Henry C. Grover

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Henry Cushing Grover, often known as Hank Grover (April 1, 1927– November 28, 2005), was a conservative politician from the U.S. state of Texas best known for his relatively narrow defeat as the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1972.

Grover was born in Corpus Christi on the Texas Gulf Coast. As a youth, he lived in San Antonio. A Roman Catholic, he graduated from the college-preparatory and all-male St. Thomas High School in Houston. He received his Bachelor of Arts in history and political science from the University of St. Thomas in Houston and his Master of Arts in the same subjects from the University of Houston. His master's thesis focuses on Colonel Edward M. House of Houston, a rice broker and Democrat active in the 1912 campaign to elect Woodrow Wilson as the U.S. President.


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1972 gubernatorial run

Grover was elected as a Democrat to the Texas House of Representatives in 1960, 1962, and 1964. In 1966, he switched parties and was elected to the state Senate. In the 1972 Republican gubernatorial primary, he led a field of five with 37,118 votes (32.6 percent). Houston businessman Albert Bel Fay of Houston ran second with 24,329 ballots (21.3 percent). Three other largely unknown candidates shared a surprisingly large 41.8 percent of the vote.

In an even lower turnout runoff primary, Grover defeated Fay (1913–1992), the Republican national committeeman from Texas from 1960 to 1969. Grover received 37,842 votes (66.4 percent), some 700 more votes than he received in the first primary, to Fay's 19,166 (33.6 percent), or 5,000 fewer votes than he obtained in the primary. The Sharpstown bank scandal, which had damaged many of the state's Democratic leaders, worked to Grover's advantage, for he could depict himself as an untainted Republican nominee for governor. His uncompromising conservative, constitutionalist views may have weakened him among moderate voters in both parties.

Grover lost the general election by almost exactly 100,000 votes to the Democratic nominee, former state Representative Dolph Briscoe, of Uvalde in south Texas. Grover carried nearly all of the state's urban centers. The final tally was 1,633,493 (47.9 percent) for Briscoe and 1,533,986 (45 percent) for Grover. Briscoe was a "minority governor" because he failed to garner a simple majority of the votes. The Hispanic La Raza candidate, then 29-year-old Ramsey Muñiz, received 214,118 votes (6 percent), nearly all believed to have been at Briscoe's expense. (Two other minor candidates shared 27,994 votes, or 0.8 percent.) Muñiz's support was insufficient to deny victory to Briscoe, but political analysts contend that Briscoe's margin was largely dependent on Hispanic voters in rural areas of south Texas who traditionally stuck with their Democratic nominees.

Grover's Catholicism was apparently not an issue with Texas voters. Had he been elected, he would have become the first and thus far only Catholic governor of Texas. Many believed that Texas had supported Republican Herbert Hoover in 1928 because opponent Alfred E. Smith was Catholic. Texas, however, had voted in 1960 for John F. Kennedy, the nation's first and thus far only Catholic president.


On the direction of the GOP

Grover and Republican U.S. Senator John G. Tower disagreed over the focus of the GOP. Grover wanted the party to move in a populist direction to attract those who had previously favored Alabama Governor George C. Wallace, for president and combine those otherwise traditionally Democratic voters with the Republican base, consisting mostly of fiscal conservatives. Tower favored a different approach to expand the party by attracting middle-of-the-roaders who stressed "good government" and those with economically conservative views.

Tower and Grover nearly came to fisticuffs in the 1972 campaign when Ernest Angelo, the new mayor of Midland, Texas, tried to get the two to work out their differences. The bitterness persisted. While Grover lost his race to Briscoe, Tower was a relatively easy winner for a third term in the Senate over Democrat Harold "Barefoot" Sanders, a former federal judge. The Grover approach appeared to have been vindicated with the 1976 primary victory of former California Governor Ronald W. Reagan in the first Texas GOP presidential primary in which voters chose the delegates. Indeed, Grover supported Reagan in 1976 over Tower's choice, the late U.S. President Gerald Ford. Tower's approach was, however, consistent with the later successes in Texas of George Herbert Walker Bush and George W. Bush. In his 1991 autobiography, Tower referred to Grover in only one paragraph.[1]


1984 U.S. Senate campaign

Tower announced in the summer of 1983 that he would not seek a fifth term. Grover, who had disagreed with Tower on many issues, therefore, entered the Republican primary held in May 1984. He fared poorly in that race. In the first primary, Republicans nominated Congressman Phil Gramm of College Station, another convert to the GOP. Also seeking the 1984 Senate nomination were Robert Mosbacher, Jr., of Houston, son of later U.S. Secretary of Commerce Robert A. Mosbacher, and conservative-to-libertarian Congressman Ron Paul of the district southwest of Houston. Gramm in turn defeated the Democratic nominee, then state Senator and later U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett, and went on to serve three terms in the U.S. Senate.


