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Sunday, January 2, 2000

11 individuals who made a difference in Corpus Christi

By Murphy Givens
Caller-Times

 

The century's top newsmakers in Corpus Christi shared some traits. They were successful in pushing their ideas and they shaped events that affect our own lives.
   We have come to believe that our world is controlled by impersonal institutions. But we forget that at the core there are individuals who believe - and act on their beliefs - that they can make a positive difference. The century's top newsmakers were those who figured things out, showed the rest of the people the way and persevered in the face of adversity.
   Corpus Christi's newsmakers of the century, as selected by the editors of the Caller-Times, include:
  

  • Henry Pomeroy Miller, the "boy mayor'' who played a key role in developing the port and the Intracoastal Waterway.
      
  • Clara Driscoll, known as the savior of the Alamo. She set up the Driscoll Foundation that led to the Driscoll Children's Hospital.
      
  • Ada Wilson, flashy and flamboyant, she used some of her oil wealth to create a hospital for crippled children. She also convinced the state to buy her land for Mustang Island State Park.
      
  • Ben Garza, a man with a sixth-grade education who was a major figure in founding LULAC, which would strive to achieve equality for Hispanics.
      
  • Dr. Hector P. Garcia, who created the American GI Forum. His dream of equal rights for all citizens shaped his own life and the lives of those around him.
      
  • Hayden Head Sr., a Corpus Christi attorney, who was known as a power broker but who used that power for a number of civic improvements.
      
  • Robert Justus Kleberg Sr., who took over King Ranch after the death of Richard King. Kleberg played a key role in not only the growth of the world's largest cattle ranch, but also the growth and development of South Texas.
      
  • Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth Butt married a young grocer, Howard E. Butt in 1924, who soon had a chain of grocery stores in Texas. Through the H.E. Butt Foundation, Mary Butt became a tireless advocate for social, health and education causes.
      
  • George Parr succeeded his father Archie as a power in politics in Duval County. He became one of the most controversial political bosses of his time before he was shot in the head, either by his own hand or by one of his many enemies.
      
  • Rabbi Sidney Wolf arrived to take charge of a small temple in Corpus Christi in 1932. He spent the next 50 years promoting racial integration and greater understanding between people.
      
  • H. Boyd Hall, who moved his dental practice to Corpus Christi in 1937 and found a segregated town. Hall organized the Corpus Christi chapter of the NAACP and poured much of his energy into the civil rights struggle in the 1950s and '60s.
       Roy Miller
    Caller-Times file photo
    Roy Miller: Played a key role in bringing modern improvements to Corpus Christi

       He was dressed like a city dude. When he stepped off the train in Corpus Christi on Aug. 25, 1904, Henry Pomeroy Miller wore a new brown suit and derby hat. He was 20 years old, and was already known as an overachiever. He moved into a room at the Constantine Hotel and began a career that would help move Corpus Christi from the country village that it was into the beginning of the city that it is today. Roy Miller was a major figure in that development.
       Miller was born in Blue Rapids, Kan., in 1884. His parents moved to Houston when he was 10. He delivered papers on horseback and graduated from high school at 15, valedictorian of his class. He won a scholarship to college, where he paid his way by waiting on tables and tutoring other pupils. He graduated early and returned to Houston. He took a job as publicity agent for the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexican Railway. That's when he moved to Corpus Christi.
       Two years after he arrived, Miller married Maud Heaney, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Alfred Heaney. Within three years, Miller became editor of the Daily Caller; he was 24. In 1913, when he was 29, he was elected mayor for the first of three terms. He began improvements that moved Corpus Christi into the modern era.
       Under Miller's leadership, 12 miles of the city's first paved roads were completed; 26 miles of sewers were laid; a modern water system was installed; street lights were erected; a full-time fire department replaced the volunteer units; and a new city hall and municipal wharf were built.
       People had talked for years about the need to improve the muddy and unsightly bluff, but Miller got it done, convincing the city to back a bond issue. The landscaped balustrade still exists today. He was head of the relief committee after the 1919 storm.
       But Roy Miller's greatest impact was still to come. Corpus Christi gained approval in Congress for a deepwater port largely because of the tandem efforts of Rep. John Nance Garner and the lobbying of Roy Miller. On May 22, 1922, when funding was approved to dredge a ship channel to Corpus Christi, Miller wired home his famous two-word message: "We win!''
       Miller was also a founding member of the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association. An article in Time magazine in 1958 gave Miller much of the credit for the completion of the waterway, which, the article noted, brought about the greatest boom in Gulf Coast history. Miller was also a key figure in getting the Naval Air Station located at Corpus Christi.
       Roy Miller died in Washington in 1946. His deathbed request was to have Corpus Christi's first fire bell sounded at his funeral. Four years later, Corpus Christi High School was renamed Miller High School in his honor.
       Bill Walraven, historian and author of "Corpus Christi: The History of a Texas Seaport,'' said Roy Miller was the spark that moved Corpus Christi into the modern era. He was a towering figure on the local landscape. More than half a century after his death, his accomplishments still stand.
       Clara Driscoll
    Caller-Times file photo
    Clara Driscoll: Known as the savior of the Alamo, she set up the foundation that led to Driscoll Children's Hospital.

