James O. Luby’s final years in public life

Gov. Edmund Davis

In our last blog about James O. Luby he had just returned to Duval County after serving as customs collector in Brownsville, having been appointed to the post by Republican president Chester A. Arthur. Active in the political life of Duval County from its inception, Luby picked up where he had left off.

Gov. Edmund Davis

Gov. Edmund Davis

About that time, in the brush country counties of Webb, Zapata and Duval, a new political movement was taking form. Politics was being organized under two new parties, the Huaraches and the Botas. The Huarches (called Guaraches by the correspondents of the area newspapers) were supposedly those representing the landless or the poor and the Botas the landowners or the rich. Viewed from present-day eyes, one could assume that the Guaraches were the Democrats and the Botas the Republicans. That would likely be a mistake, since after the end of the Civil War Republican governor Edmund Davis was in charge of the reconstruction of Texas. Davis, no doubt was a friend of many in Duval County including Luby as he had served as a judge in a number of land cases involving Spanish grantees.

In 1888, the Democrats sided with the dominant power structure and the Republicans were the ones that had freed the slaves and generally were seen as representing those deprived of a political voice and political rights. Indeed, Seb. S. Wilcox writing about this phenomenon in Laredo in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, points out that the Guaraches were Republicans representing the “plebeian class.” The Botas, or “self-styled Democrats” represented the aristocratic class.

In Duval, the truth was that the two parties were simply the “ins” and the “outs” and both included Democrats and Republicans. Some folks simply thought that it was time for change and that the incumbents had served long enough. Nonetheless, Luby was part of the Guarache faction, which makes sense since he was a Republican.

The election of 1888 proved a pivotal time for Duval County and for Judge Luby. His Guarache Party prevailed but only after some controversy. In the canvass of the votes by the Duval County Commissioners Court, with Luby sitting as county judge, the court threw out the returns from Benavides and Rosita because the election clerks failed to place the whole number of votes cast in the precinct, even though the votes for each candidate was plainly recorded. Guarache Commissioners Edward Corkill and Frederick Ridder voted to throw out votes. Bota Commissioners William Hebbron and Pedro Eznal, voted against. Judge Luby broke the tie to throw out more than 400 votes. The matter was appealed to to the district court. Meanwhile, the incumbents continued in office. J. W. Moses contested election of Luby as county judge and ultimately prevailed in the Texas Supreme Court.

After the Court’s ruling, Luby stayed out of elected politics for a while but continued to be active in the community. In 1890, he was among a group of citizens who met at the courthouse to urge for the Southwestern or Huntington Railroad to come to San Diego from Beeville. In 1899, he donated ammo for 12-pound cannon used to celebrate the Fourth of July. The following year, he served as supervisor of the Census. He was also active in the newly burgeoning oil industry in the county.

At this time, Luby and his wife had four children, John M., James, Mrs. Adelaide Whitman and Mrs. Kate L. Shaeffer. They owned homes in San Diego and San Antonio. That summer, his mother Mrs. Kate Luby Feuille from New Orleans came to visit.

James Wells, Democrat political boss in South Texas.

James Wells, Democrat political boss in South Texas.

Politically, he continued to be active in Republican Party politics. He was called the Jim Wells of the Republican Party of Texas. James Wells was the Democrat political boss of South Texas, with his base in Brownsville. Luby served on committee of credentials and permanent organization of the Republican Senatorial Convention in Laredo. He was placed in nomination for senatorial chairman for 24 years and was unanimously elected. Others called him “the great political sachem of the Republican Party in the new 15th Congressional District,” a sachem meaning chief or leader. He was described as “Republican from center to circumference but not the rabid kind.” He joked that he may “stand” for Congress, “he’s too portly to run.”

The 1904 election results indicate Luby’s return to elective office, having been elected as County Attorney. He was active in the 1915 struggles against Archie Parr’s efforts to divide Ducal County in two, by creating Lanham County and joined Ed Lasater and other property owners in asking for an audit of county books.

A report in the San Antonio Express in 1927 indicated that Luby was still active in the business community. Five years later, the Express reported that James O. Luby died “early Friday morning on December 9, 1932 in San Diego.” He was 86-years-old and had been a driving force in the development of Duval County from its inception.


3 Comments on "James O. Luby’s final years in public life"

  1. I’ve always wondered about the affiliation of Pedro Eznal, my great-grandfather, whether or not he was an ally of the Parrs, and if that had anything to do with his murder.

    • alfredo@mcmbooks.com | January 4, 2016 at 9:33 pm | Reply

      Well Gracie, I can’t really add any enlightenment to your curiosity other than say they were both Democrats, since the Botas were the Democrats and your ancestor was a member of the Botas. Parr had only arrived in Duval County shortly before this time period and was not yet politically active to my knowledge.

    • Graciela, please contact me when you get a chance. Pedro Eznal is an ancestor of mine also. Would love any information you have of him. I am the great granddaughter of Arnold Garza, not sure if you knew him. My email is cierra.medina@yahoo.com.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.