Navigation for The Land Office
June 21, 1837-December 12, 1840
“Enclosed you will find a note of your appointment to the office of General Land commissioner, which no doubt may be a matter of some surprise to you, as you was not one of the very numerous applicants and sanguine expectants of that very important appointment.”
- Henry Smith to John Borden
John Pettit Borden was born in Norwich, New York on December 30, 1812. A veteran of the Texas Revolution, Borden enrolled in Captain George Collinsworth’s company on October 7, 1835, and participated in the taking of Goliad two days later. Two months later, he enrolled in Captain Philip Dimmit’s company and took part in the siege of Bexar from December 5 through December 10. He reenlisted a few weeks later on March 1 as first lieutenant in Moseley Baker’s company D, in the first regiment under Commander Edward Burleson at the battle of San Jacinto.
A letter from Henry Smith, secretary of treasury, dated June 28, 1837, notified Borden of his appointment as commissioner of the General Land Office and encouraged him to assume the position as soon as possible. “It is important to the Govt. that you enter on the [duties] of your office immediately in order that the public archives be collected and properly arranged as the law requires,” Smith wrote. This must have been a surprise to Borden as he did not apply for, nor expect, to be associated with this office. Borden was the first land commissioner of Texas, and was tasked with organizing previous land records from the Spanish and Mexican governments, as well as creating new public land distribution policies, and administering a complex land system that incorporated the Spanish and Mexican legal tradition with Anglo land policies from the United States. To complicate matters, he was operating in an environment where portions of the population did not want to assist the new government with it’s duties.
Borden resigned on December 12, 1840, soon after the beginning of his second term, stating simply that circumstances rendered it necessary to retire from the situation he occupied in the government. With a resolute work ethic Borden entered office in 1837, and with dignity he left, wishing good will on the General Land Office and the public.
Borden passed away on November 12, 1890 in Borden, Texas and was buried at Weimar Cemetery with his wife.
December 12, 1840 - January 4, 1841
As a result of Commissioner Borden's resignation, a temporary vacancy in the office of commissioner was created. Henry Walton Raglin, Chief Clerk during that first administration, occupied the office on an ad interim basis for less than a month, from December 12, 1840 to January 4, 1841. The post was permanently filled by Thomas William "Peg Leg" Ward on January 4, 1841.
January 4, 1841 – March 20, 1848
“The present Congress will do nothing for us, but I fear will drive us to the use of the pistol or rifle.”
- Thomas William Ward
As a result of Commissioner Borden’s resignation, a temporary vacancy in the office of commissioner was created. Henry Walton Raglin, Chief Clerk during that first administration, occupied the office on an ad interim basis for less than a month. The post was permanently filled by Thomas William “Peg Leg” Ward on January 4, 1841.
Thomas William Ward was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1807 to Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ward. In his early twenties, he moved to New Orleans where he began organizing the New Orleans Greys for the Texas revolution. He served in Captain William G. Cooke’s Company during the Siege of Bexar from December 5-10 as a private. He received a debilitating injury to his right leg from enemy cannon fire. His leg was amputated on the spot, which earned him the nickname “Peg Leg,” which would stick with him for the rest of his life. According to Ward’s obituary and legend, his leg was buried with the body of the legendary Ben Milam.
He moved to Austin in 1837, where he became mayor. Shortly after, he was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office.
While in office, Ward ran into problems receiving suitable funds from Congress, just like Borden. He also faced insurrection by local Austinites. In April 1842, war came to the Land Office: the Archive War. This was a bloodless, yet highly visible, confrontation between army rangers and an armed vigilance committee of Austin. This was the signature moment of Ward’s career at the GLO. When Ward went to Austin to recover the records he was met by, “The people of Austin for reasons best known to themselves.” Ward and the troops sent to recover the records were, “resisted in the most violent manner by some of the citizens of Austin, who proceeded even to the extremity of discharging a field piece against the building…” Ward and his men were only able to move the records 18 miles outside of Austin, before being stopped. Ward left office in 1848.
Thomas William “Peg Leg” Ward lived to 65 years of age when he passed away in his home on November 25, 1872 from typhoid fever. Ward was buried in the State Cemetery.
March 20, 1848 – August 4, 1851
“Our public domain is not only sufficient to pay all our just debts incurred during our struggle for independence but to afford homes for our children and our children’s children for many generations if properly husbanded. But if we are to realize these benefits we must protect from fraud.”
- George Washington Smyth
Born on May 16, 1803 in North Carolina he received a liberal education, and mastered the profession of civil engineering after attending school in Maury County, Tennessee. George W. Smyth became the first elected Texas Land Commissioner.
In 1839, he was appointed by President Mirabeau Lamar to survey the Texas-U.S. border along the Sabine River. Smyth was appointed “through no solicitation either of yourself or your friends, but am induced to do so from your long experience and acknowledged qualification as a mathematician, as well as your general character for probity as a man and fidelity as an officer,” Said President Lamar.
In 1848, Smyth was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office by the legislature, and elected in August 1849 by the people. “The people now knowing his value as a public citizen, and his policy in negotiating the boundaries of the State, elected him Commissioner of the General Land Office.” He felt that the Texas public domain was sufficient to pay all just debts incurred during the struggle for independence and also great enough to afford homes for many generations if properly husbanded. In 1852, he left the land office in order to join the Thirty-third U.S. Congress in Washington.
George Washington Smyth died on February 21, 1866 and was buried in the State Cemetery in Austin.
August 4, 1851 – March 1, 1858
March 1, 1865 – September 1, 1865
August 7, 1866 – August 27, 1867
“It [the Commissionership] has never heretofore been viewed as a political office, but I hope for the interest of the many so deeply concerned that it will never be made so.”
- Stephen Crosby
Known as “Captain” to friends and associates, Stephen Crosby holds the distinction of being the only man to serve three nonconsecutive terms as commissioner of the Texas General Land Office. Born in 1808 in South Carolina, In 1845, Crosby moved to Texas to accept the position of Chief Clerk of the General Land Office under Commissioner George W. Smyth. When Smyth opted not to seek another term in office, Crosby was a logical choice to run for Commissioner on the democratic ticket in the 1851 election.
Crosby’s first run as land commissioner lasted from 1851 through 1858. In this time, he faced many of the same obstacles as his predecessors. He proposed a new building for the GLO, and was successful in convincing lawmakers to build a new fireproof facility. The new building was modeled like a medieval castle, and became the first permanent edifice in the capital complex.
By 1857, Crosby left the Democratic Party in order to join the Know Nothing Party. In describing the Democratic Convention of 1857, Governor Lubbock said “There was some fun in nominating the Commissioner of the General Land Office. The Convention was really anxious to nominate Captain Stephen Crosby then incumbent of the office…however, he strayed off the Democratic Party and joined the Know Nothing Party.” Crosby came back to the Democratic Party and was elected once again to the office of commissioner in 1865. He served for several months before being removed from office by the military authorities. Francis M. White replaced Crosby a second time. White served for just under a year. After that, Crosby once again replaced White. Crosby’s third term in office began on August 7, 1866 and lasted to August 27, 1867.
Crosby died at the age of 61 in Austin on August 5, 1869. After his death, Crosby County was named in his honor in 1886, as was Crosbyton, Texas.
March 1, 1858 – March 1, 1862
September 1, 1865 – August 7, 1866
“The time is fast approaching when the most valuable land will be taken up, and it behooves the State to provide when it can be done without injury to anyone, a fund for future contingencies.”