       When Clara Driscoll was a precocious five-year-old in 1886, she lived with her parents in the Congdon Hotel in Rockport. The boarders in the hotel taught Clara to say, when asked who she was, "I'm the dark-eyed beauty, the belle of Rockport.''
       She became the belle of all Texas, gaining fame as the savior of the Alamo. In Corpus Christi, she is better known for her lasting legacy - the Driscoll Children's Hospital.
       When she was growing up on her father's ranch, she could ride and rope with the cowboys. She had fiery red hair and brown eyes like her father; one writer described her eyes as "liquid and lovely.'' She was sent to finishing school in New York and then Paris.
       She returned to San Antonio when she was 22 and saw the run-down condition of the Alamo. A syndicate planned to tear down the historic old church and build a hotel on the lot. But Clara started a campaign to save the Alamo. Schoolchildren across the state added their nickels and dimes to the fund. When the fundraising effort fell short, she put up her own money. The state eventually was shamed into repaying her.
       By the 1930s, Clara Driscoll was the last surviving member of a family that had been prominent in South Texas since before the Revolution. Her father, Robert Driscoll, acquired large holdings rich in oil deposits. Her brother, Robert Driscoll Jr., was one of the prime movers behind building the Port of Corpus Christi. He died in 1929.
       Clara Driscoll wrote two novels, "Girl of La Gloria'' and "In the Shadow of the Alamo,'' and a comic opera, "Mexicana.'' She wrote travel articles under the byline "A Texas Girl.'' She married Henry Hulme Sevier, a Texas legislator, in 1906; they divorced in 1937. When she was living in Austin, she organized the Pan American Round Table to promote understanding among women in the hemisphere.
       Nelda Patteson of Smiley, author of "Clara Driscoll, Savior of the Alamo,'' said she was a Texan of mythic proportions. "She was gracious, charming, beautiful and showed great perseverance. When she saw something that needed to be done, like rescuing the Alamo, she took action. I think she was probably pretty lonely, since very few people were on her intellectual level; she could speak four languages fluently, she wrote beautifully and was in demand all over the country as a speaker.''
       She spent the last years of her life in Corpus Christi. She built the Robert Driscoll Hotel on the bluff, named after her brother. She died in 1945, of a cerebral hemorrhage, and her body laid in state in the Alamo.
       Her will spelled out that the Driscoll fortune was to be used to establish a foundation for the care of sick and undernourished children. The Driscoll Foundation Children's Hospital opened in 1953, providing free hospital care for children of those who could not afford to pay. It operated as a purely charitable institution until 1970.
       For brevity, it's usually called the Driscoll Foundation, but Clara Driscoll did not name it for herself. She named it for her father, mother and brother. The full name is the Robert Driscoll and Julia Driscoll and Robert Driscoll Jr. Foundation. It has been a tremendous asset to Corpus Christi, this institution created by the generosity of that "dark-eyed beauty, the belle of Rockport.''
       Ada Wilson
    Caller-Times file photo
    Ada Wilson: Successfully fought to have the state purchase Mustang Island State Park.

