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Preston Smith (governor)

Preston Smith
40th Governor of Texas
In office
January 21, 1969 – January 16, 1973
Lieutenant Ben Barnes
Preceded by John Connally
Succeeded by Dolph Briscoe
35th Lieutenant Governor of Texas
In office
January 15, 1963 – January 21, 1969
Governor John Connally
Preceded by Ben Ramsey
Succeeded by Ben Barnes
Member of the Texas State Senate from District 28 (Lubbock)
In office
Preceded by Kilmer B. Corbin
Succeeded by H.J. "Doc" Blanchard
Member of the Texas House of Representatives from District 119 (Lubbock)
In office
Preceded by Hop Hasley
Succeeded by Waggoner Carr
Personal details
Born Preston Earnest Smith
(1912-03-08)March 8, 1912
Williamson County, Texas
Died October 18, 2003(2003-10-18) (aged 91)
Lubbock, Texas
Resting place

Texas State Cemetery

Austin, Texas
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Ima Mae Smith
Children 1 son and 1 daughter
Alma mater Texas Tech University
Profession Politician
Religion Methodist
Preston Smith (second from left) with state House Speaker Gus Mutscher, former president Lyndon B. Johnson and Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes in Brenham, August 17, 1970.

Preston Earnest Smith (March 8, 1912 – October 18, 2003) was the 40th Governor of Texas from 1969 to 1973, who earlier served as the lieutenant governor from 1963 to 1969.


  • Early life 1
  • Political career 2
  • Later life and attempted political comeback 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Early life

Smith was born into a tenant farming family of 13 children in Williamson County near Austin. The family later moved to Lamesa, the seat of Dawson County on the Texas South Plains, where Smith graduated from Lamesa High School in 1928. He thereafter graduated from Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) in Lubbock and built a movie theater business by the middle 1940s.

Political career

Smith was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1944 and then to the Texas State Senate in 1956. He won the Senate seat by defeating in the primary the incumbent Kilmer B. Corbin, the father of actor Barry Corbin. In 1962, Smith won the lieutenant governor's race, securing majorities in all but 16 of the 254 counties to defeat the Republican O.W. "Bill" Hayes, the running-mate of gubernatorial candidate Jack M. Cox of Houston.[1]

In 1968, Smith was elected governor, a position he held from 1969 to 1973. He succeeded the popular Democratic Governor John B. Connally, Jr., who later switched to the Republican Party. To win the governorship, Smith first defeated Don Yarborough in the 1968 Democratic runoff election. Several other candidates, including Dolph Briscoe, a large landholder from Uvalde in the Texas Hill Country, and former Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr, also of Lubbock, were eliminated in the primary.

Smith then twice defeated Republican nominee Paul W. Eggers, a tax attorney from Wichita Falls and later Dallas, and a close friend of U.S. Senator John G. Tower. In the high-turnout general election of 1968, Smith received 1,662,019 ballots (57 percent) to Eggers' 1,254,333 (43 percent). In the low-turnout general election of 1970, Smith, who had been unopposed in the Democratic primaries, received 1,197,726 votes (53.6 percent) to Eggers' 1,037,723 (46.4 percent). Smith's terms were still two years each. The state switched to four-year terms in 1974.

In 1971 and 1972, Smith was embroiled in the Sharpstown scandal stock fraud scheme, which eventually led to his downfall. Smith lost his third-term bid for the governorship of Texas to Dolph Briscoe of Uvalde in the Democratic primary in 1972. He ran a distant fourth in the primary, behind Briscoe, women's activist Frances "Sissy" Farenthold of Corpus Christi, and Lieutenant Governor Ben F. Barnes, formerly of Comanche County.

Among his appointments, Smith in 1970 named Paul Pressler of Houston, a former state representative, as judge of the Texas 133rd District Court in Harris County. Pressler, who later switched to the Republican Party, subsequently became known as a prime leader in the Southern Baptist Convention Conservative Resurgence which began in Houston in 1979.[2]

He appointed former State Senator Grady Hazlewood of Amarillo and Austin as a regent of Hazlewood's alma mater, West Texas A&M University in Canyon.[3] In 1969, Smith named state Representative Randy Pendleton of Andrews to head the Office of State and Federal Relations in Washington, D.C.[4]

Later life and attempted political comeback

In 1974, Smith joined banker Stanton Leon Koop (1937–2008), a native of Pampa, in forming the West Texas Savings Association in Lubbock. In 1986, Koop moved to Dallas, where he was affiliated with Great Western Mortgage Company, until his retirement in 1994.

In 1978, at the age of sixty-six, Smith again entered the Democratic gubernatorial primary against his intraparty rival, Governor Briscoe. Both Smith and Briscoe lost in the primary to former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice John Hill, who in turn was narrowly defeated in the general election by Republican Bill Clements.

Toward the end of his life, Smith worked as a political liaison officer for Texas Tech University. After his death in Lubbock, the airport was renamed in 2004 in his memory as Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport.

Graves of Governor and Mrs. Preston E. Smith at Texas State Cemetery in Austin, Texas

Smith termed himself a "conservative Democrat"; although he was generally supportive of President Lyndon B. Johnson, he refused to support his party's nominees for president in 1980 and for governor in 1982. Instead of voting to reelect President Jimmy Carter and Mark White in the gubernatorial race, Smith cast his ballot for Ronald Reagan and Bill Clements, respectively.

Smith died in Lubbock. He is interred with his wife, Ima Mae Smith (1911-1998), at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.


  1. ^ Charles Ashman, Connally: The Adventures of Big Bad John, New York: William Morrow Company, 1974, p. 22
  2. ^ William H. Brackney, Historical Dictionary of the Baptists, p. 455.  
  3. ^ """Robyn Followwill-Line, "Grady Hazlewood.  
  4. ^ "Randall George Pendleton obituary". Retrieved December 17, 2010. 
  • Kinch, Jr., Sam; Procter, Ben (1972). Texas Under a Cloud: Story of the Texas Stock Fraud Scandal. Jenkins. 

External links

  • Programs for people, by Preston Smith, published 1973, hosted by the Portal to Texas History.
  • Papers, 1930-1975 and undated, in the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library at Texas Tech University
Texas House of Representatives
Preceded by
Hop Halsey
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 119 (Lubbock)

Succeeded by
Waggoner Carr
Texas Senate
Preceded by
Kilmer B. Corbin
Texas State Senator
from District 28 (Lubbock)

Succeeded by
H. J. “Doc” Blanchard
Political offices
Preceded by
Ben Ramsey
Lieutenant Governor of Texas
January 15, 1963–January 21, 1969
Succeeded by
Ben F. Barnes
Preceded by
John Connally
Governor of Texas
January 21, 1969-January 16, 1973
Succeeded by
Dolph Briscoe
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