- Francis M. White
White was born in Pulaski, Tennessee on August 11, 1811 to Jesse and Mary White, had three brothers and two sisters. On October 1, 1835, White was commissioned a lieutenant in Capt John Kelly’s Company. Later, he served in Capt George Sutherland’s Company from the last of June 1836 until the end of September. He participated in the Siege of Bexar, the Grass Fight, and several other minor skirmishes.
In 1857, White was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office, replacing Crosby on the Democratic ticket. White won the election and took office on March 1, 1858. His first term lasted until March 1, 1862. Once again, it was the same issues that troubled previous land commissioners, that troubled White as well. There was a lack of money, space and employees, as well as convoluted land laws, avaricious land speculators, and inconsistent policies complicating business at the GLO. In 1858 White said, that the time was approaching when the most valuable land would be taken up and the GLO would be out of the land business.
In 1861, White created the Photographic Bureau in the GLO in order to reproduce county maps and sketches more rapidly and cheaply than previous methods allowed. Notable GLO draftsman, Conrad Stremme, a German-born immigrant, recommended the photographic process.
By September 1861, Commissioner White learned that he would not be selected as the Democratic nominee for land commissioner. After another term for Crosby as commissioner, White replaced him once again. Less than a year later, White resigned. Francis Menefee White passed away on March 22, 1897 in Texana.
September 2, 1867 – January 19, 1870
“Commissioner Spence was a man of unusual business ability and his administration did much to straighten out the land records that had gotten in bad shape during the Civil War.”
~Commissioner J.T. Robison about Spence
Joseph Spence served as land commissioner from September 2, 1867 to January 19, 1870. Spence’s administration focused mainly on restoring the land office after Confederate leadership, and focused on preserving the honor of the GLO amidst the constant disturbances of Reconstruction. Spence, as land commissioner, represented the end of two major eras in Texas history. The obvious one being that he was the last commissioner of the GLO during reconstruction. Less obvious, he was the first commissioner of the land office without any direct connection to the Texas revolution or the shaping of the Republic of Texas or State of Texas.
On September 2, 1867, he became land commissioner under military rule when General Charles Griffin appointed him. As commissioner during the reconstruction period, Spence dealt with many issues that were entirely unique to his administration. In 1870, he brought attention to the provisional government that there was a considerable amount of land that was issued under the Confederate government to support “rebel” causes. Spence requested direction from the legislature on if he should patent land that was issued for purposes of supporting the confederacy. In particular, several companies were specifically formed at the request of the legislature to build heavy machinery and powder companies to help in the war effort. Spence didn’t believe it was appropriate for the government to pay those debts.
Spence was replaced as land commissioner in September 1870. After retiring from public service, Spence remained in Austin, where he lived a successful professional and personal life. Spence died in Austin in 1894.
January 19, 1870 - January 20, 1874
“The political situation looks very dark and so far it is undecided as to whether the imperial or liberal party will get hold of political control. The latter party has received some severe blows and the outlook for success is rather small at present.”
- Jacob Kuechler, Traitor, to the Confederates
Jacob Kuechler was born in Hesse-Darmastadt, Germany in 1823 during a time of great conflict in Europe. Kuechler studied civil engineering and forestry at the University of Giessen, and later moved to Texas at the age of 24. Early on, he became one of the founders of dendrochronology, the study of tree rings, and made great strides in the science, easing the worries of settlers in Fredericksburg, during an uncharacteristically dry period.
Kuechler worked as a surveyor until 1861. He was commissioned by Governor Sam Houston to enroll state militia troops for Gillespie County. He was viewed as a traitor, however, because he only recruited Unionist sympathizers of German descent. Kuechler’s forces were massacred along the Nueces River as they attempted to escape Texas to go to Mexico, and eventually meet with union forces.
Upon his return to Texas, he was elected as a delegate to the Texas Constitutional Convention of 1869. At the convention, he became an advocate for Germans in the Republican Party during the Reconstruction period. Kuechler became land commissioner by appointment of General Joseph Jones Reynolds of the military Reconstruction government on January 19, 1870. He held the office of land commissioner until January 20, 1874. He anticipated civil service reform, and protected employees whose political views differed from his own. He was the first commissioner to suggest reforms and regulations for land surveyors as well. He cited the incompetence of county surveyors leading to a tremendous amount of additional work for land office staff, causing business to lag. He was also the first to recommend employing a state land surveyor at the GLO.
The end of reconstruction was the end of the Republican Party in Texas for many years, which meant the end of Kuechler’s term in office. Kuechler passed away in Austin on April 4, 1893 and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
January 20, 1874 – June 15, 1878
“I hold it to be doubtful economy to retard the public business, particularly of that portion pertaining to this office, in which both the State and individual citizens are so deeply interested, in order to save the State a few thousand dollars, when the sequel will prove it both unwise and impolitic, and fails to effect that object.”
- Johann Jacob Groos
Johann Jacob Groos is the second German-born Commissioner of the General Land Office, yet, he stands in stark contrast to his predecessor, Jacob Kuechler. Both were born in Germany, Groos in Offenbach. Both came to Texas in the 1840’s, Groos as part of the Adelsverein’s organized mass-immigration. Both lived in predominantly German-Texan towns, and were popular public surveyors, Groos in New Braunfels. During the Civil War they both shared similar jobs recruiting soldiers for the war effort. It was their allegiances during the war, however, that separated these two men before they separately, and consecutively, took office as Commissioners of the GLO.
Born in Offenbach, Germany on March 6, 1824, Johann Jacob Groos worked as a surveyor after attending school studying civil engineering for three years. He came to Texas on October 15, 1845.
By 1862, Groos was elected Captain of Precinct No. 2, Thirty-first Brigade, Texas State Troops. In his duties to the Confederate Army, Groos was an enrolling clerk in Comal County; he served along the frontier to protect against Indian raids, participating in two campaigns.
Groos won the election of 1873 for Land Commissioner in the first statewide race after Reconstruction. He took office on January 20, 1874. Groos served four years, and dealt with many of the same problems as his predecessors. Difficult land laws and land speculators were among his biggest professional problems; however it was the Oklahoma border that garnered interest from Groos in 1877. He claimed that Greer County should be recognized as Texas land, rather than belonging to the United States. He offered to reserve all, or part, of the 1,024,000 acres for the construction of a new Capitol or to be set apart for the endowment of the University of Texas. Had Groos had his way, Oklahoma land would have partially funded of the University of Texas System. In 1874, Groos discontinued the Photographic Bureau that began under Commissioner White. Groos passed away while in office on June 15, 1878.
June 15, 1878 - January 10, 1887
“I found the Land Office files and records were in a tangled condition, so I closed the office for five days to take account of stock. Carelessness during and immediately subsequent to the Civil War permitted, if it did not invite, an organized gang of forgers and land thieves to raid the archives of the office.”
- William C. Walsh
William C. Walsh came to Texas six months after his birth in Dayton, Ohio on September 23, 1836. His parents brought him to Houston in 1837 and later to Austin in 1840. At the age of 21 he began work as a clerk for the General Land Office.
Walsh resigned from his position with the GLO on April 30, 1861, opting to join the Confederate Army. He commanded Tom Green’s Rifles Company B, Fourth Texas Infantry, under John B. Hood of the legendary Hood’s Texas Brigade. As a member of Hood’s Brigade, he was a captain at the battle of Gaines Mill on June 27, 1862. During the conflict he was shot three times and severely wounded, crippling him for life.
