James V Allred, Texas jurist and governor, was born in Bowie, Texas, on March 29, 1899, son of Renne and Mary (Henson) Allred, Sr. (V was a name, not an initial.) After completing Bowie High School in 1917, he enrolled at Rice Institute (now Rice University) but withdrew for financial reasons. He served with the United States Immigration Service until his enlistment in the United States Navy during World War I. After the war Allred began the study of law as a clerk in a Wichita Falls law office. In 1921 he received an LL.B. from Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee, and began practice in Wichita Falls.
In 1923 he was named by Governor Pat M. Neff to an unexpired term as district attorney for the Thirtieth Texas District, which included Wichita, Archer, and Young counties. In that office Allred earned a reputation as "the fighting district attorney" for his forthright opposition to the Ku Klux Klan. He was a candidate for the office of state attorney general in 1926 but was defeated by Claude Pollard in a close second-primary vote. In 1930 Allred made a successful race for the same position by defeating the incumbent, Robert Lee Bobbitt. As attorney general, Allred won popular approval through a continuing campaign against monopolies and large businesses and against the efforts of corporations to influence state taxation and fiscal policies.
His activities as attorney general, aided by the depression-born distrust of large corporations, made him a logical candidate for the governorship in 1934. He entered the campaign on a platform proposing a state commission for regulating public utility rates and practices, the imposition of a graduated tax on chain stores to neutralize the competitive power of chain enterprises, a system for regulating the activities of lobbyists, and opposition to a state sales tax as a revenue-increasing device because of the economic burden the tax would place on low-income groups. Other planks were his proposal to submit to the people the problem of state repeal of prohibition (in spite of his personal opposition to repeal), and his desire to see the basic pardoning power, used so freely by governors James Edward Ferguson and Miriam Amanda Ferguson, transferred to a board of pardons and paroles. Allred believed that sufficient state revenue should be raised by a more equitable system of property valuation and a more efficient use of existing revenues, rather than by increased general taxation.
His principal Democratic opponents in 1934, both from Wichita Falls, were Tom F. Hunter, regarded as more liberal than the attorney general, and Charles C. McDonald, regarded as the candidate of the Ferguson faction. Allred gained a plurality in the first primary and won over Hunter by 40,000 votes in the runoff. In addition to attempting to legislate his campaign proposals, the governor devoted this term to cooperating with federal programs designed to combat the Great Depression. To this end he used the Texas Planning Board. Although several programs were approved in regular and special sessions, the legislature refused to provide the revenues necessary for financing them. As a result, measures providing increased financial support to education, expanded highway construction, the establishment of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the framework for old-age pensions and expanded state welfare services remained on insecure foundations. During his first term Allred also engineered the Interstate Oil Compact Commission, which forestalled federal control of petroleum production.
Several significant factors worked to Governor Allred's credit in the election of 1936. He had been commended highly by President Franklin D. Roosevelt for the state's cooperation and performance in the national recovery program, and that recognition had been a factor in causing the national Junior Chamber of Commerce to name Allred "Outstanding Young Man in America in 1935." Moreover, he had secured the enactment of many of his 1934 pledges to the voters of the state. As a result, he polled a majority of 52 percent in the first primary in a field of five candidates and won by a landslide in the general election of 1936. Allred's second administration brought passage of a teacher retirement system, broadened social security and welfare provisions, additional funds for education, expansion of the services of most existing state agencies, and increased compensation for state officials. Nevertheless, the legislature again failed notably to provide the additional revenues for the services.
Late in Allred's second term as governor, his nomination by President Roosevelt to a federal district judgeship was confirmed, and upon the completion of his gubernatorial term, he assumed his position on the bench. He resigned from the judgeship in 1942 to seek the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate, and after his defeat in that race by former governor W. Lee O'Daniel he returned for a time to private law practice in Houston. Senator O'Daniel opposed Allred's appointment to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1943. In 1949 President Harry S. Truman returned Allred to the federal bench, where he remained until his death.
Allred married Joe Betsy Miller of Wichita Falls on June 20, 1927; they had three sons. He died on September 24, 1959, and was buried in Riverside Cemetery, Wichita Falls. Mrs. Allred died in 1993.