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Briscoe-Garner Museum - Biography

John Nance Garner portrait

John Nance Garner was born on November 22, 1868, in post-Civil War Texas. He grew up in a log cabin at Blossom Prairie in Red River County in Northeast Texas. His father, John Nance Garner III, came to Texas from Tennessee, served in the Confederate army, and settled after the war in Red River County. The elder Garner became a successful cotton farmer and local politician in his home county. Garner's mother, Sarah Guest Garner, the daughter of a banker, encouraged her son's education. The young Garner attended small rural schools in Bogata and Blossom Prairie. At eighteen he went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he stayed only one semester, possibly because of ill health or the rudimentary preparation provided by his inadequate rural school. He returned to Clarksville, Texas, to read law and was admitted to the bar in 1890.

Garner Moves to Uvalde (1892)

John Nance Garner as young man (tintype)

In 1892 Garner moved to Uvalde, Texas, where he quickly developed his legal and business career. He joined the firm of Judge John H. Clark as circuit-riding attorney in various South Texas counties. His cases were diverse, ranging from land title disputes to horse and cattle theft. At one point, he owned the Uvalde newspaper as a result of a legal settlement. He also acquired a title company and renamed it the Garner Abstract and Land Company. During the early years in Uvalde, as he built his law practice and expanded his real estate business, Garner developed a reputation as a hard drinker and sharp poker player, an image he maintained for the rest of his life. When a vacancy opened in the county judge's office, Garner made his first political run in the Democratic primary.

Garner Marries (1895)

Ettie Garner, 1902

After a brief courtship, Garner married Mariette "Ettie" Rheiner on November 25, 1895, in the Christian Church in Sabinal. Ettie was the daughter of Peter Rheiner, a Swiss immigrant who spoke five languages, joined in the California gold rush, served in the Confederate army, and then moved to Texas. Her mother died when Ettie was very young. She was educated at boarding school and met Garner after he heard about her opposition to his candidacy for Uvalde county judge. In an age when few women expressed their political opinions, Ettie opposed his candidacy because of his reputation for drinking and poker-playing. The couple had one son, Tully, born on September 24, 1896.

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