Bruce Reynolds Alger, Republican political leader and five-term United States congressman, was born in Dallas, Texas, on June 12, 1918. He was the son of David Bruce and Claire (Fliehmann) Alger. Although born in Dallas, Alger grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, where his father was a bank representative and salesman. He attended Princeton University, earned a bachelor’s degree in 1940, and began work with the RCA Corporation. On December 17, 1941, ten days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Alger enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. He attained the rank of captain, piloted a B-29 bomber in the Pacific Theater, and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross before returning to civilian life at the close of World War II.
Alger moved to Dallas in 1945 and opened a real estate and land development company. He soon became involved in local issues and served as the first president of the White Rock Chamber of Commerce. In 1954, as the developing Cold War created a political atmosphere that increasingly favored conservative views, Alger ran as a Republican for the seat in the United States House of Representatives for the Fifth Congressional District of Texas. Championing a limited federal government that did not support civil rights or welfare legislation, he defeated Democrat Wallace H. Savage by a margin of 53 to 47 percent. Alger’s victory, which even he did not expect, made him the only Republican in the Texas delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives, a distinction that he held for eight years.
Alger won four re-election campaigns (1956, 1958, 1960, and 1962) and gained a national reputation primarily for opposing policies such as integration, public housing, and increases in Social Security. He was the only representative to oppose the popular subsidized school lunch program, which he argued should be handled at the local level. Alger also gained national attention for his opposition to Senator Lyndon B. Johnson whose views became increasingly progressive during this period. In 1960, when Johnson made a campaign stop in Dallas while running for vice president on the ticket with John F. Kennedy, Alger, carrying a sign that read “LBJ Sold Out to Yankee Socialists,” led a group of protestors who insulted Johnson and spat in the direction of his wife Lady Bird. According to many observers, including Richard Nixon, the incident redounded to Johnson’s favor and contributed to the Democratic ticket’s narrow victory in Texas.
Alger remained in Congress in 1960, but four years later, following the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, which also discredited extreme right-wing politics, he was swept from office in the landslide presidential election victory by Johnson. Earle Cabell, a former mayor of Dallas, defeated the five-term congressman 57 percent to 43 percent.
Following his defeat, Alger worked as a real estate broker and remained off the political stage. His first marriage, to Lucille Antoine ended in divorce in 1961, because she was, as she put it, a “political widow.” They had two sons and a daughter. His second marriage—to Laura Priscilla Jones in 1976—lasted thirty-six years until her death in 2012. Alger retired in 1990 and spent ten years traveling around the country with his wife before settling in Florida in 2000. Toward the end of his life, Alger lived in a retirement home in Palm Beach. He died there on April 13, 2015, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.