Texas House Speakers Oral History Project -
Speaker of the Texas House Tom Craddick. Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
The 78th Legislature's regular session, January 14–June 2, 2003; the 78th Legislature's First Called Session, June 20–July 28, 2003; the 78th Legislature's Second Called Session July 29–August 26, 2003; the 78th Legislature's Third Called Session, September 15–October 12, 2003; the 78th Legislature's Fourth Called Session, April 20–May 17, 2004.
The 79th Legislature's Regular Session, January 11, 2005–May 30, 2005; the 79th Legislature's First Called Session, June 21, 2005–July 20, 2005; the 79th Legislature's Second Called Session, July 21–August 19, 2005; the 79th Legislature's Third Called Session, April 17–May 16, 2006.
The 80th Legislature's Regular Session, January 9, 2007–May 28, 2007.
Tom Craddick's rise to the Speaker's seat parallels the growth of the Republican Party in Texas. On January 11, 2003, he made state history when, subsequent to his 34-year tenure in the Texas House of Representatives, he became the first Republican Speaker—after helping gain the Republican Majority in the House—for the first time in more than 130 years.
Craddick's leadership gave the 78th Legislature, which began as one of the most challenging in history, much of its impetus for success. Although his first session as speaker was marked by an unprecedented $10 billion budget deficit, Craddick helped the state overcome the budget shortfall while producing model ethics, insurance, tort and transportation reforms. Given his successes in these arenas, Craddick was overwhelmingly re-elected Speaker in 2005.
During the 79th 3rd Called Special Session, Craddick was also instrumental in cutting property taxes and reforming the financing of public schools in Texas while also adding some urgent reforms to the educational system itself. Craddick led the House to pass legislation that reformed the state's franchise tax giving taxpayers needed property tax relief. He also supported legislation that provided a $2,000 state-funded pay increase for teachers, encouraged the creation of locally designed incentive plans to increase teacher performance, and the requirement for high school students to take four years of science and math.
Craddick's political journey has been one of determination, perseverance and bravery. When he was a Ph.D. candidate at Texas Tech University, he decided to seek office in the Texas House of Representatives as a Midland Republican. Given the environment at that time, even his father warned him against it. "Texas is run by Democrats," the Midland businessman, R. F. Craddick told him. "You can't win." But the younger Craddick proved him wrong, and at the age of 25, he became one of only nine Republicans in the 150-seat House.
Tom Craddick has spent his adult life serving his fellow citizens in the Texas House of Representatives. His tenure has been characterized by landmark events. His initial years at the Capitol were focused on revitalizing the Texas GOP, but in 1971 he gained respect from both sides when he joined a bipartisan group of reformists dubbed "The Dirty 30" that was pushing for changes in House Ethics. In 1975, Speaker Bill Clayton appointed Craddick as the first Republican committee chairman in 100 years, and he continued to hold chairmanships under Clayton's successors, Gib Lewis and Pete Laney. Since his election as Speaker, Craddick has demonstrated an appreciation for diversity and bipartisanship by appointing a record number of women and minorities—including 12 Democrats—as chairmen.
Speaker Craddick is also a successful businessman. He is a sales representative for Mustang Mud, an oilfield supply company, owns Craddick Properties, a Midland investment business, and is president of Craddick, Inc.
Craddick holds both a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Business Administration from Texas Tech University. In 1995, his alma mater honored him with a prestigious Distinguished Alumni Award. He is also an Eagle Scout who has held numerous civic posts in his hometown of Midland.
Craddick married the former Nadine Nayfa, a native of Sweetwater, in 1969. They have two children, Christi and Thomas Russell, Jr. Their son, Tommy, married the former Laura Parker in 2004. The Speaker and Nadine have a six-month-old grandson, Tripp.
– Interviewed by Patrick Cox