These are not the words the 49th Legislature of Texas envisioned when Land Commissioner Bascom Giles appealed to them on March 28, 1945 to “do [their] duty on behalf of the Texas veterans” and authorize a land program in order to provide returning World War II veterans a means to purchase land in Texas. The Veterans Land Act was billed as a noble venture to recognize and reward the sacrifices of Texas veterans, echoing the efforts of past generations. However it was subverted and abused by the very man who sold the idea to Texans from the start, Land Commissioner Giles. The Veterans Land Act allowed for the exploitation of hundreds of Texas veterans, damaged the credibility of the General Land Office, and could have cost Texas taxpayers millions.
A small town newspaper reporter and World War II veteran, Kenneth Towery of the Cuero Record, unraveled the case leading to the apprehension and imprisonment of Commissioner Giles for his misdeeds, showing what one man could do when he questioned his government. Documents housed in the GLO Archives, including correspondence, application files, court judgments, the scrapbook of Bascom Giles grand juror Virginia McNeal Conkle, and Kenneth Towery’s papers preserve this unfortunate chapter in Texas history.
Public officials, tenacious reporters and unsuspecting Texas veterans all played a role in the scandal.
What happened in 1954 and 1955 that ultimately led to the imprisonment of Commissioner Giles for his misdeeds.
Stories from the Cuero Record that unravels the sordid story of theft and deciet.
Interviews with Ken Towery describing what happened and an episode of "See It Now" from 1955.