Tyler County School Boys Attend the
Democratic Convention of 1928
as told by Garland Hayes of Woodville, TX toTeddy Barclay Pope, Ed. D.
Foreword: This paper contains a biography of Garland Hayes, the story of the 12 Tyler County boys who went to the Democratic Convention of 1928 as the guest of Tyler County's John Henry Kirby, and theTexas Handbook Online article about the Democratic Convention.
Who is Garland Hayes?
Garland Hayes was born August 21, 1912 in Jasper, Jasper County His parents were George Warren Hayes and Ida Waldrep Hayes, Ida's parents were Joseph Andrew Waldrep and Josephine Lockhart Waldrep, of the Midway area. Ida was a native of Tyler County. His father, George Hayes, was the son of Newton Jasper Hayes and Laura Rotan Hayes. Newton's parents came from Alabama or Georgia.
On the Hayes family's way to Texas, Newton's father died, and was buried. The family went on to the Georgetown area around Austin. His mother married a man by the name of Johns. Newton didnít cotton to his stepfather, so he left home and went to west Texas. Later, Newton came back to East Texas, maybe because by then jobs were plentiful in the lumber business.
Newton was an accomplished mechanic and carpenter. People would come to him to get him to build a coffin when they needed one. He built the Masonic Lodge in Chester that stands today. He also knew the shorthand that was the forerunner of Gregg shorthand. Newton Hayes died around 1915 and is buried around MT Hope.
As a youth
Garland and his parents moved back and forth between Jasper and Pineland. Garland started school at Pineland. About 1923, the Hayes family lived in Colmesneil. The family moved to Chester in 1925. Garland lived the next few years in the area near the Gulf Pump Station and MT Zion, on the old pump station road with his parents. Among other things, his father had a grocery store there. They were across from the McQueen's, and Garland's friend Roy Pickett, who lived nearby. Garland attended Chester High School and did the 11th and final grade at Jasper. In Jasper, Garland lived with his grandparents, Mr. And Mrs. Joseph Waldrep. When Garland finished high school, he went to Tyler Commercial School in Tyler, Texas, Smith County.
Later in about 1932, Garland's parents, George and Ida, moved to Woodville, where they lived near the Woodville Ford Dealership and Dr. Watt Barclay's Hospital and home. George Hayes had a Gulf Service Station and later a Texaco Service Station and grocery store. On George Hayes' property was a house for Ida Waldrep Hayes' father after her mother died in 1934.
September 1, 1935, Garland married Jimmie B. Vinson, born September 14, 1911, of Chester. Jimmie also lived on the pump station road of MT Zion near the old George Vinson settlement. She was the daughter of James A. Vinson and Ada George Vinson. She went to MT Zion school and then pre-college and college at Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College. She majored in mathematics and received her degree in 1933. Her sisters were Ruby (Barclay), Zelda (Seamans), Mona (Bush) and her brother was Aldridge Vinson. Jimmie taught school at Woodville before her marriage.
.Garland Hayes worked for Gulf Oil for 41 years and 8 months. He started at Sour Lake at the pumping station as a Morse telegrapher operator. From there, Garland went to Houston in 1943, still with Gulf Oil, where he was a pipeline dispatcher. Later still, Garland eventually was the chief dispatcher and scheduling supervisor for Gulf Oil for the states of Texas, Louisiana ,Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana and New Mexico. For many years, Garland's office was in the Gulf Building in Downtown Houston. He held an executive position.
In Houston, the Garland Hayes family made their home first at Garden Oaks Village apartments on North Shepherd at 34th Street, then at 1515 Thornton Street in Northwest Houston in Oak Forest. The family church was Oak Forest Baptist Church. Garland has been retired now about twenty years. Garland, his wife Jimmie, and their daughter Linda, make their home in Woodville on Beech Street. Their home is near the Woodville to Chester Highway.
Garland and Jimmie's daughter is Linda Janell Hayes. Linda was born Sept 19, 1941, at Hotel Dieu in Beaumont, Jefferson County, Texas. She was educated in the public schools in Houston and attended college at the University of Houston. Linda was a teacher of Algebra and Geometry for 14 years with the Houston Independent School District at Hamilton Junior High School and Waltrip High School. She has served as secretary of the First Baptist Church of Woodville for the past 15 years.
The Democratic Convention of 1928
The Democratic Convention of 1928 was going to be in Houston, Texas. It was the first time there had ever been one in the South. Business, Industry, the Hotel and Convention Industry, the chamber of commerce, the Texas Democratic and Houston Democratic party had pitched Houston's hat in the ring of big cities to get the convention.
