(See: August 4, 1977, AP - Clovis [NM] News-Journal, page 9, LBJ Election Steal Alleged By Former Official, where an AP byline goes to James W. Mangan)
The final statewide count gave Johnson an 87-vote margin in total tally approaching 1 million and earned him the tongue-in-cheek nickname, "Landslide Lyndon."
Here is how Box 13 generated the haze of suspicion Johnson never quite dispelled.
In the Texas of the 1940s, the Democratic nominee was the sure winner in any statewide general election.
Any battles were fought in the party, and if they had to be settled in an election, it was the primary that counted.
Texas Democrats were split in 1948. Johnson, then 39, was a brash, 6-foot-3 congressman, representing "new" Democrats in his bid for the U.S. Senate. His opponent was Coke R. Stevenson -- 60 years old, six feet tall, three times Texas governor, never beaten and the candidate of the "old" wing of the party.
In the July primary Stevenson polled 477,077 votes to 405,617 for Johnson. But a third candidate, George Petty, siphoned off enough votes to deny Stevenson a majority. That forced a runoff between Stevenson and Johnson, set for Aug. 28, 1948.
Stevenson, known as "Calculating Coke," didn't stay in Texas to campaign during the next month, but went to Washington, looking, it was said, for a place to live after the general election.
Johnson spent the month campaigning intensely.
One of the places Johnson went stumping was the hot, flat, brush country of South Texas, to George B. Parr country, where the Mexican-American vote seemed always to come in a block.
13 days after the runoff election, on Sept. 10, Stevenson went to Alice. His party included former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, a respected and feared lawman whose exploits included a role in the 1934 ambush slaying of desperados Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, and former FBI agent T Kellis Dibrell. They demanded the Box 13 poll and tally lists. The poll list records names of individuals as they sign up to vote; the tally list gives the total votes cast.
(See: Wikipedia Talk Page--Frank Hamer below)B. F. "Tom" Donald, secretary of the Jim Wells County Democratic Executive Committee, produced a copy of the poll list, but, Dibrell said, snatched it away when Dibrell began to copy names from it.
"We didn't have a court order or anything and legally there was nothing we could do about it," Dibrell said.
Dibrell told the AP recently that the brief look confirmed a suspicion that the last 202 names were in alphabetical order. "It stuck out like a sore thumb. Also, the last 202 names were made with the same colored ink, and in the same handwriting, whereas the earlier names in the poll list were written by different individuals and in different color inks," Dibrell said.
(Donald, reached at his home in Alice, said: "I'm old and retired. I don't want to talk about it. I hate to be rude, but I don't want to be bothered. If I gave an interview, what would you pay me?")
The chairman of the Jim Wells County Democratic Executive committee in 1948 was Clarence Martens, now an oilman in Laredo, Tex. He told the AP his committee met after the election and routinely certified the results. "I did not actually see the poll and tally lists for the precincts. Once the total was certified by the committee, it was over as far as I was concerned. I heard rumors afterward of course."
Stevenson decided against suing in state court. Dibrell said a judge supported by Parr would have presided. Also, time was short. Ballots for the November general election had to be printed in early October, and one name or the other had to be included.
Instead, Stevenson went to federal court in Fort Worth. On Sept. 14, Judge T. Whitfield Davidson signed a temporary restraining order forbidding certification of Johnson as Democratic nominee.
On Sept. 21, Judge Davidson opened a hearing on his order with a surprise suggestion that both names be placed on the ballot. "In other words, let the people of Texas decide the winner, he suggested."
Stevenson agreed immediately. Johnson refused.
The hearing lasted two days, but none of the witnesses testified to the key allegation that the last 202 names on the Box 13 list were in alphabetical order. The judge ordered an on-the-spot investigation of voting in Jim Wells County.
When the hearing began, on Sept. 27, reporters from around the country showed up in Alice. By then it was national news. That same day, in Washington, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black agreed to hear Johnson's petition to lift the injunction. Johnson's attorney was Abe Fortus, in later years a Johnson appointee to the high court.
