Former Governor of Texas
Dolph Briscoe Jr., who served as Texas governor from 1973-79, led a distinguished career in public service, business, and ranching. He was born in 1923 in Uvalde, Texas, where he graduated from high school as valedictorian. Briscoe graduated from UT with a BBA degree in 1943.
Briscoe participated in many organizations at UT, including the Friars, Chi Phi Fraternity, and the Cactus yearbook. While there, he met Janey Slaughter. The couple married in 1942 and had three children.
After earning his degree, Briscoe enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army. He served during World War II and became an officer. Upon returning home, he rekindled a childhood interest: politics. His father’s friendship with Gov. Ross Sterling had enabled Briscoe to visit the Governor’s Mansion in 1932, and he later recalled wanting to return. Briscoe entered politics in 1948 after being elected to the Texas Legislature. He served as a state representative from 1949-57, authored the Colson-Briscoe farm-to-market road system, and held chairmanships for the agriculture and highway committees.
Upon his father’s death in 1954, Briscoe became the head of one of the largest ranches in Texas. In 1960, Briscoe was the youngest president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and helped raise $3 million to encourage the launch of a highly influential screwworm eradication program.
In 1968, Briscoe sought to reenter politics and replace Texas Gov. John Connally. He succeeded in 1972. During his two gubernatorial terms, Briscoe balanced increasing demands for state services and a rapidly growing population. He helped restore integrity to the state government and oversaw landmark achievements such as the most extensive ethics and financial disclosure bill in state history, passage of Open Meetings and Open Records legislation, stronger laws regulating lobbyists, and the first revision of Texas’s penal code in one hundred years.
Briscoe added state funds for both public and higher education, increased salaries for both teachers and state employees, expanded services to handicapped Texans, and established the first toll-free hotline for runaway children. He appointed more women and minorities than any previous administration, including the first African American members to state boards and the first African American district judge. No new state taxes were passed during Briscoe’s terms, making him the first governor since World War II to hold the line on new state taxes. Furthermore, he was chairman of the Southern Governors Association, presided over the Interstate Oil Compact Commission, and served on both the National Petroleum Council and the executive committee of the National Governor’s Association.
Gov. Briscoe’s wife, Janey, served as an activist first lady. She received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in education from UT and later served on the UT System’s Board of Regents. Janey was chairman of the Generation Connection, which worked to increase public awareness of the needs of mature Texas citizens. She also founded and headed the First Lady’s Volunteer Program, advocated projects for the handicapped, and played a vital role to preserve the historical significance of the Governor’s Mansion. Both Dolph and Janey received Distinguished Alumni recognition from the University.
Janey Briscoe passed away in 2000. Gov. Briscoe provided donations to establish the UT Health Science Center’s Janey Briscoe Center of Excellence in Cardiovascular Research. The Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio is named after both Dolph and Janey. In 2008, UT named its Center for American History after Gov. Briscoe, recognizing his support for preserving and promoting Texas and U.S. history. Gov. Dolph Briscoe passed away on June 27, 2010.