Friday, April 29, 2011

That's a long ballot.

Work and travel are conspiring to keep me from the computer, so blogging may be less than perfectly reliable over the next week or so. Tonight, I don't have time for the extended post on the first volume of Robert Caro's amazing biography of Lyndon Johnson, The Path to Power (1981) that I'd intended to write. But I do have time to share this amusing litany of novelty candidates who ran against Johnson in his failed attempt to capture one of Texas's Senate seats in 1941:
Because it was a special election rather than a party primary, any citizen could get on the ballot merely by paying a $100 fee, and twenty-seven candidates besides Johnson had taken advantage of that opportunity. One candidate was a radio peddler of various goat-gland concoctions designed to improve, among other things, virility. Another was a laxative manufacturer (Hal Collins of Crazy Water Crystals) who attracted big crowds at rallies by giving away a free mattress to the couple present who had the most children. A third, "Commodore" Muse Hatfield, felt that Roosevelt had not gone far enough; the Commodore favored the immediate creation of a five-ocean Navy, to be financed by a national lottery. The ballot also included "Cyclone" Davis, who lived under a Dallas viaduct and announced that he didn't have to campaign because "Providence will place me in the Senate"; a geologist who proposed a $50 monthly pension for everyone over sixty-five and a $5 pension for everyone else; a chiropractor; an ex-bootlegger; an admitted kidnapper; two bearded prophets; and two rocking-chair sages (including a wealthy self-styled "rump farmer" who said he was for "the masses"--by which he apparently meant his masses of impoverished tenant farmers). There were also two candidates whose qualifications rested on their kinship with famous Texans of the past. Joseph C. Bean was a cousin of a pair of legendary Texans: Judge Roy C. Bean, "The Law West of the Pecos," and Ellis P. Bean, a hero of Texas's war against Mexico who had gained fame by spending several years in a Mexican prison with a pet lizard named Bill. Edwin Waller III had only one famous ancestor, but that one, Edwin Waller I, had claimed the honor of having begun the Mexican War by committing the war's first "overt act" (which on closer inspection turned out to be an argument between Waller and some Mexicans over the use of a small boat.)
And that's to say nothing of the candidate who ended up entering the race late and throwing off all of Johnson's calculations, the state's sitting governor, W. Lee O'Daniel . . . a former radio flour pitchman who responded to (seemingly accurate) claims that he'd betrayed his working-class base by saying, "How can they say I'm against the working man when I buried my daddy in overalls?" More on him soon . . .

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:19 PM

    The goat-gland man was Dr. John R. Brinkley, another radio pitchman. Dr. Brinkley was nearly elected governor of Kansas in the early 1930's. After Kansas revoked his medical license, he moved his clinic to Del Rio, Texas, and his broadcasting operation across the Rio Grande to Ciudad Acuña.