Challenging the "Johnson law"

Grover's reputation as a gadfly to the establishment surfaced again in 1995. As a private citizen, he sued the Texas Republican Party on the grounds that an elections rule, approved by the legislature in 1960, which permits a person to run for the White House and another office at the same time, is unconstitutional. He sued then party chairman, the conservative Tom Pauken to prevent Gramm from filing for both offices in 1996.

"It violates the spirit of representative government in the Texas Constitution," Grover said in his lawsuit, filed at 126th State District Court in Travis County.

The rule, named for Lyndon B. Johnson, allows a candidate to seek the presidency or the vice presidency and another office in the same election cycle. It was written in 1960 so that then U.S. Senator Johnson could run for re-election to the Senate as well as for president or vice president if he secured a national Democratic nomination. The Johnson rule was since used by former U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, who ran for reelection in 1988 and was also the 1988 Democratic nominee for vice president. Several other states, including Connecticut with Senator Joseph Lieberman in 2000 and Delaware with Senator Joe Biden in 2008, also permit presidential and vice presidential candidates to seek other offices at the same time, usually the U.S. Senate being the preferred choice.

Former Republican Senator Phil Gramm may have benefited from the rule as well had he won his party's presidential nomination in 1996, but he withdrew from the presidential race even before the New Hampshire primary. Grover's suit went nowhere: the Johnson rule remains in effect in Texas.


1996 Republican Senate primary

Grover then challenged Senator Gramm in the 1996 Republican primary. Though he won the support of some Second Amendment groups, Grover finished last in the three-man primary, with just 72,400 votes (7.34 percent). David Young, who termed himself "more moderate" than Gramm, finished second with 75,463 (7.65 percent). Gramm polled 838,339 (85 percent). Gramm, a former college economics professor, then defeated the Democrat Victor Morales, like Grover a former school teacher.


Political philosophy

The 1996 campaign offered a glimpse into Grover's later political views, largely compatible to those of former Republican presidential contender Pat Buchanan. Grover proposed a $10-a-barrel oil import tax to, in his view, reduce American dependence on imported oil, raise revenue to cut the deficit, and provide an incentive for independent oil drillers to find new wells. Grover proposed bringing home all American troops from Europe and placing them on the Mexican border from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego, California. He believed the military is required to halt illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

On abortion, Grover said, "I'm 100 percent pro-life." He said that abortion should be outlawed under all circumstances, even when the mother was raped: "As sad as those situations are, it's not that child's fault", he said.

Speaking at Baylor University in Waco, Grover said that the most feminine thing a woman can do is give birth, adding that perhaps college-age women could not understand the full meaning of abortion. Grover also said that he agreed with the 1996 government shutdowns, saying it was "the only time Congress has faced up to the fact that the nation is bankrupt". He applauded those freshmen Republicans in Congress (1995–1996) who did not waver and who demanded that the government stop reckless spending.


Obituary

Until his death of Alzheimer's disease, Grover resided in Houston with his wife, Kathleen D. Grover, the mother of his three sons and three daughters. The Grovers married in 1952. Prior to entering politics, Grover was a history and civics teacher at Houston's Lamar Senior High School.

Grover's eldest son, Bernard D. Grover, who graduated from St. Thomas High School, is known for his activism with the Convention Pro-Continuation of 1861, a group devoted to Texas independence using the federal courts and Texas history and law.

At the time of his death in Houston, Grover was a member of the Annunciation Catholic Church. He was cremated.

"My husband was not a politician. He was a statesman. His wonderful integrity worked against him in the political process ... I just try to put all the politics out of my mind", Mrs. Grover said in a 2006 interview with the historian Billy Hathorn.


References

  1. Tower, John G. (1991). Consequences: A Personal and Political Memoir. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0316851132. “Hank Grover won the gubernatorial nomination and, consistent with his style as an outspoken maverick, demanded the ouster of the [Republican] party chairman [George Williford]. Cooler heads prevailed, but the last thing I needed was a divided party.” 

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