Price Daniel, Jr. (1941-1981), legislator, son of Jean Houston (Baldwin) and Price Daniel, Sr., and a great-great-great grandson of Sam Houston, was born on June 8, 1941, in Austin, Texas. As a youth, he became interested in the political career of his father and, by the age of twelve, was making speeches on his behalf. He graduated from Stephen F. Austin High School in Austin in 1959, and then entered Baylor University in Waco. While in college Daniel owned and operated a mail order book business and became a prominent seller of rare books about Texas history. He received his undergraduate and law degrees in 1964 and 1966.
At twenty-five he opened a law practice in Liberty and was elected justice of the peace in Liberty County. In 1968 he ran successfully for the same seat in the Texas House of Representatives that his father had occupied nearly three decades earlier. His early years in the House were quiet and without fanfare. But in 1972, a major political upheaval brewed from a financial scandal in Houston, which led to the formation of the "Dirty Thirty," a group that exposed the ill deeds of a large bloc of lawmakers in order to make state government more accountable. In that year's elections, much to the credit of the Dirty Thirty, turnover neared the 50 percent mark; seventy-six new state representatives and fifteen new senators were elected. During this period, largely because of his unscathed record, Daniel rose to the forefront. In January 1973 he was elected speaker of the House.
Under his leadership the Sixty-third Legislature passed new ethics and financial-disclosure laws pertaining to public officials and election campaigns, revised the existing open-meetings law, strengthened statutes related to the regulation of lobbyists, and passed a new open-records act. In addition, Daniel fought to allow no speaker to succeed himself and to make it illegal for a speaker or House member to offer favors or make threats in an attempt to secure votes. In 1973, Texas Parade magazine called Daniel the "man to watch" among the state's rising "political timber," and Time magazine recognized him as one of the nation's top 100 leaders. In addition, President Gerald Ford presented Daniel with the Legislative Leadership Award of the Citizens Conference on State Legislatures. Daniel was elected president of the Constitutional Convention of 1974. The House and Senate met in joint session from January to July to draft a new Texas Constitution that fell three votes short of passage. Many observers attributed the shortcomings of the convention to Daniel's attempts to be all things to all people. At first he had aligned with the progressives or liberals, then further opened his umbrella to embrace conservative opinion. During the convention he never succeeded in winning over the conservatives but only undermined his own political foundation. Believing the office of speaker of the Texas House of Representatives was too powerful to be held by a single legislator for more than one term, he did not seek reelection. In 1978 he was defeated in the Democratic primary for attorney general by Mark White, who later became governor.
Daniel resumed his law practice in Liberty and became involved in the real estate business. Intermittently, he taught law and government classes at Texas Southern University, the University of Houston, and South Texas College of Law. He died on January 19, 1981, as a result of a gunshot wound inflicted by his second wife, Vickie Loretha Carroll. He was survived by both parents, brothers Houston Lee and John Baldwin, sister Jean Houston Murph, and three sons, Thomas Houston (from his first marriage with Diane Ford Wommack), Franklin Baldwin, and Marion Price Daniel III.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Liberty Vindicator, January 22, 1981. Presiding Officers of the Texas Legislature (Austin: Texas Legislative Council, 1991). Steve Salerno, Deadly Blessing (New York: Morrow, 1987). 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.