Governor W. Lee O’Daniel Gubernatorial Race Announcement 1938
There are many ways items come to be in the Forgotten Now Found collections. These particular items were donated along with several other paper items and postcards from a very nice lady from Longview, Texas. This letter and photograph immediately jumped out as an unusual piece of history.
I have lots of ideas and thoughts and questions about these two items. Please excuse my ramblings as I sort through it.
The first thing that jumps out is the letterhead itself. In the upper left-hand corner is the logo of the W. Lee O’Daniel Flour Co. Hillbilly Flour. This is interesting as they are the sponsors of the radio show that W. Lee O’Daniel was hosting with his band the Hillbilly Boys. In the show, “Please pass the biscuits Pappy” was the catchphrase of the host W. Lee O’Daniel.
A little bit more about our host, he was born in Ohio, moved to Kansas and then to Texas selling flour. He then realized that he had a true gift for gab, so he put that to use by creating a radio show. It’s said that Texas stopped at noon to listen to this very popular show. According to one of the two tear-away sheets at the bottom of the letter the show aired in Fort Worth, Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston.
The letter states that during the February 1st show, he told the listeners to write the show and tell him what they wanted for a “Christmas Present”. I am confused why they were talking about Christmas in February, but apparently this made sense in 1938, because he states many folks did write. He states that the most popular request was for a photograph of the whole band including the newest member “Texas Rose”. She is the only woman in the 8 member ensemble. I find it interesting that all the other members names are a nickname of sorts. No other full names besides O’Daniels is shown.
He goes on to say that the second most popular request was that “more than 54,999 people asked” for him to run for Governor of Texas. I find the number 54,999 very odd. Today, we would round up to say more than 55,000. I wonder if they just got tired of counting letters, or if the true number was exactly 54,999.
When looking at who he was and how he gained name recognition, he may have been the first politician to leverage entertainment fame to run for high office. When someone announces today, there is televised news coverage, cameras everywhere, Twitter and more helping to get the name and the office they are running to fill into the public’s consciousness. He announced in April (this letter is dated April 27,1938) and only a few short months later in November O’Daniels was elected Governor of Texas. He also won re-election in 1940 and was in office until August of 1941 when he left the Governor seat to go to the US Senate, which he won in a special election to replace the US Senator who had passed.
O’Daniels passed away in 1969. From just this short letter, it’s apparent he was an interesting man. There are lots of other avenues that can be explored based on the foundation of this letter and photo. Who are the other band members? What did they do when he became Governor? What happened to the W. Lee O’Daniel Flour Company? Was he a good Governor for the state of Texas or a good US Senator?
This letter sparks a lot of questions for me, and I may even revisit again. Thank you for reading my ramblings. Anyway you look at it, this is a neat piece of history that was forgotten and now found. Thank you again to the very nice lady from Longview for allowing me the opportunity to include in the collections.