In January 1873, he was elected Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives, serving without opposition until 1878. He left his post in the House, when Governor Richard Hubbard appointed him to fill the rest of the term of the late Johann Jacob Groos, in June of 1878 at the GLO.
Land frauds were running rampant in Texas, “dragging their slimy forms about the State and enmeshing many people and land titles,” Walsh said. This was one of the most difficult and dangerous times in land office history, as numerous threats were made on Walsh’s life. In fact, bodyguards were forced to guard the land office and armed sentinels protected Walsh’s home at night.
Walsh was appointed to the Capitol Board in 1880 to help oversee the construction of the new State Capitol Building. Walsh was responsible for choosing the land that was used to pay for the construction. He selected 3,050,000 acres in the Texas Panhandle, the Capital Land Reservation, later known as the XIT Ranch. Walsh also convinced others on the board that granite from Marble Falls was a superior choice to limestone from Indiana, because it was a local stone.
Walsh was defeated in the 1887 race for commissioner. He eventually returned to the Land Office under Commissioner J.T. Robison. He passed away on August 9, 1924 and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
January 10, 1887 – January 16, 1891
“One great care has been to so exercise the discretion given the Commissioner of the General Land Office that the public interests should ever be protected and advanced, and at the same time no right or privilege contemplated in the law for any citizen should be abridged or interfered with.”
- Richard M. Hall
Richard M. Hall was born in Iredell County, North Carolina on November 17, 1851. Educated in civil engineering and mathematics, Hall secured a job as county surveyor for Grayson County upon moving to Texas. Hall purchased a farm in La Salle County for he and his family, as well as an old family friend from North Carolina, William Sidney Porter, better known as “O. Henry.” Hall ran on the Democratic ticket for Texas Land Commissioner in 1886. He won and took office on January 10, 1887. He hired William Sidney Porter to work as a draftsman for the GLO, which is how the legendary short story writer became associated with the GLO.
During the Hall administration, the commissioner faced difficult political pressure from the Attorney General and the railroad industry because of the contentious Sidings and Switches Controversy. The Sidings and Switches Controversy specifically dealt with the Houston and Texas Central Railroad Company (H&TCRR), however, it would have far-reaching effects on all land granted since statehood if Attorney General Hogg was successful in his pursuits. Hogg claimed that H&TCRR received more land for internal improvements than was appropriate. Hogg contended that the railroad companies were making land claims based on their main rail line, in addition to supplemental and support rail lines that were not initially proposed, or part of the original contracts. These extra lines were known as sidings and switches. Hogg’s proposed lawsuits meant that the State would receive between 20,000,000-38,000,000 acres of land back that had already been granted. Hall pointed out, however, that the railroad companies had sold off approximately 96% of the land received for internal improvements, and this legal action would result in countless citizens being forced off their land by the government, which wouldn’t have been a good option, or, settlers would be forced to pay twice for land they already owned, which was also not a good option. Hall felt that the impending lawsuit would not only be difficult to administer, but also infringe upon citizen’s property rights. He refused to take part in any lawsuit that would take land from citizens that had already been granted.
In 1890, Hall entered the crowded Democratic primaries for the race for Governor, mainly as opposition to Hogg. Hall’s platform was based on two main issues: To have a relatively weak Railroad Commission, and the increased use of proceeds from the sale of public lands to benefit education in West Texas counties. Hall was unsuccessful in this run for office. He passed away on November 19, 1917, and was buried in Houston.
January 16, 1891 - January 16, 1895
Born on February 6, 1837 at Mount Hope, Alabama, McGaughey graduated from La Grange College with honors. He then attended the Alabama Military College where he read law under, D.P. Lewis, former Governor of Alabama. McGaughey entered the Confederate army as a private in the 16th Alabama Infantry and was almost immediately elected lieutenant of his company. As a soldier, he was wounded three times. He fought at the Battle of Shiloh, the Battle of Murfreesboro, and the Battle of Chickamauga.
By 1890, he earned a reputation of fervently supporting farmers rights. He was put on the Democratic ticket as a candidate for the position of commissioner of the General Land Office, and won the election in a decidedly lop-sided manner, crushing his opponent. His support of farmers provoked opposition from supporters of industrialization, and some of his early actions as commissioner made it easy for the opposition to protest his administration. He took office on January 16, 1891. As commissioner-elect, McGaughey stated that he would have a “clean-sweep” policy of land office staff, favoring political hires and friends, rather than the experienced GLO employees. By early 1893, McGaughey was charged with incompetence by his opponents. On April 6, 1893, McGaughey went before a special committee that recommended impeachment. These charges, in addition to several others, were difficult for the commissioner to overcome. Probably the most damning charges focused on the inabilities of his son, who was accused of incompetence when dealing school land in Harris Co.
“Uncle Jake,” as McGuaghey was known, was acquitted on May 5, 1893 of all charges. He returned to work with the understanding that the next day he would find many resignations on his desk, including, the chief clerk, examining clerk, and half a dozen others who were known to have aided largely in bringing about the investigation and impeachment. He opted not to run for commissioner of the land office for a third term. He left public life in 1897, retiring to Tolar, Texas. McGaughey passed away on March 28, 1912 and was buried in his family plot in Granbury.
January 15, 1895 – January 16, 1899
“I am firmly convinced that the State should get out of the land business as early as possible and she can not do so as long as the government continues to deal with her school lands by retail.”
- Andrew Jackson Baker
Andrew Jackson Baker was born into the family of Jesse Rhodes Baker and Martha Talbert (Baker) on September 4, 1842, in North Carolina. He attended law school at the University of Mississippi. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he became Captain of Company A of the Eleventh Mississippi Regiment in the Army of Northern Virginia, also known as the University Greys. Baker fought at Antietam and Gettysburg, and was wounded at both. On the last day of the battle at Gettysburg, Baker was captured and imprisoned at a Northern prisoner-of-war camp, Fort Delaware. Baker was released shortly after General Lee’s surrender.
Baker was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1876-1877. He served as a member of the Black and Tan Legislature. He moved to San Angelo, Texas in 1884. In 1894, Baker acted as Commissioner of the GLO during the impeachment proceedings for Commissioner McGaughey. He later won the office outright, taking office on January 15, 1895.
During the election in 1894, Baker promised the people of Texas, “to rejuvenate the office and reduce expenditures to the lowest point consistent with efficient service.” As a way to save taxpayer money, Baker instituted what was surely an unpopular program with new GLO employees, refusing to pay employees for their first month of service. Baker’s tenure lasted four years, and during that time, administering the School Lands Acts of 1895 and 1897 imposed an unusual amount of work on the land office. In 1898 Baker complained that a large force of employees was being used “at great expense to the state to sell the school lands.” The work was in some cases doubled or tripled because of vast amounts of forfeitures. He described the process as “sickening to one anxious to finish the job.”
Baker is best remembered for his role as the defendant in the landmark case of Hogue vs. Baker. The Texas Supreme Court decided that there was no more public domain in Texas, and all remaining unappropriated land was granted to the Permanent School Fund, which was still well short of what it was owed.
Baker served until 1899 and was very a popular figure within the Democratic Party, and was considered a likely candidate for Governor in 1898. He remained active in Democratic politics on the local, state, and national level, campaigning on behalf of others he supported. By 1912, he was considered to be a serious candidate for Vice President of the United States, however, due to poor health he opted not to pursue that office. He died later that year, on June 21, while visiting his daughter in California. He is buried in San Angelo.
