Kent Caperton

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Kent Allen Caperton
Texas State Senator from District 5 (All of Austin, Brazos, Burleson, Colorado, Grimes, Houston, Leon, Madison, Milam, Robertson, Trinity, Walker, Waller, Washington, and Wharton counties and portions of Harris, Montgomery, and Williamson counties)
Assumed office
Preceded byWilliam T. "Bill" Moore
Succeeded byJames W. "Jim" Turner
Texas Senate President Pro Tempore
In office
Preceded byJ. E. "Buster" Brown
Succeeded byCraig A. Washington
Personal details
Born (1949-08-02) August 2, 1949 (age 69)
Political partyDemocratic
ChildrenKathryn C. Gabbert
ParentsWoods Allen Caperton
Dorothy Steglich Caperton
ResidenceAustin, Travis County, Texas
Alma materCaldwell High School

Texas A&M University

University of Texas Law School

Kent Allen Caperton (born August 2, 1949) is an attorney and political consultant in Austin, Texas, who served from 1981 to 1991 as a Democratic member of the Texas State Senate from District 5, encompassing twenty-one counties from The Woodlands, to Crockett, and Caperton's then city of residence, Bryan, Texas.

Early years[edit]

Caperton was one of four children born to Woods Allen Caperton (1920–2009) and the former Dorothy Steglich (1925–2005)[1] a Lutheran couple in Caldwell, the seat of Burleson County located west of Bryan. Caperton's older brother, Mark Steglich Caperton (born 1946), is also an attorney and from 1975 to 1983 was the county judge in Caldwell. He was succeeded by their father, Woods Caperton, who retired after nearly three decades with the United States Soil Conservation Service, since renamed the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the agency which offers technical assistance to farmers and ranchers. Woods Caperton was the county judge from 1983 to 1995 and also a long-time member of the Caldwell school and hospital boards. Kent Caperton has a sister in Austin, Roxanne C. Varner, married to Rodney Varner. A second brother, Clay Jason Caperton, died in 1987.[2]

In 1967, Caperton graduated as student council president from Caldwell High School. He considering accepting a scholarship in golf from several smaller colleges, but the senior Caperton insisted that Kent attend nearby Texas A&M University in College Station.[3] There in 1971, Caperton obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and was the student body president. Thereafter, he was an aide to the TAMU president prior to obtaining his legal credentials through the University of Texas Law School at Austin. In 1975, he was admitted to the bar and served for a year as an assistant state attorney general. In 1976, he returned to Bryan to enter private practice, with the firm Gandy, Mauro, and Caperton. After a stint too as the municipal judge,[4] Caperton in 1980 unseated veteran state Senator William T. "Bill" Moore, a conservative Democrat, in the primary election with 52.6 percent of the ballots. Known as the "Bull of the Brazos," Moore had been in the Senate since 1949, the year of Caperton's birth.[3]

Senate service[edit]

Caperton had said in 1980 that he would serve only ten years in public office,[3] and he therefore did not run again in 1990.[5] The Senate seat went to another Democrat, James W. "Jim" Turner of Crockett, the seat of Houston County, later a U.S. representative.[6] Turner defeated the Republican Lou Zaeske, an engineer from Bryan and the founder of the American Ethnic Coalition, an organization in the forefront of the English-only movement. Zaeske had initially planned to oppose Caperton who spoke out against English-only.[7]

In 1981, Texas Monthly magazine named him "Rookie of the Year." In 1982, he was an advocate of utility regulatory reform, an issue which may have helped the Democrat Mark Wells White, the state attorney general at the time, to oust the Republican Governor Bill Clements. In 1983, Caperton was a negotiator for House Bill 72, which sought to upgrade public education and required athletes to pass all course. In 1985, in his second Senate term, Caperton headed the newly created Senate Criminal Justice Committee. In 1987, then Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby named Caperton to the Legislative Budget Board. In 1989, Hobby asked Caperton to lead the fight to increase funding for higher education. He soon headed the Senate Finance Committee, the most powerful chairmanship in Austin. He was a conspicuous advocate of sunshine laws, open meetings, and open records[3] In 1989, Caperton was one of five senators to serve as the President Pro Tempore; others included fellow Democrats Craig Anthony Washington and Hugh Q. Parmer and Republicans J. E. "Buster" Brown and Bob McFarland.

