Ralph W. Yarborough, the People's Senatorby Patrick L. Cox, Edward M. Kennedy (Foreword by)
Revered by many Texans and other Americans as "the People's Senator," Ralph Webster Yarborough (1903-1996) fought for "the little people" in a political career that places him in the ranks of the most influential leaders in Texas history. The only U. S. Senator representing a former Confederate state to vote for every significant piece of modern civil rights legislation, Yarborough became a cornerstone of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs in the areas of education, environmental preservation, and health care. In doing so, he played a major role in the social and economic modernization of Texas and the American South. He often defied conventional political wisdom with his stands against powerful political interests and with his vocal opposition to the Vietnam War. Yet to this day, his admirers speak of Yarborough as an inspiration for public service and a model of political independence and integrity.
This biography offers the first in-depth look at the life and career of Ralph Yarborough. Patrick L. Cox draws on Yarborough's personal and professional papers, as well as on extensive interviews with the Senator and his associates, to follow Yarborough from his formative years in East Texas through his legal and judicial career in the 1930s, decorated military service in World War II, unsuccessful campaigns for Texas governor in the 1950s, distinguished tenure in the United States Senate from 1957 to 1970, and return to legal practice through the 1980s.
Although Yarborough's liberal politics set him at odds with most of the Texas power brokers of his time, including Lyndon Johnson, his accomplishments have become part of the national fabric. Medicare recipients, beneficiaries of the Cold War G. I. Bill, and even beachcombers on Padre Island National Seashore all share in the lasting legacy of Senator Ralph Yarborough.
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Patrick L. Cox served as the Associate Director of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin and is now an independent scholar, contributing to National Public Radio and other media.
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Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, with Senator Ralph W. Yarborough riding shotgun in a limousine through downtown Dallas on November 22, 1963 were both ordered by a secret service agent to hit the deck. History -altering shots were being fired at the motorcade into the lead car carrying President John F. Kennedy, Governor John Connally and their wives. Together they arrived at Parkland Hospital where they witnessed the horriffic scene of the bodies of the mortally wounded president and the governor being wheeled inside. After the assassination, stories about how Yarborough had 'refused' to ride with Johnson the day prior due to their ongoing 'feud' became legendary. This feud among the giants of Texas Democratic politics of the 1960's--Yarborough, Johnson and Connally--serves as the fuel to power Dr. Patrick Cox's compelling story. Cox deftly applies his storytelling skills, honed as a former Texas newspaper editor, to weave a taut and fascinating tale of Yarborough's political life as it collaborates and collides with the other giants. Known in the U.S. Senate as 'Mr. Education', Yarborough's fingerprints can be found on such landmark Great Society legislation as the Higher Education Act, the National Science Foundation, Head Start, Job Corps, VISTA, and many others. But Ralph Yarborough: The People's Senator is more than an academic treatise about Yarborough's legislative accomplishments. He was a profile in political courage, the only southern senator from either party to vote for all the major civil rights bills from 1957 to 1970, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The reader is left to conclude that LBJ's fall in 1968 and Yarborough's political defeat in 1970 at the hands of Lloyd Bentsen marked a turning point in American history. With protests over Civil Rights and Vietnam dividing America, Nixon was elected, launching Republicans on their long reign of terror on the Great Society. Yet, the lynchpins of the Great Society and much of Ralph Yarborough's contribution to it survive and thrive today. This book was a delight to read from start to finish. For political junkies this is pure, 100% oxygen. But the novice should enjoy the ride as well. In Ralph W. Yarborough:The People's Senator, Patrick Cox has unearthed a true giant of the 60's and breathed life into a great American. Ralph Yarborough deserves our attention and appreciation.