January 16, 1899 – May 4, 1899
“The death of Hon. Geo. W. Finger a few months after he entered upon the discharge of his duties as Commissioner of the General Land Office of Texas, removed from public life one of its purest and brightest ornaments in this State.”
- C.W. Raines referring to George W. Finger
The first commissioner of the Land Office to be born in the state of Texas, George W. Finger was born on June 21, 1857 close to present day Arlington. At the age of 17, Finger entered Mansfield College, where he graduated in only three years. While attending Mansfield College, Finger met his lifelong friend and fellow alum of the Commissioner’s office, James H. Walker, who described Finger as a sound reasoner, who disposed of issues on the spot as a rule.
Upon graduation from Mansfield College, Finger studied law in several Fort Worth law offices and was admitted to the bar in 1878 at the age of 21. He was elected mayor of Arlington on April 15, 1884. He later moved to Fort Worth and practiced law at the firm of Stedman, Ayres, and Finger until he became the Reading Clerk for the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-second legislatures.
In early 1898, Finger ran for the office of commissioner. He took the oath of office on January 16, 1899. Finger campaigned vigorously across the state, making 33 campaign stops between September and November, at a time when travel was not easy. He passed away five months after taking office on May 5, 1899. As a result of fatigue and an illness he received while campaigning, his life was cut short by a series of paralytic strokes. It was believed by many that he was bound to serve the public for years, and that he was destined to hold higher office. Charles Rogan filled the rest of Finger’s term, extending assistance to Finger’s widow by offering her a position with the Land Office, which she accepted.
May 15, 1899-January 10, 1903
“The public has no conception of the value of Judge Rogan’s services to the state and it may be that even he passed away without full knowledge of the far reaching effect of his course regarding minerals.”
- Commissioner J.H. Walker about Charles Rogan
Charles Rogan was born in Ripley, Mississippi on February 3, 1858. He was one of the first students at Texas A&M, graduating with honors as part of the first graduating class of 1879 -- a group known as the “First Six.” Rogan then became Deputy County Clerk of the newly formed Lee County. He made many important associations over the next two years. Among the most important professional associations he made in this position was with an attorney in Bastrop, who became a life long friend -- the future Governor Joseph D. Sayers.
Rogan entered Harvard University as one of 19 “Special Students” in 1881. After Harvard, he held a number of elective offices, including, county attorney, and city attorney of Brownwood, state representative of Brown, Comanche and Mills counties, and finally county judge. When Land Commissioner George W. Finger died, it fell to Governor Joseph D. Sayers, Rogan’s old friend from Lee County, to fill the vacancy. He chose Judge Rogan of Brownwood.
On May 15, 1899, Charles Rogan took office as Commissioner of the GLO. Rogan fixed the minimum price of school and other lands to at least $2.00 per acre, but it was large oil discoveries that were grabbing headlines. Rogan’s greatest contribution as Commissioner was the classification of school lands as mineral. Rogan was key in two 1901 lawsuits, Chappell vs. Rogan and Schendell vs. Rogan cases. In deciding the cases together on June 26, 1901, the Supreme Court ruled that there was a reservation of minerals on school lands only if it were classified on Land Office records as “containing valuable mineral deposits.” This had the potential of depriving the state of Texas of royalties on over 7,400,000 acres of school land. Rogan immediately halted sales while completing the task of writing “mineral” on all land office classification records. The courts upheld the legality of this ploy, and Texas retained mineral rights to nearly 7.5 million acres, and 14 million acres when including tidelands and riverbeds.
In the wake of the Supreme Court decisions, the Attorney General resigned himself to the situation saying, “It may be that this construction of the statute will render the commissioner of the general land office helpless to prevent the sale of valuable mineral lands as ordinary agricultural or grazing land for an insignificant price.” Rogan, however, refused to defer the mineral potential of school lands. He opted instead to simply write the word “mineral” on each file to classify those lands. Commissioner J.H. Walker said if subsequent commissioners had not followed Rogan’s lead of recording the classification, it is doubtful that there would be any money earned in sales of school land.
Rogan declined to seek another term in 1902 and retired from the Land Office on January 10, 1903. He passed away on January 12, 1932.
January 10, 1903 – January 11, 1909
“If the public wants the land for homes they should have it. As a developer of a country a few good homes are worth more than many ranches; one good home for one child is worth more to a country than many ranches with a thousand cows upon every hill and in every valley…”
- John Terrell
John J. Terrell was born just outside of Decatur, Texas on Denton Creek on January 28, 1857. In 1887, he moved to Austin to begin his career with the Texas General Land Office. He served as a land classifier in the Trans-Pecos region for the School Land Department under Commissioner Richard M. Hall. He was then promoted to the head of the Lease Department when Commissioner William L. McGaughey came to office in 1891. Under Commissioner Baker, Terrell was placed at the head of the School Land Department and held that same position under Commissioners Finger and Rogan.
Terrell decided to run for Commissioner when Rogan opted not to seek re-election. He took office on January 10, 1903. While in office he tackled issues dealing with how best to deal with the school fund, what to do about the deteriorating Land Office Building and how to promote the GLO and increase land sales. “My policy has been one of publicity,” said Terrell in 1904. This policy included the release of 5,000 pamphlets to the public discussing the rules and regulations governing the sale and lease of land, which resulted in, “A larger and more intelligent dissemination” of land laws, “better compliance with the law,” and a drastic decrease in errors and inquiries to GLO staff.
In another move that set Terrell’s policies apart from his predecessors, he initiated the sale of public lands to the highest bidder by using a sealed competitive bidding process. Because of his policies, the PSF increased by more than $314 million in only twenty months after he took office.
After being associated with the Texas General Land Office for close to twenty-two years, he walked away in 1909 in order to pursue his interests in Indian Affairs. His life ended tragically from a car accident in Sacramento, California on June 17, 1920, when he was on a business trip.
January 11, 1909 - September 7, 1929
“Government cannot afford to treat a citizen wrong.”
- J.T. Robison
James T. Robison was born September 30, 1861, in Cass County, Texas. He graduated from Sam Houston Normal Institute in 1888. Robison accepted a position with the GLO in 1895 as a law clerk under Commissioner Andrew Baker. He was then appointed Chief Clerk of the GLO under Commissioners Rogan and Terrell. Robison won the office of commissioner on January 11, 1909, serving twenty years.
He didn’t believe many land laws needed to be changed from the previous decades as he was key in forming those policies. The system of competitive bidding, a policy that he wrote earlier in his land office career, was yielding every cent for the school fund possible, he thought. “It is good business for a State, as well as an individual, to make every asset produce a revenue.” Other policies that Robison worked on included the Relinquishment Act of 1919 which made the surface owner an agent of the state for the leasing of mineral lands. Also, it was during his administration that the General Land Office moved from the historic Old Land Office Building, to a new modern building built just south of the capitol complex at 11th Street and Brazos in downtown Austin.
Despite his hard work, political success and thoughtful legislative proposals, he faced major problems as commissioner of the GLO, as he was accused of malfeasance and mismanagement and was forced to go before the House of Representatives for an impeachment trial in June of 1929. He had several critics of the way he handled University Land, most notably the Governor and the University of Texas Board of Regents. For years the University Lands had been neglected, and seen as an unnecessary responsibility – then came the oil boom. Robison said, “So long as land is unproductive and is regarded as of but little value, it will take care of itself, but the moment one discerns evidence of valuable returns there from it has many covetous admirers.” The Board of Regents, the Governor and Attorney General called for the Forty-First Legislature to enact Resolution No. 4, calling for an investigative committee to look into, Robison’s actions and “all matters pertaining thereto.” The committee collected 1,009 pages of written testimony against Robison for mismanagement. Additional investigations resulted in more witnesses and an additional 400 pages of testimony against Robison. During deliberation, however, word came back from the Supreme Court that the final lawsuit filed against Robison by the University Board of Regents had been dropped and that Robison was correct in his actions. The House stopped the impeachment proceedings, and Robison was exonerated of any wrongdoing.
