Walter Mengden

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Walter Henry Mengden, Jr.​

Texas State Senator for
District 13 (Harris County)​
In office
1973​ – 1983​
Preceded by Murray Watson, Jr.​
Succeeded by Craig Anthony Washington​

President pro tempore
of the Texas State Senate​
In office
1981​ – 1981​
Preceded by Jack Ogg​
Succeeded by John T. Wilson​

Texas State Representative
for Harris County​
In office
1971​ – 1973​
Preceded by W. E. "Will" Lee​
Succeeded by District numbers changed ​

Born October 25, 1926​
Houston, Texas ​
Died ​April 23, 2018 (aged 91)
​Lakeway, Travis County, Texas
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) June Shell Mengden​
Children One daughter​

Three sons, including
​ Walter H. Mengden, III
​ John Shell Mengden​

Residence Houston, Texas​

Horseshoe Bay, Texas
Austin, Texas​
Lakeway, Texas

Alma mater University of Texas

University of Texas School of Law (Austin) ​

Occupation Attorney; Oilman

United States Navy
in Korean War
United States Army
in World War II

Religion Roman Catholic

Walter Henry Mengden, Jr. (October 25, 1926 – April 23, 2018), was an attorney[1] and oilman in Austin and Houston, Texas, who served as a conservative Republican in both houses of the state legislature from Harris County.​


Mengden was the son of Walter Mengden, Sr. (1903–1986) and Eugenia Mengden (1905–1983) of Houston. In 1938, the senior Mengdens purchased the Holley-Mengden House at 2240 Glen Haven Boulevard in Houston, now an historic site. There Mengden lived until adulthood.[2] In 1950, Mengden received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Subsequently, he obtained his L. L. B. and Juris Doctorate from the UT School of Law. He was admitted to the bar in 1954. He was a Roman Catholic.[3]

Mengden served in the United States Navy during World War II and the Army in the Korean War. He and his wife, the former June Shell (born 1933), have a daughter and three sons.[4] ​ ​

Political life

After a single term in the Texas House in District 22-2 in 1971 and 1972, Mengden was elected in 1972 to Senate District 13, a post that he filled from January 1973 to January 1983.[3] District 13 had previously been based in the Waco and Temple area of Central Texas but was moved to Harris County with the 1971 redistricting. The district was further redistricted in the 1980s and is now majority African American and represented by a Democrat.​ ​ In 1976, Mengden led a slate of delegates in Texas's 7th congressional district pledged to former Governor Ronald W. Reagan of California, who was challenging U.S. President Gerald Ford at Republican National Convention held in Kansas City, Missouri. Mengden defeated Robert Mosbacher of Houston, the leader of the Ford forces. Mengden polled 39,276 votes to Mosbacher's 26,344. Mosbacher was later a Cabinet officer in the administration of Reagan's vice president and successor, George Herbert Walker Bush. Mengden prevailed with 39,276 votes to Mosbacher's 26,344 votes. He was hence among the one hundred Texas delegates at Kansas City committed to Reagan.[5][6]​ ​

State senatorial service

​ Mengden was sometimes called "Mad Dog" Mengden for his opposition to many bills supported by his more liberal colleagues,[2] but he remained popular in District 13, as it was then configured, having been reelected in 1976 and 1980 with little opposition. Mengden was particularly known for his sponsorship of "law-and-order" legislation backed by law-enforcement agencies and appealing to conservative voters concerned about the crime rate. The Sheriff's Association of Texas, in its publication Texas Lawman, named Mengden the "Most Outstanding Member of​ the Legislature" in both the 64th and 65th sessions. In the 66th session, the Texas District and County Attorneys Association cited Mengden in its publication Texas Prosecutor for his anti-crime activities. Mengden worked to secure constitutional limitations on state and local taxation as well as silent prayer in public schools.[3] He also sponsored a creation science bill in the Senate.[7]

Mengden also pushed, unsuccessfully, for the adoption of initiative and referendum in Texas, having lobbied for the reform measure during the 1974 state constitutional convention, which adjourned without a new governing document.[8] In the initiative, which started in South Dakota in 1898, voters can write their own legislation and submit to a popular referendum, thus bypassing the legislature in certain situations. Instead, Texans can vote only on state constitutional amendments, usually held in November of odd years. These amendments are usually parochial and non-controversial in nature and thus attract little interest. An exception was the 1991 amendment to establish the state lottery. Initiative and referendum enjoyed large support from grassroots Republicans, but Governor Bill Clements never called the promised special session of the legislature to consider the measure. Thereafter, Governor George W. Bush had initiative and referendum removed from the party platform, and support for the reform has since languished.[8] ​ ​

Campaign for U.S. Senate, Republican primary 1982

In 1981, Mengden was one of four senators named as Senate President Pro Tempore. He soon left the Senate to contest the 1982 Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate to challenge the two-term Democrat Loyd Millard Bentsen, Jr., also of Houston, an icon in the eyes of most Texans at the time. Mengden lost the nomination to then U.S. Representative James Mitchell "Jim" Collins (1916-1989) of Dallas. Mengden accused Collins of having focused in Washington, D.C., primarily on killing "bad legislation," rather than passing needed bills. "Our problems are so great that even if that was valid sixteen or seventeen years ago, it's not today," said Mengden, who claimed to have obtained passage in the state Senate of ninety-one bills.[4] Both candidates ran as active supporters of President Reagan.

Collins polled 152,469 votes (58 percent) in the low-turnout primary to Mengden's 91,780 (34.9 percent). A third contender, computer executive Don L. Richardson, received the remaining 7.1 percent of the vote. Collins was then handily defeated by Bentsen. The year 1982 remains the most recent in Texas political history in which Democrats carried all statewide offices on the ballot.

The Mengdens resided in their later years in Lakeway in Travis County, outside Austin. Mengden died In Lakeway at the age of ninety-one. He is interred at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.[9] Upon her death, Mrs. Mengden will be interred beside her husband.[10] ​ ​


  1. Walter H. Mengden, Jr. Lawyer Profile. Retrieved on March 21, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Holley-Mengden House and Loggins-Hughes Building now historic landmarks. (May 4, 2011). Retrieved on September 11, 2011; material no longer on-line.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Walter Mengden. Texas Legislative Reference Library. Retrieved on March 21, 2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Jim Davis of Harte-Hanks, "Senatorial Candidates Gear Up for Race," The Paris (Texas) News, April 25, 1982.
  5. Texas Secretary of State, 1976 Republican presidential primary election returns, Austin, Texas
  6. Billy Hathorn, "Mayor Ernest Angelo, Jr., of Midland and the 96-0 Reagan Sweep of Texas, May 1, 1976," West Texas Historical Association]] Yearbook (since renamed West Texas Historical Review) Vol. 86 (2010), p. 81.
  7. Texas Monthly, July 1981, p. 111.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Initiative and Referendum Institute. Retrieved on September 10, 2011; material no longer on-line.
  9. Walter H. Mengden. Texas State Cemetery in Austin. Retrieved on March 21, 2020.
  10. June Shell Mengden. Retrieved on September 10, 2011.

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