- William A. Blakley
name = William Arvis Blakley
imagesize = 170px
jr/sr = Junior Senator
January 15, 1957
April 28, 1957
jr/sr2 = Junior Senator
January 3, 1961
June 14, 1961
Lyndon B. Johnson
November 17, 1898
birth_place = Miami Station, Missouri
January 5, 1976
party = Democratic
William Arvis "Dollar Bill" Blakley (
November 17, 1898– January 5, 1976) was an American senator and businessman from the State of Texas. He served two incomplete terms as Senator, the first in 1957, the second in 1961. He was part of the conservative wing of the Texas Democratic Party and is remembered for running against liberal Democrat Ralph Yarboroughin the 1958 election and losing to Republican John Towerin the 1961 special election, yielding the first Republican senator from Texas since Reconstruction.
Blakley was born in Miami Station, Missouri, but moved shortly thereafter with his parents to Arapaho,
Oklahoma. He worked a ranchhand as a young man, earning the nickname "Cowboy Bill." Blakley served with the United States Armyin the First World War; he was admitted to the bar in 1933 and joined a law firm in Dallas, Texas. In following years, his interests expanded into real estate, ranch land, bankingand insurance; by 1957, he was estimated to be worth $300 million.
Allan Shiversopted not to run for a fourth term as Governor of Texas; Senator Price Danielmoved from his Senate seat into the governorship. Like Shivers and Daniel, Blakley was an "Eisenhower Democrat" who had supported Dwight Eisenhower over the national Democratic Party candidate Adlai Stevensonin 1952 and 1956. Blakley, who had gained prominence in Texas politics for his business successes, was at the time building a $125 million shopping center and a 1,000-room hotel in Dallas. Governor Shivers, who had been considering appointing a Republican candidate to the Senate seat, instead appointed Blakley to the United States Senate pending a special election for the seat. Blakley, pressured by the Democratic Party in the interests of cooling tensions from the gubernatorial election, did not opt for the full remaining term as senator, and served for less than four months from January 15to April 28. Ralph Yarborough succeeded him in the special election, winning with a minority of the vote when the conservatives divided three ways (thereafter, Texas law was changed requiring a runoff between the two leading candidates in a special election, if no one had a majority in the first round). He left the Senate saying "I shall go back to my boots and saddle and ride toward the Western sunset." [http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,913915,00.html]
When the seat came up again the following year in the ordinary election cycle, Blakley ran in the primary against Yarborough as the conservative "Shivercrat" candidate. Blakley ran with the backing of the governor, Yarborough's colleague in the Senate,
Lyndon Johnson, and the southern bloc of senators who disagreed with Yarborough's progressive, anti-segregation platform. The Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn(a fellow Texan) backed Yarborough in the election, after supporting Blakley's temporary senate seat the year before. Rayburn's support proved to be worth more; Blakley was defeated in the primary, and Yarborough kept his Senate seat by a margin of 680,000 to Blakley's 486,000.
In 1961, upon Lyndon Johnson becoming
Vice President of the United States, Blakley was appointed to fill Johnson's vacated Senate seat. Contention again appeared between the liberal and conservative wings of the Democratic Party for the nomination in the special election that would follow; Blakley maintained that he had vigorously resisted John F. Kennedy's " New Frontier" legislation, which was unpopular with Texas conservatives. Ralph Yarborough, consequently, did not endorse Blakley among the array of 71 candidates who ran without party designation. Blakley ran a weak second with 191,818 (18.1 percent) votes to Republican John Tower's 327,308 (30.9 percent), with the remaining votes divided among five other major Democratic candidates, including future U.S. House Speaker Jim Wrightof Fort Worth, with 171,328 (16.2 percent). In the special election runoff, some Texas liberals refused to vote for a Democratic candidate who seemed as conservative as the Republican one, and some Texas conservatives viewed Blakley's conservatism as lukewarm. Blakley, at 62, was older than his Republican opponent, John Tower, 35. Tower won the seat in the special election runoff with 448,217 votes (50.6 percent) to Blakely's 437,872 (49.4 percent), a margin of 10,343. Blakely was the first Democratic senator to lose to a Republican in Texas in more than eighty years.
After losing the Senate election, Blakley left politics and returned to his business interests. He died in Dallas and is buried in Restland Memorial Park there.
A library at the
University of Dallasis named after him.
* [http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,826982,00.html "New Course in Texas"] from TIME magazine,
2 June 1961
* [http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,808962,00.html "Harmony in Texas"] from TIME magazine,
28 July 1957
* [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/view/DD/wad1.html Handbook of Texas article on the Democratic Party] , from University of Texas
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