a&m old main 1912 fire

An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Thirty

Above, A&M’s Old Main burns, The Battalion

an ostrich-plumed hat

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Twenty-Nine

Former Governor Thomas Mitchell Campbell, July 1912

“‘Tom Campbell’s Man Friday,’” sputters Judge Ramsey. “How dare that good-for-nothing Governor tag that label on me? He expresses wonderment that I claim to be a clean and Christian gentlemen. Then that crook brazenly declares that he has always lived by the golden rule.”

“The golden rule,” snaps Thomas. “Governor Colquitt is ruled by gold. Nothing else but gold flowing directly from brewers’ kegs into his pockets. Nothing will work right in this country until monopolies and trusts take their infernal hands out of the election process. That’s what this election is about. That and education, which the Governor refuses to fund. His veto of the appropriation for the State University leaves students meeting for class in wooden shacks that would require very little huffing and puffing to blow down. First norther should do it.”

Old Main before the fire, Cushing Memorial Library photograph, MyAggieNation

“And his veto of even a paltry sum for A&M College,” interjects Judge Ramsey, “left it without fire protection. Lucky the entire campus was not lost to flames when the Main Building burned down to the ground. Lost their library, and the cadets are relegated to doing rifle-less drills. And now, his accomplices try to tar and feather me as a lover of negroes. Keep claiming I’m trying to get negroes to vote in the Democratic primaries. In desperation, Colquitt’s men are the ones trying to get negro Republicans to cross over and vote.”

“Some of the negroes are getting restless. They are realizing voting Republican in Texas is a waste of the money they pay in poll taxes. Sticking with the party of Lincoln in this state is like throwing away both their votes and their money.”

“Colored folks,” continues Judge Ramsey, “have never been allowed to vote in the Democratic primaries and to insinuate I want them to is outrageous. Every white man running for office should pledge that no negroes be allowed to vote in the primary.” 

“Judge, as far as the statewide elections go, whether negroes vote in the Democratic primaries matters little in determining the outcome. The split would be the same. We have the majority of the church-going negroes here, and they have the drunkard ones in South Texas.”

Judge Ramsey clenches his fists. “I absolutely do not like being painted black. My record of fighting for the supremacy of the white man stands. Why, in Austin the other night, 25 Confederate veterans were right there at the base of the platform, wearing their well-deserved Crosses of Honor. The crowd cheered wildly when they gave the old-time rebel yell.”

Cartoon by Charley Bowers, Double Take ‘Toons on NPR

“Forget that distracting canard, Judge. We had the largest crowd assembled in Austin since Teddy Roosevelt was riding high as President. We will paint you Wilson. We’ll link you ever more strongly to the image of Woodrow Wilson, a symbol of all that is progressive, earnest and true in politics.” 

The Judge swings one of his clenched fists as though his opponent were standing before him. “Oscar Colquitt is whining like a whipped child. All his life, he’s done nothing but suck the public teat and live at the public crib. His henchmen also are urging Germans in the Hill Country to vote in the Democratic primary. Those German Yankees have been Republicans since they set foot in Texas. And I fear the Mexicans. During the election last summer, Jake Wolters rounded up more Mexicans than Santa Anna had in his entire army to deal that blow against prohibition.”

Thomas sighs. “If women could vote, Governor Colquitt would have no teat to suck. Women wouldn’t tolerate a state run by liquor interests.”

The Judge looks incredulous. “Would you really trust women to make wise choices? Even though she has all week to ponder it, a woman can barely decide which hat to wear before the Sunday service starts.”

“I trust Fannie and all my daughters more than the illiterate scalawags whose poll taxes are subsidized by breweries. Education matters most. Judge, you will carry any county in Texas in which a majority of the people can read and write.”

“The governor ended his speech yesterday,” grumbles Judge Ramsey, “with a sarcastic plea for someone in the crowd to volunteer to ship the losers, ‘Ramsey’s gang,’ a crate of lemons after the election.”

“Come August first, Judge, I will thoroughly enjoy using my own money to buy bushels of lemons to make lemonade for celebratory toasts to your election.”


Racism was rampant in 1912 in Texas. Voting rights were denied, and the language was not pretty. If these words are among those commonly found in print and employed by prominent politicians, just imagine what slurs were used on the street!

Continue to Chapter Thirty-One

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