       Ada Wilson once said her mother realized that her older children were "just sweet average girls, but her little Ada was unusual.''
       That she was. Ada Wilson, called a dowager queen, became a caricature of herself. But she also chose to spend some of her oil wealth to establish the Ada Wilson Hospital of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for crippled children.
       Ada Laverne Rogers, a native of Tennessee, met oil "lease-hound'' Sam Wilson in the oil boomtown of El Dorado, Ark., and they married in 1921. After ups and downs in Arkansas and Florida, the couple heard about new oil fields being discovered in South Texas. They arrived in Corpus Christi in 1936.
       Within little more than a year, Sam Wilson had 17 producing oil wells in Nueces County, including one in his own backyard on Shell Road. In one period, he drilled 44 producing wells before hitting a dry hole. He and Ada Wilson bought Mustang Island (except for the Port Aransas townsite) for a reported $31 an acre.
       This was a time when Texas oilmen were famous for their flamboyance, like buying yellow Cadillac convertibles with boots to match. Ada Wilson was the epitome of new oil money, spending her wealth with an epic hand. Her fingers glittered with rare stones and she hosted the most lavish parties South Texas had ever seen. She filled her Ocean Drive home with rare china and priceless antiques.
       Ada Wilson loved talking about herself and she didn't always stick to any clear line between truth and fiction. But there was another Wilson. Her two greatest achievements were the establishment of the Ada Wilson Hospital of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and her successful fight to force the state of Texas to buy what is now Mustang Island State Park, which she sold to the state for about half of market value. She received many awards over the years, but the most notable was the Maltese Cross, bestowed in recognition of her work in establishing the Ada Wilson Hospital. She was one of only three women in 700 years to receive that honor. (The Ada Wilson Hospital and the Driscoll Children's Hospital merged in 1995.)
       Ada Wilson was larger than life, and she was as special as she was unusual. She bought a 22,500-carat ruby, weighing nine pounds and 14 ounces, and had it carved with her own likeness on one side and the image of a crippled child on the other. She died Feb. 16, 1977.
       Ben Garza
    Caller-Times file photo
    Ben Garza: Ruben Bonilla addresses family and friends at a LULAC memorial for the organization's founder, Ben Garza.

       Ben Garza walked into his cafe on North Chaparral on Sunday morning, Feb. 17, 1929. He was hosting a meeting of Hispanic leaders from South Texas. Garza planned the meeting to try to convince others to form one organization to improve conditions for Hispanics.
       Bernado F. Garza was born in Brownsville in 1892. After his father died in 1908, Garza worked to support the family of seven in Rockport. He completed the 6th grade before he was forced to go to work waiting tables. He moved to Corpus Christi and opened the Metropolitan Cafe in 1919. He bought real estate and became a successful, respected businessman.
       Garza was president of the local chapter of the Order of Sons of America, a group with headquarters in San Antonio. Garza was trying to get his group to combine with two other Hispanic rights groups. But the leaders of the Sons of America in San Antonio were not responsive. So Garza pulled out his chapter to join with the Knights of America and the Loyal Mexican American Citizens of Brownsville.
       On Feb. 17, 1929, Garza presided over an historic meeting in Corpus Christi held at a dance hall. The new organization was called the United Latin American Citizens. At its first convention, held in May, Garza was elected president. Another Corpus Christian, Luis Wilmot, was elected treasurer, and Garza's brother Joe was active in the new organization.
       Joe Garza said of his brother Ben that, "He was man enough to become a leader of his people. It was not easy to belong to LULAC in those days, especially in the smaller towns. Their jobs were in jeopardy and they were told not to join. It was hard to keep them in the organization.''
       Ben Garza was clearly the driving force behind the founding of the League of United Latin American Citizens. Membership spread quickly across the country, and the organization became a powerful force for Hispanic civil rights. Through the efforts of this organization in its early years, Hispanic children were admitted to primary schools and Hispanics won the right to serve as jurors.
       Ben Garza closed his restaurant in 1931 after suffering from tuberculosis, which circumscribed and shortened his life. He died in 1937 at the age of 44. But he left behind an organization based on the idea of equality that would help transform society. Ben Garza was truly an indigenous leader. A eulogy at his funeral said the accomplishments of this self-educated man "will live forever in the minds of those who knew him.''
       Dr. Hector P. Garcia
    Caller-Times file photo
    Hector P. Garcia: Created the American GI Forum, which is the nation's largest Hispanic veterans organization.

