The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995

Book Reviews

resources than he commanded. Wortham had the blinkered attitudes of his time
and class. Regarding race relations, he once told an oral historian that "We have
never had any trouble in Houston" (p. 180).
Dressman shows that Wortham was an important figure in mid-twentieth-cen-
tury Texas political and economic life, but the man himself rarely comes alive in
the pages of this biography.
University of Texas at Austin LEWIs L. GOULD
Sharpstown Revisited: Frank Sharp and a Tale of Dirty Politics in Texas. By Mickey
Herskowitz. (Austin: Eakin Press, 1994. Pp. ix+176. Acknowledgments, epi-
logue, index. ISBN 0-89015-927-0. $19.95.)
In a recently published collection of essays on Texas historiography, Kenneth
Hendrickson commented on the quality of historical writing that focuses on
post-World War II Texas. Most of it, he asserted, is of a decidedly questionable
quality, characterized generally by careless and incomplete research; few in-
sights; and the lack of essential scholarly accompaniments such as source identi-
fication, bibliography, and so forth. Sharpstown Revisited, a brief biographical
sketch of Frank Sharp and the financial and political misdeeds remembered as
the Sharpstown Scandal, exhibits most of the deficiencies described by Hen-
drickson. Thus it will be of limited value to scholars and serious students of
Texas history.
The author, a Houston sportswriter, traces the outlines of Sharp's life from his
birth in Crockett to his retirement from public life in the 1970s, following the
scandal and subsequent trials that bore his name. During his life Sharp, who
died in 1993, became a major real estate developer in Houston and as his con-
struction empire grew larger, he moved into banking and finance and, almost
inevitably, into contact with major political figures of the time. His relations with
some of these political personalities and the efforts he and others exerted to in-
fluence legislation that would benefit his business enterprises led to his downfall
and the premature termination of several political careers.
Written in a sprightly journalistic style, the book is a fast read, but seldom
probes beneath the surface of events to get at the how or why of it all. Her-
skowitz makes little effort, apart from a few self-serving statements from some of
the participants, to plumb the personalities, motivations, and backgrounds of
the major players. Herskowitz's dualistic approach typically portrays the state's
elected leadership as a group of avaricious and often inept professional office-
seekers, while the "Dirty Thirty," the unlikely coalition of legislators who came
together to expose the wrongdoing, shared a commitment "to represent the
people" (p. 84) against the vested interests, the powerful lobbies, and the poli-
tics of personal enrichment that for so long had characterized Texas govern-
ment at the highest levels.
Works of this sort generally do not attempt to offer fresh insights and fre-
quently leave important questions unanswered. One would like to know, for ex-
ample, what part Frank Sharp played in all this. Was he, as Herskowitz seems to

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/. Accessed December 28, 2014.