The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990

Thomas Watt Gregory and the Survival of His
Progressive Faith
EVAN ANDERS *
T HOMAS WATT GREGORY WAS A LONGTIME ACTIVIST IN TEXAS POLI-
tics and Woodrow Wilson's second attorney general. From the turn
of the century until his death in 1933, he proclaimed his commitment
to progressive reform. Even after participating in the campaign of fed-
eral repression that curbed political dissent during World War I and
destroyed the reform-minded coalition responsible for Wilson's earlier
reelection in 1916, Gregory continued to embrace the progressive
label.'
For modern historians the mere mention of "progressivism" raises
troubling questions of definition. The range of contending interpreta-
tions that scholars have advanced over the past thirty years to explain
the meaning of the outburst of reform activity in the early twentieth
century is indeed daunting. The different characterizations of progres-
sivism include the following: a middle-class effort to salvage traditional
American values, such as individualism and a faith in competition, in
the midst of an increasingly industrialized, urbanized, corporate so-
ciety; a middle-class surrender of those values and acceptance of the
new bureaucratic order; a consumer rebellion, cutting across class, eth-
nic, and rural-urban divisions, to challenge the exploitation, corrup-
tion, and power of big business; a more general pattern of constantly
shifting political alliances in response to a whole array of cultural, so-
cial, economic, and political crises; a political front for the consolida-
* Evan Anders is associate professor of history at the University of Texas at Arlington. He is
currently studying the political career of Thomas Watt Gregory and his role in shaping the
repressive policies of the federal government during World War I.
'T[homas] W[att] Gregory, "The Responsibilities of Citi7enship," The Universzty of Texas
Record, VII (June, 19o6-Aug., 1907), 278-285; Dallas Mornng News, Aug. 13, 1911, Feb. 27,
1933, Thomas Watt Gregory to Woodrow Wilson, Sept. 4, Oct. 7, 1911, Thomas Watt Gregory
Papers, 1872-1965 (Southwest Collection, Texas Tech University; cited hereafter as TTU);
Gregory to D. H. McArthur, Feb. 18, 1916, ibid.; Gregory to Robert L. Owen, Feb. 24, 1916,
ibid.; Gregory to Herman Bernstein, Nov. 7, 1926, ibid.; Gregory to Josephus Daniels, Feb. 19,
1924, Thomas Watt Gregory Papers, 1914-1933 (Library of Congress; cited hereafter as LC);
Gregory to E A. Alderman, Apr. 18, 1924, lbid ; Gregory to Mrs. Carl Vrooman, Jan. 16,
1925, ibid.; Gregory to George Anderson, Oct 23, 1930, ibid., Gregory to G Carroll Todd,
Aug. 29, 1931, ibid.; Gregory to Ray Stannard Baker, Aug. 29, 1931, ibid.; Gregory to Ida

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/. Accessed December 18, 2014.