Wright Patman

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Wright Patman
John William Wright Patman.jpg
40th Dean of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 1973 – March 1976
Preceded by Emanuel Celler
Succeeded by George H. Mahon
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1929 – March 7, 1976
Preceded by Eugene Black
Succeeded by Sam B. Hall
Personal details
Born John William Wright Patman
(1893-08-06)August 6, 1893
Hughes Springs, Texas
Died March 7, 1976(1976-03-07) (aged 82)
Bethesda, Maryland
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Merle Connor
Pauline Tucker[1]
Religion Baptist

John William Wright Patman (August 6, 1893 – March 7, 1976) was a U.S. Congressman from Texas in Texas's 1st congressional district and chair of the United States House Committee on Banking and Currency (1965–75). A self-styled "populist" he energetically attacked the banks, the banking system, and the Federal Reserve system. He sponsored the Robinson-Patman Act of 1935. It was designed to protect small retail shops against competition from chain stores by fixing a minimum price for retail products.[2]

Early life[edit]

Patman was the son of John N. and Emma (Spurlin) Patman, was born near Hughes Springs in Cass County, Texas, on August 6, 1893. After graduating from Hughes Springs High School in 1912, he enrolled in Cumberland University Law School in Lebanon, Tennessee. Receiving his law degree in 1916 he was admitted to the Texas bar the same year.[3] During World War I Patman enlisted in the United States Army as a private. He later received a commission as a first lieutenant and machine gun officer in the Texas Army National Guard's 144th Infantry Regiment, a unit of the 36th Division. He remained in the National Guard for several years after the war.[4]

Political career[edit]

Patman was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1920. He left the House in 1924 when he was appointed district attorney of the fifth judicial district of Texas.

Early Congressional career[edit]

Patman as depicted in the Pictorial Directory of the 74th Congress

In 1928, Patman was elected to the House of Representatives in Texas's 1st congressional district. In 1932, Patman introduced a bill that would have mandated the immediate payment of the bonus to World War I veterans.[5] It was during the consideration of this bill that the Bonus Army came to Washington. Patman was a supporter of the New Deal.[6]

In January 1932, Patman spearheaded a movement to impeach Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon,[7] which forced the latter's resignation the following month.[8]

Patman in the House and Joseph Taylor Robinson in the United States Senate were the sponsors of the 1936 Robinson-Patman Act, an effort to preserve independent wholesalers and retail outlets ("Mom and Pop stores") by preventing manufacturers or large retailers from becoming involved in wholesaling.[9]

Watergate inquiry[edit]

Main article: Watergate scandal

Wright Patman's eponymous committee played an important role in the early days of the Watergate scandal that eventually brought down President Richard Nixon.

The Patman Committee investigated the hundred dollar bills found on the Watergate "plumbers" upon their arrest, suspecting they could directly link them to CREEP, the president's re-election committee. The Patman Committee's 1972 investigation was stymied by pressure from the White House, in part aided by Congressman Gerald R. Ford.[10] Despite these efforts to stop Patman, his investigative course ultimately proved to be Nixon's undoing in the sense that the money trail, as reported on in the Washington Post, helped lead to the establishment of the Ervin Senate Select Committee on Watergate in April, 1973.

Loss of chairmanship[edit]

In 1975, Patman was voted out of his position as Chairman of the Banking committee by younger Congressmen, in a revolt against the 'Seniority system' which also removed Felix Edward Hébert and William R. Poage from their positions as chairmen.[11] Patman was replaced by Henry S. Reuss by a caucus vote of 152–117. The main reason given for the caucus removing Patman was concern about his age and effectiveness.[12][13]

Death and burial[edit]

Patman died of pneumonia in Bethesda, Maryland on March 7, 1976.[14] He was buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in Texarkana.[15]

Legacy[edit]

In the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, the Wright Patman Congressional Federal Credit Union is named after him. This credit union serves the banking needs of elected and former members of the House and their staff.[16] In addition, Wright Patman Lake and Wright Patman Dam in Northeast Texas are also named for him.[17]

