Texas Legislature, House of Representatives, Committee of the Whole House in Investigation of Charges Against Hon. J.T. Robison, Commissioner of the General Land Office:
An Inventory of Records at the Texas State Archives, 1929
The Texas House of Representatives' Committee of the Whole House in Investigation of Charges Against Hon. J.T. Robison, Commissioner of the General Land Office, was initiated by an unnumbered Simple House Resolution during the Second Called Session of the 41st Legislature on June 6, 1929. The committee's existence was the result of events that began in 1928.
According to the entry on Robison in the Online Handbook of Texas, "in November 1928 Governor Daniel J. Moody, members of the board of regents of the University of Texas, and the state attorney general, Claude Pollard, met with Robison and asked him to halt the sale of mineral leases on land belonging to the permanent university fund until the legislature could meet and instigate a system that would yield more money [due to the discovery of oil on the land]. Robison proceeded with the sale of leases that had already been publicly advertised, arguing that the law gave him no choice in the matter. When the legislature met in January, the governor's supporters empowered a special committee to investigate not only Robison's actions in this case, but each and every act of the commissioner of the General Land Office and all matters pertaining thereto."
The special committee was proposed by Senator Moore on January 11, 1929 in Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 4 (Regular Session, 41st Legislature). When the resolution was tabled, Senator Berkeley offered SCR 5 proposing a similar investigation - it too was tabled. On January 21, both resolutions were brought up with the result that SCR 5 was permanently tabled and SCR 4 was amended several times and approved. The resolution was sent to the House and passed on January 23, and then sent to and signed by Governor Moody on January 24. SCR 4 called for a joint committee of three Representatives and two Senators; the members were Representatives Minor, Stevenson and Bond and Senators Moore and Hardin. The committee, known as the General (or Joint) Committee to Investigate the Land Office and Other State Departments, heard from 35 to 40 witnesses and took 1,009 pages of written testimony. Its report, submitted to the legislature on May 15, 1929 during the First Called Session of the 41st Legislature, was critical of Robison's actions in regard to the controversy with the governor and the regents, charged that he mismanaged the re-appraisement of public school lands and a special-expenses fund used to fund the 1925 re-appraisement, and accused him of accepting gifts and gratuities from parties with interest in his policies. The committee termed its results "serious" but left it to the legislature as a whole to determine what course of action the legislature should take. The committee also proposed that an Office of the State Auditor should be created, as in fact occurred later in the First Called Session through House Bill 170.
It was at this point that the House took up the matter of the apparent 1925 re-appraisement discrepancies by passing an unnumbered simple resolution offered by Representative Van Zandt on June 6, 1929, during the Second Called Session. (The resolution passed was one of many offered over the course of several days which variously proposed the reprimand, request for resignation, and impeachment of Robison.) Specifically, Van Zandt's resolution called for a House Committee of the Whole to investigate the management of approximately $32,000 which was unaccounted for in the 1 cent per acre fund authorized by Senate Bill 303 (39th Legislature, Regular Session, 1925) to pay for the re-appraisement of public school lands. The committee was also to investigate all other matters involving the official integrity of the Commissioner of the Land Office. The Committee of the Whole House in Investigation of Charges Against Hon. J.T. Robison, Commissioner of the General Land Office was thus formed immediately after the adoption of Van Zandt's resolution; the committee selected its own attorneys and allowed Robison to do the same.
The proceedings of the House Committee of the Whole began on June 10 and lasted through June 27, producing 1697 typescript pages of testimony and evidence. On June 27 the Committee voted to approve a motion presented by Representative Stevenson on June 26 to dismiss the charges against Robison since no evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors existed.
"During the time the House was deliberating," the Handbook of Texas notes, "the Supreme Court, in a case arising from an injunction the attorney general had obtained to halt Robison's sale of the leases, ruled that Robison had been correct. He had no choice but to sell the leases already publicly advertised. The court's ruling robbed the commissioner's opponents of a major part of their case against him. Shortly after the House concluded the investigation, Robison left Texas to visit his son in New London, Connecticut. His health was poor, and the hearings had left him physically exhausted. In Connecticut he suffered what doctors termed a nervous breakdown, and in late August he contracted pneumonia. He died in a New London hospital on September 7, 1929."
Records consist of the June 1929 proceedings, subpoenas, telegrams, and correspondence of the Texas House of Representatives' Committee of the Whole House in Investigation of Charges Against Hon. J.T. Robison, Commissioner of the General Land Office. The Committee investigated the management of approximately $32,000, unaccounted for in the 1 cent per acre fund to pay for the reappraisement of public school lands, and all other matters involving the official integrity of the Commissioner of the Land Office. The proceedings record the testimony and financial documents entered into evidence before the committee from June 10 to June 27, 1929. The correspondence and majority of the telegrams, from June of 1929, concern the request for and issuance of subpoenas, the inability to locate several subpoenaed individuals, and a few letters from individuals explaining their inability to comply with the subpoenas. The subpoenas themselves, also from June of 1929, were sent to local law enforcement officials. The officials served the subpoena on the named individual(s) and then completed the lower portion of the subpoena stating the time, date, and circumstances under which the subpoena was served.
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
(Identify the item), Records, Committee of the Whole House in Investigation of Charges Against Hon. J.T. Robison, Commissioner of the General Land Office, House of Representatives, Texas Legislature. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession number: 2000/177
These records were transferred to the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by an unknown agency during the 20th century. According to the transcript of proceedings, four copies of the proceedings existed. The committee recommended that they be distributed among the Texas State Library, the University [of Texas?] Library, the Texas Secretary of State, and the Texas Governor's Office. It is possible that the Archives received these records from one, or more, of these sources. A new accession number was assigned on July 27, 2000 for purposes of control.
Nancy Enneking, July 2000
The proceedings of the committee have been published in the Appendix to the House Journal of the Second Called Session.
Detailed Description of the Collection