       When Dr. Hector P. Garcia returned to Texas from the battlefields of Europe after World War II, he appraised the situation on the home front, and he didn't like what he saw.
       He came to Corpus Christi to practice medicine in 1946. As he would write later, there were no Hispanics on the Corpus Christi City Council. There were no Hispanics on the County Commissioners Court. There were few Hispanic doctors and lawyers in the state of Texas.
       From that time on, Dr. Hector P. Garcia had a cause, and he served that for the rest of his life. His great influence cannot be charted in terms of specific actions or programs, yet he was one of the figures of the 20th century who helped to reshape America.
       Hector P. Garcia was born in the small Mexican village of Llera on Jan. 17, 1914. After the town was attacked during the Mexican Revolution, his parents moved to Mercedes in the Valley. His father, a professor in Mexico, was strict; if he found young Hector playing baseball instead of studying, he would use his belt. Hector's mother taught him that nobody was a servant and for the rest of his life he would avoid using the Spanish "tu," often used in speaking to a servant.
       In 1948, a mortuary in Three Rivers refused to bury Pvt. Felix Longoria, who was killed on Luzon in the Philippines. Garcia brought national attention to the incident and, with the help of Lyndon Johnson, arranged for Longoria's body to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
       This incident gave impetus to the developing organization formed by Garcia, the American GI Forum, which became the nation's largest Hispanic veteran's organization. Garcia's fight for recognition for Hispanics, veterans and otherwise, continued for the rest of his life. He went on to become a member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and a representative of the United States at the United Nations.
       Dr. Garcia was not an eloquent speaker, but he was intense. He once said in an interview with the Caller-Times that he was not a revolutionary, that he was happy to work within the system. "I am a capitalist,'' he said, pointing to his Cadillac; "I only wish there were more capitalists named Garcia and Gonzalez.''
       Later, when others his age were dead or resting on their laurels, he was still working for the cause. He was a man who acted on his morals and he could inspire others to see the justice of his beliefs. His influence was felt in other ways: When the Naval Air Station was in danger of being closed in 1976, Garcia, who had often mobilized voter turnout for Democratic tickets, used his clout in Washington to help keep it open.
       Historian Joe B. Frantz said Dr. Hector P. Garcia did more for Hispanic civil rights than anyone else in the country. Dr. Pat Carroll of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi said, "What he was able to do was to act as a broker; he could bridge the gulf between the Hispanic community and the Anglo power structure.'' Carroll said Garcia was unquestionably the single most important figure, as an agent of change for Hispanics, in this area in the 20th century.
       Dr. Hector P. Garcia died on July 26, 1996.
       Hayden Head Sr.
    Caller-Times file photo
    Hayden Head: Worked to make civic improvements such as building Choke Canyon Reservoir and establishing the Naval Air Station.

