Beauford H. Jester

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Beauford Halbert Jester
Beauford H. Jester.jpg
36th Governor of Texas
In office
January 21, 1947 – July 11, 1949
Lieutenant Allan Shivers
Preceded by Coke R. Stevenson
Succeeded by Allan Shivers
Member of the Texas Railroad Commission
In office
January 1, 1943 – January 21, 1947
Governor Coke R. Stevenson
Preceded by Jerry Sadler
Succeeded by William J. Murray
Personal details
Born January 12, 1893
Corsicana, Texas
Died July 11, 1949 (aged 56)
Houston, Texas
Resting place Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana, Texas
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mabel Buchanan
Profession Politician
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1917–1918
Rank Captain
Battles/wars World War I
Beauford H. Jester Park in Corsicana, Texas

Beauford Halbert Jester (January 12, 1893 – July 11, 1949) was the 36th Governor of Texas, serving from 1947 until 1949, until his death in office. He is the only Texas governor ever to have died in office. Jester was a veteran of World War I and known for reforms of prisons and the educational system of the state.

Early life, education, and marriage[edit]

Jester was born in 1893 to George Taylor Jester and his wife in Corsicana, Texas, the seat of Navarro County in east Texas. He attended local segregated schools. Jester attended the University of Texas at Austin, then also segregated, where he was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. He married Mabel Buchanan after graduation.

Jester later studied law at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His studies were interrupted by the First World War. After the United States entered World War I, he joined the US Army, eventually achieving the rank of captain, and serving from 1917-1918.

In 1919, Jester resumed his law studies at the University of Texas, from which he received his LL.B a year later.

Law career[edit]

He returned to Corsicana to practice law. There he also served as president of the Navarro County Bar Association for many years. Jester also served as director of the state bar association from 1940-1941.

For many years, Jester was a member of the University of Texas Board of Regents. From 1933-1935 he was the youngest man to ever serve as president of that body.

Political career[edit]

A Democrat, Jester first won statewide elective office in 1942, when elected to the Texas Railroad Commission. He served until January 1947.

He decided to run for governor, winning the Democratic primary in a run-off election in 1946 by defeating Homer Rainey. The latter had been discharged by the regents as the president of the University of Texas at Austin in 1944 in a dispute over academic freedom. As there was no substantial Republican Party in the state, Jester was unopposed for the governorship. Most African Americans and many Hispanics were still disenfranchised by barriers to voter registration that had been instituted at the turn of the century.

As governor Jester created the Board of Texas State Hospitals and Special Schools, the Texas Youth Development Council, and reformed the state prison system. He also increased funding for state hospitals and orphanages, enacted strong right-to-work laws, and supported an anti-lynching law.[1]

Jester was easily re-elected to a second term in 1948. He helped implement the most extensive education reforms in the state through the 1949 Gilmer-Aiken Act, the first comprehensive system for Texas school funding.

He is the only Texas governor to have died in office. He suffered a heart attack while traveling by train. Jester's body was returned to his hometown of Corsicana, where he is interred in Oakwood Cemetery.[2]

Legacy and honors[edit]

  • In the 1950s, the Texas Department of Corrections complex of prisons, the Jester Prison Farm, was named after Jester to honor his efforts at prison reform.
  • In 1964, Jester Park was dedicated by the City of Corsicana in memory of Beauford Jester. The 24-acre (97,000 m2) park is home to the Lefty Frizzell Memorial and the Pioneer Village, which recreates the lives of the city's pioneers with replicas of historic buildings.
  • In 1968, the Jester Center on the University of Texas campus was named after him. This contains Jester Dormitory, the largest college residential facility in the world, housing just under 3,000 students, as well as classroom and faculty space.
  • Land formerly owned by Jester in the Hill Country just west of Austin (now incorporated into Austin) was developed as "Jester Estates", a neighborhood now of approximately 1000 homes. The two major streets entering the neighborhood are Beauford Drive, and Jester Boulevard. The neighborhood runs along a ridge of the Balcones Plateau, and is surrounded on three sides by protected endangered species habitat.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Corsicana’s Beauford Jester, Governor", by Dr. Tommy Stringer, Corsicana Daily Sun, 7 December 2008.
  2. ^ Texas State Historical Association

Resources[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Coke R. Stevenson
Governor of Texas
January 21, 1947 – July 11, 1949
Succeeded by
Allan Shivers
Preceded by
Jerry Sadler
Texas Railroad Commissioner
1943–1947
Succeeded by
William J. Murray