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About the Briscoe Center

Dolph Briscoe, Texan

Excerpt from Dolph Briscoe: My Life in Texas Ranching and Politics

Dust jacket to "Dolph Briscoe: My Live in Texas Ranching and Politics

Dust jacket for Dolph Briscoe: My Live in Texas Ranching and Politics

Inaugural day in Austin on January 16, 1973, was cold, windy, and cloudy, but for Janey and me, the weather was irrelevant; in our minds it was a beautiful and glorious day. It began with a prayer breakfast featuring Tom Landry, the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, who delivered an inspirational talk that set the moral tone for the remainder of the inauguration. William P. "Bill" Hobby Jr., the newly elected lieutenant governor, and his wife, Diana, also attended the breakfast.

At noon, Bill Hobby and I, accompanied by our families, went to the grounds on the south side of the Capitol to take our separate oaths of office from Robert Calvert, the Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court. As we walked up to the platform under the archway of drawn swords formed by the Sul Ross Volunteer honor guard of cadets from Texas A&M University, a nineteen-gun salute echoed across the Capitol grounds. Surrounding us on the platform were the members of the Texas House and Senate, the majority of whom were serving their first term. Special guests included former Texas governors Alan Shivers, Price Daniel, and Preston Smith; and Bill Hobby's mother, newspaper publisher and former Eisenhower cabinet member Oveta Culp Hobby. Former President Lyndon Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, braved the cold and windy weather to attend the inaugural. The Johnsons were there at the invitation of Bill Hobby. Lyndon had made few public appearances since leaving office four years earlier, so Janey and I were honored by his and Lady Bird's presence. After the inauguration ceremonies, Janey and I invited the Johnsons to join us for the official luncheon in the Governor's Mansion. At first, Lyndon declined, saying that he really didn't want to impose on our special event, but he eventually accepted the invitation. He and Lady Bird got to the mansion before Janey and I. When we entered the dining room, we were surprised (but not shocked), to find Lyndon sitting at the head of the governor's table, holding court.

Former President Lyndon Johnson holding court at the luncheon in the Governor's Mansion the day of my inauguration in January 1973. Briscoe (Dolph) Papers, CAH; di_03951.

That luncheon would be the last time we would ever see Lyndon. He died of a heart attack on January 22 at his ranch in the Hill Country. Janey and I attended his funeral in Washington, D.C., and then went to his ranch for the burial. The Reverend Billy Graham rode in our car with us as we drove to the ranch.

The inauguration was broadcast live over a statewide television network. One of my fondest memories of the event was looking into the crowd of several thousand people and seeing about two thousand of my neighbors and friends from Uvalde, including the Uvalde High School band, which later marched in the inaugural parade. I have been honored with the solid support and steadfast friendship of the citizens of Uvalde throughout my political career. Their presence in such large numbers at the inauguration meant a great deal to me and to Janey. After lunch that day, we hosted a special reception at the Governor's Mansion just for the citizens of Uvalde.

I've never favored lengthy speeches, even for an inaugural, so I kept mine to a relatively short ten minutes. I stressed the themes on which I had campaigned: restoration of public confidence in state government, no new taxes, effective and efficient government services, enhanced educational opportunities for all Texans, and a fight against crime. I duly noted that the audience of five thousand gave me its longest and loudest applause when I promised "no new taxes in 1973."

After Bill Hobby took his oath of office, he delivered a speech in which he made generous and gracious comments about me, pledging that in performing the duties of lieutenant governor, he would remain "at the right hand of Dolph Briscoe, whom we principally honor here today." Bill Hobby would be true to his word. In the six years that we served together, even when we disagreed on specific issues such as the proposed new Texas Constitution, Bill was always a steadfast friend. We collaborated whenever we could, and in those few cases when we couldn't, our disagreements never became angry or disrespectful.

Janey and Dolph Briscoe riding in a convertible in the Inaguration parade with the Capitol in the background.

Janey and I enjoying the inaugural parade. It was a wonderful day. Briscoe (Dolph) Papers, CAH.

After the inaugural parade down Congress Avenue, Bill Hobby and I hosted a public reception in the great rotunda of the Capitol. There were no special or invited guests for this event. Bill and I felt strongly that we should be available to greet and shake the hand of any member of the general public who wanted to attend. The Sharpstown scandals had badly eroded the public's trust in its state officials, so we wanted to throw open the doors of the Capitol for an event to symbolize our determination to conduct a state government that would be open to the scrutiny of the people.

That night, after the various inaugural balls, Janey and I hosted a slumber party at the mansion for forty of our daughter Cele's classmates at Uvalde High School. It made a very long day and night, and the next morning I was as exhausted as I have ever been in my life, but I have never been happier. I was tired, but eager to get to work.