Frank Kell Cahoon

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Frank Kell Cahoon, Sr.​

Texas State Representative for
Midland County Districts 77 (first term)
and 70 (second term) ​
In office
January 12, 1965​ – January 14, 1969​
Preceded by William S. "Bill" Davis​
Succeeded by Tom Craddick​ (now District 82)

Member of the Midland City Council​
In office
1972​ – 1976​

Born June 20, 1934​
Wichita Falls, Texas, USA​
Died January 30, 2013 (aged 78)
Midland, Texas​
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Paula Powers Cahoon (married 1957–2013, his death) ​
Relations Frank Kell (grandfather)​

Orville Bullington (uncle by marriage)​

Children Corrinne Cahoon Bowers​

Frank Cahoon, Jr.
​ Joseph Cahoon
​Charles Wilbur, Jr., and Sibyl Kell Cahoon

Residence Midland, Texas​
Alma mater Wichita Falls High School
Colorado School of Mines
University of Texas at Austin
Occupation Oilman

United States Army Corps of Engineers

Religion Presbyterian

Frank Kell Cahoon, Sr. (June 20, 1934 – January 30, 2013),[1] was an oilman and natural gas entrepreneur from Midland, Texas,[2][3] who was the only Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives in the regular 1965 legislative session following Lyndon B. Johnson's landslide over Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election.[4] Cahoon served two terms in the legislature from 1965 to 1969.[5]

Cahoon was not the first Republican member of the chamber since Reconstruction but was outnumbered in his first term, 149 to 1.[6] By 2011, Republicans in the Texas House had reached their high of 101 members to 49 for the Democrats.[7] In January 2013,the month of Cahoon's death, there were ninety-five Republicans and fifty-five Democrats in the state House; by 2019, with losses in the mid-term elections in 2018, the number dropped to eighty-three Republicans with sixty-seven Democrats.


Cahoon was born in Wichita Falls to Charles Wilbur Cahoon, Jr. (1897–1979), and the former Sibyl Kell (1899–1991).[8] His maternal grandfather and namesake, Frank Kell, a native of Clifton in Bosque County in central Texas, was a diversified businessman and the owner or partner of six regional railroads totaling 1,300 miles of track; a major highway in Wichita Falls is named for the family. Cahoon's father was a partner in one of the Kell railroads, the Clinton-Oklahoma-Western Railroad Company of Texas, which serviced part of the Texas Panhandle.[9] Frank Kell also owned the Wichita Mill and Elevator Company, which he sold in 1928 to General Mills for cash and stock in the latter company. The senior Kell was a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and a leading entrepreneur and philanthropist in Wichita Falls. In 1885, Frank Kell married the former Lula Kemp. He and his brother-in-law, Joseph A. Kemp, are considered the two principal builders of modern Wichita Falls. Kell and Kemp are names of major streets in Wichita Falls.[10] Cahoon's parents and maternal grandparents are interred at Riverview Cemetery in Wichita Falls.[11]

Cahoon was a nephew by marriage of the Wichita Falls attorney Orville Bullington, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1932, having lost to the Democrat Miriam Wallace Ferguson in her second nonconsecutive bid for the office. A son-in-law of Frank Kell, Bullington[12] was married until his death to Cahoon's aunt, the former Sadie Kell (1886–1960).[13]

Frank Kell Cahoon lost his namesake grandfather when the boy was only seven years of age. Cahoon graduated in 1952 from Wichita Falls High School along with another future legislator, Democratic state Senator Ray Farabee of Wichita Falls. Coincidentally, Cahoon, Farabee, and their wives had a chance meeting in 2006 on a cruise ship in New Zealand.[14]

Cahoon and his wife, the former Paula Powers (born November 11, 1935), both graduated in 1957 from the University of Texas at Austin. His degree was in geology. Cahoon originally attended the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, but he transferred after his freshman year to UT in Austin. He met Paula, who was enrolling at UT at that time, in Abilene.[1]

Cahoon was a first lieutenant in the United States Army Corps of Engineers stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, from 1957 to 1959, at which time the young couple had a daughter, now Corrinne Cahoon Bowers and husband Steve of Austin, relocated to Midland.[1]​ There are two Cahoon sons, Frank Kell Cahoon, Jr., and wife Debbie of Austin and Joseph Cahoon and wife Christie of Dallas.[6] Older son Frank, Jr., is a filmmaker formerly in Hollywood, known particularly for his work in the television series, Psych and The John Larroquette Show, and the film Battle: Los Angeles.[15]

In addition to his Texas oil holdings, Cahoon played a role in the construction of the Kenai oil refinery, one of the first such ventures in Alaska.[1]​ ​