In 2011 Rick Perry condemned the monetary policies of Ben Bernanke in populist-like language, earning him criticism from some mainstream Republicans, including Karl Rove. One observer, Alexander Cockburn, recalled that it used to be Texas Democrats like Patman who were regarded as the populists. According to Cockburn, Patman, sitting as chair of the House Banking Committee in the early 1970s, "snarl[ed] at then Fed chairman Arthur Burns, before him to give testimony, 'Can you give me any reason why you should not be in the penitentiary?'”[18]

Publications[edit]

  • Tax Exempt Foundations and Charitable Trusts: Their Impact on Our Economy (December 1962) 87th Congress, 2nd Session
  • Commercial Banks and Their Trust Activities: Emerging Influence on the American Economy (Washington DC 1968) 90th Congress, 2nd Session, volumes I and II

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Today in Texas History: Wright Patman dies" Houston Chronicle, March 7, 2010. Retrieved 2014-09-25.
  2. ^ Roger D. Blair, and Christina DePasquale. "Antitrust’s Least Glorious Hour": The Robinson-Patman Act." Journal of Law and Economics 57.S3 (2014): S201-S216. in JSTOR
  3. ^ Handbook of Texas Online - PATMAN, JOHN WILLIAM WRIGHT
  4. ^ Victoria (Texas) Advocate, Guard Regiments are Being Formed, May 29, 1921
  5. ^ "World War I Veterans Bonus Bill". United States House of Representatives. 
  6. ^ Black, Earl; Black, Merle (2002). The Rise of Southern Republicans. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-674-01248-6. 
  7. ^ "National Affairs: Texan, Texan & Texan", Time Magazine, January 25, 1932 
  8. ^ Associated Press, (AP) (February 10, 1932). "Patman Charges Against Mellon Are Voted Down". Spokane Daily Chronicle. p. 1. 
  9. ^ Walton, Gary M. (1979). Regulatory Change in an Atmosphere of Crisis. New York, NY: Academic Press, Inc. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-0-12-733950-4. 
  10. ^ Hersh, Seymour (August 1983), "The Pardon", The Atlantic Monthly 
  11. ^ Cox, Gary W.; McCubbins, Mathew D. (2007). Legislative Leviathan: Party Government in the House. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. p. 261. ISBN 978-0-521-69409-4. 
  12. ^ Alexander Cockburn, James Ridgeway, The Village Voice, Why They Sacked the Bane of the Banks, February 3, 1975
  13. ^ Beverly Deepe, Enterprise Washington Service, Harlan Daily Enterprise, Demos Reluctant to Reveal Committee Chairmen Votes, January 21, 1975
  14. ^ United Press International, (UPI) (March 8, 1976). "Veteran Demo Lawmaker Wright Patman Dies". Beaver County (Pa.) Times. p. A-2. 
  15. ^ Guttery, Ben R. (2008). Representing Texas. Charleston, South Carolina: BookSurge Publishing. p. 118. ISBN 978-1-4196-7884-4. 
  16. ^ "Wright Patman Congressional Federal Credit Union". http://www.usacreditunions.com/. USA Credit Unions.com. Retrieved March 20, 2015. 
  17. ^ Wauer, Roland H.; Elwonger, Mark (1998). Birding Texas. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press. p. 246. ISBN 978-1-56044-617-0. 
  18. ^ Cockburn, Alexander, "Rick Perry: One Lucky Son-of-a-B*", CounterPunch, August 19–21, 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-20.

Further reading[edit]

  • Owens, John E. (1985), "Extreme Advocacy Committee Leadership in the Pre-Reform House: Wright Patman and the House Banking and Currency Committee", British Journal of Political Science (Cambridge University Press) 15 (2): 149–168, doi:10.1017/s0007123400004154, ISSN 0007-1234, JSTOR 193800 
  • Young, Nancy Beck. Wright Patman: Populism, Liberalism, and the American Dream (2000).

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Eugene Black
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 1st congressional district

1929–1976
Succeeded by
Sam B. Hall
Texas House of Representatives
Preceded by
J. D. Newton
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 2 (Linden)

1921–1925
Succeeded by
George W. Coody
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Emanuel Celler
Dean of the House
1973–1976
Succeeded by
George H. Mahon