Byron M. Tunnell

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Byron Milton Tunnell
Texas Railroad Commissioner
In office
1965 – January 1973

(1) John B. Connally, Jr. (1965-1969)

(2) Preston E. Smith (1969-1973)
Preceded by Ernest O. Thompson
Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives
In office
Preceded by Jimmy Turman
Succeeded by Ben F. Barnes
Texas State Representative from District 15 (Smith County)
In office
Preceded by Bill D. Wood
Succeeded by John A. Mobley, Jr.
Personal details
Born (1925-10-14)October 14, 1925
Tyler, Smith County
Texas, USA
Died March 7, 2000(2000-03-07) (aged 74)
Texas State Cemetery in Austin, Texas
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Bette Lemons Tunnell (married 1945-1988, her death)
Residence Austin, Texas
Alma mater

Tyler Junior College

Baylor Law School
Occupation Attorney
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy Air Corps
Rank Tail gunner
Battles/wars World War II
Tunnell grave at Texas State Cemetery in Austin, Texas

Byron Milton Tunnell (October 14, 1925 – March 7, 2000) was a state representative from 1957 to 1965, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives from 1963 to 1965, and a member of the Texas Railroad Commission from 1965 to 1973.

Tunnell was born in Tyler, the county seat of Smith County and the largest city in east Texas, and educated in public schools. He graduated from Tyler High School and Tyler Junior College. He joined the United States Navy Air Corps during World War II, having served as a tail gunner. On January 13, 1945, he married the former Bette Lemons (1927–1988).

In 1952, Tunnell received his law degree from Baptist-affiliated Baylor Law School in Waco and returned to Tyler to become an assistant district attorney before he entered private practice.

Tunnell was first elected to the Texas House in 1956. In the two years that he served as Speaker, which coincided with the first two years of the administration of Governor John B. Connally, Jr., the legislature created the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the state's first tourism department, and transferred what would become Padre Island National Seashore to the national government. On November 22, 1963, Tunnell was present at the Fort Worth, breakfast at the Hotel Texas held for U.S. President John F. Kennedy shortly before his assassination later in the day. Others at the gathering included Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr.

In 1965, Governor Connally appointed Tunnell to the Texas Railroad Commission upon the retirement of 32-year veteran Ernest O. Thompson. Ben Barnes was then elected Speaker. Tunnell was twice elected to the Railroad Commission—1966 and 1972—before he resigned in 1973 to become a vice president and lobbyist for the Houston-based Tenneco, a petroleum and natural gas company. One of his lobbyist colleagues was former state Representative Phil Cates, formerly of Wheeler County.

In 1995, Governor George W. Bush appointed Tunnell to overhaul and reorganize the troubled Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Tunnell and his wife are interred at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.