Tag Archives: Carl Parker

Do any minds ever get changed?

Watching the “debate” on the House of Representatives floor today over the impeachment of Donald J. Trump brings to mind something I heard many years ago from a Texas state legislator.

In early 1995 I had the pleasure of meeting the late state Sen. Teel Bivins, an Amarillo Republican. I went to his downtown Amarillo office, exchanged greetings with him and sat down for some discussion.

Bivins knew I had moved to Amarillo from Beaumont. I worked for the Beaumont Enterprise and then went to work for the Amarillo Globe-News. Bivins then brought up the name of a fellow state senator with whom he had a sometimes-testy relationship. He talked admiringly about the debating skills of Democratic colleague Carl Parker of Port Arthur.

Parker is a trial lawyer who possesses tremendous rhetorical skill. Bivins called Parker a “friend,” and then told me that he actually once witnessed how Parker’s intense debating ability changed the minds of one or two of his Senate colleagues on an issue that Parker was debating.

I thought about the tale Bivins told about Carl Parker and wondered if there are any such debaters squaring off today under the Capitol Dome. I ain’t hearing anything of the sort. They’re all dug in. No one is going to budge.

I am left to wonder if any minds could be changed were they to hear the thundering rhetoric that a Texas state senator could deliver when the chips were down.

Recalling a Texas Panhandle giant

Every now and then, I like scrolling back through my blog posts to re-examine thoughts I had way back when.

I did so again tonight and found a short post I wrote about the death of a Texas Panhandle political titan: former state Sen. Teel Bivins.

Here is what I wrote:

Panhandle loses a legislative giant

Bivins would leave Amarillo and the Panhandle to become U.S. ambassador to Sweden. His good friend, President George W. Bush, thought to reward Bivins for the work he did to get the president elected in 2000.

My thoughts turn to Sen. Bivins today in light of the current political climate. I wonder how he might fare in the harsh environment that seems to be overcoming people in events in Austin, let alone in Washington. He was a true-blue, rock-ribbed “establishment Republican.” He was conservative to the core, a staunch defender of private property owners’ rights — which makes sense, given his own extensive ranch holdings in the rural Panhandle.

I also want to share a brief memory about Bivins, which I think speaks well of the man’s character as well as his media savvy.

***

I was new to the Panhandle in early 1995. I didn’t yet know Bivins; I only knew of him. I had heard one of the Senate colleagues, Democrat Carl Parker of Port Arthur, describe Bivins as one of those “silk-stocking Republicans” who was more interested in helping rich people than fighting for the working stiff.

Bivins’ office called me one day about a month after I arrived at the Amarillo Globe-News. Bivins wanted to get acquainted. I went to his office in downtown Amarillo. We shook hands and started chatting. Bivins told me of his friendship with Parker and gave him kudos for his immense debating skills.

Then we talked about our families. He asked me about mine. I told him I was married and that my wife and I had two sons in college.

Then he launched into an amazing soliloquy about his own family and his troubled marriage. He told me about the struggles his then-wife was having with substance abuse. He said he wasn’t sure how much longer he could cope with it, how much more help he could give to her.

As I listened to this strange method of getting acquainted with a member of the media, I was struck by the extraordinary candor he was expressing to someone he barely knew.

We finished our visit. I went back to the office. Bivins went back to Austin to continue working as a legislator.

No more than few days later, I told one of Bivins’ top aides about what he revealed. She smiled and said he had an ulterior motive. Bivins wanted me to hear it from him, rather than hearing it from someone else, who might put a different sort of spin on it.

I thought, “ah hah!” I got played. More or less. However, it was for the right reason.

Eight years after this good man’s death, I am not bashful about telling you that I still miss him.

Turner bids teary farewell to Legislature

rep. turner

This is something you don’t see every day: politicians from both sides of the political paying heartfelt tribute to one of their own as he prepares to depart their ranks.

So it was when state Rep. Sylvester Turner bid farewell to the Texas House of Representatives. He’s leaving the House, where he served for 26 years, to run for mayor of Houston.

http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/sylvester-turners-tearful-farewell

Is this a huge thing? Not really. It’s simply worth noting in light of the occasional acrimony that flares up in Austin and more often, it seems, in Washington, D.C.

Turner is a Democrat, but the praise he got from Republican colleagues seemed heartfelt and sincere.

They praised Turner’s rhetorical skills. This came from Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo: “He could turn the House with logic and good argument.”

I once heard the late Republican state Sen. Teel Bivins of Amarillo say the same thing about a one-time foe, former Sen. Carl Parker, D-Port Arthur, who used to deride his GOP colleagues as “silk-stocking Republicans.” He included Bivins among that category of Republican. Bivins didn’t take it personally and they men remained friends despite their political differences.

That’s the way it ought to be.

As Turner told his colleagues to their faces, with tears welling up in his eyes: “I love each and every one of you. Whether we have voted together or not is not important to me. Whether you are a D or an R is not important to me. The reality is we are Texans, but proud Texans.”

Well said.

 

Thrill will be gone soon from Texas Senate

Texas lawmakers of both political parties have told me over the years how much “fun” they had serving in the state Legislature. Both chambers comprised members who had pals on the other side.

They were chums. They shared an adult beverage after hours. They would talk about common interests. They would seek each other’s advice.

I remember meeting the late state Sen. Teel Bivins for the first time. The Republican knew I came to Amarillo from Beaumont and he shared in our first meeting his respect for a Democratic adversary from Southeast Texas, Sen. Carl Parker, who used to refer to Bivins and others of his stripe as “silk-stocking Republicans.” Bivins never took it personally and he actually admired Parker’s debating skill, which he would employ on the floor of the Senate.

My trick knee is telling me those days are about to end.

Dan Patrick will become the next lieutenant governor in January. Patrick has made it known his desire to abandon a couple of Senate traditions: one is the two-thirds rule that requires 21 Senate votes to bring any bill to a vote of the entire of body; the other is the practice of appointing senators of the other party as committee chairs.

Patrick, a Republican, said earlier this year that given Texas’s strong conservative leaning and the fact that Republicans stand like a colossus over the landscape, then — by golly — he would prefer to have an all-GOP lineup among the Senate leadership.

Crank up the steamroller, folks.

What does this mean for what’s left of the party’s more moderate element, which must include Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo, who wants to lead the Education Committee?

A friend of mine and I were talking Friday about the next Legislature. He’s been observing Texas politics for decades and he wonders how the state will function when it is run by the TEA party wing of the GOP. He mentioned former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, a wise man and moderate Republican, and lamented that Ratliff no longer is in public life. “Who would have thought that Kel Seliger would be considered a ‘liberal’ within the Republican Party?” he asked … rhetorically.

There once was a time when serving in the Legislature could be considered “fun.” Hey, it doesn’t pay very much so you look for fun whenever and wherever you can find it.

The tone and tenor of the upper chamber is about to change. For my taste — and perhaps the taste of others around the state — it won’t be for the better.