Interviewed by Gloria Neal
October 12, 1997
MC: ...an extension of the programs Women’s Archive and Research Center, which is located at the M,D, Anderson Library on the UH main campus to serve students, scholars, and the Houston community as a whole, The focus of the archive is on oral
histories of Texas women and the papers of Houston area women’s organizations, The Living Archive series provides a means of
focusing public awareness on the need to document women’s history, as well as on the Women’s Archive and Research Center,
and your ticket is a contribution to the WARC. Tonight our guest is Sissy Farenthold, As many of you know, Miss Farenthold has a long and honorable history in Texas politics, She served two terms in the Texas legislature, ran twice for the governor of Texas and was considered for the vice presidential spot on the Democratic ticket in ‘72. She continues an activist and we’ll hear all about that. We’re very honored to have her here tonight. Our interviewer is Gloria Neal from KTRH radio. All of the interviewers [lapse] and I’m going to distribute cards so you can write down any questions you have so that I can read them out so that they can get onto the videotape, because we’re videotaping this for our archive. I’m also asked to let you know that Miss Farenthold will be participating in a symposium at U of H coming up on Halloween.
Audience member: Appropriate
MC: These flyers are available outside that will tell you more about it. She wiil be there along with Sarah Weddington, Ruby Moss Sondock, who was also part of our series, Carol Dinkins, and Judge * McDonald. So, for these * desk on your way up, and after the questions, we will have a reception outside to which you are all invited. So thank you very much for being here, and I’ll turn it over to Gloria.
Gloria: Thank you, thank you. I’d like to thank you all for coming. Certainly, Sissy, I was just amazed at the history and honored to asked to be here this evening. And so with that, the lady that has the shirt on, "Farenthold for Governor", You know, you really should come up , We might be able to get more mileage out of that than you think. But, and with that I’ll just cut to the chase, I mean certainly your history with politics and your life giving of politics has been stupendous. How and when did you decide to run for office in 1968?
Farenthold: In a very traditional way, I might add, I had a phone call the night of the filing deadline from a class, law school classmate of mine, I’m at this point 42, doing, working part time as a legal aid attorney, and which I’d put my heart and soul in for about two years. Had worked on open housing in Corpus Christi and so forth, all as, in quotes, a volunteer. And this classmate of mine called and asked me if I I would run for the leqislature, filing deadline that night. And why I say it was such a traditional response was I asked both my husband and my cousin, who had served one term in the legislature in the fifties, and they both said, Well go ahead. And that’s literally how it started, that particular thing started, Oh, I really didn’t, I thought it would be at least ten years--this was before I ran, Once I got in the race, I never questioned the fact that, you know, I was going to give it my all, and, and, and work to win. But I had expected it to be at least ten years, because of the stereotypes down there, the way the city councilwoman that was on the council at that time was stereotyped and just hammered by the press. That’s all I can say. Made a kind of joke. So that actually was the way I came into electoral politics, and I figured that it wouldn’t be any more difficult than, than party politics, because I had never been able to get past the county convention. When I had wanted to run for County Party Secretary, I put some feelers out among my compat-, compatriots, the ones that, that were my political allies, and the message came back that it would be all right for me to, to be appointed secretary, but someday I would want to run for County Chairman, and they couldn’t have a woman. So that was about 1966-67, so when this thing came up in ‘68, I thought, Well I’m going no place in the party, and so I accepted it, and took probably the most difficult race, because at that time I was very much a traditional Democrat and horrors of horrors, we had one republican representinq Nueces and Kleberg County in the legislature [lapse] on that job. But what I learned later was I had been really asked to go in primarily to be a stalking horse to get rid of a, a lawyer who was running that the establishment didn’t want elected, I didn’t want to find that out till much later in life, let’s say, but—— So things come
by curious ways.
Gloria: Isn’t that something?
Farenthold: Uh hmm.
Gloria: You talk about the stereotypes. Have you seen the stereotypes of women being in politics or the stereotypes associated with that changed from then to now?
Farenthold: Some. Not as much as I’d, I’d like. I, I, it has changed some. I think if I would ban one word as far as women in politics, it would be feisty, I am so weary of hearing, and, and one of the problems with it, you know, and I think you may be asking me about other women candidates or office holders or what have you. Well there’s as much variation and variety among women in politics as men, really. We may have some common ground, some common experience, but we’re, you know, varied, And that’s one of the problems that in the past I’ve seen. And I always cite Bella Ahzup (Z) who is a tremendous human being and great intellect, great strategist, great heart. And yet, it's always been, she's always been pictured in a really one dimensional way: Bella, you know, Battling Bella. And so for the rest of us, we're just feisty.