Shortly after the conclusion of the investigation, Robison left Texas for his first vacation in his 34 years of service to the GLO. For three weeks Robison battled pneumonia, finally succumbing on September 7, 1929.
September 12, 1929 – January 1, 1937
“Some years ago the Superintendent of Public Instruction reproduced the State Constitution with the article on public land omitted. He left it out, he said, ‘because the subject is as dry as dust.’ For half a century this ‘dry’ subject has absorbed most of my time and formed the background for thought and action on my mind.”
- James H. Walker
James H. Walker, known as “Uncle Jim” to his multitude of friends, was commissioner of the GLO for just over seven years, and was a dedicated GLO employee for close to 31 years prior to that. Born on June 15, 1860, James H. Walker grew up in Johnson County. Walker joined the GLO in 1899 as a Spanish Translator under Commissioner George W. Finger.
He served in this position until 1903, at which point he became a Legal Examiner under Commissioner Terrell. In 1909, he became Chief Clerk under Robison. He spent the next twenty years as Chief Clerk of the GLO. During this time, Commissioner Robison spent a great deal of time in the field, bringing a lot of the administrative work to Walker’s desk, prepping him for his next job, Commissioner.
Upon the death of Commissioner Robison in 1929, a vacancy was created. Governor Daniel Moody made a logical selection to fill the void – James H. Walker. Walker was appointed on September 12, 1929. He was subsequently re-elected three more times, serving as Land Commissioner until January 1, 1937. Walker is perhaps best remembered by many as the man who kept thousands of Texas families from losing their homes during the depression. “Owing to the depression and the hapless state of the country, no forfeitures for non-payment of interest have been taken,” said Walker. He would Charge minimal interest on delinquent payments after financial recovery. This practice kept thousands of unemployed families and farmers from losing their land and homes. Under Walker, the Permanent School Fund was sputtering compared to the major gains that the fund was making in the previous decade. “This decrease is due largely, if not altogether, to the depression and the consequent low price of oil and inactivity in the development of oil fields.”
Walker initiated the first document preservation program in the history of the GLO. “Due to the ravages of time and constant handling many of the ancient documents and title papers in the Land Office are disintegrating,” said Walker.
Walker opted not to seek office again in December of 1936 after 38 years of service to the agency. He died of on June 15, 1947 at the age of 87.
“The original functions and duties of the Land Office have been expanded until it has ceased to be merely an archiving office or custodian of records, and has become one of the major revenue producing departments for the benefit of the public school fund.”
– William H. McDonald
William McDonald was born on December 30, 1899 on a small farm in Rising Star, Texas. McDonald began pursuing a degree in law at Texas Christian University. He then joined the military and served the United States during World War I. He was admitted to the bar in 1927.
McDonald won a hotly contested race for land commissioner in 1936 to become the eighteenth land commissioner of Texas. During the election, he welcomed the label of “an outsider” due to the fact that he was the first land commissioner since 1895 that was not appointed by the Governor, or not a land office employee prior to the election. McDonald pointed out in 1938 that, “The original functions and duties of the Land Office have been expanded until it has ceased to be merely an archiving office or custodian of records, and has become one of the major revenue producing departments for the benefit of the public school fund.” He recognized the modern land office as a pro-active agency that aggressively hunted for new opportunities to raise money for the Permanent School Fund of Texas. As an oilman for most of his professional life, he knew the potential that the lands in Texas had for producing revenue for the state. He became the first Commissioner to employ full-time Petroleum Engineers, “in order to apply geologic science or investigation towards appraising the oil potentialities” of school land. McDonald ran into controversy, however, as some believed he had inconsistent policies regarding how best to fund the Permanent School Fund. One state Senator remarked that McDonald’s policies were essentially a gamble. He acknowledged, “It is of course a gamble either way. But I get the best information I can on the prospect of striking oil on each tract, and I think the schools will profit more in the long run by accepting the larger share of royalty, particularly on the tracts which look like they are sure to be oil producers.”
In 1938, McDonald ran for re-election, however, allegations of mismanagement and excessive vacancy granting to selected oil interests marred his re-election campaign. He lost that election. Two years later, he unsuccessfully ran for the office of Railroad Commissioner. Shortly after, he retired from politics and left the public life to practice law in Austin. He passed away in 1967.
January 1, 1939 – January 5, 1955
“I have labored in every way possible to advance the claim of Texas. It is a claim in which I honestly and deeply believe.”
- Bascom Giles
Bascom Giles was born September 21, 1900, to a farmer named Banton White Giles and his mother Leora Norwood. He graduated from Austin High School in 1919 and then started his career at the Land Office by working part-time as a draftsman under Commissioner James T. Robison. He worked seventeen years under Robison and Commissioner Walker and married the daughter of former commissioner Charles Rogan. In 1938, Giles ran for land commissioner against the incumbent Bill McDonald. The 1938 election was a bitterly fought affair, which Giles won, taking office on January 1, 1939 at the age of 38.
Giles was re-elected eight more times until he refused to take the oath of office due to the Veterans Land Board Scandal. To focus on “The Scandal,” however, would be to overlook several years of stellar service as commissioner. Giles created the School Land Board, which from its inception has been primarily responsible for the sale and mineral leasing of land dedicated to the Permanent School Fund and setting all dates for leasing and sale of surveyed lands.
One of the biggest issues that Giles faced was the “tidelands” controversy. The federal government wanted to take control of submerged lands off the Texas coast under the auspices of national defense. “The United States had rights transcending those of a mere property owner,” argued the U.S. Senate. In 1949, an opinion poll of Texans reported that the tidelands were the most important issue facing the state. The argument was framed in a way that the Federal government was committing a “submerged land grab,” raising the issue of State’s rights versus Federal control. It was reported that Giles favored secession, before giving up Texas’ claims to its offshore lands. Texas Attorney General Price Daniel called it the largest “blow against property rights of the states since the Civil War.” In 1953, Price Daniel, then United States senator from Texas, coauthored legislation in the Senate concerning the Tidelands. His bill survived what was then the longest filibuster in Senate history (twenty-seven days) and finally won a substantial majority in both houses. President Eisenhower signed the measure on May 22, 1953 and Texas was restored as the owner of all lands off the Texas Gulf Coast out to 10.36 miles.
The high point of Giles’ career came when he created the veterans’ land program. The Veterans Land Board (VLB) was created in August 1946. Two years later the veterans land finance program was created. The VLB, in the first three years of it’s existence, received 10,561 applications. Of those, 6,020 were approved on more than 704,000 acres of land purchased. Regrettably, the success of the Veterans Land Board would be tarnished a decade after the programs inception because of the actions of a few men, most prominently, the land commissioner. The scandal unfolded in front of the world through the eyes and words of Roland Kenneth Towery, a journalist from a small-town newspaper, The Cuero Record.
