On this day in 1887, Evan Jones, farmer and populist leader, was elected president of the Texas Farmers' Alliance. The Kentucky native was farming in Erath County, Texas, by 1876 and joined the Texas Farmers' Alliance by 1883. He was president of the Erath County Farmers' Alliance from 1884 to 1888. In 1886 he led an independent ticket to victory in the county elections. On January 18, 1887, the Texas Farmers' Alliance elected him president, and he served until the fall of 1888, when he was elected president of the rapidly expanding Farmers' and Laborers' Union of America, the product of the merger of the Agricultural Wheel and the Farmers' Alliance. In the fall of 1889 he declined to run for national president again and was reelected president of the Texas Farmers' Alliance; he served until the fall of 1891. He was again president of the Texas alliance from 1895 to 1896. Jones's advocacy of political action on the part of independent farmers and laborers made him an early leader of the more radical political wing of the Texas alliance. From 1889 to 1891, as president of the Texas alliance, he helped the radicals persuade numerous members of the alliance in Texas and the South to move toward third-party politics. He was nominated for governor in July 1888 by the Union Labor party, a precursor of the People's party, but declined because of his work as alliance president. He joined the Populist party when it was formed in Texas in 1891, and in 1892 he ran unsuccessfully for the United States Congress from the Eighth Congressional District. In 1896 he ran unsuccessfully for railroad commissioner on the same ticket. He became ill during a speaking trip to East Texas and died in 1899.
On this day in 1817, Julia Lee was born to George and Mary Lee of Cincinnati. The Lees moved to Austin in 1840. Julia married George W. Sinks, then chief clerk of the Post Office Department of the Republic of Texas. Mrs. Sinks demonstrated a notable interest in Texas history, collecting various documents and contributing historical notes and columns to newspapers in Dallas and Galveston. She was a charter member and vice president of the Texas State Historical Association upon its formation in 1897 and contributed articles to the first two volumes of the association's journals. Following her death in 1904, her collection of documents relating to Texas history was donated to the University of Texas. Today these documents form part of the Eugene C. Barker Texas collection of the Center for American History.
On this day in 1971, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit in federal court alleging stock fraud against a number of Texas state officials accused of making profitable, quick-turnover, bank-financed stock purchases in return for the passage of legislation desired by a financier, Houston businessman Frank W. Sharp. The political turmoil from the Sharpstown scandal resulted in a "reform" movement that eventually saw much of the legislature replaced. Reform laws passed in 1973 required state officials to disclose their sources of income, forced candidates to make public more details about their campaign finances, opened up most governmental records to citizen scrutiny, expanded the requirement for open meetings of governmental policy-making agencies, and imposed new disclosure regulations on paid lobbyists.
On this day in 1842, Marshall University was chartered with a grant of four leagues of land. The school, never a university except in name, opened that year, probably in September, with Virgil M. DuBose as its first president and Andrew Jackson Fowler as its first teacher. James M. Morphis took charge of the male department in 1849. The school was coeducational until 1850, when the female department was organized into a separate institution, Marshall Masonic Female Institute, which operated for more than fifty years. The university was absorbed by the public school system in 1910, after which the board of trustees continued to operate for a while.