Price Daniel (1910-1988), governor of Texas, son of Marion Price and Nannie Blanch (Partlow) Daniel, was born on October 10, 1910, in Dayton, Texas. After earning a law degree from Baylor University in 1932 he opened a law practice in Liberty, Liberty County. He became known through his defense of two of the county's most infamous murder suspects, and used the popularity to win a seat in the Texas House of Representatives in 1939. As an outspoken member of the "Immortal 56," an alliance of state legislators adamantly opposed to a state sales tax, Daniel earned the respect of his colleagues and in early 1943 was unanimously elected speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. After serving one term in that office he enlisted in the army as a private and the following year graduated from officers' candidate school in Lexington, Virginia, as a judge advocate general. He was discharged from the army in May 1946 with the rank of captain, after having served in the Pacific and Japan.
He returned to Texas and conducted a successful whirlwind campaign to become the youngest state attorney general in the United States. In his six-year tenure, Daniel disposed of more than 5,000 lawsuits, served on 25 state boards and agencies, composed more than 2,000 bills for the Texas legislature, and successfully defended more money and land claims than any previous attorney general. His three best-known crusades were the defense of the University of Texas law school in its refusal to admit Heman Marion Sweatt, a black postal clerk; the disbandment of a majority of the state's organized gambling operations; and the defense of Texas ownership of its tidelands against federal encroachment. When the United States Supreme Court refused to allow Texas to retain the tidelands, valuable offshore lands rich in oil that Daniel argued belonged to Texas because of an agreement in the terms of the state's annexation, he defied the Democratic Party by endorsing the Republican, states'-rights candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1952, Daniel was elected to the United States Senate on a "Texas Democrat" platform. He immediately drafted a tidelands bill similar to the one President Harry Truman had previously vetoed, and on May 22, 1953, Eisenhower signed it into law. As a result the Permanent School Fund has received an infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars. While in the Senate, Daniel directed a nationwide narcotics probe that eventually resulted in the most stringent narcotics regulation in United States history, and nearly succeeded in the passage of legislation designed to reform the Electoral College.
Declaring that he would "rather be governor of Texas than President of the United States," Daniel returned home to run for governor and, upon his nomination in 1956, resigned from the Senate. He was reelected governor in 1958 and 1960. During his tenure 131 out of 151 of his major proposals were enacted into law. He was successful in pushing through a heavy legislative program that ranged from highways to prison reform, water conservation, higher teachers' salaries, and improved care for the mentally impaired. Being a devoted student of history, Daniel worked to establish the Texas State Library and Archives Building, which he virtually designed himself, to house many Texas papers and documents that had been subject to neglect. In 1961, despite his strident objections, he could only watch in his third term as the legislature approved a sales tax after two called special sessions. He allowed the tax to become law without his signature to keep the state from going broke. Much of the electorate blamed him for the sales tax, partly because store clerks developed the practice of ringing up sales and then saying, "Now, let's have a penny for Price."
After losing a bid for an unprecedented fourth term in 1962, Daniel returned to his law practice and took cases in both Liberty and Austin. In 1967, President Lyndon Baines Johnson appointed him to head the Office of Emergency Preparedness in Washington, a post that gave him a position on the National Security Council. In addition, he served as the president's liaison to the governors of the fifty-three states and territories. Daniel was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Texas Supreme Court in 1971 by Governor Preston Smith. He was elected to the court in 1972 and 1979, then retired during his second term. In his eight years on the court, Daniel was most influential in the areas of groundwater law, as well as laws dealing with other minerals such as uranium, oil, and gas.
He was a trustee of Baylor University and Baylor College of Medicine, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by his alma mater in 1951. He was president of International Christian Leadership (1956-57), and a leader of the Men's Bible Class of the First Baptist Church in Austin. He was a member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas, the Knights of the Order of San Jacinto, and the Philosophical Society of Texas. In his later years he served as legal council for the Alabama Coushatta Indians and was appointed to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Daniel died on August 25, 1988, at which time he had held more offices of public trust than anyone else in Texas history. He was buried on his family ranch in Liberty and survived by his wife, the former Jean Houston Baldwin, a great-great-granddaughter of Sam Houston, and three children: Jean Houston Murph, Houston Lee, and John Baldwin. His eldest son, Marion Price Daniel, Jr., had died on January 19, 1981.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Dallas Morning News, August 26, 1988. Price Daniel Papers, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Liberty, Texas. Liberty Vindicator, August 28, 1988. Presiding Officers of the Texas Legislature (Austin: Texas Legislative Council, 1991). Texas Supreme Court, Memorial Service for the Honorable Price Daniel, May 22, 1989 (Austin, 1989). Vertical Files, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin.
Reprinted with permission from the Handbook of Texas Online, a joint project of the Texas State Historical Association and the General Libraries at the University of Texas at Austin. © 2003, The Texas State Historical Association.