Walter Mengden

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Walter Mengden
Texas State Senator from District 13 (Harris County)
In office
Preceded by Murray Watson Jr.
Succeeded by Craig Anthony Washington
Texas Senate President Pro Tempore
In office
Preceded by Jack Ogg
Succeeded by John T. Wilson
Texas State Representative from Harris County
In office
Preceded by W. E. "Will" Lee
Succeeded by District numbers changed
Personal details
Born Walter Henry Mengden, Jr.
(1926-10-25)October 25, 1926
Houston, Texas
Died April 23, 2018(2018-04-23) (aged 91)
Lakeway, Texas
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) June Shell Mengden

One daughter
Three sons, including
Walter H. Mengden, III

John Shell Mengden

Houston, Harris County, Texas
Horseshoe Bay, Texas

Austin, Texas
Alma mater

University of Texas

University of Texas School of Law
Occupation Lawyer
Military service

United States Navy

United States Army

World War II (Navy)

Korean War (Army)

Walter Henry Mengden, Jr. (October 25, 1926 – April 23, 2018), was an attorney[1] and oilman in Austin and Houston, Texas, who was a Republican former member of both houses of the Texas State Legislature from Harris County.

Early years[edit]

Mengden was born in Houston, Texas and was the son of Walter Mengden, Sr. (1903–1986) and Eugenia Mengden (1905–1983) of Houston.[2][3] In 1938, the senior Mengdens purchased the Holley-Mengden House at 2240 Glen Haven Boulevard in Houston, now an historic site. There Mengden lived until adulthood.[4] In 1950, Mengden received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Subsequently, he obtained his L.L.B. and Juris Doctor law degrees from the University of Texas School of Law. He was admitted to the bar in 1954. He was Roman Catholic.[5]

Mengden served in the United States Navy during World War II and the Army in the Korean War. He and his wife, the former June Shell (born 1933), have a daughter and three sons.[6]

After a single term in the Texas House in District 22-2 in 1971 and 1972, Mengden was elected in 1972 as the District 13 senator. He served from January 1973 to January 1983.[7] District 13 had previously been based in the Waco and Temple area of Central Texas but was moved to Harris County with the 1971 redistricting. The district was further redistricted in the 1980s and is now majority African American and represented by the Democrat Borris Miles.

In 1976, Mengden led a slate of delegates in Texas's 7th congressional district pledged to former Governor Ronald W. Reagan of California, who was challenging U.S. President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., at the Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. Mengden defeated Robert Mosbacher of Houston, the leader of the Ford forces. Mengden polled 39,276 votes to Mosbacher's 26,344. Mosbacher was later a Cabinet officer in the administration of Reagan's vice president and successor, George Herbert Walker Bush. Mengden prevailed with 39,276 votes to Mosbacher's 26,344 votes. He was hence among the one hundred Texas delegates at Kansas City committed to Reagan.[8][9]

Senate service[edit]

Mengden was sometimes called "Mad Dog Mengden" for his opposition to many bills supported by his colleagues,[4] but he remained popular in District 13, as it was then configured, having been reelected in 1976 and 1980 with little opposition. Mengden was particularly known for his sponsorship of "law-and-order" legislation backed by law-enforcement agencies and appealing to conservative voters concerned about the crime rate. The Sheriff's Association of Texas, in its publication Texas Lawman, named Mengden the "Most Outstanding Member of the Legislature" in both the 64th and 65th sessions. In the 66th session, the Texas District and County Attorneys Association cited Mengden in its publication Texas Prosecutor for his anti-crime activities. Mengden worked to secure constitutional limitations on state and local taxation as well as silent prayer in public schools.[5] He also sponsored a creation science bill in the Senate.[10]

Mengden also pushed, unsuccessfully, for the adoption of initiative and referendum in Texas, having lobbied for the reform measure during the 1974 state constitutional convention, which adjourned without a new governing document.[11] In the initiative, which started in South Dakota in 1898, voters can write their own legislation and submit to a popular referendum, thus bypassing the legislature in certain situations. Instead, Texans can vote only on state constitutional amendments, usually held in November of odd years. These amendments are usually parochial and non-controversial in nature and thus attract little interest. An exception was the 1991 amendment to establish the state lottery. Initiative and referendum enjoyed large support from grassroots Republicans, but Governor Bill Clements never called the promised special session of the legislature to consider the measure. Thereafter, Governor George W. Bush had initiative and referendum removed from the party platform, and support for the reform has since languished.[11]

In 1981, Mengden was one of four senators named as President Pro Tempore of the chamber. He soon left the Senate to contest the 1982 Republican nomination for the U. S. Senate to challenge the two-term Democrat Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr., also of Houston. Mengden lost the nomination to then U.S. Representative James M. Collins of Dallas. Mengden accused Collins of having focused in Washington, D.C., primarily on killing "bad legislation", rather than passing needed bills. "Our problems are so great that even if that was valid sixteen or seventeen years ago, it's not today," said Mengden, who claimed to have obtained passage in the Senate of ninety-one bills.[6] Both candidates ran as active supporters of President Reagan.

Collins polled 152,469 votes (58 percent) in the low-turnout primary to Mengden's 91,780 (34.9 percent). A third contender, computer executive Don L. Richardson, received the remaining 7.1 percent of the vote. Collins was then handily defeated by Bentsen. The year 1982 is still the most recent in Texas political history in which Democrats carried all statewide offices on the ballot.

The Mengdens reside in Austin. On their deaths the couple will be interred there at the Texas State Cemetery.[12] His grandson is major league baseball player Daniel Mengden, who is a starting pitcher for the Oakland Athletics.[13]


  1. ^ "Walter H. Mengden, Jr. Lawyer Profile". Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  2. ^ Walter Mengden-obituary
  3. ^ "Social Security Death Index". Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "Holley-Mengden House and Loggins-Hughes Building now historic landmarks, May 4, 2011" (PDF). Retrieved September 11, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Walter Mengden" (PDF). Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Jim Davis of Harte-Hanks, "Senatorial Candidates Gear Up for Race", The Paris News, Paris, Texas, April 25, 1982
  7. ^ "Walter Mengden". Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  8. ^ Texas Secretary of State, 1976 Republican presidential primary election returns, Austin, Texas
  9. ^ Billy Hathorn, "Mayor Ernest Angelo, Jr., of Midland and the 96-0 Reagan Sweep of Texas, May 1, 1976," West Texas Historical Association Yearbook Vol. 86 (2010), p. 81
  10. ^ Texas Monthly, July 1981, p. 111
  11. ^ a b "Initiative and Referendum Institute". Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  12. ^ "June Shell Mengden". Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Daniel Mengden chose baseball over the family business ... ballet". Retrieved April 16, 2018. 
Preceded by
Murray Watson, Jr.
Texas State Senator from District 13 (Harris County)

Walter Henry Mengden, Jr.

Succeeded by
Craig Anthony Washington
Preceded by
Jack Ogg
Texas State Senate President Pro Tempore

Walter Henry Mengden, Jr.

Succeeded by
John T. Wilson
Preceded by
W. E. "Will" Lee
Texas State Representative from District 22-2 (Harris County)

Walter Henry Mengden, Jr.

Succeeded by
District numbers changed