Assignment Houston; The Establishment
<v Kent Demaret>Good evening. The name of this program is Assignment Houston, and the aim is to probe beyond the facts of news events in a search for perspective. I'm Kent Demaret. Tonight, you'll hear the views of four exceptional newsmen as we examine the machines and the personalities of the politicians now in contest for public office, along related but somewhat separate lines. We'll take a look at who shapes what and why and how as we analyze the establishment. Tonight, reporters who will pass on their insights are Leo Janos, bureau chief of Time magazine. Welcome to Sam in Houston, Leo. <v Leo Janos>Thank you. <v Kent Demaret>And Hugh Aynesworth, the bureau chief of Newsweek magazine. Hugh. <v Hugh Aynesworth>Nice to be here. <v Kent Demaret>Garvin Barry, the news editor of KTAR TV Channel 13, five bucks down the dial from us, isn't it Garvin? <v Garvin Barry>Right. <v Kent Demaret>And Sonny Wells, the news editor of the Forward Times newspaper. Sonny, glad you could come back. <v Sonny Wells>Glad to be back, Kent. <v Kent Demaret>Now for our story on the establishment. I'm reminded of that old cliche about the weather, Garvin. Everybody always talks about it, but nobody does anything about it. Insofar as the establishment, it seems like it's on everybody's mind these days, but no one has ever really defined it. Would you do that?
<v Garvin Barry>I'll make a stab at it, Kent. In simple terms, conventionally, I think that the establishment would be described as a group of people who behind the scenes run the government responsible for what goes on. However, I don't think this conventional definition exactly applies here in Houston. I think it differs from many other of our major cities in the sense that there's no one establishment but a sort of a bureaucratic jungle of establishments who are vying with each other part of the time, sparring for position and sometimes getting together. I think probably that's been good for Houston in passing. So I would have to come up with a definition, something on this order that the Houston establishment consists of any persons or institution who know the system in Houston well enough to have a reasonable chance of keeping the government from interfering with what they want to do or to get the government to help them out with what they're trying to do. And that may sound like a long way around to approach it. But I think in essence, this is the way the collective establishments work here in Houston. And Kent I say persons and institutions for two reasons. I think Houston appears to be in a period of change in transition and has been for probably the last 10 or 15 years. The people who made Houston what it is, made the city of Houston, the big hub, are responsible for the proliferation of other cities around the ship channel district, the form of government we now have the Jesse Jones, the Oscar Holcombe's, the HR Cullens, Governor Hobby's, Baldwin Rice's and someone still around, Judge Elkins, Bob Smith and so forth. I think the era of the big man establishment in Houston is disappearing. I think no longer is it the individual man, but the institution. There are very few key one man anymore if I had to. And by the way, let me say, it is still an open establishment in the sense that new institutions can come in and immediately get a slice of the action if they have enough political muscle or economic muscle to get to some specific examples. Very quickly, a runover I think there are portions of a number of groups representing the establishment. Very quickly, I want to come back right quickly the ones that really count, I would say law firms, real estate contractors, heavy industry, the media, the Chamber of Commerce, professional groups such as the Texas Medical Cente, and banking. Generally, this covers most of the real important establishment. And, you notice I didn't list elected officials. By and large, the elected officials in Houston are appendages of the establishment rather than members of it have been a few exceptions. If I were going to go out with something to do in Houston and I wanted the key members of the establishment, I would pick out two institutions. And in effect, if I had these two institutions on my side, I could kiss the rest goodbye and probably get pretty much what I wanted, provided it wasn't too illegal, immoral or too fattening. I'd say these two institutions would be too big law firms. First one, and these are about equivalent now, the first one would be Vinson Elkins, Searls and Connally. Second would be Fulbright, Crooker, Freeman, Bates and Jaworski. Now, these two big firms have almost everything it takes to pretty well get what they need in Houston, have a pretty good chance of getting what they need in the way of enabling legislation. Most things out of Austin and to an extent even can get a slice of the action out of Washington. Both of them have top name, nationally known figures, take Vinson Elkins, for example. Right now, their most recent recruit is former Governor John Connally, whose position is well known as a former cabinet member and a man with a lot of prestige, a lot of influence and a lot of political muscle. And in fact, you might say his equivalent number one. The other firm would be Leon Jaworski, president elect of the Houston Bar Association, member of numerous presidential commissions, and a man with a lot of political political moxie. Now fanning out from these we have staffs of hundreds of attorneys who are specialists on everything from maritime law, government to water districts, you name it right down to the working level. Some of these are really specialist ones you'll see show up in government most frequently, for example, might be, for Vinson Elkins, a ?Victor Bolden,? Who is a real specialist in everything from water districts to getting multi-million dollar projects like Lake Livingston off and rolling. Recently, we saw coming out of Vinson Elkins Dan Arnold, who was the first president of the board of the Harris County Hospital District. We're even seeing some members of the firm run for office, for example, Jim Greenwood running for Congress. This is not too common from these firms, by the way. You see someone actually run for elected office. Back over to Fulbright Crooker, the opposite number there might be Wiley Caldwell. Man, who's now doing the legal work for the Gulf Coast Waste Disposal Authority we're going to be seeing on the ballot this coming week. And I would say that in most cases, almost every major government project in the Houston area, by major I mean, in big money, big scope and big significance, oh, since the day the Houston chip channel, one of the other firms was probably handled, the legal work, the bonding, revenue bonds or tax bonds, it may be and I'd say they are the real kingpins right now coming closer than any other groups to the leading the establishment. One of the examples, by the way, of how this thing goes back and forth, I frankly don't quite know the connection, but I do watch with interest back when our Lake Livingston project got off the dam off their ways. This is a I'd say eventually will be a quarter of a billion dollar project to build a major dam on the Trinity River, bring the water into one hundred and fifty miles to Houston, primarily for the industrial area to get rid of the. Oh, I can't think of the term now, the thinking the ground subsides we're having. The early stages of this were handled the Lewis Cutrer administration by now, Vinson Elkins. When we change the administration, because the project was already well underway. In fact, it was one of the issues of the campaign in which Louis Welch defeated Lewis Cutrer, the balls was lateraled over to Fulbright Crooker. Apparently, Vinson Elkins was working with Lewis Cutrer administration. Fulbright Crooker was working with the Welch administration. They immediately picked up the ball and ran with the final stages and so forth of the negotiation. Coming up, I would say perhaps as a second echelon part of the establishment. But what I want to mention, second, because perhaps these these