Legislative politics

On November 3, 1964, Cahoon was the only Republican elected to the legislature despite the Johnson landslide. Cahoon was the only member of his party in the Texas House. Two Republican U.S. Representatives, Bruce Reynolds Alger of Dallas and Ed Foreman, then of Odessa, were unseated by Democratic opponents, Earle Cabell and Richard C. White, respectively. The only Republican in a statewide office at the time was Senator John Tower, of Wichita Falls and later Dallas, whose seat was not contested that year. Tower's first wife, Lou Bullington Tower (1920–2001), coincidentally, was a cousin of Orville Bullington, Cahoon's uncle by marriage.[16]

When the incumbent Republican Representative William S. Davis decided not to run again in 1964,[17] Cahoon was asked by party leaders to recruit a candidate. Ultimately, the Midland County GOP leadership urged Cahoon himself to run for the seat. Cahoon won the seat by a margin of 1,500 votes over his Democratic opponent. His legislative desk was placed in the middle of the House floor.[6] Cahoon served from District 77 in his first term and District 70 in the 1967–1969 session. The district is now No. 82. Cahoon was a member of the House Labor, Public Health, and Revenue and Taxation committees in both of his terms.[5]

In 1972, Cahoon and his legislative successor, Tom Craddick, another Midland energy entrepreneur, encouraged their fellow oilman, Ernest Angelo, Jr., to seek the office of mayor of Midland. Incumbent Edwin H. Magruder, Jr., who had an impressive World War II record, did not seek a third two-year term that year.[18] Craddick believed that the leading candidate for mayor, Mayor Pro Tem Pat M. Baskin, a former chairman of the Midland County Democratic Executive Committee, would use the office to try to derail Craddick's bid for a third term in the state House in the 1972 general election. Angelo agreed to run for mayor if Cahoon would seek one of the at-large city council seats. The deal was struck, and both Angelo and Cahoon ran and won.[19]

Civic matters

Cahoon served on the boards of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, the Texas Historical Foundation, and the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute. He was active in the First Presbyterian Church of Midland.[1][20]

He was also a member of the boards of Midland Memorial Hospital and the Museum of the Southwest.[21][22] Cahoon was also active in the United Way of Midland.[23] Cahoon was an active donor to his alma mater[24] as well as the local community college, Midland College.[25] He was a large donor to the Midland Young Men's Christian Association.[26] ​ In 2008, Cahoon contributed $2,000 to the candidacy of Goldwater's Senate successor, John McCain, the unsuccessful Republican presidential nomineegainst Barack H. Obama.[27] Earlier, Cahoon had donated to McCain's failed intra-party rival, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City.[28]


Cahoon died at his home early in 2013 at the age of seventy-eight. His services were held in the First Presbyterian Church of Midland. He was cremated.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Frank Kell Cahoon (1934–2013). Retrieved on April 10, 2013.
  2. Frank Cahoon. Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  3. Frank Kell Cahoon. Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  4. "Testing the Teflon", December 6, 1999. Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Frank Cahoon. Texas Legislative Reference Library. Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 (1965) Sue Watkins, The Alcade'. Retrieved on March 13, 2011. 
  7. Sibyl West (December 14, 2010). "Two Democrats' defections give Republicans SUPERMAJORITY in Texas House". Retrieved on March 14, 2011.
  8. Heritage Review. (2009). Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  9. Clinton-Oklahoma-Western Railroad. Retrieved on April 27, 2013.
  10. Kell, Frank. The Handbook of Texas. Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  11. Grave Search Results. Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  12. The Handbook of Texas on-line: Orville Bullington. Retrieved on June 11, 2010.
  13. Sadie Kell Bullington. Retrieved on August 22, 2019.
  14. "A Man Called 'Fairbee': Former Wichita Falls lawyer, legislator known as man of respect". Wichita Falls Times Record News (November 3, 2007). Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  15. Kell Cahoon. The New York Times. Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  16. Lyndon Baines Johnson Library Oral History Collection, 1971. Retrieved on June 11, 2010.
  17. Legislative Reference Library of Texas: William S. Davis. Retrieved on March 16, 2011.
  18. Shanna Sissom (January 12, 2011). Magruder led a charmed life in peace and war. Retrieved on March 8, 2011.
  19. Billy Hathorn, "Mayor Ernest Angelo, Jr., of Midland and the 96-0 Reagan Sweep of Texas, May 1, 1976," West Texas Historical Association Yearbook Vol. 86 (2010), p. 83.
  20. Texas Historical Foundation Board and Staff. Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  21. Business profile of Frank K. Cahoon. Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  22. The Petroleum (2010 Year-End Review). Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  23. United Way of Midland: Live United. Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  24. 1881 Society Members. Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  25. Memorials to John Mills. Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  26. Capital Campaign Contributors (February 9, 2005). Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  27. Bob Campbell, "Local McCain supporters unfold checkbooks," July 17, 2008. Midland Reporter-Telegram. Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  28. Frank Cahoon: Political Campaign Contributions 2008 Election Cycle. Retrieved on March 13, 2011.