Ralph Yarborough

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Ralph Webster Yarborough​
In office
April 29, 1957​ – January 3, 1971​
Preceded by William Arvis "Dollar Bill" Blakley​
Succeeded by Lloyd Bentsen

Born June 8, 1903 ​
Chandler, Henderson County
Texas, USA.​
Died January 27, 1996 (aged 92) ​
Austin, Texas​
Nationality American
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Opal Catherine Warren Yarborough (1903-2002)
Children Richard Warren Yarborough (born c. 1931)​
Alma mater Sam Houston State Teachers College
University of Texas School of Law​
Occupation Attorney
Lieutenant colonel in
United States Army in World War II
Religion Baptist

Ralph Webster Yarborough (June 8, 1903 – January 27, 1996) was a Democratic politician who represented his native Texas in United States Senate from 1957 to 1971. He was a leader of the progressive wing of his party and the only white Southern senator to vote for all civil rights bills from 1957 to 1970, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.[1]

Yarborough won his Senate seat in 1957, after Senator Price Daniel, Sr. (1910-1988), left the Senate to be inaugurated as governor. He defeated a conservative, William Arvis "Dollar Bill" Blakley (1898-1976) in the special election. A few months earlier, Yarborough had lost the 1956 gubernatorial primary runoff to Daniel. Then, he won the first of his two full terms in the upper legislative body in 1958, when he handily defeated the Republican publisher Roy Whittenburg of Amarillo in the general election. In 1964, Yarborough defeated conservative broadcaster Gordon McLendon in the primary that year and then topped George Herbert Walker Bush to claim his second full Senate term. Yarborough was close to U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy and then Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1970, however, Yarborough, who had become a critic of the Vietnam War, lost re-nomination to former U.S. Representative Lloyd Bentsen of Houston and, earlier, McAllen. Bentsen then topped Bush, making his second consecutive unsuccessful run for the Senate, in the general election held mid-term in the administration of President Richard M. Nixon. Bentsen vacated the seat in 1993 to become United States Secretary of the Treasury under President Bill Clinton.

Yarborough's fellow senator from 1961 to 1971 was the Moderate Republican John Tower, initially elected as a strong conservative in the 1961 special Senate election. Coincidentally, Tower had defeated by some ten thousand votes William Blakely, the six-month interim senator who succeeded Lyndon Johnson, who then became Vice President. And it was Governor Price Daniel who appointed Blakely as interim senator in both 1957 and 1961.


  1. Stephen Labaton (January 28, 1996). Ralph Yarborough Dies at 92; Cast Historic Civil Rights Vote. New York Times. Retrieved on August 31, 2019.