In confirming his retirement from the Senate, Caperton said that he had not grown tired or weary of his legislative duties but was committed to remaining in office only for ten years. Texas Secretary of State George Bayoud told the Houston Chronicle that Caperton "is the one person in this state who I think made a difference" in legislative matters . . . "There's something special about Kent."[3] In reviewing his career, Caperton said that he had sought to "hammer out solutions," rather than engage in "political posturing. It's one thing to sit on the side and harangue and pontificate. But it is equally important to bridge a compromise."[3] In his last regular legislative session in 1989, Caperton was rated No. 1 among 181 total legislators in the House and Senate by Texas Monthly magazine.[8]

In 1990, Caperton reflected that the outgoing state Comptroller Bob Bullock, then running successfully to replace Hobby as lieutenant governor, had shown political courage regarding long-range economic problems. Caperton called for a revamped tax system, with a state income tax, rather than so much reliance on a regressive system of sales taxes and user fees.[3] Legislators have repeatedly, however, resisted calls for a state income tax, and few candidates have endorsed the issue.

Austin lawyer[edit]

Caperton is part of the Barnes Group in Austin,[9] a legal and consulting firm founded by Ben Barnes, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives from 1965 to 1969 and thereafter from 1969 to 1973 the state's lieutenant governor. Caperton is heavily involved in politics behind-the scenes and is a donor to Democratic candidates,. such as U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana[10] and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. All of Caperton's donations in 2010 and 2011 have been to Democrats, including his former state Senate colleague Lloyd Doggett of Austin, who is seeking reelection in 2012 in a reconfigured district to the United States House of Representatives.[11]

Caperton is divorced and has one daughter, Kathryn C. Gabbert,[12] the wife of Jeffrey A. Gabbert, of Austin.


  1. ^ "Social Security Death Index". Retrieved September 7, 2011.
  2. ^ "Woods Allen Caperton". Austin American Statesman, November 17, 2009. Retrieved September 7, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Mark Smith and Roy Bragg, "Caperton leaves his mark on state politics," Houston Chronicle, June 6, 1990, State section, pp. 1–2
  4. ^ "Texas Senate" (PDF). Retrieved September 7, 2011.
  5. ^ "Legislative Reference Library of Texas: Kent A. Caperton". Retrieved September 5, 2011.
  6. ^ "Jim Turner". Legislative Reference Library of Texas: Jim Turner. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
  7. ^ "English backer cites supporters/Advocate plans to run for office, November 12, 1988". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
  8. ^ "Best and Worst Legislators (by year)". Retrieved September 12, 2011.
  9. ^ "Kent Caperton". Retrieved September 7, 2011.
  10. ^ "Kent Caperton gives money to Mary Landrieu". Retrieved September 7, 2011.
  11. ^ "Kent Caperton". Retrieved September 7, 2011.
  12. ^ "Louis W. "Lou" Zaeske, Jr". Bryan Eagle. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
Preceded by
William T. "Bill" Moore
Texas State Senator from District 5 (All of Austin, Brazos, Burleson, Colorado, Grimes, Houston, Leon, Madison, Milam, Robertson, Trinity, Walker, Waller, Washington, and Wharton counties and portions of Harris, Montgomery, and Williamson counties)

Kent Allen Caperton

Succeeded by
James W. "Jim" Turner
Preceded by
J. E. "Buster" Brown
Texas State Senate President Pro Tempore

Kent Allen Caperton

Succeeded by
Craig A. Washington