Jesse H. Jones went with a check for $200,000 to issue the official invitation and help with the expenses of the convention, if Houston won the bid. Houston made a promise to put up a convention center if it was selected as the location for the Democratic Convention. As it turned out, the convention center was built in 45 days. It had 16,000 seats. (As the city grew, the old convention center building had many uses. Among other things, it was the location of the early Fat Stock Show and Rodeo, and later the Music Hall).
John Henry Kirby
John Henry Kirby was a timber baron. He was a poor boy off the cotton farm at Peach Tree that had made good. He was still in the pink of physical and financial condition at that time. He had played a major role in getting that convention to Houston. Although he had never forgotten his Tyler County roots, the base of his operation was in Houston. He had a new 36 room mansion on Smith Street.
John Henry Kirby had arranged with the Democratic Party to provide some ushers for the convention sessions. He thought it would be good for some young men of Tyler County to learn about the workings of the Democratic Party. They would also get to hob nob with men who had been prominent in politics. He got with the county school superintendent, Bronson Owens, and told him to get some representatives from the high schools of Tyler County to be the ushers. That way, they could get into the sessions and see how the Democratic Party worked. He would transport them to and from Houston by train. They would be his guest at the Kirby home.
It was spring when the principal called Garland in to talk with him about going to the convention. The Democratic Convention was held in June. Bronson Owens visited at each of the schools with the principal of the schools at Woodville, Colmesneil, Chester, Spurger and Hillister. Between the two of them, by straw vote or caucus, they decided who the representative from the school would be. These young men knew about it before school was out, and had plenty of time to get ready.
Garland Hayes was chosen to be the representative from Chester High School. He was just short of sixteen years old, his Birthday falling in August. He had just finished the tenth grade. Grade ten was as far as the Chester School went. The other boys selected were about the same age. The principal of Chester High School was Mr. Smith. The principal before that was Kirby Barclay, brother Charlie Barclay, who was married to Bill Lewis' daughter, Lena Lewis. They had a daughter named Evelyn.
The boys who were selected to go to the Democratic Convention of 1928 and the schools they represented were; Jeff Mooney, Dower Johnson, Knox Lee and Lewis Harrison of Woodville; Garland Hayes of Chester, Willie Kirkland, Leon Sturrock and Ben Nugent of Colmesneil; Dudley Phillips of Spurger and Barclay Jordan of Hillister.
Garland said that John Henry Kirby had invited one boy to go along that was younger than the rest of the boys. Buck Priest was JHK's special friend. He was Buck Priest. He was a big old red headed freckle face boy about 12 years old. Garland said that Buck was a real clown, and kept the rest of them entertained. He said they also had a time keeping up with Buck.
Garland had been to Houston several times by car with his parents, visiting kin folks. He had ridden the train many times, but he had never been to Houston on a train. The boys were to meet at Corrigan and ride the train to Houston, compliments of John Henry Kirby. In those days, the railroads were in their heyday. It was a nice passenger coach. The ride, including all of the stops to pick up passengers along the way, took only about three and a half hours to get there.
The Week of the Convention
The train arrived at Grand Central Station in Houston. It was met by John Henry Kirby's two chauffeurs in JHK's two long limousines. The limousine that Garland rode in that week was driven by Fred, a yellow black man. In the years thereafter, Garland would see Fred in town in Chester when JHK was there to visit, which was several times a month. Fred would always speak to Garland and call him by name.
It was known when JHK was in town, because his long limousine would be parked outside of Feagin's store. (It was later that it was Buck (J.L.) Veal's store. After Buck Veal married Miss Angie, Mr. Feagin's daughter. Buck Veal was just an employee there in those days). JHK was always friendly to everyone. He wanted to stay in touch with his friends and neighbors in Tyler County. But that did not mean that you didn't tip your hat to him when you saw him, said Garland.
The Kirby Mansion
It was Sunday afternoon, and Garland said they were driven to the mansion. There were dignitaries of the Democratic party there, who were also being entertained for the week. All these years since, more than seventy, Garland has kept his notes that he made that week. He has his notes and a list of the boys from Tyler County who went to the Democratic Party Convention and the people that he met there.
