Oscar Branch Colquitt 





Handbook of Texas Online - COLQUITT, OSCAR BRANCH

HON. O. B. COLQUITT. Since January 17, 1911, Oscar Branch Colquitt has occupied the chair of governor of the state of Texas. He was first elected after one of the most exciting primary campaigns known in Texas political history within recent years. At the end of three years it can be said truthfully that no governor has served the state with greater fidelity, with a more thorough knowledge and comprehension of the almost countless problems involved in the administration of so great a Commonwealth, and with greater satisfaction to all the interests and the varied sections of the state than Governor Colquitt. His administration as governor of Texas is a matter of current knowledge, and the following paragraphs are devoted to a brief sketch of the career of this brilliant statesman and citizen up to the time he was elected by the people for his present high office. Oscar Branch Colquitt was born in the town of Camilla, the county seat of Mitchell county, Georgia, December 16, 1861, a son of Thomas J. and Ann E. (Burkhalter) Colquitt. The name Colquitt is one distinguished not only in Texas but in Georgia and other parts of the south, and the ancestry goes back to the Colonial period. The governor's great-grandfather Colquitt was a private soldier in the Revolutionary war. In a hand-to-hand conflict with a British officer he was knocked down and pierced through the face by his assailant's sword, but while in that attitude managed to get his pistol and shot the officer dead. In after lite, in relating his experiences and hardships as a Revolutionary soldier, he would repeat this incident and weep over it. The paternal grandparents of Governor Colquitt were natives of Fairfax county, Virginia, and in 1801 emigrated to Greene county, Georgia, where the grandfather was a large planter and a colonel of militia with General Andrew Jackson in the latter 'e fight with the Indians in Alabama. Walter T. Colquitt, a great criminal lawyer in Georgia and a United States senator from that state before the war between the states, was the father of Alfred H. Colquitt, a Confederate Brigadier General, who after the war became governor and United States senator from Georgia both these were relatives of Oscar B. Colquitt. On the mother's side his grandfather was David N. Burkhalter, of Holland Dutch descent and from Marion county, Georgia. He was a merchant and large planter, a local Methodist minister, and before the Civil war was an ardent Whig in politics and a friend of Henry Clay. David N. Burkhalter married Miss Ann Short, whose people came to Georgia from North Carolina, her mother being related to the Branch family of North Carolina, which furnished John Branch as secretary of the navy in Jackson 's cabinet, and another member of the same family subsequently became governor of Florida. Governor Colquitt ' s paternal grandmother, Lizzie Franklin, was a distant relative of Benjamin Franklin.

Oscar B. Colquitt was sixteen years old when he came to Texas, and his career has been wrought out in this state, and presents many interesting incidents and features in the progress of a poor country lad to the highest position in the public life of his state. With his parents he arrived at Daingerfield, Morris county, January 8, 1878. His first three years were spent as a worker on a rented farm in Morris county, and during the first year he attended school between the laying by and harvesting of the crops, walking two miles from the country into town for that purpose. Subsequently the old Daingerfield College advanced his education, and he received instruction from the Rev. E. M. Sweet, who was later connected with the Southwestern University at Georgetown. While in college Mr. Colquitt paid his board by making fires, chopping wood and caring for the stock. On leaving school his aspirations were for railroad work, but his application to the management of the old East Line and Red River Railroad Company for a position as brakeman or fireman was refused, and he had to content himself with a job as porter at the Daingerfield station. After two months in that work he found something more profitable, at a turning lathe in a furniture factory in Daingerfield. His wages were a dollar and a quarter a day, but after some time he walked out of the factory to become an apprentice and all-around hand in the printing office of the Morris County Banner, on a contract for six months at twelve dollars and a half a month. That was in 1880. In 1881 the owners of the Morris County Banner having moved to Greenville, Texas, where they took over the Independent Banner, the name of which was changed to the Greenville Banner, Oscar B. Colquitt went along with the newspaper enterprise and continued with the Greenville Banner until February, 1884. Four years of practical experience in the newspaper business gave him the confidence and the credit which enabled him to establish the Pittsburg Gazette at Pittsburg, Texas, a publication which was conducted successfully under his direction until July, 1886, when he sold out to a younger brother.

