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COLSON, ESTHER NEVEILLE HIGGS

COLSON, ESTHER NEVEILLE HIGGS (1902–1982). Neveille Colson, Texas legislator, was born on July 18, 1902, to Walter J. and Ollie (Jowers) Higgs in Bryan, Texas. She attended school in Bryan and entered Baylor University in Waco in 1923. After a year she took a teaching position in Iola, Grimes County. About 1925 she married Nall Colson, a local football coach. From 1930 to 1932 she continued her education at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) and at Sam Houston State Teachers College (now Sam Houston State University). In 1932 Colson was elected to the Texas House of Representatives for District 27, and his wife accompanied him to the legislature to observe and assist. During the 1930s she also held jobs in the secretary of state's office and the Internal Revenue Service. She studied at the University of Texas but did not complete a degree. By early 1938 the Colsons were divorced, and Nall Colson had died.

Neveille Colson ran successfully for the Texas House of Representatives from the district her husband had served. In her tenure from 1939 to 1948 she promoted legislation to improve and fund juvenile corrections, education, and public roads, especially for rural areas. She was the first woman to get a constitutional amendment through the legislature and past a vote by Texas citizens; her bill (1946) ensured that road-use taxes would be directed specifically to the highway department for road construction.

She ran successfully for the Texas Senate in the Fifth District, comprising nine counties between Dallas and Houston, in 1948 and thus became the first female Texas representative elected to the Texas Senate. Her district encompassed more state facilities than any but the Austin area. She continued to champion the key interests of her east central Texas constituents-public roads and schools. In 1949 the legislature approved the Colson-Briscoe Act, allocating funds for statewide farm-to-market roads. With the help of federal funds this program enabled the Texas Highway Department nearly to double the number of paved rural roads in the state within two years (see HIGHWAY DEVELOPMENT). Colson was appointed to the Senate education committee and helped gain passage of the Gilmer-Aiken Laws in 1949.

The Texas Highway Department completed the state's longest girder bridge near Washington-on-the-Brazos in 1954. Colson's constituents succeeded in having it named for her, in appreciation for the farm-road legislation and funding she had sponsored to move rural school transportation and mail delivery "out of the mud," as she put it. Though soft-spoken, Colson held her own in the Senate for the remainder of her career. By 1955 she was on nineteen Senate committees and the legislative budget board. She chaired the Senate education committee from 1955 to 1957 and the public health committee from 1957 to 1964. For the 1955 ad interim session she served as president pro tem. Calling herself "the only full-time Senator," she could afford to devote most of her energy to legislation and visiting constituents because her parents supplemented her $3,000 biennial Senate salary.

Boundaries for Senate districts were redrawn in 1953 and again in 1966. The latter redistricting forced Colson into competition with incumbent Senator Bill Moore of Bryan to retain her seat. She lost the 1966 election, ending a twenty-eight-year career in the legislature. She subsequently assumed curatorship of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum at Huntsville. Upon retiring from the museum in 1977, she returned to Bryan, where she died on March 3, 1982, after spending her last years at a nursing home. Her remains were buried at the Bryan City Cemetery.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Bryan-College Station Eagle, March 4, 1982. Dallas News, December 16, 1956. Who's Who of American Women, 1964–65.

Sherilyn Brandenstein

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Sherilyn Brandenstein, "COLSON, ESTHER NEVEILLE HIGGS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fcoag), accessed November 21, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.