       Hayden Head Sr. was the pilot of his twin-engine Cessna 421 when it crashed and burned at his ranch in Zavala County. When a ranch foreman tried to pull him from the burning cockpit, he told the rescuer to get his wife out first. Head died in the crash, but his wife survived.
       Head never sought or held an elective office, yet he was one of the most politically influential men in the history of South Texas.
       Hayden Wilson Head was born in Sherman in 1915. He came from a family of lawyers. His father was an attorney and his grandfather was a state appeals judge. He came to Corpus Christi as a young lawyer in 1937 and married Annie Blake Morgan, the daughter of oilman/farmer Rand Morgan.
       Head served in the Army Air Corps in World War II as a fighter pilot. Three weeks before the end of the war in Europe, his plane was shot down and he became a POW in a German stalag. After the war, he returned to Corpus Christi and established his own law practice. Through the years, he served on many civic boards and commissions. He served on the city's Airport Advisory Commission for 30 years.
       Head was known as a power-broker and was once called the "kingpin of the establishment.'' But those who knew him said he never used his influence for personal advantage; he used it to help Corpus Christi and South Texas prosper. U.S. Sen. John Tower once told the Caller-Times: "I've never heard a disparaging word about Hayden Head from anybody, and that's pretty rare in this business.''
       U.S. District Judge Hayden Head Jr. said his father "absolutely loved'' to practice law and he was good at it. "He was, first and foremost, an extremely fine and capable lawyer, one of the finest lawyers this state ever produced. I mean that on a client basis, doing work for the clients he represented.''
       Attorney Tony Bonilla said of Head that, "We've not seen his kind since his departure. There were very few people who could pick up the phone and call the leading citizens, across the board, and call a meeting to discuss something important to our community. He was one of the few. He didn't pull any punches; people knew where he stood. When I ran for mayor, and Betty Turner was my opponent, I went in to visit him. He said, 'Tony, I can't support you.' I respected him greatly for that. Since his death, there has been a total absence of the kind of leadership and responsibility that he was known for.''
       Hayden Head Sr. spearheaded many important civic endeavors, including deepening the ship channel, establishing the Naval Air Station and building Choke Canyon Reservoir. Among his later accomplishments was his leadership of a fund-raising effort to establish 32 endowed teaching chairs of at least $1 million each at the University of Texas. Hayden Head Sr. died on July 24, 1987, when his plane crashed into a hangar at his ranch near Crystal City.
       Robert J. Kleberg Sr.
    Caller-Times file photo
    Robert J. Kleberg, Sr.: Helped to bring water to South Texas, which led to the building of a railroad and the expansion of King Ranch.

       In the waning years of the 19th century, Robert Justus Kleberg, as manager of the King Ranch, knew one of the things that could spur the growth of the ranching empire in the new century was water.
       It wasn't just water that Kleberg needed, but a railroad to help transport his cattle, said Lisa Neely, archivist for the King Ranch Museum. Water was the magical ingredient that made the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexican Railway possible, she said.
       "To have the railroads in, you had to have a town. To have a town, you had to have people. To have people, you had to have water," Neely said. "It was through his tenacity and perseverance that he was able to bring in the first artesian wells on the ranch."
       The problem with drilling wells was that the freshwater table was too deep for drilling equipment at the time, she said. Bringing water to South Texas was so urgent for Kleberg that he and others experimented with rainmaking techniques with the Department of Agriculture in the early 1890s.
       The final breakthrough came in 1899, and Kleberg is said to have cried with happiness at the sight of the column of clear drinkable water spouting from the ground. About five years later, Kingsville was founded and the railway soon followed.
       Kleberg first met King Ranch founder Capt. Richard King in Corpus Christi, where Kleberg practiced law. Kleberg proposed to King's daughter, Alice, and they married in 1886, a year after King died. At about the same time, Kleberg took over management of the ranch for King's widow. Under Kleberg's leadership, the ranch grew from half a million acres to more than a million acres. Kleberg directed the ranch until his death in 1932.
       Kleberg also was noted for spurring the development of South Texas through ranching. He was aggressively involved in fighting diseases like anthrax and tick fever that could spell doom for any ranch. He also bred cattle, most notably the Santa Gertrudis.
       Kleberg was born Dec. 5, 1853, on the family farm near Meyersville, where he grew up in a close-knit German family. After attending Concrete College, he worked as a schoolteacher, until he was elected county clerk in DeWitt County.
       He later attended the University of Virginia law school, where he received his degree in 1880. He began his practice in Cuero, and moved to Corpus Christi a few months later to open a branch office.
       Kleberg also has been credited with helping found the Port of Corpus Christi. It was Kleberg whom the aggressive Deep Water Harbor Association for South and West Texas looked to for leadership in 1919.
       The association spent months compiling data, preparing surveys, promoting Corpus Christi, rallying civic and commercial support throughout South Texas and lobbying. The fuel for that publicity engine was mainly collected or donated by Kleberg. The port officially opened in 1926. The Nueces Navigation District Commission honored Kleberg as one of the port founders.
       Kleberg was honored in 1980 by Fortune magazine, which named him to the Junior Achievement's Hall of Fame for Business Leadership. Kleberg, among nine others named that year, joined American business luminaries such as Andrew Carnegie, George Eastman and John D. Rockefeller.
       Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth Butt
    Caller-Times file photo
    Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth Butt: Wife of H. E. Butt, worked on projects targeting the health and educational needs of South Texas families.

