Ramsey, Ben (1903–1985)

By: Richard M. Morehead

Type: Biography

Published: May 1, 1995

Updated: April 30, 2019

Ben Ramsey, Texas state legislator, secretary of state, lieutenant governor, and railroad commissioner, was born at San Augustine on December 28, 1903, the son of William Charles Ramsey. He attended San Augustine public schools and worked on the family farm. After finishing high school, he worked three years in his father's law and abstract office, then enrolled at the University of Texas. He passed the state bar examination before graduation and was licensed to practice law in 1931. Ramsey was elected state representative and served two terms. Afterward he returned to San Augustine to practice law with his brother for five years. In 1940 he was elected to the first of two four-year terms as state senator. He became a Senate leader in antideficit legislation and legislation to regulate labor unions. In 1949 Governor Beauford H. Jester chose Ramsey to be secretary of state. In 1950 Ramsey was elected lieutenant governor. When Governor Allan Shivers's conservative branch of Texas Democrats clashed with the state's more liberal Democrats, led by Senate majority leader Lyndon B. Johnson and Speaker Samuel T. (Sam) Rayburn of Texas, the two factions agreed to support Ramsey as a member of the National Democratic Committee.

In fiscal affairs, especially opposition to higher taxes, Ramsey was considered conservative. Despite this, he supported Governor Shivers in raising revenue necessary for higher teachers' pay, state hospitals, and prisons. Like Shivers he was an enemy of labor unions. He strongly supported rural electrification, water conservation and development, paving of farms roads, and stricter laws regulating what he called "fly-by-night insurance companies." In 1961 Gov. Price Daniel appointed him to the Railroad Commission. The next year he was elected to the unexpired term and in 1964 and 1970 was reelected to full six-year terms. He served three two-year terms as chairman. Just before his appointment to the commission, Texas was successful in achieving control over offshore oil (see TIDELANDS CONTROVERSY), and Ramsey helped composed the rules for Texas coastal drilling. He chose not to run for reelection in 1976. Ramsey married Florine Hankla of San Augustine, and the couple had three children. He died on March 27, 1985, in Austin and was buried in San Augustine.

David F. Prindle, Petroleum Politics and the Texas Railroad Commission (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981). Texas Bar Journal, October, 1985. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

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

Richard M. Morehead, “Ramsey, Ben,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ramsey-ben.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995
April 30, 2019