The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

poignancy, only a few themes of larger significance can be parsed from this
potpourri of tales. First, numerous anecdotes illustrate the pervasive flouting
of Prohibition 'in the author's hometown. The sheriff and a deputy were re-
vealed as bootleggers; Vernon's elite and its downtrodden alike found easy ac-
cess to alcohol; the author's father, a judge, accepted a gift of whisky from
Amon Carter; and even the author, as a youth, manufactured wine. Second,
the degraded position of African Americans in Vernon and elsewhere in Texas
can be deduced from anecdotes that focus on "the help" and "the flats" and
that feature the medical and financial problems of black people. The author
states that he began "to experience the first concerns on racial attitudes" the
night he attended an all-night party hosted by a white family for a black jazz
band and its youthful white audience following a dance at the Vernon Elks
Club. From that recollection, he naively speculates that if race relations "had
been left to the kids of America, the much needed, the necessary transitions
may have been easier and more effective" (p. 52).
This book may be of some interest to folklorists and collectors of Texana, but
its value to historians and serious students of Texas is marginal. Like most law-
yers, Stokes is a good storyteller. With his experience and his prior publica-
tions, perhaps the author could tell additional stories about weightier matters
such as rural economic development and the financial plight of Texas farmers
during the four decades of his tenure in the federal Farm Credit System.
Dallas JOSIAH M. DANIEL III
Texas Big Rich- Exploits, Eccentrizcztes, and Fabulous Fortunes Won and Lost. By
Sandy Sheehy. (New York: William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1990. Pp. 415.
Acknowledgments, introduction, black-and-white photographs, bibliogra-
phy, index. $22.95.)
F. Scott Fitzgerald's often quoted observation that the very rich are different
than ordinary mortals finds plenty of support in this fascinating survey of the
"big rich" of the Lone Star State. But while the eccentricities and foibles of
Texas's multimillionaires do set them apart from society's mainstream, the
people featured in this book bear little resemblance to the East Coast elites who
so fascinated Fitzgerald.
Author Sandy Sheehy believes that being rich in Texas is different than it is
elsewhere. The state's highly individualistic frontier tradition makes being rich
more fun. Unfettered by pressures to conform, the state's "cowboy capitalists"
are free to show off with abandon. Houstin Wildcatter Glenn McCarthy set the
standard for the outrageously ostentatious display of wealth at his 1949 party
celebrating the opening of Houston's Shamrock Hilton Hotel.
According to Sheehy, the Texas rich view their fortunes differently because
of the way their money was made. The dominant myth in other parts of the
country is that of the hard-working captain of industry whose fortune was the
product of his industry and creative genius. The inheritors of such wealth, if
they believe the myth, feel a heavy responsibility to be worthy of their benefac-
tor's greatness. Even those who reject the myth after finding their great bene-

148

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/. Accessed September 15, 2014.