groups affect the individual, a person who lives in Houston more than any other would be real estate. I think the real estate and homebuilding interest in Houston possibly have had more to do with the way the average citizen lives, whether he has proper utilities in the streets and any other single factor Houston had. In the Houston area has been a home builders happy hunting ground for a quarter of a century, ever since the boom started. Houston probably has less restriction and regulation on building of all sorts than any other major city in the nation. Now, this has some good points. There's always we seem to have always more available housing and sometimes at lower cost in other areas. However, there not many towns where you can find a situation where we have large, big areas of undeveloped land. And then way at the end of that, you have development not very often that you find develop subdivisions that can flood two or three times a year. It's not very often you can buy a new home. For example, I did a few years ago, had it approved by the housing code that time, had city inspection stickers all over it. I walked and that was when I walked in before I accepted a house with a lamp. I went around and plug the lamp and all the sockets I discovered at half the wall socket had not been connected to the wiring. So I went back and made a fuss about it. So there's good and bad angles to that. We're having the reason why Houston is the biggest city in the nation not to have zoning is because by and large of the fact that the home builders constructing interest of the community come out against it as as a big brother thing, a place where you won't be able to regulate your own home, you'll have an invasion. We've seen this several times come to an election. And right now, for example, we're having a rather a panic in this particular part of the establishment and we're seeing some fast action. Currently, we're having a little fight in Houston over the federal housing project known as rent supplement projects. Well, this is fine. Little neighborhood for you are now getting the Civic Club level. Number of people are getting shook up over it. How major problem? Not many too many people worrying about it, except a couple of congressmen who are running for reelection. We had people camping on their door and some city councilman who were getting jumped on. And then all of a sudden the bombshell hit. The city council, under pressure from the civic clubs, came up with an ordinance that they suggested as a possible way, a shotgun approach that might regulate these housing developments. It turned out to be an ordinance that, in effect, says any residential and commercial building in Houston will not have a building permit, a building permit will not be issued by the public works department unless there is adequate transportation streets will handle the traffic around a particular area needed, unless there are proper utilities, water, sewage, drainage, and unless everything you need really is there. Now, first of all-
<v Kent Demaret>I'm curious, I'd like to go back for just a minute. We were talking about the law firms and they're sort of being the establishment. But but surely they're just the the middle people. They're the people who actually pull the strings with government, who asks them to pull strings? And what sort of strange do they ask them to pull? Where is the business involved? <v Garvin Barry>The business is involved fairly directly in this. In the sense that fanning out from your major law firms you will find members are key members of law firms generally on the board of directors of your larger banking concerns. If I can find a pretty direct tie in three biggest banks in Houston, two of them are tied in with these two law firms, the Bank of the Southwest and the First City National Bank. The third big law firm is another member of the establishment, the Houston Endowment Foundation, which, of course is the successor to the Jesse Jones interest. You will also find a good number of the particularly people concerned. And I have to go back and do a little research to come up with some specific names from companies. But quite a few of them apparently are tying as owners with various industries and business, or own a portion of them that need some of the benefit.
<v Kent Demaret>So how precisely, how precisely do the establishment people work with the politicians, whether it's the mayor, the council, the county commissioners or whatever? How how do they go about getting their views before them? Do they have some of these people and you might say in their pocket or? <v Garvin Barry>I'm not sure of the term completely because it is more of a gentlemanly arrangement, an agreement than being in their pocket. But there's little doubt that it's somewhat of a last resort if a member of one of the big law firms or any other member of the establishment has to come down and appear before the city council on its Wednesday meeting or before the county commissioners court on Monday and Thursdays, a general pattern that I noticed in years, sometimes past when I was covering City Hall regularly and I've noticed a little bit from a distance of county commissioners court would be much more simple than that, that whoever the particular key man was would pick up the phone and call the key people. For example, there's only one person you need really worry about in city government. That's the mayor. We have a strong mayor system, the eight council are appendages, and the mayor is not very tactful and diplomatic if he can't keep control of his council most of the time, but only one time in history we've ever had a real revolt. So generally, in effect, pick up the phone, talk to the mayor about here's something we'd like to consider in the way of a particular ordinance. Here is a particular project that needs some working owner looking at it. It's more complicated than he'd make an appointment, come over and see him probably, or presumably at this time, the mayor within calling the relevant department heads who are hired by the mayor and can be fired by the mayor to look over, check the feasibility. It's a it's a working gentlemen thing. You're the mayor of the city. These are some of your biggest taxpayers, quite frankly. They're your supporters, not under the firm name, but under the name of individual attorneys in the firm. It would be five hundred or a thousand dollars, Joe, on the list. It would have to be turned down under our recent election laws. Somewhat same situation in the county, except you've got to deal with four commissioners, the key thing on the commissioners, the county judges position. And it's not one of executive control. You've got four commissioners. Each has an individual precinct, you need something done in the county, you probably better check bases probably first with, I'm not sure, probably would be Squatty Lyons, E.A. Squatty Lyons, possibly second choice Kyle Chapman, if you really worried, you check with all the commissioners to see about your particular-
<v Kent Demaret>But it's primarily done on a friendship level, this is not- <v Garvin Barry>This is a semi social business man, a lot of fellow well met. <v Kent Demaret>A lot of your older cities, for example, have a very corrupt kind of establishment where there is an awful lot of money that passes around. Do you suspect that that's true in Houston or do you know that that's true in Houston? <v Garvin Barry>Our suspicion at the moment, primarily based on the fact that I'm not directly involved in direct news coverage now I'm on assignment sending reporters out. It would be my feeling that there is under terms that probably do not conflict with any existing Texas laws, which have very interesting loopholes in them quite frequently, but that there probably are arrangements made whereby that officials can become what a director in a small fringe area bank have access to an opportunity to help perhaps a little aid with the financing to acquire property. Things of this are not in any sense illegal, savvy, savvy, knowledgeable business, shall we say, in Texas business terms.
