Duval County Courthouse often hosted challenges to Parr political machine

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Texas Attorney General John Ben Shepherd

In the early 1950s, Attorney General John Ben Shepherd, with support of Governor Alan Shivers, went to Duval County with a host of investigators, mostly Texas Rangers, to investigate the Parr political machine. They spent months at the courthouse looking at the county’s books and when it was all over they came up with more than 300 criminal indictments. Shepherd said the ghost of George B. Parr would roam the halls of the Duval County Courthouse for a long time.

In May 1952, the Freedom Party–an anti Parr party–held its convention in the Duval County Courthouse. Rangers, who had been called to investigate political goings on in the county, were on hand to guard against trouble. Parr held a press conference at Duval County Courthouse charging the district judge with padding grand jury with Freedom Party members.

The Duval County Republicans also held their county convention at the courthouse on May 6, 1952. In July 1954, a citizens committee began an audit of the Duval County books, the first audit since the 1914 audit that was followed by the burning of the previous courthouse.

In 1956, Judge Woodrow Laughlin jailed five attorneys in the Duval County jail for naming a temporary judge while Laughlin was away on vacation. Four of them were jailed again in October.

In January 1957, Parr loudly and angrily lectured Duval County Grand Jury while they were in session, warning them he would soon return to power and a day of reckoning was coming.

In April 1957 a San Diego election judge was jailed for refusing to comply with a court order. In May, Parr was jailed in the Duval County jail for allegedly assaulting 18-year-old Ramon Tanguma.

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Clinton Manges

The 55,000-acre Dobie Ranch, formerly owned by Parr, was auctioned at the Duval County Courthouse steps in 1960. Clinton Manges sold 100,000 acre Duval County ranch at auction in front of the Duval County Courthouse in 1977.

In 1961, the Duval County Courthouse provided shelter to victims of Hurricane Carla. In September 1967, the American Red Cross offered help to victims of Hurricane Beulah at the courthouse. In 1971, the Duval County Courthouse again provided shelter for victims of hurricane Fern. Two months later HUD opened an office at the courthouse to help provide housing to displaced individuals and families.

In June 1962, Republican County Chairman Clarence Schroeder was jailed in the Duval County Jail after a contempt of court charge issued by District Judge C. Woodrow Laughlin. That same year, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Cox held a rally in front of Duval County Courthouse.

1 Comment on "Duval County Courthouse often hosted challenges to Parr political machine"

  1. Mario L. Vasquez | November 29, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Reply

    Lost my comments. Briefly, yo soy de Duval! My maternal grandfather was Ireneo Canales, one of founders of “el partido nuevo.” I actually met George Parr at the bank when I was a boy. I refused to shake his hand and my grandfather took me to task for being rude. My uncle, Horacio “Lacho” Canales, an attorney, died fighting el partido viejo. The Canales Klan was split politically making it tough to avoid the politics. Mr. Tanguma was my high school speech and English teacher and later related that Parr’s wife was a classmate in high school. He talked to her when they were in town. Parr saw them and allegedly had him pistol whipped.

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