Kleberg, Richard Mifflin (1887–1955)

By: Thomas Lloyd Miller

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: June 2, 2021

Richard Mifflin Kleberg, rancher and congressman, son of Alice Gertrudis (King) and Robert Justus Kleberg, was born on the King Ranch on November 18, 1887. He attended public schools in Corpus Christi. After graduating from the University of Texas in Austin in 1911, he studied law there and was admitted to the bar. He married Mary Etta Searcy, daughter of William W. Searcy and Mary Etta (Shepard) Searcy and granddaughter of Mary Hester (Andrews) and Chauncey B. Shepard, in Brenham, Texas, on June 12, 1912. The couple had four children: Mary Etta, Richard Mifflin, Jr., Katharine Searcy, Alice Gertrudis King Kleberg. He was active in the management of the King Ranch from 1913 to 1924 as foreman and part owner. He was an expert marksman and horseman, and in his early life he was a rodeo cowboy. He was elected in November 1931 as a Democrat to the Seventy-second Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Republican Harry McLeary Wurzbach. Kleberg was reelected to six succeeding congresses before being defeated in 1944 by John Lyle. He was known as the "Cowboy Congressman." He selected Lyndon B. Johnson as his first administrative assistant, thus providing Johnson with the opportunity to begin his own political career. Sam Houston Johnson succeeded his older brother as Kleberg's administrative assistant in 1935. Kleberg served on the agriculture committee during his entire tenure in Congress (November 24, 1931, to January 3, 1945). He sponsored the bill to establish the Farm Credit Administration and was also author of the duck stamp law. He sponsored the Migratory Bird Conservation Act and worked for laws to combat the pink bollworm. In the early New Deal days Kleberg went along with the Democratic leadership, supporting the bank moratorium and establishment of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, but he soon opposed most New Deal legislation. In 1943 he was against price controls on live beef and began to oppose President Franklin D. Roosevelt; in 1944 he endorsed Thomas E. Dewey for president. After retirement from Congress, he served as chairman of the board of the King Ranch and as a member of the Texas Game and Fish Commission (1951–55). He died on a visit to Hot Springs, Arkansas, on May 8, 1955, and was buried in Chamberlain Burial Park, Kingsville, Texas.

Biographical Directory of the American Congress. Sam Houston Johnson, My Brother Lyndon (New York: Cowles, 1970). San Antonio Express, April 24, 1932. Alfred Steinberg, Sam Johnson's Boy (New York: Macmillan, 1968). U.S. Congress, Official Congressional Directory (Washington: GPO).

  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen
  • Agriculture
  • Politics and Government
  • Government Officials
  • Cowboys and Cowgirls
  • Ranch Managers
Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Southeast Texas
  • Gulf Coast Region
  • Corpus Christi

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

Thomas Lloyd Miller, “Kleberg, Richard Mifflin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/kleberg-richard-mifflin.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 2, 2021