<v Leo Janos>You know, in Washington, for example, law firms have been extremely influential and powerful, especially Democratic administrations, largely because most of the key partners have been involved in the Roosevelt administration and the way they have operated over the years has been. In two regards, one would be in lobbying the Congress and the other lobbying in behalf of their clients, various regulatory agencies. This is really where they collect these enormously fat fees, especially in the area of regulatory controls. I was wondering whether the Houston law firms involved themselves in the state house or with the legislature in Austin, the way these these very influential and powerful Washington firms? <v Garvin Barry>Very much so. In fact, I would say this is part of the real political muscle that they have. By and large, they can get an enabling act that will enable you to help set up a gulf coast waste disposal authority, or help set up a coastal industrial water authority, which will bring down the water from Lake Livingston. This is one of the reasons, for example, why John Connally was a real asset to one of the firms. The the firms are really serve in one sense as, among other things, as lobbyist at both the local level and the state level there, I suspect, and not really know one else. I've been too much direct work in Austin. I don't think they do too much work in state regulatory agencies because they only have a couple, primarily the Railroad Commission on oil, which is very important. But Texas is the only state in the union for memory serves. For example, it doesn't have Utilities Commission. We have fewer regulatory agencies than most states. This is part of the white establishment generally wants in Texas is a relaxed, easy atmosphere with relatively low taxes, relatively little regulation. So part of their job is to make sure we don't get too many utility commissions and things of that sort.
<v Kent Demaret>You said a while ago that the media was part of the establishment. How do you mean that? <v Garvin Barry>In some cases directly, some indirectly, part of it is happenstance, the run to first the biggest media, a of the newspapers and the broadcast are the two big newspapers in Houston right now are the Houston Post and Houston Chronicle. The Houston Post represents the interest of the late governor Hobby. Mrs. Hobby was very active in politics, has been herself. They have been and I think still are heavily involved in banking some real estate. They, in effect, are a portion of the establishment. They're owned by one of the I would say second echelon or pretty high up areas of the establishment. They also, now we're in the broadcast business and because they also own KPRC, radio and television, switching over to the other newspaper. This is owned by the Houston Endowment Foundation, which is the carry on of the old Jesse Jones interest. They perhaps are even more directly a voice for a certain portion of the establishment since the Houston Endowment also owns possibly I'm not sure at the present moment with the new Texas Eastern purchases and things of that sort. But one time little own more real estate in downtown Houston than any other area. Also on the one of the banks in effect are the controlling interest in it. At one time, also had a television station, tremendous interest in maintaining a strong downtown area and also keeping the tax structure in downtown Houston low. The other paper, the next largest paper possibly would be the Tribune, which is owned by a number of highly conservative interests primarily who live in southwest Houston and is a and extremely conservative within Houston regional sort of paper. Switching over to broadcast. At one time, I see KPRC I already mentioned as a voice in the effect of the Hobby interest, Channel Eleven KHOU is one that is relatively independent. They owned by Corinthian, a national chain, are in process now of being inquired by I believe it's Dow Jones. I'm not sure that another change Channel 13, KTRK. was at one time a split ownership. A wide range of people in the establishment owned it. Houston Endowment Judge Roy Halfa and found quite a number of people represented Howard telepathically. You know, they have been purchased by Capital Cities Broadcasting Company, which again is a national forum on the stock exchange. And presumably one can tend to expect to see a little more honest evaluation. Not that the other dishonest, but it is not loaded with the self interest.
<v Kent Demaret>You're saying- <v Garvin Barry>You don't own stock directly or stake in the community. <v Kent Demaret>You're saying that some of the executives of the media are more persuadable than others because they're involved in other things? <v Garvin Barry>Right. <v Kent Demaret>However, that might also mean that they know more about what's going on in others, right? <v Garvin Barry>Oh, very definitely. For example, there are one or two of the top executives in some of the papers in town. That is pretty standard word around Houston. If you want any chance for political preference, you need to really get next to these particular officials. Pardon me, newspaper executives. These are the ones you go see, particularly if you're conservative, to try to get a possible indication as to where and who to go see, to get support, to get funds for your campaign and so forth. <v Kent Demaret>That's true anywhere, though. <v Garvin Barry>Right. [crosstalk]. <v Hugh Aynesworth>You know there's one thing that concerns me a bit and it is only peripheral to the establishment, really, but I can't imagine another town the size of Houston where the the mayor and the chief of police are allowed to sell real estate. This opens up all sorts of possibilities, it seems to me. I'm not saying that either one of these gentlemen are the least bit unethical in their dealings, but it just seems to open up all sorts of possibilities.
<v Garvin Barry>Well, this is, frankly, been the standard practice in Houston for more than a generation. Most of the big, strong mayors in Houston history have been involved directly in construction or real estate, or owned real estate. They were quite often political allegations made and sometimes implemented showing ownership of land, which would be at least peripherally affected. In some cases, we annexed around land and left an island within the city because they were shown that they had particular mayor's relatives had were involved with the water district there. However, in Texas, we've had rather surprising lack of a specific code of ethics. So everybody shied away from a code of ethics. You know, you don't think my honesty. We've also had a number of laws passed at state level. They really didn't mean anything. For example, I can think of one instance some years ago on occasion where all of the city's pension funds were being put into one particular savings loan agency that had a number of city officials involved. It was checked out by a grand jury. They could discover that there was law in effect saying don't do it, but with no penalty. So Texas has been living up to its old traditional image. It likes to think of itself as a sort of a free wheeling. Anything goes provided you don't step on your fellow man too much sort of thing, it had been a part of a buddy buddy relationship, usually a friendly relationship between most of the people in the establishment?