Gloria: Feisty, get rid of that word.
Farenthold: Get rid of that word.
Gloria: Well what do you think of Hillary Rodham Clinton? What do you think of the job she's doing as first lady?
Farenthold: Well she has an impossible job and I think part of it reflects all the ambiguities of where women are today in transition and so forth. I, I look back upon my time as a college president and there I would see men that were college presidents married to women that were beginning to say, You have to understand, I'm going to continue my career. You'll have to find someone else to do some of this...You know the president's wife gets an awful lot of stuff. I mean, I just saw it on the academic environment. But I think that there's..this is a trasitional period, and she's very much a part of that.
Gloria: You mean for women.
Farenthold: For women. And for that position. That position...it still goes that if a person wields the power behind the scene, that’s okay. So I used to say when I ran for governor, there were really two women that wanted to be governor, but only one was running. And the other was the candidate’s wife. And I think history showed, proved that. But for example, the reason I cite Hillary Rodham Clinton [lapse] and therefore gets the brickbats, unlike a Nancy Reagan, who we heard mostly about, you know, the china and the clothes and so forth, until the end and the book started coming out about what a real influence and what an effect she had.
Gloria: Which has been the traditional first lady.
Farenthold: Traditional. Yes.
Gloria: Um, it’s scary running for office, very scary. How did you come to get up the courage to do that, to be the first back then?
Farenthold: Well, I had a very difficult time because, as I say, I, at least I come from what I call the traditions of timidity. I mean that’s he role of women. And I had to overcome that, and it was very difficult for me to overcome. I tell this story, and it is a literal story. I did my first campaigning in the laundrymat. I simply was always breaking my washing machine and found it a lot simpler. I saw people and so forth. So I took my laundry to the laundrymat. And I was very comfortable giving my cards to people there. And even sticking one up on the board they had, But you know there’s just a finite amount of time for a campaign, and these, and these advisors were saying, you know, Sissy you’ve got to get out there, and I would say to one of the senior
legislators, Well I don’t have a good picture yet. And he said, Well use a high school picture. He obviously had, DeWitt Hale, by name. And so finally one Saturday I had my cards and my husband
dropped me at a shopping center and gave me a dime and said, Call when you’ve distributed these, You know, hand them out, They’re called push cards, and they are a kind of security blanket, But
what was happening to my security blanket as I was passing these cards out, people were dropping them, And of course that hurt my feelings, And I was scurrying up, you know, picking them up. But, but time will, time and experience makes a lot of difference.
Gloria: So was that how you overcame being timid?
Farenthold: Yeah, Just doing it,
Gloria: Just doing it.
Farenthold: Just doing it. And I can remember when I fir-- Oh I remember what a struggle that was to go to the League of Women Voters meeting and I’d write out my little statement and have a very difficult time getting it, getting it out. But one of the best things, and, and this is where I think we’ve lost so much, with this media driven campaigning, is a campaign is a real education. Education for the candidate is what I’m talking about. And I had, in that first race, I had the primary, a runoff, and the general election. It was nine months, and I started literally from
scratch. But the important thing was I had to go out and campaign in Robstown, in [Banketti], in Kingsville, and all parts of Corpus Christi, And frequently in the general election I would be
the only Anglo there. And I would hear of the anger and the pain, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me, It was very difficult at the time. But it, it was important, Now when you
have a media driven campaign, your consultants are telling you what to do, you miss all that. You don’t know who you’re representing. Maybe some poll or focus group or something, but it’s, it’s not that human contact that I think is very important. There’s one thing about, you know, the way you have to constantly sort of build yourself up, maybe that’s, and it’s hard to do. I--
the first-— I was really pleased about these three races that I had won, and by the way, women did the work. They, the core, my core support came out of the League of Women Voters. They had to
forego their business because, you know or beinq nonpartisan and the rest. But they took that campaign on. I would have finance committees made of, up of males and so forth, especially,
especially the primary, but it was the women that were out there, out there doing the work. And of course that continued. Well anyway, the day after the general election I was, I went to my
first thing, having been elected, to the opening of a State School in Corpus Christi. And I went and I shook hands and shook hands with a man and, and told him my name, and he said, I voted
for your husband yesterday. And I said, It was I. And he said, If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have. So, these things were going on, you know, all the time. I wouldn’t give up the experience for anything. And--
Gloria: Were you ever surprised by that type of boldness or did you anticipate it?
