Jim Reese

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For three Louisiana Republicans named "Reese", see Bob Reese, Frellsen Reese, and George Reese.
James O'Quinn "Jim" Reese

Mayor of Odessa, Texas
In office
Succeeded by Daniel B. Hemphill

Born December 14, 1929
Hasse, Comanche County,
Texas, USA
Died September 15, 2017 (aged 87)
Midland, Texas
Resting place Sunset Memorial Gardens in Odessa, Texas
Political party Democrat-turned-Republican (1964)
Spouse(s) Jayne Damron Reese (married 1951-2016, her death)
Children Greta Jayne Reese Rigney

James Rockney "Rocky" Reese
Lori Jan Reese (1962–2011)

Alma mater Gustine High School

Howard Payne University
University of Texas at Austin
Northwestern University

Occupation Former broadcaster; Businessman

United States Air Force service

Religion Presbyterian

James O'Quinn Reese (December 14, 1929 – September 15, 2017), known as Jim Reese, was a businessman who served from 1968 to 1974 as the mayor of Odessa, Texas. From the 1960s to the 1980s, he was a key figure in the development of the two-party system in West Texas. In 1978, he lost the Republican nomination for Texas' 19th congressional district seat to future U.S. President George W. Bush. Bush was then defeated in the general election by the then Democrat, later Republican, Kent Ronald Hance.[1]


An only child, Reese was born to Arvil Lloyd Reese (1911-1980) and the former Mary Louise Pearce (1910-1990) in the defunct community of Hasse in Comanche County near Abilene, Texas. The Reese family moved repeatedly during Jim's childhood as Arvil searched for employment amid the Great Depression. Arvil worked for the Texas Department of Highways for a time, having been assigned to place finich concrete on bridges. He also held various jobs in the oil industry and was during the end of his working years a Butane dealer in Gustine in Comanche County. During his boyhood, Jim Reese attended eighteen different schools and resided in such locations as Sidney in Comanche County, Bronte in Coke County, and Monahans, Brady, Corpus Christi, and Odessa, Texas, as well as McAlester, Oklahoma.[2]

Reese's first remembrance of Odessa dates to 1938, when he was eight years of age. Arvil Reese had hired a driver with a pick-up truck to bring the family of three to Odessa. Young Jim saw flares from the oil fields and smelled sour gas: "I had heard of hell but didn't expect to get there that soon," he quipped. He slept on hay in the back of the pickup that first night, thirty years before his election as mayor. Reese recalls that in the late 1930s there was no paving in Odessa past Grant and Eighth streets. For several weeks the family lived in a tourist cabin in Goldsmith in Ector County, where they survived a tornado. It was while the Reeses were residing in Brady further east in McCulloch County that Arvil was financially able to purchase the family's first vehicle, a Model T. The car had been used to haul chickens in the back seat, but "we were happy finally to have transportation," Reese recalled.[3]

Back in Comanche County, Reese graduated at sixteen from Gustine High School and enrolled at the Southern Baptist-affiliated Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, for two years before transferring to the University of Texas at Austin, where in 1951 he obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. The next year, he procured the Master of Arts from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Both degrees were in the then new field of radio and television broadcasting. From 1953 to 1955, he served in the United States Air Force and was stationed mostly in San Antonio, Texas, and Denver, Colorado, and at the former Reese (coincidental name) Air Force Base in Lubbock, Texas. He also made a brief military sojourn to Tripoli, Libya.[4]

Reese was married until her death to the former Jayne Damron (May 31, 1930 – March 21, 2016), the daughter of Joe Sam Damron and the former Colleen Tidwell. Born in Amarillo and reared in Muleshoe in Bailey County, Jayne graduated from Muleshoe High School and attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and the University of Texas at Austin.[5]

Their daughter, Greta Jayne Reese Rigney (born 1954), resides in Midland. Her husband, William R. Rigney, Jr. (1945-2013), was a native of Oakland, California, who worked in both baseball management, which brought him to Midland, and then the oil business. He died at the age of sixty-eight of Alzheimer's disease. There are three Rigney sons, Jim Reese's grandsons.[6] The Reeses' son, James Rockney "Rocky" Reese (born 1956) lives in Horseshoe Bay near Austin, Texas. A second daughter, Lori Jan Reese (1962-2011) resided until her death in Abilene at the Abilene State School for special-needs persons.[7]

