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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 374

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This is the grave of Bob Bullock.

Born in Hillsboro, Texas in 1929, Bullock received a B.A. from Texas Tech in 1955, after serving in the Korean War. He then went on for a law degree at Baylor. He was elected to the Texas House in 1957 and soon became a rising star within the Democratic Party. He served for awhile, left to practice law, then in 1971 when Texas’ governor appointed him Secretary of State. He stayed with that for only a bit over a year, when he decided to run for statewide office. That was the position of state comptroller. He won in 1974 and held the office for the next 16 years. One of the last Democrats to be elected statewide in Texas, he initially rose to power in part on slamming John Connolly for switching to the Republican Party. Bullock himself would never do this, but he also was pretty conservative in his own right and publicly supported the 1998 gubernatorial campaign of George W. Bush. His biggest issue as comptroller was making sure businesses paid their share of taxes and while in power, engaged in many well-publicized raids against tax-avoiding businesses. He also adopted an equal opportunity employment program to ensure at least some level of hiring minority populations, which was not well-accepted in Texas.

Nonetheless, Bullock became a sort of hero of Texas politics, a man who has many institutions named for him in Texas today, including the state history museum. That is an awful no-good museum that tells Texas history in a way that, uh, might not be complete, but that’s no fault of Bullock. His personal behavior that included a major drinking problem and five marriages, also added to his fame in the same way that Lyndon Johnson’s outlandish behavior became part of Texas lore. If you want a sense of what a crazy drunken Texas political legend Bob Bullock was and how that plays into Texans’ ideas of themselves, check out this Texas Monthly piece of people telling stories about the man. Just for sheer outlandishness, it is worth your time.

In 1990, he decided to leave the comptroller position and run for the state’s lieutenant governor. He defeated the son of Robert Mosbacher, a close advisor to George Bush and the man most responsible for NAFTA. He was elected on the same ticket as Ann Richards, but when he was reelected in 1994 and Richards was not, he became the last Democrat to win statewide office in Texas. As attorney general, he worked on tax issues, largely ensuring that taxes not approved by Texas voters wouldn’t be implemented, as well as environmental issues, working toward at least some reasonable level of conservation. Bullock did not run for reelection in 1998, at least partially because he was sick. Rick Perry replaced him and nothing bad ever happened in Texas again. Bullock died of cancer in 1999. His New York Times obituary also gets at his larger-than-life behavior, as well as some of his questionable ethics.

Bob Bullock is buried in Texas State Cemetery, Austin, Texas.

This grave visit was supported by LGM reader contributions. Thanks so much. If you would like this series to visit other Texas politicians, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Lloyd Bentsen is in Houston and the odious Martin Dies is in Lufkin. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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