Farenthold: No, I did not anticipate that, but, and, and my reaction, not to him, I thought that was sort of humorous, but when things happened to me in the legislature, and sometimes outside, it would make me angry but it would motivate me. So it wasn’t anger that burned within; it was an anger that got out one way or another. I mean-- And it happened to me frequently. Once I-- you
know, and here I assumed once I was elected I was elected. I had been elected by the constituency of those two counties. But then I get to Austin. And that was-- It was an experience similar to
what I had had in law school when I was one of three women in a class of eight hundred. In this instance I was one woman in a class of a hundred and fifty. But the first thing was these—-I
used to say they were veterans of the Spanish-American War, but I guess I’m a little more tolerant on that subject now. Presumably they were World War I veterans, And they would-- they patrolled the parking lot around the capitol. So the first thing I would, would happen to me when I went into my allocated spot was they’d blow their whistle and tell me that was for the legislators. That continued to happen for four years. It happened my very last day of my legislative experience. Then what I found is the same thing went on inside the capitol. If you were thought, you were thought to be an employee, you—— it wasn’t a very pleasant place to be. I
can remember a-- I went over to see a state senator from Fort Worth who was carrying a local bill that I wanted some more information on, and he said, Well who are you with? And I said, I’m in the house, But this kind of thing was happening continuously, and what really made me angry was, once I was identified as a legislator, then a degree of courtesy prevailed. But what about all those women who didn’t have that cloak of protection? And that, that angered me as much-- I mean it even angered me more when they’d said, Oh, you know, alright Representative Farenthold. But I was such an outsider in that group, I didn’ t know that there was a, a lounge for us. I did not
know I could go on the house on the floor of the Senate, that there was a courtesy between the two houses. No one volunteered any of that information to me, So there was an incredible
isolation. For example, thanks to the women staff, I was able to use their lavatory facilities. Jordan had made a sufficient point to get her facilities over there. But once again, what I call the traditions of timidity among white, Southern women, I would not step forward on that kind of issue, You know you just sort of absorbed it.
Gloria: Being the lonely only, where’d you get your strength from in all that? Where did you, how did you, how did you prevail. I mean it’s one thing to be angry, but it’s, its’ something——
—else to stick it out.
Farenthold: No, I'll tell you what. It was very difficult for me to get up and get to that back mic and object. Because one thing, you could just hear this, just this uh, There she goes again. I mean there’s no support there. And I said to myself, I’m representing people here, I’m speaking for people that are not otherwise represented, and that’s what got me up over and over and over
again. The people that couldn’t afford to have lobbyists up there, Because that’s-- I mean, my, my district was at least fifty percent Hispanic, the third poorest to-- city in the, in
the country per capita, and the rest of it. So that’s what got me up there and kept me up there. I really-- Once I was elected I knew I had that--well it was an opportunity--but that obligation
Gloria: The press. Ouch.
Farenthold: Well, you know, I’ve had, I’ve had both kinds of treatment from the press, and, and I’ll, I’11 cite some examples. I started out — when I anounced for qovernor in 1972. I started out on page 28 of the Women's Section of the Dallas Morning News. By the time it was over, you know, they, they were running the front page. But I did tell that Mr. Dealy, I think, that his editorials were such, I always read them, but ofter I'd have to wait until I'd finished campaigning for the day before I looked at the.
Gloria: That harsh.
Farenthold: Very harsh. Outside of, oh I don't know, the I, I had, the working press was great. The working press was fine. And I have-- And, and that, that experience was great. In '74 I saw the other side because that was a race I did not do as well in. I, I sued the governor. Guess what? Finance irregularities. Finance, campaign financing. And we're still at it. And at that time, the only person that could bring a case on that issue was a candidate. Well the press never bothered to read the legislation. They assumed it was some kind of--and they would write that, that is was a kind of publicity deal on my part. It wasn't that. I had no way to bring that issue up except by a court action and being the candidate too. That's the way the legislation was written. So I've see both sides and many sides.
Gloria: Do you think the media or the press provides adequate, I don't know, objectivity coverage to the, to today's political process, or what do you think? Do you think we do it justice or do you think we flub it up?
Farnethold: Well I don't know how much freedom you have.
Gloria: Very well put.
Farenthold: Let me just leave it at that.
Gloria: Yeah, really, because you know, I mean --
Farenthold: I have seen--And---
Farenthold: I have great empathy for the working press. I, I really do. And in, in many instances. But I don't know how much freedom you have. I don't know where the stories go after they're written and all that. And that's out of my purview.