Towery began reporting on irregularities in the program, drawing attention from across the state and nation. There was an official investigation by the Senate’s Permanent Investigating Committee requested by the Attorney General, the Governor and Giles. On January 1, 1955, Giles made the surprise announcement that he would decline to take the oath of office to qualify for the new term. It was eventually reported that Giles used his position with the state to sweep the scam under the rug. Giles continued to endorse the program and recommended that a few corrections needed to be made, and that a new commissioner would have better success in working with the legislature to achieve those goals.
Towery’s “hound dog journalism” ended up winning him the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished reporting of local affairs in 1955. Twenty people were arrested and convicted because of his investigation, including the Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office. The former commissioner became the first elected state official to enter prison for a crime committed while in office.
“The Scandal,” turned him into the most infamous figure in Texas politics during the 1950’s. His life ended tragically in a 1993 car accident in Florida at the age of 92.
January 5, 1955 – February 1, 1958
“Texas is big and Texans are proud of it. Prideful boasts can be made about the countless facets of our greatness without the slightest sacrifice of honesty.”
- James Earl Rudder
One of six brothers, James Earl Rudder was born on May 6, 1910 in Eden, Texas. He graduated with a degree in Industrial Education while also lettering in football at Texas A&M. He was commissioned as a reserve second lieutenant of infantry in 1932, after enlisting in the Corps. He entered the U.S. Army in 1941 due to the U.S. entering World War II. He was called into active duty as a First Lieutenant, becoming one of the most highly-decorated soldiers of World War II. Rudder was responsible for organizing and training the Second Ranger Battalion in July 1943, this group was known as “Rudder’s Rangers”. Rudder and his Rangers were assigned a D-Day mission of scaling 100-foot cliffs at Pointe de Hoc on the Normandy shore to establish a beachhead for Allied forces. Rudder is also associated with leading troops at the Battle of the Bulge, commanding the soldiers of the 109th Infantry Regiment.
Following the end of the war, he was released from active duty with the rank of Colonel in April 1946. In 1954 he was promoted to Brigadier General of the United States Army Reserves, and later promoted to Major General in 1957 as a citizen soldier. Scandal was hitting the land office, and a new commissioner was needed. Governor Allen Shivers was forced to fill the vacancy of Commissioner Giles in 1955. Shivers handpicked James Earl Rudder to fill the vacancy. Shivers put all of his political capital into the Rudder nomination. He said, “For the next two years, with this personal appointment, I will take full responsibility for the administration of the land office and the veterans land program.”
Rudder took the oath of office on January 4, 1955 and made sweeping changes to the GLO and Veterans Land Program. By August 31, 1956, Rudder commented, “…The General Land Office has now been restored to a place of confidence in the eyes of the public.” During Rudder’s administration, he called attention to increasing problems in the coastal area. “While we take great delight in this vast estate fashioned for us by God and man, we are, at the same time, burdened with the multifarious tasks connected with its maintenance and good order. One of these tasks is the orderly disposition of land rights related to the seacoast.” It was during the Rudder administration that the GLO determined coastal boundaries of the counties to be at the outer edge of the Continental Shelf, not the shoreline. In 1956, Rudder, on the strength of his many reforms, won the election for land commissioner. During a campaign speech, he commented that he was not seeking election for any political ambition, rather, he desired to continue to restore Texans’ confidence in the office. He did not finish his second term, however, as he resigned on January 31, 1958 in order to assume the position of Vice President of Texas A&M.
In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Rudder the Distinguished Service Medal, which is the highest peacetime service award that can be given. He held his position as A&M President until his death on March 23, 1970. He is buried in College Station.
February 1, 1958 - January 1, 1961
“We perform a colorful duty and I have been thrilled to do my part in the story of the Texas public domain, and its singular, lasting contribution to the causes of public education.”
- Bill Allcorn
Born November 5, 1923, Bill Allcorn was raised on a small farm just outside of Brownwood. In 1943, he served as an infantryman in the Army, and was stationed as an intelligence officer in New Caledonia. He was then placed in the 78th Infantry Division as the leader of a rifle platoon. Shortly thereafter, he was sent to Germany. He saw brutal combat, being shot through the hand and was wounded in the face by a grenade, as his platoon captured a small village near the Rhine. He received the Combat Infantryman's Badge and Army Commendation with Cluster in addition to the two Purple Hearts. He was discharged from the Army in 1946 with the rank of First Lieutenant Captain of the 142nd Infantry Division. Upon his return to Texas, he finished his law degree at Baylor by 1946. In 1953, Allcorn received his first high profile case when he was the prosecuting attorney in a conspiracy and murder case against a man charged with killing the son of a South Texas politician. Allcorn was successful in the case.
The biggest case of Allcorn’s legal career, however, was the case he prepared against Bascom Giles during the Veterans Land Board Scandal. He played a crucial role in the prosecution and indictment. Now familiar with the Land Office on an intimate basis, Allcorn took a keen interest in the administration of the newly appointed Land Commissioner, James Earl Rudder. Allcorn admired Rudder and his policies. In mid-December 1957, Rudder stepped down, and Allcorn was anxious to accept the appointment from Governor Price Daniel. On February 1, 1958, at the age of 34, Allcorn became the 21st Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office. During his inauguration, Allcorn announced to Land Office staff to “Keep the great work of Mr. Rudder going.” Just a few weeks after taking the oath of office Allcorn suffered a brain hemorrhage that kept him out for several weeks.
It was Coastal issues that dominated his workload, as the last major fights of the Tidelands Controversy occurred under his watch. He called the issue of the submerged lands off the coast of Texas, “our 20th century frontier.” He repeatedly acknowledged that the submerged lands in the gulf were one of the most valuable assets of the state, and one of the greatest revenue bearing properties now in possession of the school fund. He was witnessing first hand the growing pains that Texas was going through as one of the boom states in the Union, and he said, “We must face the problems of a new frontier and move carefully and wisely to effect orderly development,” along the Texas Coast.
Allcorn left office on January 1, 1961 and returned to Brownwood to practice law. At the age of 38 the destructive effects of his brain tumor finally resurfaced and took the young man’s life. Bill Allcorn passed away on August 25, 1962 at the age of 38.
January 1, 1961 - January 1, 1971
“You are going to want to hold onto your mineral rights today. You never know what is under there and might be discovered tomorrow.”
- Jerry Sadler
Gerald Anthony Sadler was born in Kirbyville, Texas on September 8, 1907. At the age of 30, he became the youngest Railroad Commissioner in the history of that agency. He felt that big business and oil companies were taking advantage of the common man in Texas. With oil as the lifeblood for Texas during the depression, Sadler felt that the wealth should belong to the people of Texas, rather than “the fat cats of Wall Street.” Fifteen months into his term, he made a run for the Governor’s Office against Governor O’Daniel.
He stayed at the Railroad Commission until 1942. Despite being exempt from entering the armed forces, he resigned from the Railroad Commission in order to enlist in the Army as a private, despite being eligible to be commissioned an officer. He served during World War II in Iran as a supervising officer for supply lines to the Soviet Union. After the war, Sadler was commissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel.
In 1946, he ran for Governor once again, placing fourth in a crowded field. He then moved his attention to the House of Representatives. Sadler is best remembered, however, for his decade at the Land Office. He won the 1960 election, and assumed the role of Land Commissioner on January 3, 1961. There was no celebration on his first day; rather, he felt that his first day was just another day for the agency and no special commemoration was necessary. Among GLO employees, he is probably best remembered for requiring lower hemlines and higher sideburns, and outlawing coffee breaks away from the desk. He felt that the personal appearance of the younger workforce was “a sign of moral decay” and the coffee breaks were costing taxpayers a fortune.
