Teague, Olin Earl [Tiger] (1910–1981)

By: Melanie Watkins

Type: Biography

Published: October 1, 1995

Updated: June 1, 2017

Olin Earl (Tiger) Teague, military hero and Congressman, was born on April 6, 1910, in Woodward, Oklahoma, the son of James Martin and Ida (Sturgeon) Teague. When he was a child his family moved to Mena, Arkansas, where he attended elementary school and high school. He earned the nickname "Tiger" for his play on the high school football team. Teague attended Texas A&M from 1928 to 1932, graduating with a bachelor's degree. He married Freddie Dunman on December 30, 1932, and they became the parents of three children. From 1932 to 1940 he worked at the College Station post office. Teague joined the National Guard in 1939, and on October 5, 1940, he enlisted for active duty in the United States Army, receiving a commission as a first lieutenant. He took part in the allied landing in Normandy, France, on D-Day in 1944, and in the next six months he became, after Audie Murphy, the most decorated U.S. combat soldier of World War II. His decorations included three purple hearts, three silver stars, three bronze stars, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Army Commendation Ribbon, the Croix de Guerre with palm (France), and the Fourragère (France). His unit (the First Battalion, 314th Infantry Regiment, Seventy-ninth Division) won the Presidential Unit Citation. Wounded six times during this period, Teague spent two years recuperating in army hospitals. He was discharged from the army on September 6, 1946, with the rank of colonel. In 1946 Teague won a special election to fill the vacant seat for the sixth congressional district in Texas, succeeding Luther A. Johnson. He continued to win reelection, serving in the U.S. House of Representatives from August 24, 1946, until his retirement on December 31, 1978. Teague became noted for his championship of veterans' issues and his support of the space program. He was also a strong proponent of nuclear power and synthetic fuels. Teague spent thirty-two years on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, from 1955 through 1972 as chairman, and from 1973 through 1978 as the second ranking Democrat on the committee. He authored the Korean War Veterans Act in 1950 and dozens of subsequent acts that improved benefits and medical treatment facilities for veterans. He joined the Committee on Science and Astronautics (later Science and Technology) in 1959 and served as chair of that group from 1973 through 1978. He was appointed to the Board of Technology Assessment (later the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment) in 1972 and chaired that panel in 1975–1976.

In 1971 Teague was elected chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, which assigned the Democratic members of House committees and chose the chairmen of the standing committees. His election was a surprising upset of the incumbent chairman of the caucus, Dan Rostenkowski. Teague served for four years, the maximum allowed. He also served on the Committee on the District of Columbia from 1946 through 1958 and the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (the ethics committee) from 1968 through 1978, chairing that committee in his final year. A conservative Democrat, Teague opposed cuts in defense spending and supported the Vietnam War until the end. During the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson he opposed Great Society legislation concerning health and welfare, increased funding for higher education, and subsidies for urban housing. He supported Johnson for a second term, however, and hoped that the Democratic National Convention of 1968 would prevail on Johnson to run again. Vietnam veterans accused Teague of being unresponsive to their needs and blamed his alleged insensitivity partly on the fact that many of them were black, charges that Teague denied. Teague was sharply critical of President Jimmy Carter's nuclear energy program, which he considered inadequate. Teague retired at the end of 1978 because of poor health. In addition to several slight strokes in recent years, he had undergone the amputation of part of his left leg as a result of injuries suffered during the war. He endorsed Chet Edwards to succeed him, but his seat was filled instead by Phil Gramm, who ran at that time as a Democrat. Teague received an honorary lifetime membership in the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1955, the VFW's Congressional Award in 1969, and the American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1970. In 1978 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration gave him a special public service medal. Texas A&M University gave him its Distinguished Alumnus award and in 1978 established a President's Endowed Scholarship in honor of Teague and his wife. The Olin E. Teague Research Center at Texas A&M, financed in part by a $1 million grant from NASA, was named in his honor. In 1980 the Veterans Administration hospital in Temple was named the Olin E. Teague Veterans Center, Temple, after him. Teague was a Baptist and a member of the Lions Club. He died of a heart attack and kidney failure on January 23, 1981, at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Survivors included his wife and three children. Teague was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Biographical Directory of the American Congress. Alec Philmore Pearson, Olin E. Teague and the Veterans' Administration (Ph.D. dissertation, Texas A&M University, 1977). Olin E. Teague Papers, University Archives, Texas A&M University. U.S. Congress, Official Congressional Directory (Washington: GPO). 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.

Melanie Watkins, “Teague, Olin Earl [Tiger],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/teague-olin-earl-tiger.

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October 1, 1995
June 1, 2017