Broadcasting career

Reese's broadcasting career began at KCBD-TV Channel 11, the NBC affiliate in Lubbock. He then moved go KFDA-TV, the CBS affiliate in Amarillo, followed by KMID-TV, at the time a combined NBC/ABC outlet in Midland with studios at the former Air Force building at Midland Airfield. Reese then relocated to Odessa, where he was an anchorman from 1956 to 1964 at KOSA-TV, Channel 7, the CBS station which after a change in ownership relocated its facilities in 2000 to Music City Mall.[8] KOSA formerly used the mantra "Your Eye on West Texas."[9]

At Reese Air Force Base, Reese had edited the military newspaper and handled the Saturday evening and Sunday morning shifts at KCBD-TV, the latter at a gross salary of $1.15 per hour. In Lubbock, Reese attempted to develop from his residence a weekly detailed television schedule for the South Plains based on Walter Annenberg's TV Guide magazine that had been launched successfully on the East Coast at that time.[10] However, station manager Joseph H. Bryant[11] forbade moonlighting. Faced with the lack of choice, Reese resigned and moved to KFDA in Amarllo . After some two months, he recalls having been dropped from the station in a budget crunch. He turned down an offer to be a television director in Fort Worth to come to KMID, which offered him $10 more per week than what the Fort Worth station had tendered. At KMID, he was not only the sports anchor but did commercials.[12] KMID, now exclusively an ABC affiliate, Channel 2, was the first television station in Midland-Odessa.[13]

While at the Odessa Country Club, Reese met the assistant manager, Lew Allen, a musician.[14] The two co-produced a half-hour mid-afternoon daily variety show on KMID which aired after the popular reality series, Queen for a Day,[15] hosted by the actor Jack Bailey.[16]

In 1955, KMID general manager Ray Herndon moved the Allen-Reese program to 5:30 p.m., and without the Queen for a Day lead-in audience. As Reese had supspected, the change proved disastrous. Reese left KMID and accepted a longstanding offer in the summer of 1956 from program director and first KOSA station manager, John Joseph Vacca, Jr., (1922-2003) a native of Chicago,[17] who served on the Odessa City Council from 1962 to 1964 prior to Reese's tenure as mayor.[18] Coincidentally, Vacca had also attended Reese's alma mater, Northwestern University.[19] KOSA went on the air in Odessa on January 1, 1956. Reese resumed the variety show there, announced the 10 p.m. sports news, and prepared scores of commercials. He found that his recognition from being a sports anchor made it easier to sell advertising. Even after switching stations for the last time he never managed to publish his envisioned West Texas version of TV Guide.[20]

In Odessa, Reese covered three high school teams, the Odessa Broncos, the Permian Panthers, and the Ector Eagles. At the time, the Odessa Jackalopes of the Central Hockey League had not been organized.[21] KOSA also covered teams in Midland, Monahans, and Big Spring in Howard County, whenever those games were of particular interest to Odessa. Reese learned the names of each player and compiled a sheet of statistical notes which he taped to the back of the camera. This method created his own home-made Teleprompter which allowed him to report to the audience without being seen glancing at a script. He further covered national sports news of area interest sent to KOSA through the telegraph ticker from the news-gathering agencies.[22]

Civic leadership

Though he was earning a good salary through his sales commissions at KOSA, Reese left the station after eight years because of his growing involvement with the Junior Chamber International, a civic organization founded in 1920 in St. Louis, Missouri, and widely known as the Jaycees. After undergoing six months of training, he became a stockbroker and joined the Eppler, Guerin & Turner brokerage firm in Odessa, renamed in 1994 as Principal Financial Securities, Inc.[23] The new career gave Reese greater flexibility of schedule to pursue his interest in the Jaycees. Reese recalls his Jaycees years as having taught him more than he had learned in six years of university education, particularly the club focus on "Leadership Training Through Community Development."[24] He worked to bring the former Harlem Magicians basketball entertainment team to Odessa, an event which filled the Broncos Field House on Whitaker Street.[25]

In 1962, the Jaycees attempted to land the Miss Texas Pageant in Odessa but lost out to Fort Worth.[26] Reese approached the Ector County Commission and proposed the air conditioning of the Coliseum, which had been built eight years earlier in 1954. He argued that the city could with air conditioning attract a greater variety of events. "We didn't get the pageant, but we got the Coliseum air conditioned," Reese recalls. In 1963, the Odessa Jaycees won the designation as the outstanding club in the state.[27]

