Marshall Formby

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Marshall Clinton

"Potts" Formby, Jr.​

Texas State Senator for now District 30 (Andrews, Bailey, Borden, Cochran, Cottle, Crosby, Dawson, Dickens, Floyd, Gaines, Garza, Hale, Hockley, Howard, Kent, King, Lamb, Lubbock, Lynn, Martin, Motley, Stonewall, Terry, and Yoakum counties)
In office
1941​ – 1945​
Preceded by G. Hobert Nelson ​
Succeeded by Sterling J. Parrish ​

County judge of Dickens County, Texas​
In office
1937​ – 1940​

Born April 12, 1911​
Como, Hopkins County
Died December 27, 1984
(aged 73)​
Plainview, Hale County, Texas​
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Sharleen Wells Formby (married 1946-1984, his death)​

later remarried as Sharleen Formby Rhoads​

Relations Robert Duncan (nephew)

Clint Formby (nephew)
Margaret Formby (nephew's wife)

Children Frances Formby Seales​

David W. Formby​

Alma mater Spur High School​

Texas Tech University
University of Texas at Austin
Baylor University​ Law School

Occupation Attorney; Journalist

Radio executive

Religion Southern Baptist

Military Service
Service/branch European Theater of Operations
Rank Captain

Marshall Clinton "Potts" Formby, Jr. (April 12, 1911 – December 27, 1984), was a Texas attorney, newspaper publisher, radio executive, and a Democratic politician who served a term from 1941 to 1945 in the Texas State Senate for District 30, which includes twenty-four mostly rural counties in West Texas. He was a defender of regional interests and entitled a 1962 book, These Are My People.

Formby was a maternal uncle of former state Senator Robert Duncan, a Moderate Republican from Lubbock who formerly held the District 28 seat until he was appointed as the chancellor of the Texas Tech University System.​ ​


Formby was born in the same East Texas house as his father, Marshall Formby, Sr. (1877–1957).[1] His mother was the former Rosa Mae Freeman (1882–1971).[2]

When Marshall was five years of age, the family relocated to McAdoo in Dickens County in West Texas. As a child, he was nicknamed "Potts" because he frequently played in an iron wash pot. Young Formby attended public schools in McAdoo through his junior year of high school. In 1928, he received his diploma from Spur High School, also in Dickens County.[3]

In 1932, Formby received a Bachelor of Arts in government from Texas Tech. While in college, he worked as a regional correspondent for several newspapers and was a student editor of The Daily Toreador. After college, he briefly owned and operated a drug store in McAdoo. In 1936, he worked briefly as a police reporter for The Miami Tribune in Miami, Florida.[3]​ ​


Returning to McAdoo specifically to run for office, he became at twenty-five the youngest county judge in Texas.[3] He worked to reduce property taxes and brought Dickens County on a cash basis for the first time in some fifteen years. During his last year as county judge, Formby was president of the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association.[3]"He loved people and politics. He was for the little guy," said nephew and business partner Clint Formby.​ ​ In 1937, Judge Formby received a Master of Arts in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. While at UT, he was a correspondent covering the state legislature for The Amarillo Times in Amarillo, the largest city in the Texas Panhandle.[4]

As a state senator, his legislative service was interrupted by World War II, in which he served in Europe in the United States Army Corps of Engineers and was discharged as a captain. Formby married the former Sharleen Wells (1918-2010), later Sharleen Rhoads of Midland after Formby's death. The couple, who met in Austin, had two children, Frances Formby Seales of Lubbock (born 1955) and David W. Formby (born 1957) of Plainview, and two grandchildren. A native of Barberton, Ohio, Sharleen graduated as an English major from a junior college. She married Formby on September 8, 1946, in Seale, Alabama. (Coincidentally, their daughter married a man named "Seales.") Sharleen taught at the United States Army War College in Washington, D.C., and later attended graduate school at the University of Texas, at which she studied radio communication. In August 1947, the Formbys moved to Plainview in Hale County north of Lubbock.[5]

For a time Formby operated the weekly Aspermont Star in rural Aspermont in Stonewall County in West Texas and later The Plainview Tribune.[2] In the late 1940s,Formby pursued his Juris Doctorate degree, which he received in 1951 from Baylor University Law School in Waco, Texas.[5]

After his admission to the bar in 1952, Formby returned to Plainview to join the firm of LaFont and Tudor, founded by Judge Harold M. LaFont and later known as LaFont, Formby, Hamilton, LaFont, and Hamilton[2] In 1953, he was appointed to the Texas Highway Commission, since the Texas Transportation Commission, by GovernorRobert Allan Shivers (1907-1985).[3] From 1957 to 1959, he was chairman of the commission and worked particularly to bring highway improvements to West Texas.[6] During his time on the commission, he visited all but three of Texas's 254 counties.[2]

Clint Formby, a radio broadcaster from Hereford and a cousin of former state Senator Robert Duncan, described his uncle Marshall as a person who "swam upstream . . . and had his mind set on what he wanted to do." Duncan's mother was Formby's sister, the former Mae Robena Formby (1921–2009). She was named by Marshall Formby and his brother, John C. Formby (1902–1989), who was Clint's father.[7]