Stevenson was in Alice that day; Johnson was on President Harry S. Truman's campaign train elsewhere in Texas. During a campaign atop in Temple. Tex., Truman brought Johnson to his side and publicly endorsed him as the next senator from Texas. Also on the train at San Antonio that day, according to Salas, were George B. Parr, who had received a presidential pardon from Truman in 1946 after serving nine months on an income tax conviction, and executive committeeman Lloyd.
Salas told The AP he was summoned the next day by Lloyd and told: "Luid, everything is all right. We talked to Truman on the train. Don't worry about the investigation."
At the hearing, Salas, as the election judge, was subpoenaed. He testified: "I went to see Mr. Donald on the night of Sept. 14. I borrowed his poll and rally lists. I wanted to compare his lists with mine. They tallied, the election was level."
"Where are those lists now, Mr. Salas?" a Stevenson lawyer asked.
"Well," Salas testified, "I put my lists and the ones I got from Mr. Donald in the glove compartment of my car. I went to a party and parked my car outside. Somebody stole them (the lists) while I was inside."
Salas told the AP, "That's what I said but I lied. I was just going along with my party. I was told by Ed Loyd what to say."
The hearing ended abruptly two days later, on Sept. 29. Justice Black, in an order he dated himself in longhand, voided the temporary injunction against putting Johnson's name on the ballot. Black said, "it would be a serious break with the past" for a federal court to determine an election contest.
Stevenson had lost; Johnson had won.
The Box 13 ballot box was opened in court just as the hearing was ended. Subsequently, the ballots were destroyed as prescribed by law and the poll and tally lists vanished.
Salas said he was convinced that if the investigation had been allowed to continue, the vote fraud would have been revealed.
Salas said he felt sorry for Stevenson: "He won that election, he sure did. But our machinery was too tough for him."
Shortly before his death in 1975, Stevenson told a reporter: "I remember that for years the calculation that Box 13 deals only with 200 votes, but they actually stole 50,000 votes."
The 1948 chairman of the Texas Democratic Executive Committee was Robert W. Calvert, now a retired Texas Supreme Court justice. In a recent speech, he quoted former Texas Gov. Jimmy Allred as summing up the Box 13 dispute this way: "Well, Lyndon's backers thought Coke Stevenson had stolen the 1941 election in East Texas and they didn't see anything wrong with doing the same for their candidate in 1948."
Wikipedia Talk Page--Frank Hamer,
Nor is this the only reason I find Frank Hamer a despicable excuse for a human being. He was well known in Texas as a paid strike breaker, and vote stealer. These are not my opinions, see Lyndon Johnson's Victory in the 1948 Texas Senate Race: A Reappraisal, by Dale Baum and James L. Hailey. He was a paid thug, available for dirty jobs if the money was right.
Without getting into a fruitless debate (too late), My great grandfather was acting with legal authorization to use any means required to stop Bonnie and Clyde, thus he was not guilty of murder. As you said, we are a country of laws, and he was acting as an agent of those laws. Second, he did not allow people to loot the bodies, it happened while he was not there. Third, show me one piece of evidence, besides someone else's opinion, that my grandfather was a hired thug, let alone a paid killer. Tecas elections at that time were notoriously crooked, and his involvement was on behalf of politicians he believed in or who were friends, not to the highest bidder. Naturally, the political opposition would have a seriously negative opinion of him. Show me proof that he was involved in any illegal activity involving an election. It doesn't even have to be published. And show me one shred of evidence that he was a paid killer. He killed over 50 people. He was tried for murder 5 times. He was cleared every time, because it was in the line of duty or self defense. Those are the facts. Anything to the contrary is insinuation or character assasination. That is plain and simple. 188.8.131.52 03:11, 9 June 2007 (UTC)Travis Hamer