Some of the dignitaries that Garland said were also convention guests of Mr. Kirby at the Kirby home included; Justice Edward McGoldrick of New York, Adolphus Ragan of New York; John H. McCooey and three friends from Brooklyn; Dr. Wilson Compton of Washington; G. I. Buell of Virginia, Houston Longino, former Mississippi governor; former Senator Joseph W. Bailey; Representative Jeff McLemore of Laredo; Col. Ike Pryor of San Antonio; M. T. Lively of Dallas; W. H. Crumpler of Athens and Sam Bronson Owens of Woodville.
Today, you can look off the freeway going south on highway 59 near the Louisiana ramp and see the John Henry Kirby mansion, nestled among modern office buildings. Over the years since, it has been used for a number of things, including the headquarters for the American Red Cross. It is now more than 70 years old.
In 1928, the year of the convention, the location of the Kirby mansion was considered pretty far out from the downtown area. Now, it would be considered close in. There were no freeways in those day. The mansion is an enormous red brick home with many gables. It was, and still is, a grand looking place.
Around the Kirby Mansion, there were beautiful grounds and rose gardens. The boys were free to walk around the gardens and the house.
They took breakfast and dinner that week in the formal dining room with formal service. There were many servants who prepared and served the meals and kept up the house. There was a housekeeper in charge. JHK's two grand daughters were there. They may not have been twins, but they looked just alike to the boys. When asked how old the girls must have been, Garland said he did not know how old they were, " But I thought they looked awful pretty. The daughter's mother was a Stuart, you know. She was raised in Woodvillle" Garland said.
The meals they served that week were served with the visiting dignitaries. Although the service was very formal, JHK knew just what farm boys would like to eat and that was the kind of food they had. The food was about the same as when JHK entertained the people of Tyler County at his place at Peach Tree on the 4th of July most years. On those occasions, he spared nothing. He had a band come from Houston and had a big dance for entertainment. The food was usually bar b q with all of the trimmings.
Monday they went to the first session at the convention center. It was in downtown Houston, near where the downtown library and various theaters are today. That building was later the Music Hall. There were far more people wanting to get into the convention than the hall could accommodate. There were long lines before the sessions. People were fighting to get in. The Tyler County boys had no trouble getting in. They had badges that showed they were working the convention. They were the ushers, Garland said.
It took until about 11:00 a. m. for the morning sessions to get going good. After the morning session ended in the afternoon, and before the night session, the boys were free to go anywhere in Houston they might like to go. Just so there were two or three that wanted to go there. All they had to do was tell Fred. Fred had on a chauffeur uniform, and parked the limousine where there were other chauffeurs and limousines.
JHK had bought tickets for the boys to go to a baseball game of the Houston baseball team, the Houston Buffs, one afternoon. Buffs was short for the Houston Buffaloes. They played at a field that was way out Harrisburg Blvd Road. Wild Bill Hallahand was the pitcher. Garland said it was sure hot that day. (later, when the Houston Buffaloes were the Colt 45's, they had their field where the Gulf Freeway passes near Finger Furniture store was in the 1960's and Star Furniture store was later, near Scott Street and the University of Houston and Texas Southern University, additions to Houston later on). Another afternoon, they went to the Rodeo. It was held at Rice University Stadium out Main Street.
For lunch each day, they went to various eating places in the downtown Houston area of the Texas and Rice hotel. One day they went to James' Coney Island for hot dogs and chilli. The only expenses the boys were out was pocket change for incidentals. Garland said that he spent his money for everything he could get his hands on about the convention.
On the last night, which would have been Wednesday, the voting was no real surprise, but he saw some delegates hit each other over the head with their campaign signs. The favorite candidate was Alfred Smith, the governor of New York State. The speech to introduce the Candidate Al Smith was made by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Secretary of Navy or something. (FDR would later become the governor of New York State, himself. Later still, FDR was the President of the United States for twelve years). At the Democratic Convention of 1928, FDR was still a fairly young man. He used crutches, but he could get around pretty good. (FDR had polio as an adult). When asked who the governor of Texas was then, Garland said it may have been Governor Moody. (Maw Ferguson had finished her term in December of 1927). The mayor of Houston was Oscar Holcombe in 1928. Holcombe was mayor for many years, off and on, until 1943.
Since the president of the United States in 1928 was a Republican, Calvin Coolege, he was not at the Democratic Convention. When the vote was taken, Al Smith became the official candidate. It was not a real surprise to anyone. (the second most likely candidate was Alben Barkley, the Senator from Kentucky). The usual hullabaloo, that we have all seen on television today, took place. There was cheering, horn blowing, sign waving and singing. Garland does not remember who the running mate was. (Senator Joseph T. Robinson of Arkansas).