He marketed the GLO as being “the biggest real estate agency in the world,” controlling over 22 million acres of land and mineral resources. He more than doubled the size of the Permanent School Fund, raising an additional $517 million, and increased the royalties on mineral lands from one-eighth to one-sixth. Over the first thirty years of the existence of the VLB, Sadler was responsible for over 35% of all land loans made by veterans.
Just like his predecessor, however, he was focused on issues relating to the Texas Coast and submerged lands. Early on in his administration the Coastal Division was created. In 1963, he became the first commissioner to employ aerial photography to aid employees in surveying the Texas Coast. The biggest controversy of Sadler’s administration dealt with his handling of a 400-year-old Spanish treasure from a 1554 shipwreck off the Padre Island seashore. Sadler’s handling of this treasure earned him the nickname “Jerry the Pirate” from some State Legislators, because of his actions; including punching a reporter and attacking a senator who were questioning his authority in the matter. Sadler claimed “These sunken ships and their cargo” for the Permanent School Fund because they were found within the newly established 10.36 mile-boundary off the Texas Coast.
He lost the race for land commissioner in 1971 and retired to his five-acre ranch near Slocum. He ran for Railroad Commissioner in 1976 and 1978, losing both elections. Then in 1981, he ran for Land Commissioner again. Sadler passed away of natural causes before the election could take place.
January 1, 1971 – January 1, 1983
“The commissioner of the General Land Office should take the leadership role in conservation.”
- Bob Armstrong
Born November 7, 1932, Robert (Bob) Landis Armstrong was born in Austin, where he has spent most of his life. Armstrong served active duty in the Navy as a Deck Officer. After leaving the Navy, he returned to Law School at the University of Texas on the G.I. Bill and finished his law degree in 1959. After several years in the House of Representatives, he decided to make a run for land commissioner.
Armstrong made the environment one of the key issues in his platform in the race for land commissioner, saying that the land commissioner should be at the forefront of environmental policy because “He has to cooperate with other agencies – namely the Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Railroad Commission to conserve the vital resources along the coast and protect them from such things as oil spills.” Armstrong took office on January 1, 1971. Under his leadership, the GLO began environmental programs to plan far into the future and how best to balance natural resources with production of oil and gas with conservation, rather than short-term policies that had been in place for years. He developed prudent land policies that struck a balance between economic growth and environmental quality. He also co-sponsored the first Coastal Management legislation in the United States. He said, “Sometimes there is a greatly mistaken belief that the oil industry is not interested in conservation, but it has been my observation, particularly in some of the things that have happened in the bay areas, that the oil industry is very cooperative in this regard.”
Armstrong was the first land commissioner to have an extended term in office, as a single term was extended from two years to four years. Also during the Armstrong administration, the GLO moved into its current home at the Stephen F. Austin State Office Building in 1973. The Permanent School Fund achieved a value of more than $1 billion under Armstrong, for the first time. He accomplished this feat five years into his administration. Two years later, Armstrong deposited the second billion into the Permanent School Fund. He says that if he stayed one month longer, he would have deposited the third billion into the fund as well. Armstrong raised royalty rates from one-sixth to one-fourth on state lands, initiated royalty bidding on many tracts, and sued for fair market value for state gas, which earned the Permanent School Fund a tremendous amount of money that would not have been possible before. He also fought for the exemption of state oil from the windfall profits tax in Washington, which was projected to save the state more than $350 million within the first five years of passage.
In 1982, Armstrong ran for Governor. He was defeated in the democratic primaries, and would not seek elected office again. Armstrong left office on January 1, 1983. In 1985 he was appointed to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. While serving six-years on the commission, he was responsible for acquiring Anderson Ranch and incorporating it into Big Bend Ranch State Park. He later served two years as the Natural Resources and Energy Advisor for Texas under Governor Ann Richards. In 1993, Armstrong was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be the Assistant Secretary for the Land and Mineral Management at the U.S. Department of Interior under President Bill Clinton. Armstrong stayed in this position until 1998.
Bob Armstrong is living in Austin, and is married to Linda Aaker. He has four children: Martha Louise, Shannon, Landis and Will Armstrong.
January 1, 1983 – January 1, 1999
We must protect the beautiful and bountiful Texas environment that you and I have enjoyed. Texas should be the leader in the nation, since we have the greatest treasure to protect.
- Garry Mauro
Born in Bryan in 1948, Garry Mauro is part of the third generation of the Mauro family that emigrated from Sicily to settle in Southeast Texas. He attended Texas A&M, where he received a degree in Business Administration. He worked on many political campaigns prior to seeking office himself. Some of those campaigns include the U.S. Senate campaign for Ralph Yarborough, the presidential campaign of George McGovern, and the congressional campaign for Bob Krueger. By 1982, Mauro decided to run for land commissioner. He took office on January 1, 1983.
Through the 1980’s and 1990’s, Mauro is perhaps best remembered for focusing on the environment, specifically the gulf coast. The GLO established many regulatory rules and public information programs that helped add teeth to environmental policies. He worked vigorously to inform the public about the importance of the Texas Coast, and invited all citizens to help with coastal cleanups. One of the major programs that Mauro started was the Adopt-A-Beach program, which to this day, actively seeks volunteers to clean up beach debris twice a year. This was a landmark program for the GLO that has mobilized thousands of volunteers to pick up trash and other debris from the beaches. Perhaps more importantly to the health of the Texas Coast, by using Adopt-A-Beach data, Mauro was able to turn his attention to the U.S. Senate, convincing that body to ratify the MARPOL Annex V Treaty, in 1988.
“It’s our job in government to find sensible ways to curb pollution while not over burdening the economy or the daily lives of Texans.” In order to accomplish these seemingly opposing goals, Mauro created several new programs at the GLO, like the Resource Management and Development Department. This department was designed to bring together all components of the agency that could have a positive impact on the environment. This department’s first job was to create a long-range coastal management plan, and develop natural gas resources on state lands as a viable source for transportation fuels.
Mauro took a progressive approach towards environmental quality and preservation in Texas as well. “Other than natural disasters, the greatest threat to the coast is spilled oil,” Mauro said in 1991 to the Texas Senate Subcommittee on Water. He helped create the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act of 1991, and the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Division within the GLO.
Mauro was the first land commissioner to admit, “Texas, whose oil and gas wealth was once considered limitless, is now a net importer of energy.” This realization prompted him to get Texas ahead of the 21st century curve when it came to renewable resources. He said, “We need to be promoting and developing sustainable energy resources right now.” It was during the Mauro administration that the first Wind Farms were leased on state land, earning money for the Permanent School Fund.
In 1997, Mauro reported that the Permanent School Fund had more than doubled since he took office, and was valued at more than $7 billion. He created an asset management component to land office duties in the mid-1980s, which put the Land Office in the real estate business and opened up new ways to make money for the Permanent School Fund. He also created the Royalty Audit Program at the GLO, which is responsible for auditing all oil and gas activity on state lands. In 1995, Mauro informed the eight largest oil and gas companies in the state that the Land Office would be suing each company in a class-action suit for under payment of oil and gas royalties. One of the main areas of contention for Mauro was that the oil companies were paying less than market value in royalties to the state on public land and to individuals on private land. As a result, several of the companies have settled out of court, to the benefit of the school children of Texas.
In 1997, Mauro ran as the Democratic candidate for governor against the popular incumbent George W. Bush. Mauro was unsuccessful in unseating the sitting governor.
