On May 18, 1912, three Anglos—C. K. Gravis, Frank Robinson, and Doc Roberts—gunned down three Mexican American officials—Candelario Saenz, Antonio Anguiano, and Pedro Eznal—on grounds of Duval County Courthouse as an election to incorporate San Diego got underway. The three accused were acquitted in a change of venue to Richmond, Texas. Many historians and political observers point to this event as the genesis of the Parr political machine.
In June 1914, W.W. Meek sought an injunction against tax collector A. W. Tobin to prevent him from collecting a tax for courthouse and jail purposes, which Meek and others claimed was illegal.
Circa 1934, George B. Parr reportedly assaulted State Representative J. T. Canales at the Duval County Courthouse forfeiting his probation from an earlier conviction. It was not the last time that Parr threatened harm to others at the Courthouse. In August 1952, Sheriff George B. Parr allegedly beat Donato Serna with a flashlight in the Duval County jail. In 1956, Parr walked into courthouse with a rifle making death threats against Duval County Commissioner Tomas Molina. In 1975, George B. Parr went into the Duval County Courthouse with a gun threatening to kill District Judge O. P. Carrillo.
It was not all politics, in December 1939, the San Diego Council of LULAC installed new officers at the Duval County Courthouse.
But politics definitely was a staple at the courthouse. The most notable politician to visit the Courthouse was Lyndon Baines Johnson who went up to be president of the United States and who passed more meaningful legislation than any other president in the modern era. According to Robert A. Caro in his book “Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson II,” Johnson was a frequent visitor to Parr’s office, which now houses the Duval County Tax office. In 1946, Johnson was also instrumental in helping Parr get a presidential pardon President Harry S. Truman for a 1932 conviction for tax evasion.
During World War II and leading up to the 1948 U.S Senatorial election Johnson would often come to San Diego to confer with Parr. In the 1948 election against Coke Stevenson Parr turned out 4,622 out of the 4,679 voters for Johnson to Stevenson’s 40. When statewide ballots were tallied Johnson was still short, and Duval County courthouse janitor Epifanio Bentancourt had already burned the Duval County ballots. Johnson used his considerable influence in neighboring Jim Wells County to secure the votes Johnson needed to win the election and his nickname of “Landslide Lyndon.”