Texas Legislature, House of Representatives:
An Inventory of Records of the Committees Investigating J.E. McDonald, Commissioner of Agriculture at the Texas State Archives, 1935
The Texas Legislature's investigation of Commissioner of Agriculture James E. McDonald took place over the course of multiple sessions of the 44th Legislature. McDonald became Commissioner of Agriculture in 1931. One of the programs founded and, eventually, eliminated during his administration was the Jacks and Stallions Division, which distributed registered and high-grade mules and horses over the state for the purpose of breeding. The program and McDonald's management of it first attracted legislative attention during the Regular Session of the 44th Legislature, 1935.
House Simple Resolution 39 was introduced by Representative King on January 30th to "provide for the creation of a committee to inquire into the matter of the necessity for appropriations for the maintenance of the various State departments, and to investigate the use to which past appropriations have been put, and the necessity for making various appropriations in the future." The resolution, calling for a seven member investigating committee, was approved on February 6th and, on February 8th, Representatives King, Calvert, Graves, Pope, Knetsch, Hunter, and Petsch were appointed to the Committee to Investigate Expenditures of State Funds (also referred to as the "Committee in Regard to Investigating State Departments" and the "Special Committee Appointed to Investigate the Permanent School Fund"). The committee's reports were submitted on May 10th and 11th. The committee had investigated the Permanent School Fund, the Life Insurance Commissioner, the State Highway Department, the School for the Deaf and Dumb, the Jack and Stallion Fund, counterfeit cigarette taxes, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the State Health Officer, the Board of Barber Examiners, and an individual's misrepresentation of himself as an agent of the Governor. As a part of the findings and recommendations, the committee noted irregularities in the Jack and Stallion Fund and the laxness and carelessness of J.E. McDonald, Commissioner of Agriculture. It made no recommendation in regard to the conduct or punishment of the Commissioner, but did advise that the Board of Control take over the purchase of jacks and stallions, have authority to approve the distribution of the animals, and have authority to approve all contracts.
While this committee was deliberating, the State Auditor submitted a report to the Legislature on April 29, 1935 stating that certain irregularities existed in the administration of the Department of Agriculture, particularly within the Jack and Stallion Fund. As a result of this report and the work being conducted under the auspices of HSR 39, Representative Hunter introduced House Concurrent Resolution 105 on May 6, 1935. Hunter asked for the creation of a joint committee of five Senators and five Representatives to investigate nine charges brought against McDonald, including nepotism, agents acceptance of commissions and bribes, acceptance of gifts, diversion of funds, confusion of public and private funds, neglect of duty and general incompetence in fee collection, and the promotion of the interests of agricultural distributing organizations to the detriment of the producers. The resolution passed and was sent to the Senate, which amended the resolution to remove itself from the committee while promising to convene as a court in the event that articles of impeachment were passed and presented to the members. The changes were approved by the House on May 10th, and the committee was assigned Representatives E.E. Hunter (Chair), Leonard Westfall (Vice-Chair), R.H. Good, C.C. Canon, and Pat Dwyer.
The Legislative Committee Investigating J.E. McDonald, Commissioner of Agriculture worked during the interim between the Regular and 1st Called Sessions of the 44th Legislature, 1935. On September 27, 1935, during the 1st Called Session, the committee issued a minority report (written by Hunter and Canon and dated September 23rd) complaining about Representative Dwyer's favorable attitude toward McDonald, laying out 11 specific charges against McDonald, and proposing the filing of articles of impeachment. On October 8, Representatives Hunter offered a Simple Resolution (HSR 36) stating that the minority report of the committee revealed violations of laws and other acts of malfeasance and misconduct on the part of McDonald that warranted his impeachment and asking the Speaker to appoint a Board of Managers to present the charges and articles of impeachment to the House and Senate. Attached to the resolution were 11 articles of impeachment based on the original nine charges the committee investigated. HSR 36 passed, surviving several motions to reconsider the vote. The investigating committee's majority report, which stated that there was not sufficient evidence to file articles of impeachment, was presented on October 9th. On October 14th Representatives Aiken, Bradbury, Davison of Fisher County, Fox, and Reed of Dallas were appointed to the Board of Directors. On October 15th, the majority report was adopted.
Investigation of the charges did not begin immediately. The 2nd Called Session began on October 16th but it was not until November 8th that Representative Fox moved that the House adjourn on the 14th of November (the last day of the 2nd Session) and reconvene to hear the charges on December 2nd. Representative Roane immediately offered a substitute calling McDonald before the House to receive a reprimand and then dismissing the charges. Roane's motion was tabled. Representative Good then offered a motion consisting of the investigating committee's majority report, calling for no further actions by the Legislature because impeachment charges were not warranted. Good's motion was also tabled. Finally, Fox's motion was amended, to have the House reconvene on November 15th, and adopted. Later, on November 14th, Representative McKinney offered a House Simple Resolution calling upon the House to resolve itself into a committee of the Whole at midnight and providing for legal counsel for both parties. The resolution was adopted and later that evening the House convened as the Committee of the Whole House for the Purpose of Considering Certain Matters Relative to Certain Charges Against Hon. J.E. McDonald, Commissioner of Agriculture. Representative J Franklin Spears was appointed Chair.
The Committee of the Whole met on a daily basis from November 18th through November 22, 1935, on which date the House voted to approve a resolution of censure and reprimand introduced by Representative Calvert. The resolution stated that McDonald was not guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, but that he was guilty of acts and conduct ill-becoming a state official and the dignity of the office of Commissioner of Agriculture. Following the conclusion of the proceedings, McDonald was reelected as Commissioner of Agriculture every two years until John C. White defeated him in 1950.
Records consist of a transcript of proceedings, subpoenas, correspondence, legislative records, a report, and legal documents, 1935, associated with the work of the Texas House of Representatives' Legislative Committee Investigating J.E. McDonald, Commissioner of Agriculture, and the Committee of the Whole House for the Purpose of Considering Certain Matters Relative to Certain Charges Against Honorable J.E. McDonald, Commissioner of Agriculture. The committees investigated general charges, and later articles of impeachment, filed against J.E. McDonald concerning nepotism, an agent's acceptance of commissions and bribes, acceptance of gifts, diversion of funds, confusion of public and private funds, neglect of duty and general incompetence in fee collection, and the promotion of the interests of agricultural distributing organizations to the detriment of the producers. Legislative Committee records include a transcript of proceedings and a copy of the majority report submitted to the House of Representatives on October 9, 1935. Committee of the Whole House records include subpoenas and correspondence summoning witnesses to the hearings, copies of passed and failed resolutions, and legal documents issued by McDonald's attorneys.
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.
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Records of the committees investigating J.E. McDonald, Commissioner of Agriculture, House of Representatives, Texas Legislature. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession number: 2000/195
These records were transferred to the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by the Texas Secretary of State on May 23, 1940 but not assigned an accession number until 1982. An individual accession number was assigned to these records on August 21, 2000.
Nancy Enneking, August 2000
Detailed Description of the Records