Orville Bullington

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Orville Canada Bullington

(Texas attorney, businessman
and politician)

Orville Bullington of TX.jpg

Born February 10, 1882
Indian Springs, Vernon County

Missouri, USA

Died November 14, 1956 (aged 74)
Wichita Falls, Texas

Resting place:
Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas, Texas

Political Party Republican gubernatoiral in Texas, 1932
Spouse Sadie Kell Bullington (married 1911-his death)

One son:
William Orville Bullington

William I. and Sarah Holmes Bullington

Alma mater:
Sam Houston State University University of Texas Law School

Orville Canada Bullington (February 10, 1882 – November 24, 1956) was an attorney and businessman from Wichita Falls, Texas, who was the unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1932 against former Governor Miriam Wallace "Ma" Ferguson, who won the second of her two nonconsecutive terms in the office.


Bullington was born in Indian Springs, northwest of Schell City in Vernon County in western Missouri, to William Isaac Bullington (1856-1920) and the former Sarah Holmes (1859-1932), both Tennessee natives.[1] He was reared in Poolville in Parker County west of Fort Worth and educated at a private school in Tennessee.[2] He enrolled at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, then a normal school from which he graduated in 1901.[3] Bullington taught school for two years before he enrolled in 1903 at the University of Texas Law School in Austin. He completed the three-year curriculum in two years, was admitted to the Texas bar, and in 1906 established his law office in Munday in Knox County. He served for a term as the Knox county attorney.[1]

In June 1909, Bullington moved to Wichita Falls, where he practiced law, first with partners Charles C. Huff and Joe H. Barwise, and later with T. R. "Dan" Boone and Leslie Humphrey (1884–1967), who served for a time as the district attorney for Clay County and a long-time advocate of the Democratic Party. The former Bullington firm is now known as Gibson Davenport Anderson.[4]

Bullington enlisted as a private in the United States Army during World War I and was discharged as a lieutenant colonel in the 8th Infantry.[1] On June 28, 1911, Bullington married the former Sadie Kell (1886-1960), daughter of railroad executive Frank Kell of Wichita Falls, and the couple had one son, William Orville Bullington (1923–1951).[5] Orville and Sadie married at The Kell House in Wichita Falls, then in its second year of residence. Sadie's wedding gown is among the exhibits on display at the Kell House Museum.[6] In 1929, Bullington was named president of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce. His business investments included petroleum and farm and ranch holdings in Wichita Falls and the Texas Panhandle. He was also affiliated with the American National Bank, Kemp Hotel Corporation (named for Joseph A. Kemp, (Frank Kell's brother-in-law), and the Wichita Fall and Southern Railroad.[1]

In 1929, Bullington became partners with Frank P. Jackson and J. M. Gilliam in the first radio station in Waco, WJAD, which soon changed its named to WACO, now based in Burleson in Johnson County, Texas.[7]

Republican politics

Originally a Democrat, Bullington switched parties in 1918. In 1922, he and his father-in-law, Frank Kell, supported the Independent write-in campaign for the United States Senate waged by George Peddy, a Democratic former state representative who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic senatorial nominee, Earle Bradford Mayfield, a member of the Texas Railroad Commission.[8]

As the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1932, Bullington polled the largest popular vote for a GOP candidate in Texas up until that time[1] though his final percent was three points below that received in 1924 by George C. Butte of Austin in his race against Miriam Ferguson,[9] when Ferguson won her first term as governor. Bullington stressed the corrupt practices from the earlier Ferguson administration, including that of her husband, James Edward "Jim" Ferguson, the governor from 1915 to 1917. Bullington's mother died a month before the election, and he had to adjust his campaign schedule. Bullington received 322,589 votes (38.1 percent) to Ferguson's 521,395 (61.6 percent).[10] Bullington polled more than three times the votes of his ticket-mate, U.S. President Herbert Hoover, who had won Texas in 1928 but polled only 97,959 ballots (11.4 percent) in 1932, blamed for the Great Depression.

In 1936, Bullington charged that U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal was being managed by communists. Bullington was a delegate to eight Republican National Conventions from 1928 to 1956 and a member of the Texas Republican Executive Committee from 1947 to 1952. He was the party's state chairman from 1951 to 1952. He was a delegate for Texas at the 1948 convention which met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At that convention, Bullington led a protest demanding that a spokesman from the Deep South be involved in the drafting of the civil rights plank of the GOP platform. As a result of his protest, Bullington and three other southerners were named to the platform committee.[1]

At the 1952 conclave in Chicago, Illinois, Bullington supported U.S. Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio for the presidential nomination against the native-born Texan, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bullington sought to impose a loyalty pledge for participants in the 1952 Texas Republican precinct, county, and state conventions. Later in the year, Bullington was among several men accused of having engaged in unfair practices to derail Eisenhower's nomination. Bullington wavered in his support for Taft, and, as the state GOP chairman in 1952, publicly confessed that his own faction had been unfair to the Eisenhower Republicans in delegate selection.[1] The Texas delegation, after a bitterly divided state convention in Mineral Wells, finally voted thirty-three for Eisenhower and five for Taft though the latter forces claimed that Democrats had provided Eisenhower's margin by packing the precinct conventions.[11]

