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DANCY, OSCAR CROMWELL

DANCY, OSCAR CROMWELL (1879–1971). Oscar C. Dancy, judge, was born in Wilkes County, North Carolina, on December 22, 1879. He achieved the equivalent of a high school education in a one-room schoolhouse there. At the age of seventeen he gained his first experience in politics by stumping for William Jennings Bryan in the presidential campaign of 1896. Soon thereafter Dancy attended Southern Normal University in Huntington, Tennessee, where he received his law degree in only four months. He then returned to North Carolina to teach in the common schools for a short time before leaving in 1898 to serve in the army as a private in the Spanish-American War. After returning to the United States he was mayor of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, for a short time in 1908 before his wife's illness from typhoid fever caused him to resign.

For his wife's health, Dancy moved to Brownsville, Texas, in 1909. He was admitted to the bar the same year. He practiced law for several years before leaving for a short time "to attempt to help whip the Kaiser." In 1917 the county attorney was commissioned in the army, and Dancy was asked to fill the vacancy. Four years later he was elected county judge, a post he retained for the next fifty years, with the exception of one two-year term beginning in 1932. His forty-eight years of service, a state record for a county judge, eclipsed the old mark by twenty years. The hallmark of his judgeship was his effort to develop the county road system, which prompted him to claim that the "C" in his name stood for concrete. During his lengthy tenure he spent more than $10 million on paving roads in Cameron County. He was a believer in low local taxes, known for his ability to procure funds from the state and national governments to pay for programs that supported the family farm and provided flood control for the Rio Grande valley, as well as paying for many of the roads. His honest and straightforward nature won him many admirers in Austin and Washington. In 1948 Harry Truman, himself a former Missouri county judge, called Dancy "the county judge from Texas" when Dancy went to the Oval Office; Truman said he wanted "to meet a county judge who spent more money than I did." Despite all his work on behalf of good roads, Dancy never drove or owned a car.

He was a lifelong Democrat, Baptist, and member of various organizations, including the American Legion, the Masons, the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, the Kiwanis Club, and the South Texas Judges and County Commissioners Association, of which he was president for a time. In 1900 he married Leva Jane Long, with whom he had three sons and two daughters. He stepped down from his post the year before his death, which occurred on January 10, 1971, shortly after his ninety-first birthday. In the days before his death he was quoted as saying, "If there is anything more I can do for my fellow man, let me know about it right now." Dancy was buried in Buena Vista Burial Park, Brownsville.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Milo Kearney and Anthony Knopp, Boom and Bust: The Historical Cycles of Matamoros and Brownsville (Austin: Eakin Press, 1991). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Brad Reagan

Citation

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

Brad Reagan, "DANCY, OSCAR CROMWELL," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fda73), accessed August 30, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.