Formby owned or co-owned radio stations KPAN AM and FM in Hereford, KFLD in Floydada, KTVE in Tulia, KSML in Seminole, KACT (AM) in Andrews, and KLVT in Levelland in Hockley County.[5] KPAN had first been considered for establishment in Canyon in Randall County south of Amarillo. It bills itself as "the only radio station in the world that gives a hoot about Hereford, Texas." By the middle 1950's, Clint Formby had become a partner in the station, and later the sole owner of KPAN and other outlets. Clint Formby was known for his "Old Philosopher" program (the longest running radio program hosted by a single individual in radio history, 1955–2011). Clint Formby's son, Larry "Chip" Formby (born 1953) worked with his father at station, as did Clint's grandsons, Jonathan and Lane Formby.[8]

1962 gubernatorial campaign

From 1967 to 1971, he was a member of the Texas Tech regents under original appointment of Governor John B. Connally, Jr. In 1962, Formby had been among the intra-party rivals defeated by Connally for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Time termed Formby "a conservative" in the primary contest but did not elaborate on what were his slim chances of winning the nomination. The other contestants were sitting Governor Marion Price Daniel, Sr. (1910-1988), who sought an unprecedented fourth two-year term; Don Yarborough (1925-2009), a liberal lawyer and supporter of organized labor from Houston; former state Attorney General Will Wilson, later a Republican convert, and retired Army General Edwin Anderson Walker (1909-1993) of Dallas, known for his staunch anti-communism. Connally went on to defeat the Republican Jack Cox (1921-1990), himself a former Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives in West Texas and then an oil-equipment executive in Houston.[9]

Two other former state highway directors who lost gubernatorial races during this period of history were Fred Preaus in Louisiana in 1956 and Henry Ward in Kentucky in 1967.[10]

Death and legacy

Formby died in Plainview, his principal city of residence since 1947.[5] He was a deacon of the First Baptist Church there, a member of the advisory council of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and served on the public relations board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He was active in Rotary International and the Masonic lodge. He was the president of the Texas Tech Ex-Students Association. While serving on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Formby made the recommendation to rename "Texas Technological College" as Texas Tech University.[11]

The Marshall Formby State Jail in Plainview is named in his honor.[12] Under a state Senate bill introduced in 2005 by Formby's nephew, Robert Duncan, that portion of Interstate 27 between its intersection with U.S. Highway 84 in Lubbock and its connection with Interstate Highway 40 in Amarillo, was named the Marshall Formby Memorial Highway.[13] There is also a Marshall Formby Foundation in Plainview. In 1997, the auditorium at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections at Texas Tech, where Formby's papers are housed, was named in his honor.[11] In 2005, Formby was posthumously inducted into the Texas Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame.[14]

​The historical plaque at Formby's grave in McAdoo says that he "exemplifies the hard working, never say quit character of West Texans whom he so vividly portrayed in . . . These Are My People (1962). . . in politics, in business, and in community affairs. Formby represented the small town, rural character of Depression-era Texas west of the 100th meridian, a place where it seldom rained, the wind always seemed to blow, and settlers met obstacles head on with a gritty spirit and a will to succeed."[3]​ ​


  1. Marshall Clinton Formby. Retrieved on November 18, 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Marshall Formby. Retrieved on November 18, 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Marshall Formby Historical Plaque, Dickens County Court House, dedicated 2002.
  4. Texas Tech University:College of Mass Communications. Retrieved on December 18, 2009; material no longer on-line, but the website can be reached.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Marshall Formby: An Inventory of His Papers. Southwest Collection at Texas Tech through Retrieved on November 18, 2019.
  6. C.S.S.B. 921. Retrieved on November 18, 2019.
  7. Douglas Martin (April 20, 2003). Margaret Formby, 73, Dies; Began Cowgirl Hall of Fame". The New York Times. Retrieved on November 18, 2019.
  8. KPAN. kpanradio. Retrieved on November 18, 2019.
  9. Nation: Talking in Texas. Time (April 22, 1962). Retrieved on November 18, 2019; under pay wall.
  10. John Connally, meanwhile, served three two-year terms as governor from 1963 to 1969, the only office to which he was ever elected.​ He was Secretary of the Navy under U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Secretary of the Treasury under President Richard M. Nixon. Late in his career, he switched parties and sought the 1980 Republican presidential nomination, having been quickly defeated in early primaries.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Ray Westbrook (March 31, 1997). Marshall Formby Room to be dedicated today at new library. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved on December 29, 2009; no longer on-line.
  12. Texas Department of Criminal Justice Prison Names and Phone Numbers. Retrieved on December 18, 2009; no longer on-line.
  13. Marshall Formby Memorial Highway. Retrieved on November 18, 2019.
  14. Texas Association of Broadcasters Bulletin. Retrieved on December 20, 2009; no longer on-line.

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