       Her spirit still dumbfounds. Even her children try to understand how Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth Butt could do so much for the world around her.
       "My mother cared passionately about others," said her son, Charles Butt. "She truly wanted to leave the world a better place. It's always astounded us that she developed such a social conscience. She didn't grow up in a home with a big social service component."
       Holdsworth Butt was born in 1903 on a South Texas ranch, the fourth of seven children. Her father, Thomas Holdsworth, was the son of an English schoolmaster who emigrated with his family in 1880 and settled in South Texas.
       After marrying Rosa Ross and starting a family, Thomas Holdsworth worked in northern Mexico for a mining company near Torreon, Coahuila. Eventually, Mary graduated from Tivy High School in Kerrville and attended the University of Texas, later becoming a schoolteacher in Kerrville.
       In 1924, she married Howard Butt, operator of a small Kerrville grocery store. His acquisition of additional grocery stores brought the couple, and H. E. Butt Grocery Co. corporate headquarters, to Harlingen in 1929 and later to Corpus Christi.
       The couple raised three children, Eleanor, Howard Jr. and Charles.
       "The conversation at the dinner table was frequently about issues she was working with," Charles Butt said. "She lived these things. They were a part of her daily life. It wasn't just a project for her."
       While her husband worked to expand the business, she launched a series of projects targeting the health and educational needs of South Texas families.
       Her dining room became an area office for the State Crippled Children's Program. She was the first person to chair the Cameron County Child Welfare Board and also worked to expand inadequate library services.
       She began a program for tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment throughout the Rio Grande Valley and bought the first equipment for testing the hearing and vision of Valley school children.
       "The social needs in the Valley back then made a very big impression on her," Charles Butt said. "She was just a young woman, 25 years old."
       In 1940, the Butt family moved the H.E. Butt Grocery Co. headquarters to Corpus Christi.
       The YWCA, the County Home for the Aged and the District American Cancer Society all were organized in Butt's Corpus Christi home. She also worked to establish the Mary Bethune Day Nursery for black children and served on the Community Chest Board.
       She established a tuberculosis hospital and was instrumental in establishing a juvenile center to separate young offenders from the adult jail population. She funded medical care for juvenile offenders and programs addressing placement and educational needs for the juveniles, as well as special camps for probationers.
       In 1934, the Butts organized the H.E. Butt Foundation, which was administered out of the Butt home for 40 years.
       Holdsworth Butt was 90 when she died in October 1993.
       "I'm very afraid of someone putting a spin on her life to make a religious, social or political point," said daughter Eleanor Crook in 1995. "She saw herself as a homemaker and a citizen. I want a small book that would capture her spirit, a hymn to her life. She's worth celebrating."
       George Parr
    Caller-Times file photo
    George Parr: Proved to be a political powerhouse and controversial politician.

