Texas Regulars

By: George N. Green

Type: General Entry

Published: August 1, 1995

Updated: March 10, 2021

The Texas Regulars was an anti-Roosevelt faction of Democrats who split with the Democratic party when it could not convert the party as a whole. By the early 1940s the conservative Democrats of Texas, led by oil and business interests, were outraged at President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. They resented the proliferation of government bureaus and the growth of the labor movement as well as wartime restrictions, particularly the fixed prices of oil and gas. By the presidential election of 1944 they were also agitated by the United States Supreme Court's Smith v. Allwright decision, which struck down the Texas law barring Blacks from the Democratic primary (see WHITE PRIMARY). The anti-New Dealers wanted the state Democratic convention to select independent presidential electors for the Democratic column on the ballot, nominal Democrats who would decline to cast their electoral votes for Roosevelt in an effort to throw the election into the House of Representatives, where the South would have the numerical advantage. These Democrats captured the state convention in Austin on May 23, 1944, and chose electors and national delegates who would vote for Roosevelt only if the two-thirds rule, which required a two-thirds percentage of delegates for the Democratic party's presidential nomination, were restored. This would have strengthened the position of the South at the convention, but it had no chance of adoption at the national Democratic convention. Some of the anti-New Dealers, led by business magnate Eugene B. Germany, attempted to gain control over federal patronage in Texas by offering their electoral votes to the Democrats. The anti-Roosevelt electors, however, were replaced with New Deal Democrats at the second Texas state convention in September 1944.

The anti-Roosevelt faction then established the Texas Regulars, hoping to divert enough Democratic votes to prevent Roosevelt from defeating Republican Thomas E. Dewey. Senator W. Lee O'Daniel, Congressman Martin Dies, and a number of oil and corporate kingpins spearheaded the movement. The Regulars opposed the New Deal and the labor unions and called for the restoration of states' rights and White supremacy. Well-financed fund-raising groups sprang up, including the Committee for Constitutional Government and O'Daniel's Common Citizens Radio Committee. Although they were presented as educational organizations, these groups appeared to congressional investigators to violate the Corrupt Practices Act. The Regulars, with no candidate, polled about 12 percent of the vote, while Roosevelt received about 72 percent. Regular and Republican votes came mainly from White middle and upper class precincts in the major cities. The Regulars disbanded officially in the spring of 1945. Their leadership formed the nucleus of the 1948 Dixiecrat movement's leadership, disturbed by President Harry Truman's civil-rights program and even more by Truman's position that the oil lands off the Texas coast were federal rather than state property. Once more liberal Democrats lost out in the first state convention, bounced back with Governor Beauford H. Jester's help in the second one, and prompted the Dixiecrats to bolt the party in support of South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond for the presidency. Financed largely by wealthy oilmen, the Dixiecrats finished third in Texas behind the Democrats and Republicans. The Texas Regular Dixiecratic leaders became Eisenhower Democrats in the 1950s and Republicans in the 1960s and 1970s.

George N. Green, The Establishment in Texas Politics (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 1979). Seth Shepard McKay, Texas Politics, 1906–1944 (Lubbock: Texas Tech Press, 1952). William Jean Tolleson, The Rift in the Texas Democratic Party-1944 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1953).

Time Periods:

  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II

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

George N. Green, “Texas Regulars,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 01, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/texas-regulars.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995
March 10, 2021