Gloria: Uh hmm. You talked about fears, overcoming them, being the only woman there. How did you---and I know you that just did it, you just---
Farenthold: I just did it.
Gloria: You just did it,
Gloria: But, you know, even today you talk about, I mean, being timid, and certainly this is a man’s world, we know that, but for the most part, we’re in it, making things happen-—-growing, going. There are still plenty of timid women, timid girls. What would you tell them? Get beyond that, get past that.
Farenthold: Just I-- You, you have to have something you’re interested in, care enough about it to just move forward.
Gloria: Uh hmm.
Farenthold: And, you know, the studies have shown that girls at eleven and ten and eleven are adventuresome and one and the other thing, and then something happens. And at least there’s research on that now. There wasn’t research before.
Gloria: Uh hmm.
Farenthold: So I think things will change somewhat on that.
Gloria: One of the things I wanted to ask you a little bit about, tell me about the Dirty Thirty.
Farenthold: Oh, and, and th--I'm glad you mentioned them because--or us--because I did in time find a really compatible group of people that I worked with. And we had started out--we had our own [kaball] before the Dirty Thirty and it was--we sat together. They had gotten--It was Curtis Graves and Rex Braun and Nick Nichols. They were all from Houston. And then the youngest legislator at the time was Charles Patterson from Taylor and myself, if we sat together. So that was our little group. I remember the--and of course because I came from Corpus Christi and so many of my constituents were Hispanic, I gravitated to those that had that interest as well, and it was in that--The first time I went with El Paso when they wanted a medical school. And I'd keep asking these, the different legislators, Why are you supporting a medical school in Lubbock when the need is really in El Paso? Well, it's the governor's bill. And that was a time of Preston Smith. And you see that's where I learned how these things work. No question was asked. So I crossed and voted with the El Paso delegation. I mean we did-- I notice they now have some kind of a branch over there, but it's--yeah, but it started out as a Lubbock, a Lubbock deal because of the governor. And so, so much, so many of these institutions that were started because you had a strong legislator, for a variety of reasons, and that was the kind of plum to get, you know, some state institution in your--Well anyway, there were a group of us, and we worked, and I remember the first time we talked about doing something, and I, I've often said it was a turning point for me, and if I ever get that book written, the first chapter will be on the Road to Del Rio. Because soon after the first session started, the governon was asked--Preston Smith was asked by the County--the Commissioners Court to, to withdraw the Vis--Vista volunteers because they were engaging in political--they were registering people to vote, horror or horrors, down in Del Rio. So our little group met--this is the pre-Dirty Thirty group, because that's all nineteen seventy, seventy-one. But anyway, this was '69, and so we had a group--all of us met. And so there was going to be a demonstration in Del Rio on Palm Sunday of '69 protesting the withdrawal of the Vista volunteers. And so I went to the governor, mind you, and asked him and of course he waid there was no question, they should be taken out, and so on and so forth. And then I went back to the district where I was in Corpus Christi and, and I wasn't able to get hold of Dr. Hector Garci--Garcia, whom I had great regard for, he was the founder of the GI forum. So I called his attorney who later was federal district judge for the Southern district, Jim Deanda, and asked him what he thought. Well, of course I got a very different version that what I got from the governor, And I decided on the basis of what Jim Deanda told me that I would go to Del Rio, And my, one of my sons drove me, and it was Palm Sunday, and we went down there, and it was an extraordinary event, because I had never been, mind you, mind you this was nineteen sixty-one, I had never been to a demonstration of any kind, I’m making up for it in these-- Well anyway I’d never been to one. And we had a gathering, and then-- and it was pr——primarily Hispanic, but not entirely. And then we, we marched with palms to the Court House, and I was marching with Joe Bernalwho became really-- who was the senator, Hispanic senator from San Antonio, and whom I called upon many times for advice, Well we were marching and I looked up, because we were going to put a manifesto there, and I saw these people up on the roof with guns. And I said, What is this? Well a great number of Anglos in the community had been deputized. So that was my first experience with a peaceful demonstration, and it couldn’t have been more peaceful. Well a lot of irritation followed that, First the letters to the editor started. And you know they can be
programmed: shame, shame on this woman legislator having her son drive her to Del Rio for this disturbance, And then we get back to Austin the next Monday and the legislator from Del Rio, who’s now a very successful lobbyist in Austin, says, You’ll never get a bill past me. And I didn’t. But let that he that as it may, but that was a turning paint for me.