<v Kent Demaret>Well, all establishments need watching of course, some more than others. Sonny Wells has been watching the Negro establishment, watching it change in fact, Sonny, is it true that the so-called Negro establishment is falling apart? <v Sonny Wells>Yes, Kent that's true. But when we talk about the Negro establishment, I call it the Black establishment. You got to know what we're talking about. And for years, we have had a Black establishment. And the Black establishment has been a pipeline really to the power structure, chiefly the political establishment from the Black community, and this pipeline is made up of groups of people. In the past, it's been mostly ministers who could convey information to the power structure and sought to keep them keyed on what was going on in the Black community. Politicians always sought out the minister when he was a new politician seeking a post. He would go to the minister and the minister would in turn give out the candidate's assets and encourage and almost browbeat his members into voting for him. However, the crumbling of the Black establishment has come about in the past few years with the new breed Black. That is a division. Nobody pays too much attention to what the minister says anymore. You've got any number of people calling the shots the pipeline to the real power structure can't be depended upon anymore. Nobody can tell the power structure what's happening in the Black community cos we don't know the you've got groups who can lead groups of people. You have the militants, the ultra militants, the extremists, the moderates and even the conservative Blacks. And everybody is going in their own separate ways. I suspect a building of a new Black establishment sometime in the far off future. But it isn't close because at first we've got to find out where we're going and who is going to lead us.
<v Kent Demaret>How about people like Representative Curtis Graves and Senator Barbara Jordan? <v Sonny Wells>Barbara is a member of the old establishment. Barbara is a vote getter on her own personality, Curtis, on the other hand, is is the new breed Black. And they're both going in different directions right now over their different political candidate. Barbara is in Governor Preston Smith's corner. Curtis Graves is not. And this is the same thing that's happening within the establishment. For a long time just like most Blacks are Baptists, most Blacks were Democrats. But I ran into something the other day on a story called the Seventh District Coalition. And this is something I had never heard of, but it is a supposed to be a group of nonpartisans, Black who live in George Bush's district, but they are going Republican. Now, the oldest establishment claims a membership of 75 or 80 organizations, Black organizations, but they can't name them. This group claims eight or 10 civic clubs in the community and they can name and they, I suspect, will go to the polls. I suspect that the race, the senatorial race, the governor's race to be very interesting because of this division. It used to be that the Black establishment member could go to the Democratic candidate and say, well, you've got the Black vote and they still Pelamis. But the politician is finding out that the Black staffers don't know what they're talking about anymore. What did this guy tell me? I remember this happened in a local race here where the members of the Black establishment told the mayor that you've got at least 40 percent of the Black vote. It turned out he gets about five percent of the vote. And he was real disappointed, not because they didn't vote for him, but because the members of the establishment told him wrong. You know, he just believed them. So the Black establishment, as we know it, is certainly crumbling.
<v Garvin Barry>So on that point about the mayor of Houston, hasn't it been pretty much of a pattern, though, that by and large, the Negro community has voted for the new mayor, the man who upsets and comes in apparently on the basis of hoping for something better and then after a term or two, they generally tend to go the other way and are waiting for the next guy. It seems like that's been happening. <v Sonny Wells>That has been happening and I don't think is going to happen anymore with new people coming into the political arena. Like you got some upcoming young politicians like Curtis Graves and Judson Robinson, who has the the new Black looking in a different direction from from the past pattern at the old establishment followed. <v Garvin Barry>Is the new Black you're talking about, though, is are looking for militancy, unrest, or is he looking for an attempt to get some new thinking into elected office? This is something I don't know. And I'm really a little bothered by that. <v Sonny Wells>I think that we're looking for a new thinking in public office. You see, one of the biggest differences here, the the average Black sort of respects the present mayor. But they don't respect his police chief, so they they're looking for some new thinking in here. Can't we get somebody in that it will at least do something about policing?
<v Leo Janos>Sonny, where does the let's say the the moderate majority in the Black community go for a hearing? It seems to me, for example, politically this year in Texas, that certainly on the senatorial level, on the gubernatorial level, no candidates are really addressing themselves at all, even peripherally to the Black or Mexican-American communities this year. And I was wondering, A, where they go politically and also what what portion of the white establishment traditionally has been most sympathetic to minority groups in Houston? Is there is there- you say the Black community, Black leadership is changing in the Black community, but has there been a traditional point where the Black community could make contact with the white power structure? And if so, where has it been?
<v Sonny Wells>There has been no specific point. The Blacks from the time of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the interest it has been solely Democratic. They've always voted Democratic because they remember and this is what the old time establishment has been harping on, that look what Democrats did for us from a time of oppression. Now, the feeling is that it's a whole lot of congressional action being passed. The civil rights bill of 1964, 54. It's been a whole lot of congressional action passed by Democrats. But really, we haven't got to the core of the problem. The Blacks are still saying that we want a slice of the economic pie. We're not getting it. It's a whole lot of action passed to please whites, to please white people, but it's nothing being done in the community. The Republican candidate in the senatorial race and I followed him from Texas. He's been going to the Black community. The Democratic candidate has been going to the Black community. Now, there are several others that's running that I have, I've asked one on another show, you know, why haven't you been over to the Black community to tell them what you stand for, what you what your ideas are? And he gave me some stuff about, well, he had to get become known. So he campaigned in the areas where it would do the most good. But he still hadn't been over there. And it's a local election is next week. And I don't know whether he's coming or not. But the the politicians still come to the Black community, but they go to Texas Southern University and talk to Dr. Sawyer, they go to a Baptist church and talk to a Baptist minister, but they never go to the grassroots person and find out what's going on. And I've noticed a lot of these, particularly in the Senatorial candidates, that they are going to the grassroots people and they talk. And this is why I say that I think this is going to be very interesting because part of the Blacks are looking in another direction. I've even heard some Blacks that they were going to waste their vote and vote for ?Ben Russell?.