       George Parr was one of the most controversial and powerful political figures in South Texas during the last century. He succeeded his father, Archie, as the political boss of Duval County and built up enormous power and wealth with his domination of the Democratic Party machine in South Texas.
       Born in San Diego in 1901, at 13 he served as his father's page in the Texas Senate. Despite a checkered educational record, Parr passed the bar exam without earning a degree.
       A conviction for income tax evasion in 1934 and a nine-month prison term did nothing to destroy Parr's political power. Candidates controlled by him swept county elections for decades, and his fortune grew as he extended his ventures into banking, trade, ranching and oil.
       After his prison term, he regained the right to run for public office in 1946 when he was pardoned by President Harry Truman. After that, he was elected Duval County judge and sheriff.
       Parr was suspected of being the man behind the Box 13 incident, which changed the course of U.S. history. In the 1948 Senate race between Lyndon Johnson and Coke Stevenson, Stevenson appeared to have won until election officials in Jim Wells County reported an extra 202 votes for Johnson from Box 13. This gave Johnson an 87-vote victory margin. As charges of fraud arose, Box 13 disappeared.
       As Parr gained in power, the scandals that trailed him grew in magnitude. He was challenged by members of the Freedom Party, consisting mainly of World War II veterans, during the 1950s. Two of Parr's critics and the son of another met violent deaths. After the third killing, Gov. Allan Shivers and federal authorities launched high-powered campaigns to destroy the Parr machine with investigations in the 1950s leading to indictments of members of his ring.
       But Parr retained his hold, despite a conviction for federal mail fraud in 1957, managing to get a series of dismissals and reversals on appeal. The case was built around a $190,122 shortfall in Benavides school funds. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1960 described Parr's behavior as "bad and brazen,'' noting crimes such as embezzlement, but ruled that his crimes were state, not federal. By that time, the statute of limitations had run out on the state crimes.
       Despite his reputation, many in Duval County regarded him with affection. His former neighbor, Elvira Alaniz, remembered how he would put on old clothes to mow the grass and if someone he didn't want to talk to approached him, he pretended to be a laborer and would say in Spanish that Mr. Parr was not home. But he seldom turned away the poor.
       "Sometimes there would be a line of people waiting for blocks,'' she said. "He was always ready to help the sick and needy. He would see that people in town would get jobs. People said he was a dictator, but he took care of people and made the town a better place. Now politicians will stab you in the back. But you knew you could count on him.''
       On April 1, 1975, Parr was appealing a five-year prison term for federal income tax evasion when he left his house with a .45-caliber pistol and an AR-15 rifle. He was found shot in the head in his car on his ranch. The official ruling was suicide, but his daughter, Georgia Parr, and his wife, Eva Perez, didn't believe it. Perez has said he was out to kill someone else, not himself.
       Sidney Wolf
    Caller-Times file photo
    Sidney Wolf: Rabbi of Temple Beth El, worked to promote racial integration and understanding.