The convention ended on Thursday night. The delegates were all anxious to get back to their states. The Tyler County boys spent Thursday night at the Kirby mansion. The next morning they were driven to Grand Central Station by Fred, and they boarded the train back to Tyler County and Corrigan. Garland's dad, George Hayes, picked him up in his model T Ford at the station. Bronson Owens carried the Woodville boys back to Woodville.
When asked if everyone asked him all about it when he got back home, Garland said hardly anyone knew he had been. He did not go back to Chester to school the following year, since he had finished the tenth grade. He went to Jasper to go to the 11th grade. In Jasper (where he lived with his grandparents,. Joseph and Josephine Waldrep) his classmates did not know that he had been to the Democratic Convention, so they did not ask him about it.
In MT Zion, where Garland lived, they were all very aware of the goings on of the Democratic Convention. They got the same day Houston Post. It came by train for distribution in Tyler County.
Around the country, people asked each other if they wanted to kiss the toe of the Pope. They said that was what they would have to do if they voted for Al Smith. Another issue was prohibition, which Al Smith was ready to discard. Those were the reasons Al Smith lost the election in November of 1928. "The country just was not ready to have a Catholic president ", said Garland. Al Smith lost to the Republican Herbert Hoover.
It had nothing to do with the Presidency of Herbert Hoover, but the stock market crashed the last week in October. It followed the inauguration in January of 1929. The following year the whole country went into an economic depression. Within two years, Tyler County was in a deep depression. The price of cotton dropped to five cents a pound. Oil dropped to ten cents a barrel. Not long afterward, JHK's fortune was lost because of the effect of economic conditions on his business operations and investments.
. In the years thereafter, Garland would see Fred in town in Chester when JHK was there to visit, which was several times a month. Fred would always speak to Garland and call him by name. It was known when JHK was in town, because his long limousine would be parked outside of Feagin's store. (It was later that it was Buck Veal's store. After Buck Veal married Miss Angie, Mr. Feagin's daughter. Buck Veal was just an employee there in those days). JHK was always friendly to everyone. He wanted to stay in touch with his friends and neighbors in Tyler County. But that did not mean that you didn't tip your hat to him when you saw him, said Garland.
Garland commented that he wished that Clarence was around to talk about going camping with John Henry Kirby. They had been camping buddies. Garland said that JHK and Garland's brother-in-law Clarence Seamans would go fishing together at various spots, usually around the Neches River. Clarence lived out toward Peach Tree near where the Seamans Cemetery is. Garland said he remembered Clarence saying that John Henry Kirby would sit around the camp site at night, when it was too early to go to bed, and sing hillbilly songs.
John Henry Kirby is still remembered in Tyler county for; his interest in the people; for his fourth of July bar b q blow outs, for the Baptism of John Henry Kirby Sr. painting, and the dedication of the church he built in honor of his mother and father at Peach Tree. He was also remembered because he helped some boys from Tyler County go to college. He is remembered for the employment provided for many unskilled laborers in numerous sawmill towns, and the love he had for the home of his youth.
When asked if the people had asked him to tell them about the Kirby Mansion, or the Democratic Convention of 1928, Garland Hayes said he had never told it much at all. He said hardly anyone knew he had been, so he did not bring it up. Hayes said it was one of the nicest things he ever did in his life. Today, Garland Hayes lives in Woodville. He is some years older than John Henry Kirby was at the time of his death.
Before the depression, many people in Tyler County voted straight Democrat and were what was called a yellow dog Democrat. That meants they would vote Democrat if the party ran a yellow dog. After the depression, many of those began to vote a split ticket, Democratic vote for the lower offices, Republican or Democrat for the Presidency.
Note: Search the webs linked to the TCGS web link page for other items of interest related to John Henry Kirby, the Kirby Lumber Company, Al Smith, Herbert Hoover, F. D. Roosevelt, Peach Tree and the Democrat party.
Continue reading about the Democratic Convention of 1928.
Texas History Handbook Online
A joint project between the general libraries of University of Texas
and the Texas Historical Association
DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION OF 1928.