<v Leo Janos>Well, you know, there are two streams of Texas politics, it seems to me. One is the conservative stream and one is a populist stream. And I was wondering whether on the on the populist side, there have been any politicians in the last few years which have appealed to Black voters more than others here? <v Sonny Wells>Not not that I know of. We're thinking like Governor Wallace on this. Is it a dime worth of difference between the two? So you so you have to listen. Blacks are listening to what they say and they're watching what they're doing. The conservative Black is changing. His attitude is changing because he, like so many other, they are becoming fed up. Now, you've got the silent majority, the people that were really getting in, getting what they think is a pretty good slice of the pie, they're being quiet. Nobody knows what they're doing. They don't go to political rallies. They don't go to they don't belong to organizations. They are just making it. And they're satisfied with this and the noise in the street, the crying is disturbing some of these people. So they are beginning to take notice the setup and notice what's going on, who's for us and who's not. I think Black people, like everybody else, is concerned about what's going on in the country and nobody wants it torn apart except a few nuts. And I think that everybody is looking for answers and they're looking for it in the politicians and the leaders, the people who make the laws. And they they they want something done hurriedly, not promises to take years and years of it's a lot of the problem that could be solved right now. And we know this.
<v Hugh Aynesworth>So excuse me. It's rather interesting what you said, that possibly for the first time in your memory, they really been going to the grassroots, the Black community. What does this mean? I mean, how do you interpret this, say, the senatorial race in the gubernatorial race in Texas? <v Sonny Wells>I think it means that the the race is going to be tighter. You know, the Democrats will always if we can get this portion of the Black vote, we're a shoo in. But I think the days of a shoo in to go on like one candidate is talking about, if it could be a light voter, turn out, he hopes it does because he feels with these campaign tours across the state into the grassroots action of the Black community, that he's got a certain portion of these people on his side. And that's all you want, a small percentage to turn the thing the other way. <v Leo Janos>I'm curious about one thing that happened last week. I never had heard of such a thing happening before. And that was the governor was invited to address the NAACP in an election year, which seemed to me to be a natural for him to do. But he he bypassed. I was wondering how you interpret that.
<v Sonny Wells>I didn't know about that, that, you got that one on me. <v Leo Janos>It would seem to me a natural in an election year. <v Sonny Wells>And one of the things we're looking at here that the NAACP has been part of the old Black establishment. <v Leo Janos>That's what I mean. It was a safe meeting. <v Sonny Wells>This is going to pop if somebody don't make some real quick changes here. <v Kent Demaret>You know, you were talking about the establishment is falling apart. The old establishment is falling apart. Nobody really knows who speaks for whom anymore. And yet you say that the politicians have to go to the grass roots. Well, it seems like there's a doubly frustrating thing there in that the grassroots can't get to the politicians because they don't have any one or any two people that can do the approaching for them. And the politicians can't quite get to the grassroots because there are too many roots. They don't know which ones to talk to. <v Sonny Wells>The frustrating thing that you don't see is that there are so many people there. This is what is crumbling the thing. There are so many little factions that say that we are speaking for you. You've got some people who have reverted, you know, from the old establishment. They got out and they got in overalls to identify with the grass root grassroots people. And they are saying that we speak for you. So it's a state of confusion.
<v Kent Demaret>Do you really think that there should be a Black establishment? <v Sonny Wells>Oh, yes, I do. I do <v Garvin Barry>On that point on the other fringes of the establishment or any part the white establishment, other than the politicians becoming aware of the Black people, are the banks, the contractors, the media, all the professional groups in the white establishment, are you seeing any signs that they're becoming more sympathetic or trying to take care of the needs of the Black community? I'm asking because I've got one particular story I want to tell that I think it was really significant. <v Sonny Wells>No, I think they're pulling away. And one good example is this housing thing that you're talking about when you when you analyze this and you analyze what these people down at city council are saying to the to the city council about these housing projects, I view it as just being racial. We don't want these people, all these kinds of people coming in here. We're going to go out to the suburbs if they do. But this is the same kind of thing that's been happening. <v Garvin Barry>I have most of the argument I presented to council then on the basis of feeling that they were bringing in so many people in a housing development without worrying about the racial nature that they were going to overload utilities and schools and streets. I'm wondering if you maybe weren't reading something into that.
<v Sonny Wells>A good a good example is the Scott Arms thing that they said that, well, you can't build it because there's no water out there, but it's going to be some water out there in a year. How long does it take you to build the apartment? It's going to take a year. So I may be reading something into it, but this is what it looks like to me. You know, that the water is going to be there in a year and they haven't got the apartments built yet. <v Garvin Barry>By and large, I agree with your point. An illustration I ran into recently I think is very significant. A number of other outstanding leaders in the Negro community, two of them that leaped to mind I think are ?inaudible? Robertson and ?Frances Williams?, most well known, rather influential and men of substance now and right, they put together with the Black bank in the community a project to build a Black department store, a major department store of the type you see in the suburban shopping center and put together a very feasible package. They tell me, I hadn't checked out first hand, but they tell me they went to every major banking institution, every major store that might be interested in putting this in Houston. They got it turned down. It is now under construction at Houston northside will be a very elaborate, very worthwhile shopping center. They had to get it done through a chain that I believe is out of Detroit, Michigan. I believe, Detroit came out of the city to help and help with the financing or help with the stock.
<v Kent Demaret>Did they give you a reason why they were turned down? <v Garvin Barry>No. <v Kent Demaret>They say what reasons they were given? <v Garvin Barry>No, they didn't. I guess they think it did not seem to be feasible on an economic basis. Apparently a major chain operating most of the nation. But coming out of Detroit, thought that it was. Also think it might be significant to the best of my knowledge, although I try to watch and read all the media, only one of the big five major media has ever acknowledged the story about it, although it seems to be a rather a breakthrough in the economic field for the Black community. <v Sonny Wells>They have tried to get some publicity from from the other media that I know about what you're talking about is, of course. <v Garvin Barry>I bet they'll be able to buy ads. <v Sonny Wells>The chain is close to Kmart or something like this. It's not Kmart, but. <v Garvin Barry>?Finmart.? <v Sonny Wells>Yeah, Finmart. <v Kent Demaret>Well, we've got twenty minutes left in the show, gentlemen. And I'd like to move on to the other story. With the elections for state and national offices just a few days away, some of the candidates on the Democratic and Republican tickets are in a real horse race. Hugh Aynesworth and Leo Janos have been paying close attention to the jockeying and their view as news men for national publications is particularly broad scoped. I believe so. Let's begin with you. Ainsworth's size up of the Democratic Party candidates and chances.
