Orville Bullington Born February 10, 1882
Vernon County, Missouri,
Died November 24, 1956(aged 74)
Wichita County, Texas
Residence Alma mater Occupation Attorney; Educator Political party Republican gubernatorial nominee in Texas, 1932 Spouse Sadie Kell Bullington (married 1911-his death) Children William Orville Bullington Parents William I. and Sarah Holmes Bullington
Orville Bullington (February 10, 1882–November 24, 1956) was an attorney and businessman in Wichita Falls, Texas, who was the unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1932 against former Governor Miriam Wallace "Ma" Ferguson.
Early years, education, family, military
Bullington was born in Indian Springs, northwest of Schell City in Vernon County in western Missouri, to William Isiac Bullington and the former Sarah Holmes, both natives of Tennessee. He was educated at a private school in Tennessee and at some point during childhood relocated with his family to Poolville in Parker County west of Fort Worth. He enrolled at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, then a normal school, from which he graduated in 1901. Bullington taught school for two years before he enrolled at the University of Texas Law School in Austin in 1903. He completed the three-year curriculum in two years, was admitted to the Texas bar, and in 1906 established his law office in Munday in Knox County in West Texas. He served a term as the Knox county attorney.
In June 1909, Bullington moved to Wichita Falls, where he practiced law for the remainder of his life, first with partners Charles C. Huff and Joe H. Barwise, and later with T.R. "Dan" Boone and Leslie Humphrey (1884–1967), who served for a time as the district attorney from Henrietta in nearby Clay County and was a long-time Democratic Party advocate. The Bullington firm is now known as Gibson Davenport Anderson.
On June 28, 1911, Bullington married the former Sadie Kell (born ca. 1886), daughter of railroad executive Frank Kell (1859–1941) of Wichita Falls, and the couple had one son, William Orville Bullington (1923–1951). Sadie's wedding gown is among the exhibits at the Kell House Museum in Wichita Falls. In 1929, Bullington was named president of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce. His business investments included petroleum and farm and ranch holdings in Wichita Falls and the Texas Panhandle. He was also affiliated with the American National Bank, Kemp Hotel Corporation (named for Joseph A. Kemp, Frank Kell's brother-in-law), and the Wichita Falls and Southern Railroad. In 1929, Bullington became partners with Frank P. Jackson and J. M. Gilliam in the first radio station in Waco, WJAD, which soon changed its named to WACO, now based on Burleson, Texas.
Originally a Democrat, Bullington switched parties in 1918. As the Republican nominee for governor in 1932, he waged a vigorous campaign. He polled the largest popular vote for a Republican gubernatorial in Texas up until that time though his final percent was three points below that received in 1924 by George C. Butte of Austin in his race against Miriam Ferguson, when Ferguson won the first of her two nonconsecutive terms as governor. Bullington, who stressed the corrupt practices from the earlier Ferguson administration, including that of her husband, James E. Ferguson (service: 1915-1917), received 322,589 votes (38.1 percent) to Ferguson's 521,395 (61.6 percent). Bullington polled more than three times the votes of his ticket-mate, U.S. President Herbert Hoover, who though he had won Texas in 1928, procured only 97,959 ballots (11.4 percent) in 1932.
In 1936, Bullington charged that U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal was being managed by communists. Bullington was a delegate to eight Republican national conventions from 1928–1956 and a member of the Texas Republican Executive Committee from 1947-1952. He was the party's state chairman from 1951–1952. He was a member of the temporary platform committee for the 1948 Republican National Convention, which met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to nominate the Thomas E. Dewey/Earl Warren ticket. At that convention, Bullington led a protest demanding that a spokesman from the Deep South be involved in the drafting of the civil rights plank of the GOP platform. As a result of his protest, Bullington and three other southerners were named to the platform committee.
At the 1952 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, Bullington supported U.S. Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio for the presidential nomination against the native-born Texan, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bullington sought to impose a loyalty pledge for participants in the 1952 Texas Republican precinct, county, and state conventions. Later in the year, Bullington was among several men accused of having engaged in unfair practices to derail Eisenhower's nomination. Bullington soon wavered in his support for Taft, and, as the state GOP chairman in 1952, publicly confessed that his own faction had been unfair to the Eisenhower Republicans in delegate selection. The Texas delegation, after a bitterly divided state convention in Mineral Wells, finally voted thirty-three for Eisenhower and five for Taft though the latter forces claimed that Democrats had provided Eisenhower's margin by packing the early precinct conventions. Senator Taft himself said that the divisions within the Texas GOP had been brewing for some time and that the presidential contest brought them to the surface.
Active UT regent
In January 1941, Texas Democratic Governor W. Lee O'Daniel, a former Republican while previously residing in Kansas, appointed Bullington a regent of the University of Texas at Austin, a position that he held until March 1947. Bullington and several other O'Daniel appointees sought to slash UT funding, remove alleged communists from both faculty and student ranks, and to restrict the instruction of certain subjects. When UT president Homer P. Rainey, later an unsuccessful 1946 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, denounced the interference, the regents dismissed Rainey. Bullington produced what he considered "conclusive evidence" of Rainey's "incompetence." Bullington said that Rainey had "discovered a nest of homosexuals in the faculty as early as September 1943. He did not disclose it to any member of the board until eight months later, despite the rules requiring immediate reporting of such conditions. . . . . We felt that he was not handling [the matter] vigorously enough and decided to take it over for ourselves."
In 1944, Bullington had erroneously predicted that no minority students would attend UT so long as the existing regents remained on board: "There is not the slightest danger of any Negro attending the University of Texas, regardless of what Franklin D., Eleanor, or the Supreme Court says, so long as you have a Board of Regents with as much intestinal fortitude as the present one has." In 1950, Heman Sweatt became the first African American to attend the UT law school. He described the racial atmosphere at UT as "terrifying. I think I was in the law school five minutes before I was pulled out of a registration line and cussed out. While in the law school, I had threats against my life. The first Friday in school, there was a Ku Klux Klan demonstration on campus.
Death and legacy
Bullington died in Wichita Falls at the age of seventy-four. He and his wife are entombed at Hillcrest Mausoleum in Dallas, Texas. The Kells are interred at Riverside Cemetery in Wichita Falls. There is no reference to Bullington's religious preference though the Kells were Methodist.
Active in the UT B-Hall Association, Bullington was also a board member of the UT Ex-Students' Association for twenty years and its president from 1921-1923. He helped to establish the Barker History Center at UT. During his tenure, regent Lula Kemp Kell (1867–1957), Bullington's mother-in-law, presented to UT the Frank Kell Collection of Texana and Western Books. Bullington also contributed some of his own books as well as a major part of the original endowment to maintain the collection. Bullington was a patron of the Texas State Historical Association. From 1928-1932, he had been president of the Sam Houston State Ex-Students' Association.
One of Bullington's cousins, Lou Bullington Tower (1920–2001), a California native, was the first wife of Republican U.S. Senator John G. Tower of Texas. Bullington's father-in-law, Frank Kell, was the maternal grandfather and namesake of Frank Kell Cahoon (born 1934) of Midland, the only Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives in 1965,. following the landslide defeat of Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona by Texan Lyndon B. Johnson in the presidential election.
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Party political offices Preceded by
William E. Talbot
Republican gubernatorial nominee in Texas
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