Page Content

The Players

Kenneth Towery

Born: January 25, 1923
Died: May 4, 2016

  • World War II Veteran
  • Served in the US Army from January 1941-July 1946
  • Spent over three years as a Japanese prisoner of war
  • Earned a Purple Heart for wounds received at Corregidor
  • Worked as the Managing Editor of the Cuero Daily Record
  • Primary investigative reporter during Veterans Land Board Scandal
  • 1955 Pulitzer Prize Award Winner in Local Reporting for breaking the story and publishing a series of articles exposing fraud and corruption in the Texas Veterans Land Program
  • No entry in the Handbook of Texas (only includes deceased individuals).
  • Additional biographical information available at the website of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Austin Chapter: http://www.purpleheartaustin.org/towery.htm
  • Obituary

 

Wiley Cheatham

Born: July 14, 1921
Died: September 29, 2000

  • World War II Veteran
  • Served in the US Marines from June 1943-April 1946
  • DeWitt County Attorney
  • Investigated suspicious meetings between wealthy land speculators and dozens of Texas veterans

 

Representative Tom Cheatham

Born: August 4, 1891
Died: August 8, 1979

  • Representative from 1947-1957 for House Districts 68 and 34
  • Father of Wiley Cheatham
  • Held meetings with Commissioner Giles concerning an African American Veteran, Elmo Battles, who received notice that he had made a payment on land that he did not know about, and Early Goodson, who was approached about free land benefits.
  • No entry in the Handbook of Texas.
  • Photograph: Tom Cheatham, State Preservation Board
  • Photograph: Tom Cheatham, State Preservation Board
  • Photograph: Tom Cheatham, State Preservation Board
  • Photograph: Tom Cheatham, State Preservation Board

TOP

Veterans Land Board Members

Land Commissioner Bascom Giles, Chair

Born: September 21, 1900
Died: July 7, 1993

  • Elected Texas Land Commissioner nine times between 1939-1954; re-elected a few weeks before the VLB Scandal broke
  • As Land Commissioner, petitioned Legislature for the creation of the Veterans Land Board (VLB) during World War II; VLB created in August 1946.
  • Oversaw an elaborate scheme that took advantage of Texas veterans and VLB programs for personal financial gain
  • Refused to take office after being re-elected Land Commissioner in 1955 due to Towery investigation
  • Found guilty of being an accomplice to theft, then plead guilty to all additional charges.
  • The first elected state official to enter prison for a crime committed while in office.
  • No entry in the Handbook of Texas.

 

Governor Allen Shivers

Born: October 5, 1907
Died: January 14, 1985

 

Attorney General John Ben Sheppard

Born: October 19, 1915
Died: March 8, 1990


TOP

Veterans Swept Up In Scandal

Elmo Battles

Born: August 6, 1929

We believe he is still alive.  We couldn’t find any death notices for him, and a Google search of his full name (Elmo Lornze Battles) leads to several different pages suggesting that he changed his name to Lionel E. Battles and currently resides in Buda. The age (85 years old) and past residences (Cuero, Austin) match up.

  • African American US Army veteran
  • Served from February 1951-January 1953 (per military discharge papers in file)
  • Received letter from VLB stating that he had made a payment on land that he never owned
  • When Battles received his approval paperwork, he turned it in to his employer who passed it on to Representative Tom Cheatham, causing him to travel to Austin to speak to Commissioner Giles.
  • His name was also invoked by Kenneth Towery when demanding a meeting with Commissioner Giles
  • It was questions about Elmo Battles to Commissioner Giles that set Towery’s investigation into high gear.

Early Goodson

Born: January 15, 1915
Died: October 6, 1984

While a principle participant in uncovering the scandal, his name is not associated with any GLO veteran’s land loan file.

  • African American World War II veteran
  • Served nearly four years, including three years in Europe as a combat engineer and built bridges for General Patton’s troops at the Battle of the Bulge
  • Approached to sign up for what was described as a free veterans’ land bonus
  • Goodson came to the conclusion that the land deal he was offered was suspicious, so he declined to sign a second round of paperwork to continue the process
  • Because of Goodson’s refusal to continue the process of “applying”, he does not have a file amongst the other veterans who were involved in the scandal
  • (from interview in Cuero Record, p. 1, November 18, 1954)

 

Alfonso Mireles

Born: August 15, 1928
Died: February 4, 2009

  • Hispanic US Army veteran
  • Served from January 1952-December 1953 (per military discharge papers in file)
  • One of the first witnesses to testify claiming that he was paid for his signature and was unaware that he was purchasing land
  • The address listed for Mireles was the same law firm that was perpetrating the fraud