This footage is a series of responses from politicians and prominent figures in Austin, Texas circa 1972, many of them seemingly commenting on a scandal. The scandal is possibly the Sharpstown Scandal of 1971-72 which implicated and ended the careers of many high-ranking Texas politicians. Included in the footage are scenes of politicians Lloyd Bentsen, Jr., Dolph Briscoe, and Mark White; Governor John Connally's wife, Nellie Connally; iconic broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite; and Austin District Attorney Ned Granger. Do you recognize any of these men? Please help us identify them!
Richard S. "Cactus" Pryor was a comedic television and broadcast personality from Austin, Texas. Cactus, an Austin native, was born in 1923, straight into the entertainment business. His father owned the Cactus Theater on Congress Avenue (hence the nickname), and starting at just 3 years old, Cactus made stage appearances before the shows began. Cactus attended the University of Texas and served in the US Army Air Corp. When he returned to Austin from his service in 1944, Cactus joined the broadcasting team at Lady Bird Johnson's KLBJ radio station, where he worked until 2008. He joined the world of broadcast television at KTBC in 1951 where he was program manager and hosted a variety of television programs, including a football program with Darrell K Royal and many celebrity interviews. Cactus appeared in two films with his friend John Wayne, Hellfighters and The Green Berets. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, he became a sought-after speaker and event host, famous for his roasts of entertainers and politicians, most of whom he counted as close friends. Cactus was also known for his disguises. He would appear at functions in character, often pulling a fast one on the crowd as he charmed them first in disguise, then again as he revealed himself and used his earlier conversations to entertain the crowd. As an active member of the Headliners Club of Austin, Pryor starred in many humorous television news satires alongside Texas politicians, some of which can be seen in his film collection, as well as the Gordon Wilkison Collection and the Wallace and Euna Pryor Collection He was nationally-known, but kept Austin his home, helping put the city on the map in the 60s and 70s. Cactus Pryor announced to his KLBJ listeners in 2007 that he had Alzheimer's disease, and Austin's "original funnyman" died in 2011.
Ralph Webster Yarborough, known as "Smilin' Ralph," was a U.S. senator representing Texas from 1957 through 1971. Yarborough was born in Chandler, Texas in 1903 as the seventh of nine children, and went on to attend Sam Houston State Teachers College as a young man before attending the University of Texas, where he graduated from the law school in 1927.
In 1931, Yarborough began a short but notable career as an assistant attorney general. As an expert in Texas land law assigned to represent the interests of the Permanent School Fund, Yarborough won a number of cases against major oil companies such as Magnolia Petroleum and Mid-Kansas, through which he was able to guarantee that public schools and universities receive revenues from Texas oil. This litigation has since brought billions of dollars to public education.
In 1938, Yarborough decided to run for attorney general but lost; it would take another 12 years for him to run for any kind of office again. In the interim, he served in the Texas National Guard and the U.S. Army during World War II. In 1952, running against conservative incumbent R. Allan Shivers for the governorship, Yarborough lost his second race. He continued this losing streak against Shivers in the 1954 primary and then again against Senator Marion Price Daniel, Sr. in 1956. In 1957, however, he was able to win Daniel's vacated seat in the senate next to Lyndon Baines Johnson.
In the senate, Yarborough pursued a progressive agenda, first refusing to sign the Southern Manifesto against desegregation and then being one of only five Southern senators to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1957. For the environment, he pushed through a bill to elevate Padre Island to the status of National Seashore. For education, he introduced the first Bilingual Education Act in 1967, which was signed into law a year later. He worked to expand health care funding and to extend the G.I. Bill to Cold War veterans. In 1969, Yarborough chaired the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare.
Aside from his legislation, Ralph Yarborough is also remembered for riding in the 1963 Dallas motorcade in which John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The story goes that, being at odds with several of the other politicians on the President's tour, Yarborough originally refused to share a car with LBJ, who was friends with his rivals. This so outraged Kennedy that on the morning of the motorcade he took Yarborough aside and threatened to end their friendship if Yarborough did not cooperate. The senator conceded and ended up just two cars behind the president when he was fatally shot that afternoon. When interviewed about that day, Yarborough described it as "the most tragic event of my life."
In 1970, Yarborough lost his seat in an upset election against Lloyd Bentsen. While he ran once more for office, he did not win again.
In 1996, Yarborough died at the age of 92. He is buried in Austin at the Texas State Cemetery.
Lloyd Millard Bentsen, Jr. was born in Mission, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley on February 11, 1921. He attended the University of Texas School of Law, graduating in 1942. After graduation, Bentsen joined the United States Army Air Corps, serving in the 449th Bomb Group during World War II. Bentsen received several awards for his military service, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters. After the war, Bentsen returned to Texas to begin his political career, first as a Hidalgo County Judge. In 1948, Bentsen was elected to the United States House of Representatives, representing Texas's 15th District. He served three successive terms. Bentsen then took a break from politics to seek a business career in Houston, founding the Consolidated American Life Insurance Company and eventually becoming president of Lincoln Consolidated, a financial holding institution. Bentsen returned to politics in the 1970 race for United States Senate, defeating future President George H. W. Bush in the general election. He was re-elected to the Senate in 1976, 1982, and 1988. In 1988, Democratic Party nominee Michael Dukakis selected Bentsen as his running mate in that year's presidential election. Bush and Dan Quayle from the Republican Party ultimately won the election. Bentsen resigned from the Senate in 1993 to serve as the Secretary of the Treasury under President Bill Clinton until 1994. (Bentsen had previously served as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance.) The Clinton economic plan for which Bentsen was the primary architect ultimately reduced the federal deficit by $500 billion and led to the lowest inflation and unemployment rates in 30 years. In 1999, President Clinton awarded Bentsen the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the highest civilian awards of the United States. Bentsen died on May 23, 2006 at his home in Houston at the age of 85.
Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. was an American broadcast journalist, best known as anchorman for the CBS Evening News for 19 years. Cronkite was born on November 4, 1916 in St. Joseph, Missouri, but spent much of his youth in Houston. He worked on the newspaper at San Jacinto High School, then on the Daily Texan at the University of Texas, which he attended for two years before leaving to take a job as a radio announcer in Oklahoma City. In 1939 he joined the United Press and became a war correspondent with the outbreak of World War II. Edward R. Murrow asked him to join his team in 1943, but Cronkite elected to stay on with the United Press.
Following the war, Murrow finally convinced Cronkite to join CBS. He first gained prominence at CBS with his coverage of the 1952 Democratic and Republican National Conventions. He took over Edward R. Murrow's position as the senior correspondent at CBS in 1961, and he began anchoring the CBS Evening News in 1962. In 1963, the program was extended to a half-hour and renamed the "CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite," as it remained until his retirement in 1981.
Throughout his career he signed off of programs with a trademark phrase. In the 1950s, he closed programs by asking, "What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times. And you were there." For decades at the helm of the CBS Evening News, he simply concluded, "And that's the way it is."
Walter Cronkite is remembered as an impartial, trustworthy presence in primetime news. He covered some of the most significant American events of the 20th century, including the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., the moon landing, and the Vietnam War. Cronkite is perhaps best remembered as the man that told America about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He broke the news on CBS, the first network to report the event, so most Americans first heard the grave news about their president from him.
Cronkite married Betsy Maxwell in 1940, and they remained married until her death in 2005. They had three children: Nancy, Kathy, and Walter the 3rd. Cronkite continued to be a prominent voice in journalism even after his retirement. He died on July 17, 2009. His papers are held at the University of Texas, and the Moody College of Communication named the Walter Cronkite Plaza in his honor.