In 1964, Reese ran unsuccessfully for state Jaycees president at the state convention in Fort Worth but instead was named first vice president. The next year he became state president by acclamation. He left KOSA because the co-owner and general manager, Cecil L. Trigg, later partner of the Dallas-based Trigg Vaughn chain of radio and television stations, told Reese that the Jaycees presidency would require too much time from his station duties. Therefore, Reese resigned from KOSA, switched to the brokerage business, and never looked back at broadcasting.[28]

On a Jaycees trip to Washington, D.C., Reese met former U.S. Representative Brooks Hays, an Arkansas Democrat who was an assistant to U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. A theologically and politically liberal figure within the Southern Baptist Convention,[29] Hays acquired national attention in 1958, when he was defeated for reelection by a write-in candidate, the ophthalmologist and former radio announcer Dale Alford because of Hays' support for the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock.[30][31] Reese recalls that Hays told the Jaycees that Washington had become powerful in relation to the states because national leaders can at an objective distance usually make more accurate professional decisions than can local people directly involved in civic matters. Reese describes the Hays philosophy as totally counter to his own conservative, decentralized approach to public matters.[32]

On that same trip to Washington, Reese met President Johnson, Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa, and future U.S. President Gerald Ford, then a U.S. representative from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Some ten years later, Reese would be running for Congress on the ticket with Ford and vice-presidential running-mate, U.S. Senator Robert J. Dole of Kansas, but all went down to defeat at the hands of the Democrats Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, and George Herman Mahon.[33]

In 1965-1966, before Reese reached the maximum departure age of thirty-six from the Jaycees, he was named vice president of the national organization at the convention in Buffalo, New York. He was assigned to monitor Jaycee activities in five states: Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas. He was also named to formulate the Jaycees "government affairs" portfolio, having worked in that endeavor with conservative activist Clymer Wright, a former newspaper publisher from Fort Bend and Harris counties in suburban Houston. In 1991, Wright pushed successfully for municipal term limits in Houston.[34][35]

Reese served as president of the Odessa Young Men's Christian Association. At the time Odessa was the largest U.S. city not to have a YMCA. So a capital campaign was launched to build the modern facility on University Boulevard. The land was donated by the firm Houston Endowment of Houston, Texas.[36] Odessa oilman Bill Noël, a Fort Worth native who had been named in 1963 as "Outstanding Citizen of Odessa,"[37] headed the drive to tap large donors. Former state Attorney General John Ben Shepperd, a leading political and civic activist who maintained residences in Odessa in West Texas and Gladewater in East Texas,[38] developed a plan to reach smaller contributors who would upon completion of the YMCA feel a stake in its success. Reese describes Shepperd as "the best organizer I ever knew. He started his meetings at 7 a.m. when most could not devise an excuse to avoid attending fundraising activities.[39]

The mayoral years

In 1968, Odessa Mayor Preston Parker (1911-1979) who lived two houses from Reese, announced that he would not seek reelection. Backed by his former associates in the Jaycees, Reese entered the race against one opponent, the Odessa mayor pro-tempore, E. P. "Jack" Rainosek (1906-1984), who later relocated to Cross Plains in Callahan County near Abilene, Texas.[40] The non-partisan election was held on April 2, 1968, two days after President Johnson had announced that he would not seek a second full term in the White House, but Reese discounts any impact that national matters may have had on the Odessa race. Reese defeated Rainosek, 7,179 (86 percent) to 1,139 (14 percent),[41] and confessed that he would not have campaigned so rigorously had he known that his margin would have been that lopsided.[42]

Mayor Reese and the city council quickly replaced the city manager, Weir Routh, who supervised seventeen departments and was, according to Reese, reluctant to delegate authority to subordinates. Reese later recommended Routh for the city manager's position in the smaller city of Alvin near Houston. The new manager, Ronald Neighbors, had previously been in the same position in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton.[43]

Reese recalls Odessa as a "growing city" requiring street pavement, the extension of sewer lines, and plans for managed growth. When sanitation workers went on strike, Reese went to their workplace and told them, "If you'll go back to work, we'll figure out something" to relieve their back-breaking work and low wages. As a result, Odessa began the use of dumpsters placed in an alley or along the streets with mechanically-embellished trucks lifting the plastic waste receptacle with a forklift and depositing the garbage and trash into the truck bed, usually equipped with a compactor.[44] This technology was first advanced in the 1950s in Knoxville, Tennessee, by brothers with the unlikely name of Dempster. Two large metal arms grab the standardized container, lift it over the cab, and tip the garbage into the hopper.[45] That system is now universal in most cities, as workers rarely leave the truck while on their errands. Technology hence relieved the workers of past drudgery. Reese recalls that Odessa was the first city in his region to utilize the new technology.[46]

