Pat Neff Is Subject of April Discussion Meeting
In appreciation of his long years of service to RFSA as chair of the Discussion Interest Group, Dick Furlong, who will soon move to Dallas, was presented the book, Our Texas at the April 29th meeting of the group at the Yarborough Branch Library. Miles Abernathy made the presentation on behalf of RFSA.
The afternoon's speaker was Terrell Blodgett, Mike Hogg Professor Emeritus with the LBJ School of Public Affairs, who talked about the recent book about Pat Neff that he wrote with his late wife, Dorothy Blodgett, and David Scott, historian and genealogist.
In his talk, Blodgett touched on some of the high points of Neff's colorful and influential career. After graduating from Baylor, Neff earned a law degree from UT in 1897. During his stay here, Blodgett related, Neff was one of the four students, along with future Senator Tom Connally, involved in the infamous incident of "stealing" a cannon from the Capital grounds to shoot off on the UT Campus in celebration of Texas Independence Day. The result of this caper was the inauguration of UT's observance of our March 2 independence that remains to this day.
Neff began his public career with six years of service in the Texas House of Representatives, the last two as speaker of the House. He was governor from 1921-1925, and Blodgett said that among his noteworthy accomplishments were establishing the Texas Highway Department as we know it today (now Texas Department of Transportation), starting the Texas state park system and making quality appointments, many of them women. In his next to last day in office Neff pardoned the folk-singer-musician Lead Belly, then serving time for attempted murder in the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville.
Blodgett went on to talk about Neff's long-term tenure as president of Baylor, 1932 to 1947. He credited Neff with devising ways to pull Baylor out of the Depression-era financial crisis he had inherited and with his promotional skills in bringing publicity to Baylor. A notable example, said Blodgett, was granting honorary degrees to John Nance Garner and to Harry Truman, acts widely criticized in Baptist circles because these two poker players both drank and gambled.
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