Gloria: An awakening perhaps?
Farenthold: Yes, no question about it, no question about it, and I can go chapter and verse on it, but it's no need to. But it was the road to Del Rio that made an enormous difference in where I was politically in Austin, because before I went I asked a friend of mine who was in the legislator, and he just said, Answer your mail, when I asked him what he did. So it was, you know, it was a, a new experience, and I had to feel my way. But you asked about the Dirty Thirty. I bring this up because this is a development of that. Well in '71, just as we were gathering for the governor's dinner or some such thing at the opening of the session, the story went out about those two bills that had been passed and either there was a grand jury that was convened or the SEC was looking into it or some such thing, and it was being pushed by the Republicans. So it was a Republican effort to expose this thing at the beginning, and that's one of the mysteries of the two-party system. Because the principal Republican sort of faded into the background after they talked to their county chairman or whatever. And, though there were some Republicans in the group of Dirty Thirty, well actually my academic mode had taken over and I had voted for one of those banking bills. IT was to replace the FDIC with a state insurance, and it was--it all came out over Sharpstown, Sharpstown Bank here in Houston, and I was curious about the legistlative process because we didn't know about it, I had voted for one of them, then I had gone across the way, spoke to Wright P--Wright Patman's son, Bill Patman, who was in the senate at the time, and he told me it was a bad bill. I'd relied on him for banking issues. So here I was contradicting myself. I'd voted for one and not the other. So what I was asking for was a study of the legislative process to see how a bill actually came about, a bill like this, that had questionable issues in it, that didn't have a hearing, got through in a special session, and it was as much for my education, if you want to call it that, as anything. Well, all I asked for was a committee to investigate this. And all hell broke loose. All hell broke loose.
Gloria: Go figure.
Farenthold: And there's a book that--and some of those quotes are not--called Sahadows on the Alamo I think by name, the fellow that came down, the investigative journalism. And, in broad outline, it's, it's pretty much as it was. I, I would question some of his, some of the stuff, but it's it's generally the case. But what happened, and this is when you say things are not cut and dry. You don't know where they're going to end up. And we got the name Dirty Thirty because we asked and we had a lot of briefing done on this and it hadn't been done in a long, long time, where the speaker had to vacate the chair. And if you only knew what a team deal this is up in Austin. This was a--they were shocked. And so he had to go listen to the proceedings in his office. And of course when the debate was over and the vote came, there were only thirty of us that voted for this investigation. And a lobbyist leaving the gallery was overheard to say, Those dirty thirty bastards. And that’s how we got-- we dropped the last one. And so in the beginning, in the beginning it was a term of great derision. It was-- and there you can see how things swing. Before the session was over, a great many people were claiming to be Dirty Thirties, to the point that we passed out cards. And then after that, even more were claiming it during the election process, seventy-two election. So I, I, I saw these swings. Don’t count numbers, just do what you think and go right ahead. Now, there’s always a cost. And the cost was, and you had to understand that and that’s why I don’t think this whole thing that goes on in Austin now is not exposed for this reason. You pay. And what you pay is a failure to pass the legislation you want, that your district is hounding you about, or, or people in your district or interest in your district. So you have to decide, is it this important to you that you’ll have to go back to your district empty handed. Well, I had no problem with that because I thought f-- reform was fundamental, that that took precedence over everything else, accountability and all these things. So that but you, you, you know you do you can’t have it all. But even so we didn’t know how it would turn out. And we had a very, very fair parliamentarian, a man named Bob Johnson. And he told us that every time we walked in there, and each morning of the session he'd think, What are they up to now? And we didn't know either. I mean some things were, you know, some things we, we acted in unison, on other things we just acted individually. I remember I objected to sending--and this was very petty of me in reflection, but this was just after Governor Smith had said that he didn't know what the problem was with his making money on that stock when he--because after all he paid his debts with it. Well, so it was time to send him a birthday card, and I stood up in the back of the room and said not to put my name on it. I mean, some of the things were petty, I grant you. But other things were very basic. I mean, we asked people to indicate whether they had loans, you know, that you could tie in with--to their position in the legislature and state government and so forth. I think we only got 23 people to sign that. That was a low mark. But anyway, out of it we had a turnover in the house, a few changes, but the thing is people are not willing to take the risk that's involved. It's too important to stay in office. And that's, that's--it's, it's a big risk and you're gonna antagonize people.
Gloria: You talked about the repercussions. What was it like when you alone opposed accomodation for former president Lyndon Johnson?