In the Reese years, Country Club Estates in east Odessa was annexed to the city. The cable company president told Reese that he could not offer service to the new subdivision because of distance and cost. Reese replied that the city would find another cable carrier who could handle all of Odessa. When faced with the loss of its market, the company relented and wired cable to the new subdivision.[47]

Odessa created an industrial development district in the southwestern part of the city. To maintain competitiveness, the industries there are exempt from charging their customers the municipal sales tax. Because the industries use municipal utilities and facilities, however, they make a "payment in lieu of taxes" to the city. Reese's own firm, Panatek Industries, Ltd., is located in the industrial district, the largest inland petrochemical complex in the United States. Most such districts are near the seacoast.[48]

On April 1, 1970, Mayor Reese secured for Odessa the first 9-1-1 telephone service in Texas, established through Southwestern Bell. Reese had earlier been alerted to the value of 9-1-1 from a constituent, Tommy R. Gregory, who told the mayor about the installation in 1968 of the first such emergency system in the United States in Haleyville in Winston County in northern Alabama.[49][50]

Reese earned $100 per month as mayor, having viewed the part-time position like that of a "volunteer" who found satisfaction in civic promotion. He faced minimal opposition for his second and third terms in 1970 and 1972. He did not seek a fourth two-year term in 1974 and was succeeded in the position by city council member Daniel B. Hemphill (1918-2003), a partisan Democrat who prevailed in a low-turnout nonpartisan municipal election[51] held on April 2, 1974, with 2,970 votes (75 percent) over three opponents.[52]

The last two years of Reese's term as mayor of Odessa overlapped with the first term of Midland Mayor Ernest Angelo, Jr., another pioneer in the development of the Republican Party in West Texas. Midland and Odessa had considerable rivalry at that time. Reese said that the "animosity was misdirected."[53] A dispute developed over the proposed location of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. The consensus had been to build the institution near the Midland-Ector county line. However, the Midland National Bank and First National Bank of Midland each had different sites in mind. Ultimately, UTPB was built in northern Odessa west of Interstate 20 without the input of the Midland business community.[54] The two cities continue to operate separate community colleges.

Challenging George Mahon

Representative George Mahon, a native of the Mahon community near Homer in Claiborne Parish in north Louisiana, was the longtime powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, known for bringing public works projects to West Texas, including Interstate 27, a short-link that ties Amarillo with Lubbock. He had begun his career as a prosecutor in Colorado City in Mitchell County before relocating with his wife, Helen,[55][56] to Lubbock, the largest city in the 19th District. Mahon was so revered in Mitchell County that his bust has been placed on the courthouse lawn in Colorado City. The federal courthouse and a municipal park in Lubbock are named for Mahon; the downtown public library there is named for George and Helen Mahon.[57]

Bill G. Elms,[58] the second Republican to serve on the Ector County Commission during roughly the same time frame that Reese was the Odessa mayor, recalls Reese having asked him to manage the congressional race against Mahon. Elms, however, declined because he, despite partisan factors, favored the reelection of Mahon.[59][60]John Gizzi of the national conservative weekly Human Events later described Reese's challenge of Mahon as "Herculean" because the House Appropriations Committee chairman had not even faced a nominal Republican opponent since 1964,[61] when he defeated Joe B. Phillips of Lubbock, 87,555 to 25,243.[62] Phillips was later a leader in the right to life movement.[63]

As one of what John Gizzi called "Reagan's Raiders," Reese expected to receive the support of Gerald Ford, who ran for a term of his own as president in the same election. Ford had pledged to support all Republican congressional candidates. When Ford came to Lubbock, Reese was invited to ride with the president in the limousine from the airport to the political rally on the Texas Tech campus. Then Reese learned that Ford had undercut him by inviting Mahon, not Reese, to sit on the platform of dignitaries.[64]