<v Hugh Aynesworth>Well, can't I think that I don't think you can discount the fact that when they speak of turnout, if we get over two million people, Democrats have a lot better chance to win it, win at all. We're talking I think the Texas Election Bureau says that there will be two million people turn out approximately. And Bob Johnson is usually pretty much on the nose. I think at this point. We had a situation where Preston Smith certainly I think he's well ahead. I feel he is. And I think the Bush Bentsen race is a tremendous race. And I really don't think it'll be decided the last two or three days. In fact, President Nixon's visit to Longview in Dallas may give Bush the the boost that he needs. I personally feel now in Newsweek this week, we did pick Bentsen as leading, but I really believe that Bush is peaking at just exactly the proper time. And I kind of think maybe Bush might eke out a victory, and particularly since what Sonny said about the Black community, that things are not the same course. We've been aware that no longer is the Black voter bloc vote, but still he seems to indicate that there might be some Republican gain in the Black community. And I think if that's the case, maybe Bush has a better chance than I realized before. I think that certainly Ben Barnes is not in any trouble. He won't pull the two million votes he polled the last time, but he should win 90, 80 to 90 percent of the vote. It's an interesting race and I'm sure Leo wants to comment on this to the personalities involved, particularly in the governor's race. I think you're interesting, don't you?
<v Leo Janos>Yes. A couple of points before we get on to the governor's, a couple of points on the senatorial race. And that is it seemed to me and I wonder if you would agree here that the real issue in Texas politics in the year 1970 was decide in the primary, because it seemed to me the real issue was what were Texans going to do about good ol Ralph Yarborough? And that was decided. And since it was decided so early in the day, the two men who are now campaigning finally has very little to talk about. <v Hugh Aynesworth>[crosstalk] It is, yes. <v Leo Janos>the voters seem to be very content with either man, it seems to me. In fact, when I was out with Bentsen and Bush, an extraordinary thing happened for Texas politics. Some old county judge got a hold of me at a at a Bentsen tea and said, isn't it a pity that two such fine gentlemen as Lloyd and George have to run against one another. And as a newcomer to Texas I always prepared for a little eye gouging and neck biting but when-
<v Hugh Aynesworth>They are very high caliber men. I believe both of them are. But I don't know. It seems as though whatever issues we have or so, of course, Democrats are pumping on the economy situation and of course, the Republicans claim that they didn't do it all. And I think that's justifiably so, <v Kent Demaret>They're sort of the same caliber men, aren't they? <v Hugh Aynesworth>I guess you'd have to say they are they're only three years difference. They're both from Houston, they're both millionaires. <v Leo Janos>They both both shot down in World War Two. <v Hugh Aynesworth>They both can't get much more alike than that, can you? <v Garvin Barry>What you're saying is that the drama was lacking because there is no really philosophical or ideological differences between the two men? <v Hugh Aynesworth>And the issues. And the issues are primarily manufactured ones because, for instance, up in East Texas, I think you and I were up in East Texas when they met- <v Leo Janos>A great Paris confrontation, <v Hugh Aynesworth>Paris meeting and the biggest applause of the night was when Bush said we've got to help the Republicans take over the Senate so that we can get J. William Fulbright out as foreign affairs chairman. And when that sounds great and they just went wild and clapped and everything else, and then you think, well, who would be chairman? And it would be Senator Aiken of Vermont who was just exactly as Fulbright only he doesn't have the stature of Fulbright. And as you go down the list, almost any of the issues that have come to this point are almost manufactured issues. And for that reason, too, I think the Democrats are going to have a little trouble getting out to vote now. One thing that I don't have a feel for, and I've called all over the state in the last couple of days talking to people about is this amendment on the liquor situation. I don't know what that's going to do it. I think it's bound to help the Democrats because it's going to bring some of the older people out of the smaller communities in the country. And I think it will help. But how much will it I mean, how important is this in the day of marijuana?
<v Garvin Barry>What you just said, in effect, seems to me to be saying that if the liquor by the drink ammendment is voted down by the railroad, the old grassroots people in East Texas and so forth, it will be the very same thing that will help the Democrats to win their races. But at the same time, liquor by the drink would be defeated. <v Hugh Aynesworth>I think that's true. But but I wonder how important it is in this day of marijuana and and real serious issues. How important is it? <v Kent Demaret>I'm worried. I'm not worried. I'm I'm trying to get an idea how the Democrats feel about what's happening here. They've had the state all to themselves for so many years. And here all of a sudden, they might very well have two Republican senators. So is the Democratic Party in Texas considering the Republicans really coming on strong now, are they a little fretful, a lot fretful or worried as hell, would you say? <v Hugh Aynesworth>Well, I'd say they're worried as hell because you see this if if Mr. Bush beats Mr. Bensen, it's going to mean an end to Lyndon Johnson and John Connally influence, at least temporarily. You've still got Ben Barnes. But Barnes, if you'll notice, in the last few years, has sort of pushed off to the side. He's been he's become one of his own, so to speak. And I know they're worried. Certainly they're worried. You're spending massive amounts of money in this campaign.
<v Leo Janos>May I point out something? I think that in a sense, the Republicans are deeply worried, too. In fact, a Republican state senator told me that if Bentsen wins, it could set back the Republican Party in the state 15 years. And what he meant was this. I think there's no question but that Richard Nixon has already won what he wanted to win in Texas. That is, he got rid of a very liberal opponent in the United States Senate when he got rid of Ralph Yarborough. And even if Bentsen should win, he has a man who would be much more of an ally on Vietnam, on economic policy than Yarborough was, but it seems to me that what the Republicans sniff here in Texas this election year is a golden opportunity that is to defeat Bentsen and by so doing, to begin a process whereby the conservative Democrats will leave the ranks of the Democratic Party and become Republicans. And the scenario for this is quite obvious, that if Bentsen loses, the Yarborough wing of the party could come right back and say, this is what happens when you run a candidate who was not traditionally a populist and traditionally liberal, but who's a meta kind of Republican, Democrat. And this is a very real possibility. The fact of the matter is that Nixon this election year is demonstrating something that Johnson and Kennedy before him didn't demonstrate, and that is there is a sincere effort by the administration to really build the party nationally. And I think, you know, the eyes of Texas are upon Washington and vice versa, because there's been an enormous expenditure of money, time and effort by the administration for Bush over and above any stories that have surfaced about Bush being a possible vice presidential candidate.