       In 1932, Sidney Wolf of Ohio accepted an offer from 70 Jews in Corpus Christi to be their rabbi for a three-month trial period.
       He stayed 50 years. And Corpus Christi is better for it.
       Quiet but diligent, Wolf worked hard for greater religious and racial tolerance in Corpus Christi, influencing city boards and ministerial associations to further racial integration. In a groundbreaking move, he invited black ministers to preach at Temple Beth El during the 1950s.
       "He changed the nature of the community of Corpus Christi," said Helen Wilk, president of the Texas Jewish Historical Society and author of the book "Our Golden Years - A History of Temple Beth El, Corpus Christi, Texas, 1928-1983."
       "He was very keen on everyone having equal participation," said Wilk, a member of Temple Beth El. "He crossed the color barrier before anyone else thought that would be an appropriate thing to do."
       Wolf grew up in Cleveland and earned a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Cincinnati. He was ordained in 1932.
       "I think he loved Corpus Christi," Wilk said. "He saw there was much to accomplish here. ... It was an experiment that obviously was successful. He shaped not only the Jewish community but the entire community."
       Beginning in 1933, Wolf forged joint ecumenical Thanksgiving services with the Church of the Good Shepherd, an Episcopal church. One year later, Wolf would preach at the church. The next year, the church's reverend, William Casper Munds, would preach at Temple Beth El. The event continued annually.
       In the 1950s, Wolf invited black ministers to preach at Temple Beth El.
       "If you can transport yourself to the 1950s, segregation was the rule of the land in our part of the country," Wilk said. "Sidney didn't think that was right."
       Wilk once asked Wolf what made him decide to make the bold move of inviting black ministers to preach at the synagogue.
       "He was always a very modest man," she said. "He just shrugged his shoulders and said, 'Well, it just seemed like the right thing to do.' "
       When blacks sought to integrate the city's municipal golf course in the early 1950s, Wolf pushed the measure through while on the board of the Park and Recreation Department. But blacks still were barred from golf course concessions, locker rooms and showers.
       "Everybody should be allowed free use of the golf course regardless of whether he is white, brown or black," Wolf said, according to a newspaper article in 1954. "We don't hesitate to collect taxes from everybody. ... These men are only asking for elementary rights. They want to be able to buy a Coke or use a locker. ... It is not for us to feel that we can grant or withhold these rights at our own discretion."
       Wolf's motion to integrate golf course amenities passed unanimously.
       Wolf died in 1982 of cancer. But his good works survive him.
       Temple Beth El and Church of the Good Shepherd still conduct joint ecumenical services each Thanksgiving.
       H. Boyd Hall
    Caller-Times file photo
    H. Boyd Hall: Organized the Corpus Christi chapter of the NAACP and worked for civil rights.

       Dr. H. Boyd Hall wrote in 1953 that his hobby was to fight for the rights and privileges of his people.
       His hobby became his greatest source of pride.
       After restaurants, schools, housing, neighborhoods and public places opened to blacks in Corpus Christi, Hall said he was satisfied that the horrors of segregation were history.
       "All of this was accomplished without the shedding of one drop of blood, without the filing of one lawsuit within 200 miles of Corpus Christi, without the fomenting of ill feelings between the white and the black," he said.
       And the warm man, who smiled and spoke with a solid baritone, should not be forgotten, said the Rev. Harold Branch, who joined Hall in the fight for integration.
       "He had a tremendous influence on galvanizing blacks following World War II and creating something of a desire for a fullness in life for blacks," Branch said. "He wasn't content to live a full life by himself. Instead he sought others to live it with him and he led them in the fight for their right to be included."
       Hall was born on Sept. 12, 1899, in Palestine and attended Tennessee State College in Nashville and MeHarry Medical College, Dental Department. He received his doctor of dental surgery degree in 1923 and was a Corpus Christi dentist for 37 years.
       Hall married Olivia Williams Hall in Seguin on April 1, 1933, and the couple moved here on Jan. 1, 1937. At the time, the living conditions for blacks were grim. Blacks were forced to live in a red light district between Sam Rankin Street and Port Avenue, but that changed after Hall worked to get a subdivision developed in which blacks could buy homes. His efforts resulted in the development of Greenwood Park. He also successfully appealed to the City Council for additions at Leathers Housing Center.
       Before desegregation, one school served all black students in a 30-mile radius. Hall fought to desegregate the Corpus Christi Independent School District and battled for more black teachers. He also worked to integrate Del Mar College and Texas A&I University in Kingsville.
       At the height of the civil rights movement, Hall was instrumental in bringing black leaders to speak in Corpus Christi, including Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice.
       In the 1960s, Hall joined the city's core of established black leaders, which included Dr. H.J. Williams, a physician, and Branch, then the pastor of St. John Baptist Church and a two-term city councilman in the 1970s. Together, the group pushed for ordinances integrating the city's hospitals, swimming pools, bowling alleys, hotels and restaurants.
       He stepped down as state president of the NAACP in 1957, and later, the Corpus Christi chapter was named after him.
       Hall died of cancer on Dec. 4, 1974. He was 75.
      
      



    Staff writers Mary Lee Grant, Stephanie Jordan, Guy Lawrence, Deborah Martinez and Dan Parker _contributed to this report.

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