A 65TH BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION
2017 marks the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Republican Party in Montgomery County. This is a proud moment in history, worthy of a celebration. And that is what the Party will promote in August or September with the assistance of prominent Republicans from across the state and the nation. Those interested in contributing to the success of this event should contact Republican Headquarters at 936-441-5621 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is a brief description of the events in Montgomery County that made history.
Republicanism in the County and the State in the 1900s, suffered from the aftermath of the Civil
War, the Reconstruction and the Great Depression. The Democrat Party’s dominance was overwhelming and unchallenged until the 1950s in Texas
and Montgomery County. General Dwight Eisenhower’s presidential victory in 1952, along with the patronage system of the era, created enough interest in the Republican Party to justify the appointment of a County Chairman, Herbert Cartright of Willis, along with six Precinct Chairmen. As a result of their work, Eisenhower’s victory margin in his 1956 re-election campaign was 798 votes, after losing the County by 468 votes in 1952. A mounted 1952 red “Win with Ike for President” scarf and a Norman Rockwell 1952 Eisenhower portrait hang on the wall of the Headquarters as a reminder of those pioneer Republican campaigns.
In a 1961 special election to replace former U. S. Senator and newly elected vice-President Lyndon B.
Johnson, Republican John G. Tower, an obscure college professor from Wichita Falls, won Montgomery County with 51.5% of the vote in his upset election to the U. S. Senate. Tower’s election generated renewed interest in the Republican Party in the County and State. In 1962, Phillip Dickinson, a Sun Oil Company engineer, became Republican County Chairman, and he conducted the first Primary election in the County that year with 38 Republicans casting their historic vote. In
1963, The Party leaders determined there was a need for funds to advance the Republican cause. A discussion ensued about who could be retained as a speaker for the event. Precinct#8 Chairman, Elton Sump, a Willis area truck farmer with customers in Houston Memorial area, reported one of his customers from Midland, TX, would be a good speaker. The question arose- “Who is he?” Sump quickly responded- “George Herbert Walker Bush”, who would be a candidate for the U. S. Senate in 1964. None of those gathered for the meeting had ever heard of George Bush. But on an evening in 1963, George Bush and wife Barbara came to Conroe and spoke to a crowd of about fifty Republicans. This was the first of several more fundraising appearances by the Bushes to help raise money, in 1969 and 1979.
The 1964 County Republican Primary election attracted 105 votes which favored Senator Barry
Goldwater of Arizona as the Republican nominee for President and chose Dr. Walter D. (Wally) Wilkerson, Jr. as County Chairman. In the General election Republicans enthusiastically campaigned for Goldwater and the first county Republican candidate since Reconstruction, Leo T. Jones for State Representative, both of whom lost. A 15-20 auto and truck caravan, all decorated with Republican and Goldwater signs and
banners, toured the County and distributed Republican campaign literature on the Saturday before the election. One Democrat was heard to say-“I can’t even spell Republican”. However,
Goldwater and Bush ran a much stronger race in the county than they did statewide in losses to Democrat presidential candidate, Lyndon Johnson and senatorial candidate, Ralph Yarborough.
In effort to build a stronger County Party, four Republican candidates were recruited in 1966 to challenge Democrats for three county offices and one precinct office. None polled more than 30% of
the vote, but they blazed a trail for many more candidates for local offices. A full time County Headquarters was opened in the State Hotel, just a block off of the Courthouse square. It was no easy chore
to find a sign painter who would paint a Republican Headquarters sign to hang over the entrance. Finally, a brave sole agreed to paint the sign, but not before Party faithful vowed not to reveal his identify. Today the sign proudly hangs from a beam in the Headquarters as a symbol of the dedication to those loyal Republicans of that era. The election of a county Republican officeholder remained only a distant dream.
The Party gradually grew in numbers and influence along with the Montgomery County’s growth for
the remainder of the 1960s and 1970s. In 1976 the GOP received a big boost when Republican President Gerald Ford visited the County on a
campaign tour through Texas during the presidential Primary contest against challenger Ronald Reagan. Thousands of County residents crowded onto the west side of the Courthouse square to hear Ford speak. Following this appearance, County Republican workers and activists gathered at the local Holiday Inn for a reception for the President. Chairman Wilkerson had the honor to ride with the President and Senator John Tower on the trip to the reception. Finally in 1978, not only did Texas elect its first Republican Governor, William P. Clements, in over 100 years, but Montgomery County also elected the first Republican to a County
office in over 100 years, a Justice of the Peace, Mrs. Pat Ruffin. County Chairman Wilkerson was asked by the Conroe Courier reporter how he felt- “I feel just like I delivered my first baby”, he enthusiastically responded. Dozens of County Republicans traveled to Austin to attend the inauguration of Governor Clements and the Inaugural Ball. Those were heady times for Montgomery County Republicans who had campaigned so hard for the 1978 ticket.
Republican candidates for national and state offices begin attracting increasing support in the County, but candidates for local offices continued to be dominated by their Democrat opponents until 1980 when the first Republican County Commissioner was elected, followed by a second Commissioner, a woman, and the first Republican District Judge in 1982. The Party purchased a desktop computer, one of the first available for office use, which aided the Party in the production of voter lists used by the 1984 phone bank manned by enthusiastic band of volunteers. In 1984, Republicans won a majority on the Commissioners Court and elected its first non-judicial county-wide officeholder, the County Attorney, along with a Reagan landslide election win in the County. The 1986 election was highlighted by an upset win by Republicans in the race for County Judge and a sweep of all three County Court-at-Law judgeships.
Aided by Party affiliation changes by the Sheriff and District Attorney in 1988, who won as Republicans, Republicans won victories in 1990 and 1992. This left only a single Democrat officeholder in the County, a Commissioner, Malcolm Purvis. After very narrow win for re-election as a Democrat in 1994, he became a Republican 1n 1995. He was quoted as saying: “It was either Republican or Retire”. No Democrat has been elected to a District, County or Precinct office since 1994 and no Democrat candidate for President has won Montgomery County since 1964. Republican domination has resulted in only rare Democrat opposition in General elections. This record is worth a giant celebration!
The Party has not rested on its laurels. It has continued to build and expand its influence. Since the
first Republican Women organization was formed in 1979, the total has grown to seven Republican Women organizations involving about 700-800 women, serving
every part of the County. The Party has a stronger than ever Young Republican (YRS ages 18-40) organization, one capable of attracting the 2017 State YRS Convention to the County, and now has seven High School Young Republicans (ages 13-18) groups involving nearly 300 students, with several more planned to add to the total. The Headquarters is open 9-5 Monday-Friday and has become the center of activities for the Party and a source of Republican Party information.
A Party Archive is maintained in the Headquarters that has collected
thousands of items, dating from 1952 to the present. Volunteer librarians, led by retired professional librarian Alice Melancon, have catalogued these items according to years. Through year 2000 over 10,000 items have been catalogued. The Archive is available to the public.
Our Party Engagement Committee is busy attending events where the Party distributes literature and Constitution booklets, both in English and Spanish and registers voters while interfacing with County citizens. The Party maintains a website at www.mcrp.org, a Twitter account at MCRPTexas and a Facebook page at Montgomery County Republican Party-Texas.
The Montgomery County Republican Party intends to remain the majority Party! We remain ready and prepared for the rapid growth in the County.