<v Garvin Barry>When you analyze this recent speculation out of Washington about the possibility of Bush becoming a vice presidential candidate in 1972 will not have any effect on the way people decide to vote in this coming week. <v Leo Janos>That's much more difficult to say because I just don't know how Texans would feel about that. But it is an interesting piece of speculation. <v Garvin Barry>I think is likely to help the Democrats ?inaudible? [crosstalk] <v Hugh Aynesworth>This is rather ridiculous, really. You're not going to get rid of Spiro Agnew. <v Kent Demaret>So what do you do with the theory? <v Leo Janos>But what is interesting really is that it does bespeak the caliber of man that Bush is, because he it just so happens that he's one of the most attractive Republican candidates running in the country. In fact, he he looks like Lindsay, although he votes like Margaret Chase Smith. And that's a difficult combination to to whip in a state like this. And when he takes off his coat, as he often does in front of college groups and pulls down his tie, he he really looks very liberal. But yet on the plane, he said to me that if Bentsen tried to get to the right of him, he is going to step right off the edge of the world. And which is very true.
<v Hugh Aynesworth>know, another another facet of this. This was a Washington columnist. And as most of us in the business know, Washington columnists sometimes aren't really experts when they go out for two or three days into a state. <v Leo Janos>Especially coming into our territory. <v Hugh Aynesworth>Secondly, there's an awful lot of this. Yeah, I noticed that. But there's an awful lot. This is wishful thinking. This was written by a gentleman who works for a very liberal Washington publication owned by the same company that my firm is owned by in fact. And I think it's as much wishful thinking as anything. But I don't think you can discount it because Bush is is an attractive man, as is around. But I think it might hurt him. And I know his people are quite concerned about it. <v Kent Demaret>Well, I wonder if this would fit into a national theory that I have heard or whether this theory might also be classed as wishful thinking by you two. Some people have said that what might be about to happen in Texas with Republicans would compare historically in some ways with what did happen with FDR and the Democrats so many years ago that that Franklin Roosevelt was the end of the Democratic strong power structure for so I mean, the Republican's strong power structure for so many years and that now we might be seeing the Republicans swing up on the graph and take over from the Democrats. You think that's happening nationally?
<v Leo Janos>Well, there's one answer to that. And that is in 64, after Lyndon Johnson got through with Barry Goldwater, there were stories saying, is the two party system in this country finished? And here four years later, Richard Nixon gets the keys to the White House. So I think it's a bit premature. You know, life life in our times is so hectic, so volatile. Up today, down tomorrow is- <v Hugh Aynesworth>Life is so complex. You're not going to find this dynasty building. <v Leo Janos>That's right. This long. There is no long, slow, sweeping graph, I don't think anymore. It's more choppy up and down like this. Here today, gone tomorrow. <v Garvin Barry>Well for a fact of the first Republican president in a generation more than the generation who is essentially a party man interested in building the party labels that could be very important in states like ?inaudible? <v Kent Demaret>Which is what FDR did. <v Leo Janos>Very interesting that- <v Garvin Barry>Republicans have not been interested in the grass roots traditionally in the past. <v Leo Janos>That's right. And if you go out on the road with the candidates here in Texas, you see some of this. For example, where does Bentsen go? Well, there are two hundred. Someone told me. Two hundred and fifty four courthouses. Texas, and I suspect that he's gone to two hundred and thirty five of them and each one you go to, the people who are standing around look exactly alike. They're all in their 60s. They're all chomping on cigars. They've all been Democratic Party faithful for years and years and years.
<v Garvin Barry>You're going to get a lot of letters from the courthouses? <v Leo Janos>Right, I hope I don't get any traffic violations between here and Sherman, I'll tell you that. But anyway, this is what you see, and it is traditional tarde party. And which leads to one last point I'll make, and that is that we talked about Bush being very attractive. But there's another Bush here in Houston who's also a very attractive candidate. I believe he's fighting a very tough uphill battle, probably won't make it, but nevertheless has established himself. And that's Art Bush. <v Hugh Aynesworth>I don't agree. I think he could well win. <v Leo Janos>Well, possibly. <v Hugh Aynesworth>He's spending five times as much money and he looks good on television. He's very articulate. <v Leo Janos>And what happens, the point being that what happens when you're out of power and scrambling, you come up with more attractive young candidates. And that's what the Republicans are doing nationally and they've done that here in Texas. <v Hugh Aynesworth>You know, another thing, the economy hasn't hurt anybody as much in Texas as it has nationally. But as we look around the country, assuming you don't mind we look around the country a little bit. You know, a few months back, two months back, we were told that the Republicans would probably gain seven, nine, 10 seats in the Senate. And all of a sudden, things are getting so bad. Unemployment is getting so bad in some places. Not here, thank goodness. But now it's hard to see how they're going to pick up two or three.