Mahon and Reese met in debate in a Lubbock city park sponsored by the League of Women Voters. In the exchange, Reese said that Mahon had voted on August 9, 1975, for a congressional pay hike from $42,500 to $44,600, effective October 1, 1975, the beginning of another federal fiscal year.[65] Mahon replied that he had not voted to raise his own pay. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal later found that Mahon had voted for higher congressional pay and thus verified Reese's contention. Reese said he believed that Mahon simply forgot about the vote in question.[66]

Reese greatly expanded the showing by Joe Phillips a dozen years earlier and finished with 72,991 votes (45.4 percent); Mahon prevailed with 87,908 ballots (54.6 percent) in a nationally Democratic year.[67] Reese said that he might have prevailed had all of Ector County then been within the 19th District. At the time, no more than a third of Ector County, which Reese swept, was within district boundaries.[68]

Years later, Reese described Mahon as "a fine gentleman" but claimed that the veteran congressman had long severed direct ties to the 19th District and retained his Washington residence after his retirement in 1979. At the time of the 1976 campaign, Mahon's district address was a post office box in the Lubbock federal building since named for Mahon.[69] In the summer of 1977, Mahon announced that he would not seek a 23rd term in Congress. Reese said that he believes that Mahon decided not to run again because he wished to avoid a second consecutive draining, competitive race against a Republican candidate. There was also the sense that Texas was either closely divided or leaning Republican in the mid-term elections of the Jimmy Carter presidency, as exhibited by the last reelection of Senator John Tower and the first Republican gubernatorial victory since 1869, with the triumph of Bill Clements. As of 2016, Carter remains the last Democrat to have won the electoral votes of Texas, for Reagan's 1980 Texas triumph marked the first of a full generation of at least ten consecutive Republican presidential victories in the Lone Star State.[70]

Challenging George W. Bush

After Mahon's retirement announcement, 31-year-old George Walker Bush quickly launched his own campaign for the seat. Bush's grandfather was the U.S. Senator Prescott Bush of Connecticut.[71] His father, President George Herbert Walker Bush, was a former Houston-area congressman, a one-time United States Ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and United States Ambassador to China. At the CIA, the senior Bush had worked with Mahon, his former congressional colleague, even though the retiring appropriations committee chairman had lost much of his oversight over intelligence matters through changes in the congressional committee process.[72]

Like his father, the younger Bush drew the support of the Republican "establishment," with Reese in the role of the "populist" dissenter, akin to Ronald Reagan's challenge of Gerald Ford two years earlier for the party's presidential nomination. Reese had supported Reagan in that exchange in which the Californian ultimately secured all one hundred Texas delegates at the party's national convention held in the Kemper Arena in Kansas City.[73]

Reese said that Bush's campaign literature which proclaimed him as having been "born July 6, 1946, and raised in Midland, Texas" was misleading because of Bush's birth in New Haven, Connecticut, and the Bush generational family's ties to East Coast Republicans. Reese also questioned the membership of the senior George Bush in the Trilateral Commission,[74] a group founded in 1973 with the goal of "a new international economic order."[75] He scolded "Junior Bush," as he called him despite the variation of middle names, of being a "Rockefeller-type Republican" who had supported Gerald Ford in the 1976 nomination fight against Ronald Reagan.[76] The senior Bush, out of the country at the time of the Reagan-Ford rivalry, later expressed dismay at Reagan's involvement in the congressional primary: "I am not interesting in getting into an argument with Reagan. But I am surprised about what he is doing here, in my state. ... They are making a real effort to defeat George."[77]

When George W. Bush was asked about the close ties of all the 19th District Republican candidates to the petroleum industry, he replied, "There's no such thing as being too closely aligned with the oil industry in West Texas."[78] The presence of a third candidate, Joe Hickox, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel from Lubbock, prevented an outright winner from being nominated in the May 6 primary.[79][80] Bush led 6,296 (47.5 percent) to Reese's 5,498 (41.5 percent) and Hickox's 1,455 (11 percent). Therefore, under Texas law, a runoff election was held on June 3 to nominate a majority winner. Bush then prevailed in the low turnout contest, 6,787 (55.9 percent) to Reese's 5,350 (44.1 percent).[81]

In his presidential memoirs, Decision Points (2010), George W. Bush refers to Reese as a:
"smooth-talking former sportscaster and mayor of Odessa ... who felt entitled to the nomination in 1978. He was very unhappy that I had outpolled him in the first round of the primary. Reese had a hard edge, and so did some of his supporters. Their strategy was to paint me as a liberal, out-of-touch carpetbagger. They threw out all kinds of conspiracy theories. Dad was part of a trilateral commission campaign to establish a one-world government. I had been sent by the Rockefeller family to buy up farmland... Despite all of the innuendos, I was optimistic about my chances. My strategy was to build up a bulkhead in my home county of Midland. I lost every county in the district but took Midland by such a huge margin that I won the nomination.[82]

