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Pappy O'Daniel born in Ohio

March
11
1890

On this day in 1890, future Texas governor and U.S. senator W. Lee (Pappy) O'Daniel was born in Malta, Ohio. He came to Texas in 1925 as sales manager of the Burrus Mill and Elevator Company in Fort Worth, manufacturer of Light Crust Flour. He took over the company's radio advertising in 1928 and hired and named the Light Crust Doughboys, the influential western swing band that featured Bob Wills and Milton Brown. O'Daniel organized his own flour company in 1935 and filed for governor in 1938. Accompanied by his band, the Hillbilly Boys, he attracted huge audiences, especially in rural areas. He won the 1938 election and was reelected in 1940. In a special U.S. Senate election in 1941, he edged Lyndon Johnson in a flurry of controversial late returns. In a desperate reelection fight the next year, O'Daniel charged that the professional politicians, the politically controlled newspapers, and the "communistic labor leader racketeers" were conspiring against him, but he hung on to enough rural and elderly voters to eke out a win. O'Daniel was ineffective in the Senate, however, and by 1948, with public opinion polls giving him only 7 percent support, he announced that he would not run again since there was only slight hope of saving America from the communists. He bought a ranch near Fort Worth, invested in Dallas real estate, and founded an insurance company. He attempted comebacks in the Democratic gubernatorial primaries of 1956 and 1958, but failed to make the runoff on both occasions. O'Daniel died in Dallas in 1969.

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