In the winter of 1927 Jesse H. Jonesqv traveled to Washington, D.C., with a certified check for $200,000 to enter Houston's bid for the Democratic National Convention to be held the following summer. In what is generally recognized as a conciliatory move, the national committee accepted the city's offer. Even then the nomination of Al Smith-the Catholic, Tammany Hall-backed New York governor who aggressively opposed prohibitionqv-seemed likely, and national party officials in the East felt the need to appease the Protestant, prohibitionist South, which had not hosted a national convention since the Civil War.qv Preparations in Houston began almost immediately; Sam Houston Hall, with a seating capacity of 16,000 and six acres of floor space, was built in sixty-four working days.
The convention opened on June 26, 1928. Al Smith remained in Albany but faced little competition from other candidates. Other names placed in nomination included Senator James Reed of Missouri, Representative Cordell Hull of Tennessee, and Jesse H. Jones of Texas. However, no contender provided a serious threat to Smith, and most candidates agreed to stand behind the party and support the convention's nominee. At the first roll call, Smith received 724 2/3 votes, ten short of the number (two-thirds of the total) required for nomination. Ohio then switched its votes to Smith, and other states followed suit. Texas, the notable exception, cast its forty votes for Jones. State politicians had long opposed Smith's nomination. Former Texas governor Oscar B. Colquittqv publicly argued that Smith sought to nullify a provision of the Constitution only because it "happened to be out of harmony with his personal opinions," and that "to nullify this part of the organic law will bring contempt for other parts of it." Nevertheless, Smith easily won the nomination in Houston with 849 2/3 votes.
Although women's temperance groups and the local Baptist church held all-day and all-night prayer meetings near the convention hall and insisted that God would intervene to prevent the "catastrophe" of Smith's nomination, inside the hall the delegates saw Smith as their only hope of victory over the Republicans in the fall.
With Smith nominated, party officials looked to the vice-presidential slot and the official platform as means of ensuring harmony within the party. Many observers perceived the Texas delegation, in particular, as aloof and hostile towards Smith. Judge George W. Olvany, a Tammany Hall leader, therefore sent his and Jesse Jones's friend Col. Joseph M. Hartfield to offer Jones the nomination for vice president. Jones declined, and the Texas delegation considered supporting either Maj. Gen. Henry T. Allen,qv commander of the Nineteenth Division, or, a more likely possibility, Senator Alben Barkley of Kentucky.
However, upon the prodding of one state delegate who insisted that the Texas delegation get "behind the ticket and [show] New York and the Democratic Party that Texans were true Democrats," the Texas delegates unanimously decided to support Smith's choice, Senator Joseph T. Robinson of Arkansas, the Democratic minority leader. Robinson supported prohibition and was the first southerner, apart from Woodrow Wilson, to have a place on the national ticket since the Civil War.
Harmony prevailed as well in the drafting of the party platform. The most heated controversy centered around prohibition and its enforcement. Texas governor Daniel J. Moody, Jr.,qv was expected to pursue a floor fight for a "bone-dry" plank on prohibition. However, when the proposed plank, which pledged "the party and its nominees to an honest effort to enforce the eighteenth amendment and all other provisions of the Federal Constitution and all laws enacted pursuant thereto," was accepted by such recognized prohibitionists as former secretary of the navy Josephus Daniels and Methodist bishop James Cannon, Moody decided to relinquish his fight.
The convention ended on June 29. During the final moments a telegram from Smith accepting the nomination was read to the delegates. Many of the dry delegates were stunned by the party's stand on prohibition and immediately questioned the appropriateness of their candidate. The nominee's message read, "It is well-known that I believe there should be fundamental changes in the present provisions for national prohibition. . . . I feel it to be the duty of the chosen leader of the people to point the way which, in his opinion, leads us to a sane, sensible solution of a condition which, I am convinced, is entirely unsatisfactory to the great mass of our people."
The candidate's remarks prompted many anti-Smith Democrats eventually to join forces with Republicans and elect Herbert Hoover in November 1928. In Texas the massive defection of Democrats was attributed both to Smith's antiprohibition views and his Catholicism. The state gave Hoover a majority, the first time in history that a Republican presidential candidate had carried Texas. The election had severely divided the Democrats and left them facing a struggle for control as the 1930s began.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Norman D. Brown, Hood, Bonnet, and Little Brown Jug: Texas Politics, 1921-1928 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1984). David Burner, The Politics of Provincialism: The Democratic Party in Transition, 1918-1932 (New York: Knopf, 1970). New York Times, June 29, 30, 1928. Roy V. Peel and Thomas C. Donnelly, The 1928 Campaign (New York: Richard R. Smith, 1931).
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