This is the grave of Claude Hudspeth.
Born in 1877 in Medina, Texas, Hudspeth grew up as part of the white elite dominating Texas. This was an openly racist regime of land owners and law enforcement. The Mexicans, most of whom were laborers on the ranches owned by whites, including the one owned by the Hudspeths, were treated absolutely horribly. While this was still the era before large-scale Mexican migration north, the remnant Mexican population in Texas were dispossessed and controlled with violence. This is the world in which Hudspeth grew up and the world that he fought for.
That Hudspeth’s father was a Confederate officer almost seems preordained given the politics of the family. He later was a sheriff, which in south Texas was a license to kill and abuse Mexicans. Hudspeth had effectively no formal education, teaching himself to read and write. He kicked around for awhile as a teen, working on a variety of ranches. He and his brother moved to the town of Ozona in about 1893 to start a newspaper. That didn’t last too long. Then he moved west to El Paso. He got involved in politics out there and was elected to the Texas House in 1902 and then to the state senate in 1906.
Hudspeth realized a law degree would serve both his financial and political ambitions and so he passed the bar in 1909 and joined a law firm in El Paso.
In 1918, Texas voters sent Hudspeth to Congress. While there, he retained his ardent love of killing Mexicans. He was a huge proponent of the American invasion of Mexico to catch Pancho Villa, even though it was a total clown show. Simply put, Hudspeth did not believe that Mexicans had the ability to govern themselves and so needed a big strong daddy like the U.S. to govern them by force instead. He also became a major proponent of American investments in Mexico and expressed his outrage on the House floor over expropriations of American property during and after the Mexican Revolution, including in 1924 when the government of Alvaro Obregon threatened to expropriate agricultural properties owned by Americans in northern Mexico, which in the end, the government did not go through with after more official American pressure than this yahoo congresscritter.
What we really should remember Hudspeth for is being the best friend of the Texas Rangers. We need to be clear here–the Texas Rangers was not just a police force. It was a force of racist murderers, giving whites full impunity to kill whoever they wanted along the U.S.-Mexican border, so long as they were Mexican. Over the years, these racists killed thousands of Mexican citizens and south Texas Mexican-Americans. Hudspeth constantly talked up the Rangers as a force of order protecting the good whites of Texas, but he knew quite well about the murders. Why wouldn’t he? He supported them. Murdering Mexicans was an outright positive for Hudspeth.
It’s worth noting here that at this point, the Texas Rangers is the most offensive name in professional sports. That is what we should be focusing on changing. But you think you can go after the Texas Rangers in Texas politics? No way. They are still seen as heroes by the white Texan population. That’s because racism is very popular among white Texans. Murdering Mexicans is pretty much fine with lots of them too.
Hudspeth was also a critical person in the exclusion of Mexicans from the the 1917 and then the 1924 Immigration Act. He wanted cheap labor for Texas and so he and John Nance Garner led the fight to carve out that exception. In all of this, he argued that Mexicans were good docile people, no real threat. Of course he had long supported just killing them if they did become a “threat,” but he didn’t talk about that here. He succeeded too. An open border was the goal, backed by guns.
There was an investigation of the Texas Rangers in 1919 for all their murders. Hudspeth testified in favor of the Rangers. His position was that most Mexicans were bandits and they deserved to die if they were “caught.” As he stated, “a Ranger cannot wait until a Mexican bandit behind a rock on the other side shoots at him three or four times…You have to kill those Mexicans where you find them, or they will kill you.” He went on, “The people raised up and surrounded those bandits, and when they rounded them up and killed them…You cannot handle those Mexicans with kid gloves, not when they come twelve miles below El Paso and steal a milk cow every night or two.” Basically, Hudspeth, who again, was a sitting congressman, effectively told the government that it was the right of white Texans to kill Mexicans. When the chairman of the commission started challenging Hudspeth, he responded, “I don’t believe in this, Mr. Chairman,, in extending very much clemency to men who come across the River and murder our wives and children.” This all comes from Monica Muñoz Martinez, The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas, which should be required reading for all LGM readers.
Finally, while Hudspeth did support the exclusion of Mexicans from the Immigration Act of 1924 for that cheap labor, as part of that law, he pushed through $1 million to create the Border Patrol. And nothing bad has ever happened on the border since…..
A big time rancher and a cheap bastard, in 1926, Hudspeth decided to run 1,400 cattle across the Plains rather than pay to ship them by rail. He seems to have wanted adventure as well and he later wrote some popular articles about reliving the Old West days this way. In 1930, Hudspeth decided to not run for reelection.
By this time, Hudspeth was also all in on the oil industry and he was an oil executive for about a decade. Very late in life he moved to San Antonio and he died there a year later, in 1941, at the age of 63.
Claude Hudspeth is buried in Mission Burial Park, San Antonio, Texas.
If you would like this series to visit other racist bastards of American history, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. George Wallace is in Montgomery, Alabama and Bull Connor is in Birmingham, Alabama. Previous posts in this series are archived here.