Among the donors to Bush in the primary against Reese were the widow of General Douglas MacArthur, former CBS television president Frank Shakespeare, former Ambassador to Great Britain Anne Armstrong,[83] and former and future Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as well as automobile executives from Detroit and oil tycoons from across Texas.[84] It was in this campaign too that Bush first met his political operative and long-term advisor, Karl Rove.[85]

Reagan political advisor Franklyn Curran "Lyn" Nofziger (1924-2006) urged the former governor to support Reese because of Reese's political experience and past loyalty to Reagan. Nofziger dispatched Reese a $1,000 check from Reagan's political action committee, Citizens for the Republic.[86] After Reagan donated to the Reese campaign, Texas gubernatorial candidate Bill Clements and his wife, the former Rita Crocker, visited Reagan at the former governor's home in Pacific Palisades, California. Clements was a Bush family friend who had served as assistant defense secretary under Rumsfeld in the Ford administration and had been the finance chairman of the elder Bush's unsuccessful 1964 U.S. Senate race against the Democrat Ralph Yarborough. Clements urged Reagan to match the $1,000 contribution that Reagan had rendered to Reese by giving equally to the second Bush. Nofziger claimed to have told Clements: "'Mr. Clements, we don't do business that way.' Nothing more was said about it."[87]

Reagan and his political team had a rule against making endorsements in contested primaries except for incumbents. Reagan broke his own policy to assist Reese. In the spring of 1978, Reagan came to Abilene, Texas, at the time outside the 19th congressional district, to deliver a speech. Reagan was accompanied by his aide Michael Deaver[88] and Ernest Angelo, Jr., the Republican national committeeman, co-chairman of the 1976 Reagan primary campaign in Texas, but also a Midland friend of the elder Bush. Reese recalls that Deaver and Angelo urged Reagan not to become involved in a contested primary. Nofziger countered by reminding Reagan that he owed nothing politically to the Bushes.[89] This was two years before the formulation of the Reagan–Bush national ticket. Reese, however, said to Reagan: "I told him that I needed his public endorsement." Thereafter while in Amarillo, also outside the 19th congressional district, Reagan filmed a 30-second spot for Reese, with the former governor's hand on Reese's shoulder. Reese added that despite philosophical differences he has attempted to maintain cordial ties with the Bushes over the years.[90]

Political writer Kevin P. Phillips, who in 1969 coined the phrase "the emerging Republican majority" in the title of a book, claims that Reese refused to endorse Bush for the general election. The newcomer was dismissed as "too preppy, to Yalie, to be truly Texan."[91] Reese, however, indicates that he voted for George W. Bush every time that Bush's name appeared on a Texas general election ballot. Reese also recalls that he attended a Bush fundraiser in Midland after the runoff election.[92] Bush does not indicate in his memoirs if Reese came aboard for the general election but adds that the Reese challenge "toughened me up as a candidate. I learned I could take a hard punch and keep fighting and win."[93] Bush mentions that Reagan called him immediately after the runoff election to offer assistance for the general election, but Bush declined to use either his father or Reagan in the campaign.[94]

John Gizzi of Human Events recalls that Reese did support Bush after the runoff primary.[95] Reese told Gizzi in 2004: "I never saw George after our primary. He's doing a fine job as President. The endorsement from Reagan in the 1978 primary was, without question, one of the proudest moments of my life. It said a lot about Ronald Reagan."[96]

Though he had developed a network of friends, particularly from Midland and in the oil industry elsewhere, Bush still lost, 53-47 percent, to the Democratic nominee, then state Senator Kent Hance, who is four years G. W. Bush's senior. A native of Dimmitt in Castro County, Hance held the House seat until 1985.[97] The loss to Hance had been foretold to Bush more than a year earlier by Democratic former Governor Robert Allan Shivers (1907-1985), who informed the young candidate that the 19th Congressional District was tailor-made for a conservative Democrat in the mold of Hance.[98] Bush said that Hance, with whom he later became friends, continued the Reese strategy against him but was "a storyteller" and "more subtle and more charming" than had been Reese.[99]

