Bill W. Clayton

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Bill Wayne "Billy" Clayton
Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives
In office
Preceded by Price Daniel Jr.
Succeeded by Gibson D. "Gib" Lewis
Member of the Texas House of Representatives from Lamb County (districts vary)
In office
Preceded by Max Carriker in District 91
Succeeded by Bob Valles in District 74
Personal details
Born (1928-09-11)September 11, 1928
Olney, Young County, Texas, USA
Died January 6, 2007(2007-01-06) (aged 78)
Lubbock, Texas
Resting place Springlake Cemetery
Political party Democratic Party-turned-Republican (1985)
Spouse(s) Delma J. Dennis Clayton (married 1950-2007, his death)

Tommy and Brenda

Five grandchildren
Parents William Thomas and Myrtle Chitwood Clayton
Residence Springlake, Lamb County, Texas
Alma mater

Springlake-Earth High School
Texas A&M University

University of Texas at Austin
Occupation Farmer, businessman, lobbyist
Religion Southern Baptist

Bill Wayne Clayton, sometimes known as Billy Clayton (September 11, 1928 – January 6, 2007), was an American politician from West Texas who served as a state legislator for twenty years and was Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives from 1975 to 1983, a tenure twice as long as that of any other presiding officer of the house elected before him. A Conservative Democrat from a rural area of the Texas South Plains, Clayton attained the speakership by successfully forging a broad-based House coalition. He was considered one of the most influential legislators - and, after he left the chamber, lobbyists - in modern Texas history.

Early life[edit]

Clayton was born on September 11, 1928, in Olney near Graham in Young County in North Texas to William Thomas Clayton and the former Myrtle Chitwood. He grew up in tiny Springlake in Lamb County. He graduated from the Springlake-Earth High School and then attended Texas A&M University in College Station, where he earned a degree in agricultural economics. After college graduation in 1950, he returned to Springlake to help manage the family farm. Eventually, Clayton expanded his agricultural operations and became involved in diversified business enterprises.

Clayton married Delma J. Dennis on March 11, 1950. Together they had two children, Tommy and Brenda. At the time of his death, Clayton had five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Political career[edit]

In Lamb County, Clayton participated in precinct and county politics and served as a delegate for Lyndon B. Johnson at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. Two years later, Clayton was elected to the seat vacated by State Representative Jesse M. Osborne.[1] He was eventually re-elected nine times.

Clayton, a leading spokesman on water issues, sponsored major legislation addressing the state's need for increased water resources and effective conservation programs. He also promoted these issues as a delegate to regional and national conferences on water. He was the president of the Interstate Conference on Water Problems.

Clayton as Speaker[edit]

After twelve years in the Texas House, Clayton was elected Texas House Speaker in 1975, in which capacity he worked to modernize House operations. He implemented a more streamlined, cost-efficient system of house administration. Texas' lawmakers were provided with more support services, and advanced computerization of legislative information further facilitated their work. Clayton refurbished press facilities in the Capitol and acquired additional office space in the Reagan Building for legislative agencies, House operating staff, and House committees.

In reforming House rules and policies, Clayton placed particular emphasis on expanding the role of the standing (permanent) House committees. He initiated the issuance of interim charges to those committees, directing the committees to conduct research on legislative issues between regular legislative sessions. Clayton delegated to standing committees additional budgetary and oversight responsibilities for state agencies and institutions under their jurisdiction. By the modification of the method of reviewing appropriations bills, he allowed legislators more participation in the budgeting process. Another policy change instituted by Clayton permits House members to file bills in advance of the session, thereby reducing excessive paperwork and printing when the legislature convenes.

Clayton also served as vice-chairman, along with Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby, of the Joint Advisory Committee on Governmental Operations, known as the Hobby-Clayton Commission. As a result of one of its recommendations, the next legislature passed the Texas Sunset Act, which created the Sunset Advisory Commission.

While he was Speaker, Clayton served as chairman of both the Southern Legislative Conference and the Council of State Governments.