Farenthold: Ah, that’s another story. And, you know, I told the man that-—this was a resolution supporting—- inviting President Johnson to speak. Fine. But I told the sponsor of it, I said, If you commend that administration over Vietnam, I am not going to vote for it. Now I couldn’t, I just could not do it. And I felt—— That was all, I couldn’t do it. So he put that in, commended the administration, and so. That was hard, I paced up and down and did all these things and went and voted no. And as I walked out, a group of legislators--I remember I used to call them East Texas Liberals, one’s a federal judge right now. We walked out together, and two of them said to me, I wanted to do that but my constituents wouldn’t have it. I don’t know if mine will either.
So that was that, And, and, and it was on that. I, I would have listened to him. I listened to Ross Perot, who came-— This story needs to be taken care of for posterity. He came to the Texas
Legislature--of course he had that big contract, you know, the elective to, with the Department of Welfare, Human Resources, whatever. But he came over the prisoners of war, And he put all
the cages up in the capitol, the rotunda, and proposed—-spoke to a joint session one afternoon--and it would be a free trip to Paris and there would be a march down the Champs Elysee headed by
the then Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes. And that was the proposal and there was much excitement about it on the floor, but it didn’t turn out. AS someone, as a matter of fact John Henry Pelt toLd me he spoke to Ben Barnes about it, that it would be a foolish thing to do, but-— So I’d listen to a lot of people in these joint sessions, so I certainly would have listened to President Johnson, but not under those circumstances. And he didn’t come.
Gloria: Huh, Wow. What about the all-male Citadel Club? What about that? When did you find out about that?
Farenthold: That I remember very clearly was toward the end of the session, and we had a meeting of the Governmental Affairs Committee and it was a luncheon meeting at the Citadel Club, and I walked down--it was in one of the hotels I think--and I walked by myself, and I went to the door, and I was told I couldn’t come in, that women were not allowed, And I saw, I saw these men, my colleagues, sitting over the table, and they didn’t do anything about it, and I was turned back. And I went back to my office, and I was angry. I was very angry at that. And so the next day-- and the, the, the committee members by then knew, knew. They saw what had happened and they knew my reaction when they got back to the House. I had been [lapse] Curtis Graves had been denied admission to one of the private clubs and that there had been these personal privilege speeches on the floor of the House objecting to this kind of treatment. And I’ll tell you very frankly, I
waited for someone to stand up and do the same for me. And it was not done. That afternoon the chairman brought me a box of candy. This is, you know, this constant irritation.
Gloria: Chocolate didn't work, obviously.
Farenthold: No, not that day, not that day.
Gloria: Okay. Being a woman, mother, running for governor, running for political office, how did you balance it all, how did you--
Farenthold: There's no balance to it. The first thing I say is, two thing are cut out: sleep and friends. It's really true. You don't have time to go see that friend that's sick or go visit someone who, someone in the family has died. That's just out of the question. So you, you--those things, those sort of amenities of, of life go out, go out the window. So there was no balance really. I never discussed my personal life because I'm not one of those to, and what is the expression, let it all hang out. I abhor that kind of thing. But it was difficult and on the governor's race, three of my children were old enough to campaign, and they did. So much so that two of them were just overdosed on politics. They have nothing to do with it any longer. But the youngest one, I would have, it would have been a great problem, but bless their hearts, Liz Falk and John Henry Falk kept my son Jimmy the entire time of that governor's race. And I don't what would have been the case without that help. It was help, enormous help. So I
was on the telephone a lot, And I guess that’s about it.
Gloria: Do you have any regrets?
Farenthold: About what?
Gloria: About, about not being able to see that sick friend or not having the friends or—
Farenthold: No, no. I didn’t, I didn’t make that form, that part of politics my life. You know, I remember after losing the first or second time, someone said, well you know it’s not the end of the world. And it really isn’t the end of the world, and not only that, there are a lot of other forms of activity besides electoral office that can be very gratifying.
Gloria: Barbara Jordan. Great woman as well. Great person. Just asyourself. You had interaction with her?
Farenthold: Surprisingly little. I was looking forward to meeting her, and her reputation certainly had preceded her. I was reading about her in, in, in Corpus Christi, plus the fact the postman at my office, that came to the office, had known her, and so he, you know, talked a lot about her. So I was looking forward to meeting her and I thought working with her. But, and I paid a courtesy call. But one of the first things I did was go over there and introduce myself and so forth, But we had no further interaction. Actually she was the one I thought I would be working with in the Senate. As it turned out, it was Joe Bernal because we were so concerned about welfare issues and that kind of thing. And finally, as the session progressed, I--and I’ve said this on more than one occasions. First it seemed to me, I, I don’t, I don’t know what the word is. But anyway, the upshot of it was, is the black woman was able to work with the powers that be and the white woman was outside throwing rocks.
