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PETSCH, ALFRED P. C.

PETSCH, ALFRED P. C. (1887–1981). Alfred P. C. Petsch, lawyer, legislator, civic worker, and philanthropist, was born on August 16, 1887, in Luckenbach, Texas, the son of Joe F. and Ida (Baag) Petsch. He attended Southwest Texas Normal School from 1903 to 1906. He grew up speaking German and had to learn English after arriving at the school. During his junior year he had typhoid fever. He attended the University of Texas in 1906–07 and in the fall semester of 1908, working his way through school by teaching. He attended law school at the University of Texas in 1910 and passed the bar exam that fall. He was licensed to practice before the United States Supreme Court in 1934. Petsch opened his first law office in Fredericksburg on January 1, 1911. In March 1911 he was appointed Gillespie county attorney. He joined the Fredericksburg Progressive Business League and participated in the group's campaign to pass a school tax and, in 1913, to bring a railroad to Fredericksburg. From 1914 to 1918 he served on the Fredericksburg school board. He was one of the founders of the Fredericksburg Publishing Company, which was established in 1914–15 for the purpose of buying the Fredericksburg Standard. Petsch was named a director of the company in 1915 and became president in 1922, a post he held until 1980. For many years he contributed a weekly column to the paper, "We Believe."

Petsch was commissioned a second lieutenant on May 26, 1917. He served at Camp Funston (later Camp Bullisqv), at Camp Travis, and at Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois, where he was discharged on December 3, 1918, with the rank of major of infantry. In 1919 he received an appointment as major in the infantry reserve. He married Myra Slator on May 3, 1918, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in San Antonio. The couple became the parents of two children. In 1922 he participated in reorganizing the Gillespie County Fair Association. He was a charter member of the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce and served as its president in 1923–24. As one of the organizers of the Fredericksburg National Bank in 1932, Petsch served on the board of directors from its founding until at least 1979 and as chairman of the board from 1969 to 1979. He also long served as the bank's attorney. In addition, he held a partnership in the Loan and Abstract Company and engaged in ranching.

In 1924 Petsch was elected as a Democrat to the Texas House of Representatives, succeeding Sam E. Johnson, Jr. He was reelected to six of the following seven legislatures and served from 1925 to 1939, with the exception of 1933–34. During the 1927–28 session, as chairman of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, Petsch introduced a successful bill that eliminated the manslaughter charge from the criminal code. The measure had been recommended by the Special Legislative Committee of the Texas Bar Association and adopted by Governor Dan Moody as part of his legislative agenda. Petsch was also instrumental in the passage of another measure on Moody's agenda, a bill amending the libel law. The revision, which made it easier for newspapers to publish accounts of public meetings, was perceived as a reform promoting good government. Petsch was also a noted ally of Moody's in reorganizing the highway department. The new measures included an increase in the gasoline tax and the appointment of three new highway commissioners. As a member of the House Committee on Highways and Motor Traffic from 1925 through 1931, Petsch was also largely responsible for the routing of federal and state highways through Fredericksburg.

During World War II Petsch held the rank of lieutenant colonel. He served at Camp Bullis (1942–43), the Hereford Internment Camp (1943), and Camp Joseph T. Robinson, Hot Springs, Arkansas (1943–45). He helped to organize the Hill Country Memorial Hospital and served on its board of directors during planning and construction. He was also a leading force behind the development of the Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Naval Museum (now the Admiral Nimitz State Historical Parkqv), and the Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park. In addition, he helped to organize the Hill Country Bar Association; Hill Country Student Help, a nonprofit corporation that gave student loans; and the Community Chest.

In 1962 Petsch received the 4-H Club Outstanding Businessman award, and in 1968 both he and his wife received honorary lifetime memberships in the PTA. On September 28, 1969, Fredericksburg celebrated Alfred and Myra Petsch Day with a dinner at the fairgrounds and a special edition of the Fredericksburg Standard. Petsch was an Episcopalian and a member of the Eastern Star, Alfazar Temple of the Mystic Shrine, the Imperial Shrine, the Rotary Club, and the Masonic Lodge. He retired from his law practice in 1980 and died on November 28, 1981, in Fredericksburg. He was survived by his wife and two children and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Frank Carter Adams, ed., Texas Democracy: A Centennial History of Politics and Personalities of the Democratic Party, 1836–1936 (4 vols., Austin: Democratic Historical Association, 1937). Austin American-Statesman, November 30, 1981. Josiah Martin Daniel III, Business Progressivism in Texas: Governor Dan Moody and the Fortieth and Forty-first Legislatures, 1927–1931 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1986). Fredericksburg Standard, September 28, 1969, December 2, 1981. Gillespie County Historical Society, Pioneers in God's Hills (2 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1960, 1974). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Melanie Watkins

Citation

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

Melanie Watkins, "PETSCH, ALFRED P. C.," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpe63), accessed October 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.