Later years[edit]

Although Clayton chose not to pursue elective office again in 1982, he maintained his active interest in legislative affairs. In 1985, Clayton switched to the Republican Party and, four years later, was appointed by Governor Bill Clements, to serve as a regent of the Texas A&M University System. Texas A&M recognized Clayton in 1979 for outstanding service and named him a distinguished alumnus. In 1988, Clayton was named as president of the Texas A&M Association of Former Students.

Clayton is also remembered for his indictment and later acquittal on federal bribery charges filed as part of a Federal Bureau of Investigation sting operation known as BriLab. After his own legal troubles, he sponsored legislation to establish new ethics laws. In later years, he served on the board of the interest group "Campaigns for People", a group which lobbied for stricter campaign finance disclosure laws.

In 1990, Clayton returned to school and obtained a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He operated a lobbying firm with various partners over the years, including Democratic former House colleague Phil Cates.

In May 2000, the Amarillo Globe News named Clayton to its 20th century "History Makers of the High Plains" listing.

Clayton died after a lengthy illness in Lubbock on January 6, 2007. Funeral services were held on January 10, 2007, at the First Baptist Church of Springlake, followed by his interment at Springlake Cemetery. Texas Governor Rick Perry ordered flags on state buildings flown at half-staff on the day of Clayton's funeral.[2]

Former State Representative Delwin Jones, a longtime friend, called Clayton a "tremendous guy." Jones told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that he recalled many airplane trips from Austin to Lubbock that the two took together, with Clayton being the pilot. Their friendship dated back nearly four decades. Jones said that Clayton's interest in water was his greatest accomplishment: He was "really dedicated to water for the state, water for agriculture - Bill Clayton was one of the original water experts for the state of Texas."

Former State Representative Hugo Berlanga said that one could not "help but like Billy Clayton - he loved Texas and he took a keen interest in South Texas. He was a great friend and one of the finest Speakers we ever had."

Hector Uribe, who served three years in the House under Clayton and later worked with him as a lobbyist said that he was the first speaker to reach out to ethnic minorities. "Although he came from a very conservative area, he understood that Texas was a very diverse state and [he] tried to be inclusive," Uribe said. One result was that Craig Washington of Houston became the first African American Speaker pro Tempore. Also under Clayton, the House Mexican American Caucus was created.

Gib Lewis, who succeeded Clayton as Speaker said that his colleague had "the talent and the ability to make everybody the best legislator [that he] could be. He let people represent their districts."

The former Bill Clayton Detention Center, a 310-bed medium-security prison in Littlefield, is named in his honor.[3] In the summer of 2014, the closed facility was being considered to house temporarily the influx of illegal aliens flooding into Texas across the Rio Grande border.[4]


  1. ^ Because of seemingly arbitrary renumbering for Texas House districts, Clayton was elected from the 91st district in 1962, while succeeding Jesse Osborne, who represented the 96th district.
  2. ^ Associated Press (2007-01-10). "State flags to fly at half-staff in honor of Clayton" (subscription required). Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  3. ^ "Former Speaker of The House Bill Clayton Dies". KCBD-TV. 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2007-01-12. The detention center in Littlefield is named after Bill Clayton. 
  4. ^ "Littlefield prison tapped (possibly) to house immigrant children in the U.S. illegally", Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, July 9, 2014

External links[edit]

Texas House of Representatives
Preceded by
Max Carriker
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 91 (Springlake)

Succeeded by
W. J. “Bill” Blythe, Jr.
Preceded by
Roger D. Brown
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 78 (Springlake)

Succeeded by
Ralph Wayne
Preceded by
Temple Dickson
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 72 (Springlake)

Succeeded by
72-1: Ralph “Skip” Scoggins
72-2: Charles Tupper, Jr.
72-3: Ronald D. Coleman
72-4: Luther Jones
Preceded by
Inactive district
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 74 (Springlake)

Succeeded by
Robert “Bob” Valles
Political offices
Preceded by
Price Daniel Jr.
Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Gib Lewis