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“me For Ma—and I Ain’t Got A Dern Thing Againts Pa”
Alabama’s Lurleen Wallace is not the first wife to stand in for her husband on the political stage. “Farmer Jim” Ferguson ran his Miriam for governor of Texas five times, and twice the voters elected her
October 1966 | Volume 17, Issue 6
But in 1940, at the age of sixty-five, she reversed herself and ran once again for governor. She and Jim were obviously encouraged by F. D. R.’s third-term bid at the national level; but not many Texans were. Now close to seventy, Pa was a feeble shadow of Farmer Jim, the Temple dynamo, who had roared out of Bell County twenty-six years before to take the state by storm; to make matters worse, he was now almost deaf. Ma finished a pathetic fourth, lost in the landslide piled up by still another Texas phenomenon, Wilbert “Pappy” Lee O’Daniel, the “Hillbilly Flour” huckster.
In 1942, Ferguson threw his support to O’Daniel in “Pappy’s” uphill victory over Congressman Lyndon Johnson for the U.S. Senate nomination. Nevertheless, Johnson had only kind words for the Governors Ferguson in 1955, when Texas Democrats paid six dollars a plate in a final tribute to the awesome political force called Fergusonism. Jim and Miriam, he said, were the kind of people “who stand for the folks—four-square, without apology and no compromise. Maybe they weren’t always right, but they tried to be right, and you can ask no more of anyone.” By then the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Johnson could afford to be magnanimous: Pa had been in his grave eleven years, and Ma, at the age of eighty, had just six years left to sit and rock on the porch of her Austin home, surrounded by memories and mementoes of those exhilarating years when Texas creek bottoms resounded to the cry—“Two governors for the price of one.”