In 1984, Hance ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the retiring John Tower. In 1985, Hance switched parties and in 1986 and again in 1990 sought the Republican gubernatorial nominations, losing, respectively, to Bill Clements, who went on to secure a non-consecutive second term, and Clayton W. "Claytie" Williams, Jr., the entrepreneur from Midland and Fort Stockton defeated by Ann Richards. A lobbyist, Hance on December 1, 2006, became the third chancellor of his alma mater, Texas Tech University. He is no longer chancellor.[100]

1982 state Senate race

Reese and Angelo both ran for office one final time, for state senator in different districts in 1982, the most recent year in which Texas Democrats swept all statewide offices. Angelo filed in District 25, in which Wallace Eugene "Pete" Snelson (1923-2014) of Midland retired, and the Democrats nominated Bill Sims as his successor. Angelo had lost to Snelson in 1968 and lost again to Sims in 1982. Reese filed in District 28, which then stretched from Hereford on the north to Odessa on the south but did not include Midland County. Midland and Odessa are now combined in District 31, represented in 2012 by the Moderate Republican Kel Seliger, a former mayor of Amarillo, the winner of a special election for the seat in 2004.[101] [ The District 28 seat[102] was at the time held by the conservative Democrat E L Short, a businessman, farmer, and rancher from Tahoka in Lynn County south of Lubbock. Short, who had served in the Far East with the United States Navy during World War II and had been the District 73 state representative from 1969 to 1979, when he succeeded Kent Hance in the Texas Senate, sought a second senatorial term in 1982 but was narrowly unseated in the party primary by John T. Montford, the Lubbock County district attorney. Short won twelve of the fourteen counties in the primary, but Montford's margin in Lubbock County propelled him to the nomination.[103] Reese defeated a primary opponent but nevertheless lost to Montford in the general election. Short, who himself later became a Republican, remained neutral in the Reese-Montford contest. Montford was known at the time by the sobriquet "Maximum John" because of his aggressive prosecution as district attorney and the lengthy terms that he had sought in the sentencing of convicted criminals.[104] Montford left the state Senate in 1996 to become the chancellor of both Texas Tech and the newly established Texas Tech University System. Thereafter he became a business executive for numerous companies in San Antonio, including AT&T.[105]

Meanwhile, Ernest Angelo ran in District 25, which then reached eastward from Midland to San Antonio. He was defeated by the Democrat William "Bill" Sims of San Angelo. The seat was vacated by Wallace Eugene "Pete" Snelso (1923-2014), a decorated World War II veteran from his adopted city of Midland. Snelson was initially nominated in 1968, when he unseated in the Democratic primary the long-term incumbent, Dorsey B. Hardeman of San Angelo. William Sims and his wife, Sue, in 2011 still resided in San Angelo; they lost a 22-year-old grandson to cancer in 2010. Snelson then defeated Ernest Angelo in the 1968 general election, which coincided with the narrow Texas triumph of presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey over Richard M. Nixon and George Wallace.

In 1982, much of Ector County was outside Senate District 28, which was dominated by the large voting bloc from Lubbock County. "I was too hard-headed to accept the fact that Lubbock would control the [state senate] district," conceded Reese, after making his last bid for elective office in the race against Montford.[106]

Unlike the Bushes, Reese and Angelo were not originally Republicans. Both attended, unknowing to each other, the 1960 Democratic State Convention in El Paso, presided over by chairman John Connally, who some three years later was inaugurated as the Democratic governor of Texas. Reese and Angelo recall how Connally skillfully cast aside the consideration of committee reports to avoid bringing conservative/liberal divisions within the party to the surface.[107] By 1964, Reese and Angelo were firmly in the Republican camp as delegates to the Texas state Republican convention and enthusiastic supporters of U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona for the presidency against the native Texan Lyndon Johnson, the heir to John F. Kennedy since November 22, 1963. Reese became personally acquainted with Goldwater over the years after the Republican nominee made a campaign stop in Odessa in the fall of 1964,[108] but the two parted company on the Ford-Reagan contest in 1976, as Goldwater endorsed Ford.[109]

