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PYLE, OWEN PINKNEY

PYLE, OWEN PINKNEY (1867–1919). Owen P. (Pink) Pyle, editor and farmers' spokesman, the son of Jesse W. and Gabrilia Permelia (Keller) Pyle, was born near Ozark, Arkansas, on December 13, 1867. The family moved to Fannin County, Texas, in 1874 and took up tenant farming near Ladonia. Three years later they rented land near Caddo Mills in Hunt County, and in 1878 they purchased their own farm west of Greenville. Young Pyle began picking cotton at the age of four and plowing at seven. He continued to farm until 1894. He received a common school education and began teaching in 1885. He moved to Salem in 1888 and married Mildred Suzanne (Susie) Gibson on December 21, 1890. They had eight children. Pyle was a member of the Disciples of Christ and a Mason. He joined the Farmers' Alliance in 1888 and began lecturing for the organization in 1891. He ran for Wood county judge in 1892 on the People's party, or Populist, ticket, but lost. Pyle was an exceptional speaker and, at six feet, two inches, and 250 pounds, had a commanding presence on the speaker's stand. Many believed him to be an even better writer, and the local alliance made him editor of its newspaper, the Mineola Alliance Courier, in the fall of 1894. He subsequently purchased the paper.

Pyle became acquainted with Isaac Newton Gresham at an editor's convention in 1900 and quickly became a strong supporter of Gresham's idea to start a new farm organization on the order of the Farmers' Alliance. He did not, however, participate in the founding in September 1902 of the Farmers' Educational and Cooperative Union of America (now the National Farmers' Union) for fear that it might look like a Populist plot and scare away Democratic party farmers. Pyle joined the Farmers' Union in December 1902 and served as a lecturer, organizer, and official printer for it. He chaired the Farmers' Union state convention in February 1904 and was named chairman of the executive committee. He founded the National Cooperator, which received the union's printing business, in December 1904. In August 1905 all nonfarmer officers of the Farmers' Union, including Pyle, were purged from their leadership positions. Pyle presided over the founding conventions of the Indiahoma (Oklahoma), Louisiana, Arkansas, and Georgia branches of the Farmers' Union. When the first national meeting was held in December 1905 he was elected president. He resigned in March 1906, however, in a compromise move to reconcile the Texas and national organizations.

Pyle moved the National Cooperator to Dallas, combined it with the Texas Farm Journal in September 1906, and absorbed the Southern Mercury and Farmers' Union Password in March 1907. He organized the National Cooperative Congress in Topeka, Kansas, in October 1906 and brought several plains-state farm organizations into the Farmers' Union. Pyle was also influential in the fight to get the Texas legislature to outlaw "bucket shops" for commodity speculation in 1907. He became entangled in a power struggle over control of the Texas branch of the Farmers' Union with state president David J. Neill, and in a confrontation in the latter's office Pyle apparently struck his adversary. He was arrested for assault, but the charges were later dropped. News of the attack discredited him, however, and he was forced to sell the National Cooperator in April 1908. He suffered a nervous breakdown and ceased to be active in the Farmers' Union. Membership in the Texas branch of the Farmers' Union also declined rapidly at this time.

During Pyle's illness his wife was forced to sell the Mineola Courier and most of his other property for living expenses. After a year in the Arlington Heights Sanitarium, Pyle returned to Mineola and engaged in trading. He founded the Progressive Farmer in 1910; the next year he moved to Belton and combined several papers to form the Belton Journal. Governor Oscar B. Colquitt appointed him to the newly formed Texas Industrial Accident Board in 1913. Pyle fell down a flight of stairs at his home in Mineral Wells in March 1919 and died from injuries suffered in this fall on November 9, 1919.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Genevieve Pyle Demme, Owen Pinkney Pyle, Champion of the Farmer (M.A. thesis, Rice Institute, 1958). Robert Lee Hunt, A History of Farmer Movements in the Southwest, 1873–1925 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1935?).

Worth Robert Miller

Citation

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

Worth Robert Miller, "PYLE, OWEN PINKNEY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpy02), accessed August 29, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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