For the greater part of his career Governor Colquitt has had his home at Terrell in Kaufman county. In the fall of 1886 he bought the Terrell Star, and that journal was under his proprietorship until he retired from the field of newspaper work in November, 1898, in order to engage in the practice of law. In the meantime he had become prominent in politics and public affairs, in 1890 having been appointed chairman of the county Democratic executive committee of Kaufman county, and in 1892 selected to represent the Ninth senatorial district as a member of the State Democratic executive committee. In March, 1894, following the dissensions in the Democratic party brought about by the Hogg-Clark controversies of 1892, Mr. Colquitt was a member of the Hogg faction committee to bring about harmony in the party. A resolution offered by him and adopted by his committee was taken as the basis of the settlement of the disputes by both committees, was adopted and resulted in bringing about the harmonious relations which have existed ever since. 

In November, 1894, Mr. Colquitt was elected state senator from the Ninth senatorial district, comprising the counties of Kaufman, Navarro and Henderson, and sat in the senate from that district from 1895 to 1899. Governor Culberson during his last term appointed Mr. Colquitt state revenue agent, the duties of which he performed eight months, and subsequently Governor J. D. Sayers voluntarily tendered him a position on the state tax commission which had been created for the purpose of revising the revenue laws of Texas, and on which he served from 1899 to 1900. 

When Mr. Colquitt entered the campaign for nomination as governor, he was best known to the people of Texas in general for his splendid record as a member of the railroad commission.  In 1902 he had made the race for railroad commissioner to succeed John H. Reagan, was nominated and elected, and continued to serve on the commission until 1911, a period of eight years, from 1903 until he became governor of the state in 1911. While O. B. Colquitt was on the railroad commission, that important body attained its most vigorous service in supervising the relations of the great transportation corporation with the people of Texas. As a member of the commission Mr. Colquitt opposed the policy of forfeiting the charters of railroads, but insisted on making the transportation companies perform their general work as common carriers, and his influence was always directed to a just but effective lowering of railway rates. Governor Hogg, who was the author of the railroad commission law, said in an article on the subject that O. B. Colquitt had given more vitality to the law than any other railroad commissioner. In 

1906 Mr. Colquitt was a candidate for nomination as governor of Texas, contemporaneous with Campbell, Brooks and Bell. The system in vogue at that time in party conventions was to drop the weakest candidate as shown by the first ballot. After the first vote had been taken in the 1906 convention it was found that Colquitt had received the second largest vote, with Campbell first. The second ballot resulted in the same standing with the candidates, and Colquitt then withdrew and asked his friends to vote for the nomination of Campbell ; but four years later, when Colquitt was nominated by a 6,700 plurality, Governor Campbell used every means in his power to defeat Colquitt. 

During the summer of 1910 Mr. Colquitt was again one of several aspirants for the nomination before the Texas primaries for governor, and his successful campaign shows the strength of his support in practically all sections of the state. In November, 1910, he was elected governor for the term beginning January 17, 1911, and was re-elected in 1912 for a second term of two years. 

For a quarter of a century Mr. Colquitt has been in practical politics in Texas, and one of the most valuable workers in the dominant party. At the same time he has been singularly free from partisanship, and his devotion to the broad economic and social welfare of his state has been such as no one could successfully question or gainsay. Whether in private or official life, he has maintained the highest standards of honor and integrity, and his ability as a popular leader has been supplemented by a long-continued and careful study of government and political economy in their practical relations with modern times, and he has the gifts of the ready thinker and the eloquent speaker which enable him to talk convincingly and elegantly on all the many subjects which are of interest in the state.

In December, 1885, at Pittsburg, Texas, Governor Colquitt married Miss Alice Murrell, who was born and reared at Minden, Louisiana. They are the parents of five children, as follows: Rawlins M. Colquitt, whose home is in Houston, Texas; Sidney B. Colquitt, a second lieutenant in the Twenty-Third Infantry, U. S. A.; Oscar B. Colquitt, Jr., a civil engineer employed by the East Texas Iron Association; Walter F. Colquitt, who died August 7, 1910; and Mary Alice, who lives at home.

A History of Texas and Texans
by Francis White Johnson, Frank W Johnson, Eugene Campbell Barker, Ernest William Winkler  - 1914