Gloria: Why do you think?
Farenthold: I-- It’s a good question. It’s a very good question, and I have not come up with a definitive answer yet. I think that some of that is, is well this is the way the system works and I’ve got certain things I need to have done and that’s it. I mean I’m not putting words in Senator Jordan’s mouth. But that’s what it appeared to me to be. Where I was just standing out there just really irritated, provoked.
Gloria: As the first woman nominated or even given the, the, the opportunity to be vice president, or considered for that, how'd you feel about that?
Farenthold: Well, I was--again that started with three students that had been in my '72 race. And I almost didn't go to that convention because I had pneumonia. And I went over there on antibiotics. But I thought, no--and it was after I'd lost the governor's race. I thought, I'm going to finish this. And I was head of the McGovern delegation, etcetera, and campaigned for McGovern while I was campaigning for myself, which was a foolish thing to do in Texas, but let that be, let that be. Anyway I didn't pay any attention to it when I first went over there because of these three, these three students. And then what actually made the change was Shirley Chisholm deci--you know, she ran for president that year. And she decided not to run for vice president. And so as a consequence, the National Women's Political Caucus, who had just been organized the year before, they supported my candidacy. And it was the most extaordinary [lapse] for me to be [lapse] because I was a woman. I had always been supported despite the fact I was a woman. I mean, there's a seat change there. That you have to get used to. Anyway, I almost backed out of it because I didn't want to irritate McGovern people, and Liz Carpenter was calling me to leave it alone, etcetra. So professor at Duke who's written extensively on Southern history, he gave me a very, what they call the kind of talk you get from a strong uncle, And he told me to stay in that race, that it was a matter of an open convention, and that was that. And I actually listened to him. I don’t think I would have-- but the moral of the story about that was-- well you know you hear about smoke-filled rooms, well to strategize, we met in the powder room. We couldn’t be followed in there. And you know my three, those three initial supporters lived—- camped in Flamingo Park, and they—- That year there were about seven people that ran for the v-- for the nomination of the vice presidency. And, you talk about, you know, wondering what’s going to happen, just before they started the role call, I was right in the middle of
the convention hall. I remember this so clearly and think--saying to myself, suppose you don’t get a vote, You know that’s not beyond—- I mean that can happen, too, speaking of that kind
Gloria: But you did.
Farenthold: Yep I did. I came in second. And, and then asked that it be made by acclamation. Professor Galbraith was, was the one urging that, then I, that was fine, so. There’s some wonderful vignettes out of, out of that. The Arkansas delegation went into almost entirely for me. And I went to thank Governor Bumpers and only learned later that the way it happened was that he had gone up to see some of the VIPs behind the stage and the women had taken over. But he just accepted it, you see.
Gloria: That is great, that is great.
Farenthold: So there are all kinds of, you know, things that were going on. Very, very amusing.
Gloria: I think we're going to turn it over to Dr. Gregory to take some of the questions.
--end of side 1--
Farenthold: ...wonderful story about those cards. I--and this was a very prominent civil rights leader actually, and he spoke at the college just before I came, and they passed the cards around. But he pulled out all his own cards. There have been times when I wish I had my own, I can tell you.
Gloria: These aren't so bad. The first one I'll ask you is, someone in the audience wants to know, how do you feel about term limits?
Farenthold: I was taken in by them and got out of it. And I, I think they do more harm than good. Now mind you, I started supporting them for the legislature, and at this point I wouldn’t have personally anything to do with them. I got off that so-called bipartisan committee on them. And with all the problems-- I know with everything with incumbency, I don’t believe term limits is the way to get rid of people politically. So that’s where I am on it.
Gloria: What place do you see the National Organization for Women having for women now?
Farenthold: What place do--
Gloria: It says, what place do you see NOW having for women? The National Organization for Women.