By the time Mauro officially left office at the GLO January 1, 1999, the agency had gone through a total transformation. Since the election in 1998, Mauro has worked privately practicing law in Austin and working with the Democratic Party in Texas. Mauro has remained busy with his family, while residing in the Austin area.
January 1, 1999 – January 1, 2003
“There is a legitimate function for government. I believe it should do certain things extremely well and not search for additional things it won’t do well just to justify its existence. I believe that government is best which governs the least, and which protects the freedom of its citizens.”
- David Dewhurst, 1999
David Dewhurst was born on August 18, 1945. In 1967, he graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in History and a minor in English. He then entered the United States Air Force as a Security Policy Officer at Plattsburgh Air Force Base in New York and an Intelligence Officer at Andrews Air Force Base. During the Vietnam War, he served at a Strategic Air Command nuclear bomber base. He later served in the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington D.C. and Bolivia, also serving in the U.S. State Department. In 1981, he founded Falcon Seaboard, a Texas-based diversified energy and investment company, where he served as CEO until 1998.
By October 1997, Dewhurst announced that he planned to run for Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office. He won the election, and took office on January 1, 1999 as the first Republican Land Commissioner of Texas since the Reconstruction Era. On his first day in office he reduced the size of the agency by more than 100 employees, and reduced the workforce by 10% over his four years, returning more than $6.6 million to the people of Texas. Among his biggest accomplishments was the creation of the State Power Program, which earned approximately $17 million in extra funding for Texas public schools during his time in office. The program saved participating schools and public entities more than $7 million on electricity bills during Dewhurst’s tenure. This program was designed to provide electricity for schools and other public entities by using natural gas that was paid to the GLO through the Royalty In-Kind Program. Dewhurst described these programs as win-win for local property owners since they save on electricity for schools and generate money for public education, without increasing taxes.
He initiated several new VLB programs and policies, including raising the VLB home loan ceiling from $45,000 to $150,000, and substantially lowering interest rates. In addition to offering more loans for Veterans, Dewhurst also dedicated the William R. Courtney Texas State Veterans Home in Temple, which was the first veterans’ home in the state.
In March 2000, Dewhurst announced a major initiative for the preservation of Texas history. He started the Adopt-A-Map/Adopt-A-Document program. Realizing that some of the preservation efforts by his predecessors were doing more harm than good, he decided to take a high tech approach to document conservation in order to preserve the valuable documents found at the GLO. The project marked the most aggressive program at the GLO in 50 years and used digital technology to conserve documents.
Commissioner Dewhurst was in office when the tragic events of September 11, 2001 occurred. As part of the response in Texas, he was appointed as the Chairman of the Texas Task Force on Homeland Security by Governor Rick Perry on October 1, 2001. He was tasked with preparing recommendations for Texas, so the State would be better prepared incase of a terrorist attack or natural disaster.
In 2001, Dewhurst ran for, and won, the position of Lieutenant Governor.
January 1, 2003 – Present
“To please and annoy the same people at any given moment can mean only one thing -- I’m perfectly positioned.”
- Jerry Patterson, 2008
Jerry Patterson was born in Houston on November 15, 1946. He graduated from Texas A&M University, with a degree in History. He is one of five generations in his family to have served his country in war. In October 1965, Patterson joined the Marine Corps Reserve while a student at Texas A&M University. By 1972, he volunteered for duty in Vietnam. He was assigned to the staff of the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade as an intelligence watch officer. Patterson served in Vietnam during the last six months of the war, leaving on January 16, 1973, the day of the so-called “cease-fire.” In 1973, he reported to Pensacola, Florida for flight training as a naval flight officer, receiving his “wings” in November 1974. In 1991, Patterson was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve. He was elected to the Texas Senate in 1992, retiring from the Reserve in 1993.
In 1992, Patterson won the race for the Texas Senator for District 11. His major legislative successes include the passage of a constitutional amendment allowing home equity lending, the state coastal management plan, and the creation of the Texas State Veterans Home Program. He also chaired the first Veterans Affairs committee in the Texas Senate. Several of the laws that he authored have been at the center of many of the most popular GLO programs of the 1990’s and 2000s. However, it is another law that he is most well known for -- the historic concealed handgun law. His staunch defense of this law and the second amendment to the United States Constitution have helped define him as one of the strongest defenders of personal liberties and the constitution in Texas.
In 2001, Patterson campaigned for Land Commissioner. He stood before a crowd during that campaign, and said, “My goal has been, and will remain, to serve the people of Texas as Commissioner of the General Land Office.” Patterson took office on January 1, 2003.
He has increased veterans benefits, raising the loan amount to $325,000 for a home loan, and increased land loans at below-market rates, at a quicker pace than ever before. He has also been at the helm of the expansion of other veterans benefit programs, like the David A. Gloier Texas State Veterans Home Program, and established exclusive cemeteries for Texas veterans. The GLO has opened four Veterans’ Homes and three Veterans’ Cemeteries across the state under Patterson,and has plans for several more.
As Commissioner, Patterson has been compassionate of several serious issues along the Texas Coast, like beach erosion, keeping Texas beaches open to the public, and keeping them clean by encouraging volunteer efforts in local communities. He is responsible for managing oil spill cleanup activities along the Texas Coast as well. In 2003, Commissioner Patterson launched Coastal Texas 2020, a long-term statewide initiative to unite local, state and federal efforts to fight coastal erosion. In 2009, voters decided by an overwhelming majority to amend the Texas Constitution to incorporate the Open Beaches Act at the urging of Commissioner Patterson.
In 2004, Commissioner Patterson started the Save Texas History program to conserve the 35.5 million documents and 80,000 maps housed at the Texas General Land Office, as well as to partner with private interests to do so. “It is our goal to scan and digitize all 35 million documents housed in our archives,” Patterson said. “This is a weighty task, and when completed, will be unparalleled by any other historic preservation initiative in Texas.” Patterson also started the Voices of Veterans program in 2004, which is the only state-sponsored oral history program that records and transcribes memories of all Texas veterans.
Through his innovative management, the GLO has deposited more into the PSF during Patterson’s administration than at any other point in time because of his wise diversification strategy, which has acted to protect the PSF against economic instability. One particular strategy that Patterson believes in is renewable energy like wind, solar and geothermal. “I don’t care if it saves the planet – I just want it to make money for the schoolchildren of Texas. That is my first priority,” said Patterson. In 2003, Patterson recommended a goal of 5,880 megawatts of energy to be produced from renewable resources to the governor. At the time, it represented the largest such goal in the nation. Because of this, and similar policies Texas became a national model for renewable energy. Specifically, Commissioner Patterson signed the first and the largest offshore wind power leases in U.S. history in September 2005. Another specific policy that Patterson put in place was requiring that 100% of veteran home loans go towards energy efficient homes. As of July 2010, that represented more than $770 million for energy efficient homes across the state.
In addition to his work in diversifying the energy portfolio for Texas, he has also diversified the real estate transactions of the GLO. One project in particular was the 2007 deal to lease land to build a Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Chambers County, which is projected to earn the Permanent School Fund $187 million. Another project is the mixed-use development deal in Austin called the Triangle, which has earned the PSF more than $7.4 million in just three years.
Commissioner Jerry Patterson resides in Austin and has four children, twins Samantha and Cole, born in 2004, Emily and Travis. His daughter Emily is an attorney. His son Travis is a graduate of Texas A&M, where he was commissioned as a Marine Lieutenant. Patterson enjoys flying his own plane, a Citabra.