Reese developed a friendship with John Tower, another partisan of the Bushes. Reese headed the campaign organization, "Young Men for Tower" in 1966, when the Republican senator won a second term over the Democratic Attorney General Vincent Waggoner Carr (1918-2004). Carr and his brother, Warlick Carr, were prominent attorneysborn in Hunt County east of Dallas and reared in Lubbock. Before his death, Warlick Carr contributed to the Republican John Cornyn's reelection bid to the same seat that his brother had sought four decades earlier.[110] According to Reese, Tower was "shy and a private individual, not a people person, and he irritated people by his bluntness."[111] After the 1966 election, Reese encountered the affable Carr on an elevator, who told him that Carr had lost not because of Tower but through the "Reese organization," based on the Jaycees model.[112]

Reese recalls the feud between Tower and the 1972 Republican gubernatorial nominee, State Senator Henry C. Grover of Houston. The story also involves Reese's mentor Rudy Juedeman, a former majority leader of the Montana House of Representatives. While Reese and his wife were on an out-of-town trip in 1971, Juedeman called to urge that Reese return immediately to Texas to discuss the possibility of seeking the 1972 gubernatorial nomination. With several high-profile Democratic candidates splitting the ranks of their own party, the GOP nomination might become an unexpected ticket to the governorship. Jimmy Lyon, president of River Oaks Bank in Houston,[113] then a Republican state kingmaker of the more conservative faction, held firm for Grover, a former educator, and resisted efforts by those who wanted to entice Reese to run, such as former party chairman Peter O'Donnell of Dallas, an organizer of the Draft Goldwater Committee in 1963.[114]

Grover's nomination still required a primary runoff with Albert Bel Fay of Houston, a favorite of the Bushes and the Texas business establishment who had extensive financial holdings in Texas and Louisiana.[115] Reese said that he believes that a dispute over the Republican state chairmanship in 1972 split the Grover and Tower partisans to the breaking point and prevented the election of a Republican governor at that time, six years before Bill Clements was narrowly elected in 1978 over Democrat John Luke Hill. Tower managed to win a third term in 1972, helped in part by the large margin that the national GOP ticket of Richard Nixon and Spiro T. Agnew accumulated over the Democratic partisans of George McGovern and Sargent Shriver. Grover, however, lost by almost exactly 100,000 votes to Dolph Briscoe, an Uvalde banker, rancher, and large landholder with close ties to President Johnson.[116][117]

Reese in retrospect

[While Reese was a stockbroker from 1964 to 1989, he also took flying lessons but was not a pilot in his later years. In 1981, Reese became a silent partner in Penatek, an iron and steel foundry. He became the company president in 1987, sold it in 1997, and re-purchased it in 2004. To reflect more clearly its mission, the company was officially renamed Penatek Foundry and Machining. He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Odessa. He has been active in the Permian Basin Rehabilitation Center, the Easter Seals telethon, Masonic lodge, Permian Basin Oil Show, and the Heritage of Odessa Foundation. He was a former president of the Texas Association of Mayors, Councils, and Commissioners and the chairman of the development commission at Odessa College. He was also a former president of the Republican Men's Club of Ector County.[118]

Reese supported what is known as the "fair tax". Under the plan, of which there are several variations, all taxpayers would contribute the same percent of tax regardless of income, deductions, credits, exemptions, or other factors involving taxable income. Such a change in the tax code, maintains Reese, would enhance the growth of business, increase employment, and reduce the share of the economy absorbed by government. Reese said that he favors a tax system by which all pay a portion of their income but that no one is excessively or punitively burdened.[119]

Reese referred to himself as "notorious for political bad timing."[120] He ran for Congress in a nationally Democratic year against an entrenched incumbent in 1976, in a party runoff against a future U.S. president in 1978, and for the state senate in 1982, when Governor Bill Clements was unseated in an especially troubling year for the still fledgling Texas GOP. Had he been a candidate twenty years later, his chances of victory in all three of his legislative races would presumably have been greatly enhanced, considering the political realignment that began in West Texas by the 1990s.[121]

Reese died in 2017 at the age of eighty-seven, a year and a half after the passing of his wife.


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  117. Texas gubernatorial general election returns, November 7, 1972; Briscoe received 1,633,493 votes (47.9 percent), Grover, 1,533,986 (45 percent). Briscoe was a "minority governor" because he failed to garner a simple majority of the votes. The La Raza contender, then 29-year-old Ramsey Muñiz, received 214,118 votes (6 percent). Two other minor candidates shared the remaining 27,994 votes, (0.8 percent). With the death of Sargent Shriver (1915-2011), McGovern became the last living former national candidate from the 1972 general election. McGovern subsequently died in October 2012.
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