Farenthold: Well it was, you know, one of the very early, and it certainly earliest organizations. It was created, well it was created before the Woman’s Political Caucus was. And I personally am very glad that it’s, it’s been around. And I’m not acquainted with its day-to-day work and I think there’s an ebb and flow like there is in all volunteer organizations. But I’m very glad we have such a, such an organization. Awful lot of times patting ourselves on the
back about being the greatest country in the world, but unless we’re involved, unless we have a press that tells us what’s going on, that system can’t survive. I used to tell the students I had, you know, we have all of this talk about big government, how it controls our lives, let’s take a look at big business, the corporations that are controlling our lives. Make a list of the
fifteen or twenty things you do in a day, from getting up to what music it is or what news it is, to what you eat, to your gasoline and the rest of it, and you’ll see the domination. So, that’s
the, that’s the concern of mine, and, and the militarization plays right into it because the militarization is also to protect those interests on the global, on the global level. So that’s an ongoing concern of mine, and anytime, like this young man’s death which-- and, and here, when I saw the headline that said the Secretary of Defense had withdrawn the troops, I thought, Well oh how wonderful, and then I read a little 1-- farther. That’s to negotiate with the state so those people will be immune. That’s what’s being negotiated now. But we’re not really seeing any
discussion of that, We’ll have commentary by Dick Morris on whoever has, in the headlines today or whatever. So entertainment, distracting entertainment is the order of the day.
Gloria: True. That’s very true. At any rate, uhmm.
Farenthold: What’s another question?
Gloria: Oh man, because really, I could-- really, because you’re absolutely right. It’s almost like it’s not news anymore. It’s not, it’s not even anywhere close to news.
Farenthold: Uh uh,
Gloria: But I won’t even go there. What can we do to return integrity and courage to public life (somebody wants to know that)?
Farenthold: That’s a good question, and I, I don’t have the answer for it, I just know that at least from my viewpoint you can’t give up. So you keep, you keep going on.
Gloria: You gotta vote, you gotta get out, you gotta get involved.
Farenthold: And-- Yep. And a lot of times it doesn’t look as if there’s much difference. But you do need to participate. And I think you need to participate as a citizen. And that’s difficult. Look how difficult they make it for you to go down to City Hall. You have to sign up by, before eight o’clock, don’t you, or something? I mean everything is made difficult for us. But I don’t know any other thing to do hut to continue pushing on the issues. It’s not a very a good answer. But I don’t know what else.
Gloria: Uh let’s see, here’s one. There are still too few women professors, and even fewer women university presidents. How did you make the transition from politics to the Academy and could
you compare them.
Farenthold: Well, many of you have heard me say this. I quote Kingman Brewster, who introduced me at Yale once. And I told him then that I would always attribute this comment to him, because it was so apt. It was just after I had been named president of Wells College, and he said in the introduction that I had left the overt world of politics for the covert world of politics. And
that’s it in a nutshell. It’s very similar. Different constituencies, trying to keep them all in tow one way or the other. I’ll tell you, I found one big difference. In my public life I was anxious to have the press there, an aggressive press. When it came to the college it was another story. When the New York Times was coming up to do a story on, on whatever at Wells, we had a staff meeting over it, I mean I guess you could call, I wouldn’t call it a rehearsal. It didn’t get to that point. But it sure wasn’t free wheeling. So there are some differences.
Gloria: Okay, I think that does it unless we have more questions, more... One more question. How can the Pentagon take precedence over the policy to ban land mines and silence the president in the process?
Farenthold: The president is intimidated by the military. Now we can go looking for reasons, that he feels vulnerable and you know, remember how outrageous it was at the beginning about the, the comment of the generals and, and so forth. And that’s number one. He’s intimidated, appears to me, by the military at every turn. And one thing I’ve learned about our country, is the government of this country, or the policymakers of this country, there’s no such thing as shame. You would think we would be shamed into it, but no. I’ve seen-- there’s, there’s no shame. There’s no shame with the biggest guy on the block, I guess. And you see it over and over again. With our government, it doesn’t matter which party’s in. It does on some issues, but not on many of them. Not on the military. Not on intelligence.
Gloria: Thank you so much. [to moderator] Turn it back over to you?
Audience member? Would a woman president make a difference?
Gloria: Oh, that's a good one.
Farenthold: There’ a a— and I was thinking how times have changed. In this week’s New Yorker is an account by Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. on the-— a very, very flattering article on Elizabeth Dole. And it was interesting because it never really raised the point of her gender being a problem. That’s what I’ve found so interesting about it. And it made the point that the Republican pollsters, or whatever, consultants are saying that they need someone in the year 2000 that can feel our pain, all in quotes, and that she comes closest to the Clinton model. So read it and see what you think of it.
Moderator: Okay, well thanks very much and thanks to our underwriter.
Farenthold: Who’s our underwriter?
Gloria: Thank you.