Pat Dunn County

By: Martin Donell Kohout

Type: General Entry

Published: May 1, 1995

Though Pat Dunn County never existed, it is a vivid illustration of the tactics of the founder of the most notorious political dynasty in Texas. In 1913 state senator Archer Parr, the political boss of Duval County, came up with a scheme to double the amount of political patronage and revenue sources at his disposal. He proposed dividing Duval County roughly in half and turning the southern portion into a new county. In January 1913 he introduced a bill proposing the formation of Ross County, but protests by Duval County residents and the opposition of powerful Starr County rancher Edward C. Lasater doomed the bill to failure. Later in 1913, however, during a special session of the legislature, Parr caught his opponents off guard and secured the passage of another bill calling for the establishment of Pat Dunn County, named after a Corpus Christi legislator who was one of Parr's political allies. The Parr forces attempted by gerrymandering tactics in the December 1913 election to choose the seat of the new county; they deprived Realitos, the ranching town that was Lasater's Duval County headquarters, and Concepcion of their voting boxes in an effort to ensure that Parr's hometown, Benavides, would be chosen. These blatant tactics resulted in an injunction blocking the election. Parr's supporters proposed an alternate precinct plan that was no improvement, with the same result. Before they could try again, it was determined that the legislation authorizing Pat Dunn County violated an obscure provision of the state constitution that requires a distance of at least twelve miles between the boundary of a new county and the seat of an existing county (the town of San Diego, in the case of Duval County). Despite the failure of Pat Dunn County, Parr was not quite ready to abandon his scheme. He introduced another county-formation bill in 1914. This one passed the Senate, but failed in the House after Parr offered some injudicious testimony regarding his influence over Duval County politics. He tried again during the May 1915 special session, but this bill also failed in the House. Thereafter Parr concentrated on solidifying his power in Duval County, a task in which he met with conspicuous success.

Evan Anders, Boss Rule in South Texas: The Progressive Era (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982). David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836–1986 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987). Remarkable Conditions in Duval County: Protest Against Proposed Division (pamphlet, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin, 1915?).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Martin Donell Kohout, “Pat Dunn County,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995