<v Leo Janos>I agree. <v Hugh Aynesworth>And and the Democrats are going to win a lot of state House lot of gubernatorial races. <v Leo Janos>I think the Democrats are going to do rather well and holding their own. I think the prediction now is, in fact, Ziegler at the White House today said the president was anticipating a gain of one or two Senate seats, which means he's really anticipating a gain of four or five. So he should look a little better. But they're still they're still not taking control. And it looks now like he probably won't pick up more than 10 to 15 House seats, which is far from a it seems to me, resounding vote of confidence. <v Kent Demaret>Leo, you've been paying real close attention to the Republicans and the Republican Party here. How do you how do you assess the party structure itself, scrambling around, trying to get really organized, spending an awful lot of money, isn't it? <v Leo Janos>The money is flowing in and one source who is a, how shall I put it, an elected official Republican Party, was saying that he felt that the Republican establishment here in Texas really didn't want to win. The state House was reluctant having Bush do very well because for years they've control whatever little patronage and power there is in the state. I think there's some truth to that. And I don't think they have very much to worry about in terms of the state House. I don't think Mr. Eggers really, really is going to win. I think that they may have a lot to worry about because my own personal feeling is sticking my neck way out. Even though I do read Newsweek.
<v Hugh Aynesworth>I'm glad to hear that, I wonder who did here. <v Leo Janos>I did. That's why I pick up most of my insights. I think Bush is going to win. <v Hugh Aynesworth>I wonder, you know, could I throw out something else? It sort of bothers me how much money is spent on television for these these various elections. And it's such a ridiculous thing. I notice in the local papers that a couple of congressional candidates here have spent over one hundred twenty thousand dollars already. That's more than the job pays. And, you know, as long as you're taking huge sums of money from somebody, it isn't free. You owe somebody. I don't care. And you go along with what Sonny said about this sort of a new day in the Black community. I think it's a new day and a new emphasis on politics going to going to be shown all over this country. And I think that no longer you're going to have to have some answers. Whoever runs going to have to have some answers. And money alone isn't going to do it. However, television is tremendously important. <v Leo Janos>Glad you mentioned that here, because last Sunday night I watched Eggers being interviewed on Channel two here in Houston. Up to then, I really hadn't seen him except for his TV spots, which makes him look like Mighty Mouse Superman. The man who knows everything is carefully programed. But when you see him taped sweating some excellent questions. It's quite a difference between a paid one minute spot and the effect it throws out and seeing a man squirm under the lights in reality. And it's a terrible way to have to elect people on the basis making a judgment on these television commercials.
<v Hugh Aynesworth>You know, in an adjoining state up in Arkansas, you've had a Republican governor for two terms, Winthrop Rockefeller, and now you've got a Democrat that I certainly think is going to beat him this time. Newcomer, a Sunday school teacher, small town, a small town lawyer named Dale Bumpers and Bumpers doesn't have a whole lot of money to spend. Of course, he has a tremendously large amount of Democrats in Arkansas who have left the party to vote for Rockefeller. But here you've got Rockefeller using almost two hundred thousand dollars worth of TV time in Little Rock alone in these last 10 days. And here, Bumpers didn't have that much for his primary in which he beat Orval Faubus or ?inaudible?. And yet it's not going to work up there. <v Kent Demaret>You know what they're spending the Democrats and the Republicans on television in Texas? <v Hugh Aynesworth>I don't think I would. <v Kent Demaret>Or Say Bush and Bentsen. <v Hugh Aynesworth>You know, I certainly don't. <v Kent Demaret>I think I know <v Leo Janos>What is it Kent? Tell us. <v Kent Demaret>But as a matter of fact, I did talk to some people who would rather not be quoted. But obviously the Bentsen people claim that the Bush people are spending more and the Bush people claim that the Bentsen people are spending more. But a fairly reliable figure that will probably be challenged by both sides is that the Bush people are spending about six hundred thousand dollars on television and the Bentsen people are spending about four hundred thousand three three hundred to four hundred thousand.
<v Leo Janos>I might add that these people make a tremendous mistake when they interrupt the beginning of The Tonight Show or other popular fare so that people watch the same five minute film spots saying that George Bush, for example, did all these things for me. All he's doing is delaying the start of Johnny Carson's monologue. And I think the point of diminishing returns, really, <v Garvin Barry>I'm wondering if these particular things you're talking about aren't likely to be one of the single most influential things. And what helps people make up their mind how to vote? <v Garvin Barry>Probably is, but it certainly shouldn't be. <v Leo Janos>Pretty shallow. <v Kent Demaret>Well, what do you do about it? You drag them out of bed in the middle of the night make them debate cold turkey on live TV? <v Hugh Aynesworth>I believe in debate. And I think every major candidate ought to have to debate, maybe not only on television, because that is a superficial media in in that you react differently when you're on television than you do when you're over in a corner talking to people. And therefore, I think that some of it ought to be on television, some of it ought to be before major groups in various cities. But I think major candidates should have to face up to the same questions the same night without having a tremendous research department come up with answers the next day. And I just feel very strongly about that
- Assignment Houston
- The Establishment
- Producing Organization
- KUHT-TV (Television station : Houston, Tex.)
- Contributing Organization
- The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Garvin Barry discusses the law firms and other interests that dominate the Houston political establishment. Sonny Wells discusses the decay of the black establishment; he says that there are many different groups of blacks with divergent interests and each has its own leaders and spokespersons. Hugh Aynesworth and Leo Janos discuss the upcoming election, focusing on the senate race between George Bush and Lloyd Bentsen.
- Series Description
- "Four local newsmen examine the machines and personalities of the Democratic and Republican parties in Texas prior to the November 1970 general election, and analyze the Houston political, social and business establishments and the Negro establishment and its deterioration. The concept of the program is to report divergent views on timely and significant issues of the local Houston community. Each reporter is assigned a piece of the story with the program fitting these pieces together."--1970 Peabody Digest.
- Broadcast Date
- Asset type
- Media type
- Moving Image
Director: Veres, Jack
Executive Producer: Bauer, James L.
Host: Demaret, Kent
Interviewee: Aynesworth, Hugh
Interviewee: Janos, Leo
Producing Organization: KUHT-TV (Television station : Houston, Tex.)
Reporter: Barry, Garvin
Reporter: Wells, Sonny
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the
University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-0d55adcbd25 (Filename)
Format: 2 inch videotape: Quad
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Assignment Houston; The Establishment,” 1970-11, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-526-000000102v.
- MLA: “Assignment Houston; The Establishment.” 1970-11. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-526-000000102v>.
- APA: Assignment Houston; The Establishment. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-526-000000102v