Texas prohibition politics, 1887-1914



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Prohibition agitation represents a consistent theme in Texas history from the end of Reconstruction. Temperance advocates voiced support for local option as a means of drying up the state and the Texas legislature made provisions for local option election laws in 1876. Temperance organizations including the United Friends of Temperance, the National Prohibition Party, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and an indigenous Texas Prohibition Party sought to translate anti- liquor sentiment into temperance legislation but realized only limited success. The state's powerful Democratic Party showed slight interest in the liquor question and temperance supporters could generate little enthusiasm for a third party movement devoted to prohibition. Widespread evasion of local option statutes prompted temperance crusaders to seek a prohibition amendment to the state constitution in 1887, but Texas voters overwhelmingly turned down the proposal. Dispirited but not disillusioned, many prohibitionists returned to the Democracy where they managed to make the liquor question a dominant motif in state politics for the next quarter of a century. The gubernatorial campaign of 1906, enabled prohibition Democrats to flex their muscles and they along with the progressive wing of the Party helped to elect Thomas Mitchell Campbell governor of Texas, Campbell, a reform minded prohibitionist governor, served two terms as chief executive and helped to bring about an increase in anti-liquor legislation but his tenure ended in 1910 without the prohibitionists having achieved their goal of statewide prohibition. Factionalism, personal rivalries, and jealously marred the efforts of prohibition Democrats in the 1910 gubernatorial campaign. Unable to close ranks in support of one candidate in the Democratic primary, they watched helplessly as Oscar Branch Colquitt, a stanch conservative anti- prohibitionist, captured the imagination of the voters. Colquitt served two terms as governor and during that time he not only expressed disdain for statewide prohibition and heaped abuse upon its advocates but he also worked to impede and frustrate anti-liquor legislation while contributing greatly to the defeat of another constitutional prohibitory liquor amendment in 1911. [...]