney Paul Eggers of Wichita Falls and later Dallas in the first of two consecutive matches between the two.

Sharpstown survivor[edit]

In 1971, Carr was indicted and tried on charges of fraud, conspiracy, and filing false reports to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission in what was called the "Sharpstown scandal." Acquitted of all charges in 1974, he wrote the book, Waggoner Carr, Not Guilty (1977), with coauthor Jack Keever.

Carr had been considered part of the Connally wing of the Democratic Party prior to Connally's surprise defection in 1973 to the Republicans. A Distinguished Alumnus of Texas Tech, Carr was appointed by his former opponent, Governor Smith, to the university's board of regents and served from 1969 to 1972. He also was state commander of the American Legion.

In 1989, Carr was selected to chair the Action for Metropolitan Government Committee in an attempt to unite the Austin municipal and Travis County governments. He was awarded a certificate of appreciation from the Austin City Council in 1991, and that same year he was appointed by the Texas Supreme Court to serve on a citizens' commission examining the Texas judicial system.

Death and legacy[edit]

Waggoner Carr tombstone at Texas State Cemetery in Austin, Texas

Carr died in Austin after a ten-year bout with cancer. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother. He was survived by his wife Ernestine, whom he met as a student at Texas Tech. She graduated from Tech with a Bachelor of Science degree in home economics. They had one son, Dr. David William Carr (born 1949), a dentist in Austin, and his wife, Diana, and two granddaughters. He was also survived by two brothers, Warlick Carr and wife, Billilee "Bee" Regan Carr (both since deceased), and Dr. Robert L. Carr and wife Betty, and a sister, Virginia Campbell Carter and husband Bill, all of Lubbock. Carr was interred at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. At the time of his death, Carr was working on books about Jesse James and the past attorneys general of Texas.

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal wrote on Carr's death: "He was a local boy made good, one who became a man of great power and responsibility in Texas but who never forgot his roots. And he was a loyal asset to Texas Tech who helped the university grow into what it is today."

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Carr's overall support for the Warren Commission's conclusions appears, among other sources, in this analysis: Monroe, Monte L. (January–February 2012). "Waggoner Carr investigates the JFK assassination". Texas Techsan (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Alumni Association). pp. 23–31. 

Other references[edit]

External links[edit]

Texas House of Representatives
Preceded by
Preston Smith
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 119 (Lubbock)

1951–1961
Succeeded by
J. Collier Adams
Political offices
Preceded by
Jim T. Lindsey
Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives
1957–1961
Succeeded by
Jimmy Turman
Legal offices
Preceded by
Will Wilson
Texas Attorney General
1963–1967
Succeeded by
Crawford Martin