John Ben Shepperd:
An Inventory of Speeches at the Texas State Archives, 1953-1956
According to the Online Handbook of Texas, John Ben Shepperd, attorney general of Texas, was born in Gladewater on October 19, 1915. Shepperd graduated from the University of Texas with a B.A. in 1938 and an LL.B. in 1941. He became a partner in the law firm of Kenley, Sharp, and Shepperd of Longview, served two years in the army during World War II, and for the last ten months of 1946 served as a Gregg County Commissioner to complete the unexpired term of his father, who resigned. A strong ally of Governor Allan Shivers, Shepperd was appointed to a brief term on the State Board of Education, organized the Texas Economy Commission, was made chair of an election laws reform committee, and on February 9, 1950, was appointed Texas secretary of state at age thirty-four.
Shepperd easily won the attorney general's office in 1952 and was reelected in 1954. This was a period of school integration conflicts, labor unrest, disputes over state and federal rights, and sharp differences between state and national Democratic party leaders. Shepperd moved aggressively against bossism and corruption in Duval County, a fight he began as secretary of state when he threw out the election of a district judge. His investigations led to 300 indictments against school and county officials, including the "Duke of Duval," George B. Parr. Shepperd also exposed a major cigarette tax swindle and defended Texas against other states challenging the constitutionality of the 1953 congressional act returning the tidelands to state ownership. In 1956 he was chosen president of the National Association of Attorneys General. That year Shepperd considered his efforts to restrict the activity of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Texas as one of his greatest accomplishments. He also investigated Communist infiltration of labor unions.
In late 1954, shortly after Shepperd's reelection, Texas was rocked by scandal in its veterans land program administered by the commissioner of the General Land Office, Bascom Giles. Shivers and Shepperd both served on the Veterans' Land Board under Giles's chairmanship. Neither was implicated in the abuse of the program by land speculators but were cited for their frequent absences from the board meetings where the abuse occurred, and the investigations by Shepperd, together with legislative committees and grand juries, led to reform of the program. Giles was indicted, convicted, and served a prison term for his role in the land schemes. Yet another government scandal erupted, involving state regulation of insurance companies accused of fraudulent activities. Again, investigations by the attorney general, grand juries, and legislative committees led to indictments and to reform of the state's insurance department.
When his term ended on January 1, 1957, Shepperd moved to Odessa to become general counsel of Odessa Natural Gasoline Company, later a subsidiary of El Paso Products Company, and to form Shepperd and Rodman, a corporate legal firm. As chair of the Texas State Historical Survey Committee (now the Texas Historical Commission) from 1963 to 1967, he was the driving force in the development of the official highway historical markers program. He was organizing chairman of the Texas Commission for the Arts and Humanities and was appointed to three terms, beginning in 1979, on the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. He led the campaign in the late 1960s to establish the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and in 1989 a major Odessa thoroughfare near the campus was named in his honor. In 1984 he was named Texan of the Year by the Texas Chambers of Commerce and in 1987 was selected Outstanding West Texan by the West Texas Chamber of Commerce. Shepperd died on March 8, 1990, at his ranch in Gladewater.
Records consist of speeches of Texas Attorney General John Ben Shepperd, 1953-1956. The speeches were made by Shepperd to a variety of civil, professional, school, and governmental bodies, groups, and organizations. Types of speeches range from general inspirational addresses to inaugural speeches and several addresses before the United States Supreme Court. General subjects include comments on such issues as Communism, right-to work, the Texas tidelands controversy, corruption in Texas' Duval County, insurance fraud, and segregation. The records are not original copies of the speeches, instead they appear to be carbon copies.
To prepare this inventory, the described materials were cursorily reviewed to delineate series, to confirm the accuracy of contents lists, to provide an estimate of dates covered, and to determine record types.
Restrictions on Access
Restrictions on Use
Speeches of John Ben Shepperd. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession numbers: 2001/057
These records were transferred to the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by Mr. Carter Wheelock on November 6, 2000.
Nancy Enneking, November 2000
Detailed Description of the Records