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Orville Bullington (February 10, 1882 – November 24, 1956) was an attorney and businessman in 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 terms in the office.

Orville Bullington
Orville Bullington of TX.jpg
Born(1882-02-10)February 10, 1882
Indian Springs
Vernon County
Missouri, USA
DiedNovember 24, 1956(1956-11-24) (aged 74)
Resting placeSparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas, Texas
Residence(1) Poolville, Parker County, Texas

(2) Munday, Knox County, Texas

(3) Wichita Falls, Texas
Alma materSam Houston State University
University of Texas Law School
OccupationAttorney; Educator
Political partyRepublican gubernatorial nominee in Texas, 1932
Spouse(s)Sadie Kell Bullington (married 1911-his death)
ChildrenWilliam Orville Bullington
Parent(s)William I. and Sarah Holmes Bullington


Early years, education, family, militaryEdit

Bullington was born in Indian Springs, northwest of Schell City in Vernon County in western Missouri, to William Isiac Bullington and the former Sarah Holmes, both natives of Tennessee.[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, 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 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 was a long-time Democratic Party advocate. The 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 from 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] The couple 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 Falls 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 on Burleson, Texas.[7]

Republican politicsEdit

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 member of the Texas House of Representatives 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 Republican gubernatorial 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 E. Ferguson (service: 1915-1917). He 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 though he had won Texas in 1928, procured only 97,959 ballots (11.4 percent) in 1932.

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 Republican National 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 Republican National Convention 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 early precinct conventions.[11]

Active UT regentEdit

In January 1941, Texas Democratic Governor W. Lee O'Daniel, a former Republican residing in Kansas, appointed Bullington a regent of the University of Texas at Austin, a position that he held 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 legacyEdit

Bullington Street is located in a residential section of Wichita Falls, Texas, off U.S. Route 82 and U.S. Route 277.

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 Kells are interred at Riverside Cemetery in Wichita Falls.

Active in the UT B-Hall Association, Bullington was also a board member of the UT Ex-Students' Association for twenty years and its president from 1921-1923.[15] He helped to establish the Barker History Center at UT. 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 G. 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 M. Goldwater of Arizona by Texan Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1964 presidential election.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "The Handbook of Texas on-line: Orville Bullington". Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  2. ^ "University of Texas-Arlington Library, Special Collections". Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  3. ^ "Art in the Newton Gresham Library" (PDF). Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  4. ^ "Barbara A. Gibson, "Our History: Gibson Davenport Anderson"". Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  5. ^ "Death certificate, William Orville Bullington". Archived from the original on November 24, 2010. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  6. ^ "Kell House Museum". Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  7. ^ "First Waco radio station was Jackson's hobby". Waco Tribune-Herald, October 30, 1949. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  8. ^ Norman D. Brown (1984). Hood, Bonnet, and Little Brown Jug: Texas Politics, 1921-1928. Texas A&M University Southwestern Studies. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-89096-157-5. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
  9. ^ "Elections of Texas Governors, 1845–2010" (PDF). Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  10. ^ Congressional Quarterly Press's Guide to U.S. Elections, Washington, D.C., 2005, pp. 1531
  11. ^ "National Affairs: Steamroller in Texas". Time magazine, June 9, 1952. June 9, 1952. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  12. ^ "Former Regents, the University of Texas System". Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  13. ^ a b "Education in the Lone Star State". Time magazine, November 13, 1946. November 27, 1944. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  14. ^ a b "Minority Enrollment at UT-Austin: The Hopwood Ruling and Its Aftermath". Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  15. ^ Communications, Emmis (April 1968). The Alcalde April 1968. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  16. ^ Carroll, H. Bailey (1950). "H. Bailey Carroll, Texas Collection". The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 54 (2): 228–241. JSTOR 30241866.
  17. ^ "Lyndon Baines Johnson Library Oral History Collection, 1971" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 12, 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  18. ^ "Jessica Langdon, "A Man Called 'Fairabee': Former Wichita Falls lawyer, legislator known as man of respect"". Wichita Falls Times Record News, November 3, 2007. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
Party political offices
Preceded by
William E. Talbot
Republican gubernatorial nominee in Texas

Orville Bullington

Succeeded by
D. E. Waggoner