Pat Morris Neff

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Pat Morris Neff
28th Governor of Texas
In office
January 18, 1921 – January 20, 1925
LieutenantLynch Davidson
Thomas Whitfield Davidson
Preceded byWilliam P. Hobby
Succeeded byMiriam A. Ferguson
Texas Railroad Commissioner
In office
Succeeded byErnest O. Thompson
Member of the Texas House of Representatives from the 68th District
In office
January 13, 1903 – January 10, 1905
Preceded byJohn Hemphill
Succeeded byGeorge W. Barcus
Member of the Texas House of Representatives from the 66th District
In office
January 10, 1899 – January 13, 1903
Preceded byJames Sluder
Succeeded byEdward English
Personal details
Born(1871-11-26)November 26, 1871
Coryell County, Texas, U.S.
DiedJanuary 20, 1952(1952-01-20) (aged 80)
Waco, Texas, U.S.
Resting placeOakwood Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Myrtle Mainer Neff
ChildrenHallie Maude Neff Wilcox, Pat M. Neff, Jr.
Alma mater

Pat Morris Neff (November 26, 1871 – January 20, 1952) was an American politician, educator and administrator, and the 28th Governor of Texas from 1921 to 1925, ninth President of Baylor University from 1932 to 1947, and twenty-fifth president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1944 to 1946.

Early life[edit]

Born on his family ranch near the Eagle Springs community in Coryell County, Texas, to Isabella Neff and her husband, Pat Neff grew up in a rural area and attended local schools. He graduated from McGregor High School. He received his bachelor's degree from Baylor University in Waco.

He worked for the next two years teaching at Southwestern Academy in Magnolia, Arkansas, to earn money to go to law school. Among his students was Harvey C. Couch, who would later become a successful entrepreneur in Arkansas.

Upon returning to Texas, Neff studied and received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in Austin. There, he developed a close friendship with Tom Connally and Morris Sheppard of Texas, who both became politicians and were later elected as US Senators from the state.

After receiving his law degree and passing the bar, on May 31, 1899, Neff married Baylor classmate Myrtle Mainer in her hometown of Lovelady. In 1901, they had a daughter, whom they named Hallie Maude. They also had a son, Pat M. Neff, Jr.

He joined the Democratic Part and entered politics, being elected in 1898 to the Texas House of Representatives, and serving from 1899 to 1905. He was elected to one term as Speaker. After returning to his law practice in Waco, Neff served for six years as the assistant county attorney and then as county attorney for McLennan County.

Public office in Texas[edit]

Considered a progressive Democrat, Neff defeated former U.S. Senator Joseph Weldon Bailey, a former populist, in the party primary for governor in 1920. This defeat effectively ended Bailey's political career. Neff handily won the general election and started his term in 1921.

Neff was a strong supporter of prohibition. He was instrumental in the development of the Texas State Parks Board. Neff and his mother, Isabella Neff, donated the land which would become the first state park in Texas. It was named Mother Neff State Park. During the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan during his administration, Neff was criticized for not taking a stronger stance. Neff is notable for his pardon of folk singer Lead Belly in his last days as governor.

In 1921, the West Texas Chamber of Commerce supported legislation passed by both houses of the Texas Legislature to establish a West Texas A&M College. The bill was vetoed by Governor Neff, who said that the state could not afford another state college designed for thinly populated West Texas. He defended his veto, saying that the proposed college had not been included in the 1920 Democratic state platform. Neff's veto stirred up a political firestorm. Two years later he was prepared to sign similar legislation for a college in West Texas; it was co-authored by State Senator William H. Bledsoe of Lubbock. The legislature appropriated $1 million to establish what is now known as Texas Tech University.

Neff was reelected in 1922 but did not seek a third term in 1924. At the time, it was "understood" that no governor should run for a third term, although Texas did not have official term limits for the office.

In 1924 Miriam Wallace "Ma" Ferguson, wife of controversial former Governor James E. Ferguson, won the general election. The Republican nominee, George C. Butte, an American jurist who had opposed James Ferguson's line item veto of the 1917 University of Texas appropriations bill, had a stronger than usual showing. Many voters crossed party lines to vote for him, as they were unhappy with the corruption associated with "Pa" Ferguson.

After leaving the governorship, Neff served on the Texas Railroad Commission. Governor Ross Sterling appointed Ernest O. Thompson of Amarillo to succeed Neff when he left the position to become President of Baylor University. Thompson served on the panel for thirty-two years and developed a reputation as an expert on petroleum issues.

President of Baylor University[edit]

After the death of Samuel Palmer Brooks, Neff was nominated to replace him as President of Baylor University. He resigned the post of President of the Board of Trustees, a position that he had held since it was vacated by B. H. Carroll in 1907, upon the nomination as President. In 1947, Neff was asked to stay on as the President by the staff at Baylor University.

Pat Neff Hall at Baylor University
Illustration of Neff and handwritten signature from 1933 Baylor University "Roundup" yearbook

President of the Southern Baptist Convention[edit]

Neff was president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1944 to 1946.


Pat Neff Elementary School in Houston and Pat Neff Middle School of San Antonio (Northside Independent School District) are named for Neff, as is Pat Neff Hall at Baylor.

Neff died in Waco and is interred there at Oakwood Cemetery. His papers, including those from his time as governor, are housed in The Texas Collection at Baylor University.

See also[edit]


  • Dorothy Blodgett, Terrell Blodgett, and David L. Scott, The Land, the Law, and the Lord: The Life of Pat Neff (2007).
  • Stanley, Mark. "Booze, boomtowns, and burning crosses: The turbulent governorship of Pat M. Neff of Texas, 1921—1925," M.A. thesis, University of North Texas, 2005, 138 pages; AAT 1430156 in PROQUEST
  • Neff (Pat Morris) Collection, The Texas Collection, Baylor University

External links[edit]

Preceded by
W.W. Hamilton
President of the Southern Baptist Convention
Succeeded by
Louie D. Newton
Texas House of Representatives
Preceded by
James Sluder
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 66 (Waco)

Succeeded by
Edward English
Preceded by
John Hemphill
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 68 (Waco)

Succeeded by
George W. Barcus
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert E. Prince
Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Francis William Seabury
Preceded by
William P. Hobby
Governor of Texas
January 18, 1921 – January 20, 1925
Succeeded by
Miriam A. Ferguson
Preceded by
Texas Railroad Commissioner
Succeeded by
Ernest O. Thompson