Active UT regent

In January 1941, Texas Democratic Governor Willard Lee O'Daniel, a Republican when he resided earlier in Kansas, appointed Bullington a regent of the University of Texas, at which he obtained his legal credentials. Bullington was a trustee until March 1947.[12] Bullington and several other O'Daniel appointees sought to slash UT funding, remove alleged communists from the university, and restrict the instruction of certain subjects.[1]

When UT president Homer Rainey, later an unsuccessful 1946 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, denounced the interference, the regents dismissed Rainey.[1] Bullington produced what he considered "conclusive evidence" of Rainey's "incompetence."[13] Bullington said that Rainey had "discovered a nest of homosexuals in the faculty as early as September 1943. He did not disclose it to any member of the board until eight months later, despite the rules requiring immediate reporting of such conditions.... We felt that he was not handling [the matter] vigorously enough and decided to take it over for ourselves."[13]

In 1944, Bullington had erroneously predicted that no minority students would attend UT so long as the existing regents remained on board: "There is not the slightest danger of any Negro attending the University of Texas, regardless of what Franklin D., Eleanor, or the Supreme Court says, so long as you have a Board of Regents with as much intestinal fortitude as the present one has."[14] In 1950, Heman Sweatt became the first African American to attend the UT law school. He described the racial atmosphere at UT as "terrifying. I think I was in the law school five minutes before I was pulled out of a registration line and cussed out. While in the law school, I had threats against my life. The first Friday in school, there was a Ku Klux Klan demonstration on campus.[14]

Death and legacy

Bullington died in Wichita Falls at the age of seventy-four.[1] He, his wife, and son are entombed at Hillcrest Mausoleum in Dallas, Texas. The Kell in-laws are interred at Riverside Cemetery in Wichita Falls.

Bullington was a board member of the UT Ex-Students' Association for twenty years and its president from 1921 to 1923.[15] He helped to establish the Barker History Center at UT, named for the historian Eugene Barker. During his tenure, regent Lula Kemp Kell (1867–1957), Bullington's mother-in-law, presented to UT the Frank Kell Collection of Texana and Western Books. Bullington added some of his own books as a part of the original endowment to maintain the collection.[16] Bullington was a patron of the Texas State Historical Association. From 1928 to 1932, he was the president of the Sam Houston State Ex-Students' Association.[1]

One of Bullington's cousins, Lou Bullington Tower (1920–2001), a California native, was the first wife of Republican U. S. Senator John Tower of Texas.[17] Bullington's father-in-law, Frank Kell, was the maternal grandfather and namesake of Frank Kell Cahoon of Midland, the only Republican member of the Texas House in 1965,[18] following the landslide defeat of Barry Goldwater of Arizona by Texan Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1964 presidential election.


1. The Handbook of Texas on-line: Orville Bullington. Tshaonline.org. June 11, 2010.
2. University of Texas-Arlington Library, Special Collections, Webcache.googleusercontent.com, June 11, 2010.
3. Art in the Newton Gresham Library, Library.shsu.edu, June 11, 2010.
4. Barbara A. Gibson, "Our History: Gibson Davenport Anderson," Ghrdlaw.com, June 11, 2010.
5. William Orville Bullington [1] William O. Bullington, Ancestry.com, accessed August 22, 2019.
6. Kell House Museum, Mail-archive.com., June 11, 2010.
7. First Waco radio station was Jackson's hobby," Waco Tribune-Herald, October 30, 1949.
8. Norman D. Brown, Hood, Bonnet, and Little Brown Jug: Texas Politics, 1921-1928, (College Station: Texas A&M University Southwestern Studies, 1984), p. 122.
9. Elections of Texas Governors, 1845–2010, Texasalmanac.com, July 4, 2018.
10. Congressional Quarterly Press's Guide to U.S. Elections (Washington, D.C., 2005), p. 1531.
11. "National Affairs: Steamroller in Texas," Time magazine,June 9, 1952.
12. Former Regents, the University of Texas System, Utsystem.edu., June 11, 2010.
13. "Education in the Lone Star State," Time magazine, November 13, 1946.
14. Minority Enrollment at UT-Austin: The Hopwood Ruling and Its Aftermath [txtell.lib.utexas.edu.], June 11, 2010.
15. The University of Texas Alcalde, April 1968.
16. H. Bailey Carroll, Texas Collection. jstor.org. June 11, 2010.
17. Lyndon Baines Johnson Library Oral History Collection, 1971. lbjlib.utexas.edu. [2], June 12, 2010.
18. Jessica Langdon, "A Man Called 'Fairabee': Former Wichita Falls lawyer, legislator (Ray Farabee) known as man of respect," Wichita Falls Times Record News, November 3, 2007.