JESUS F. DE LA TEJA, Editor
Wright Patman: Populism, Liberalzsm, and the American Dream. By Nancy Beck
Young. (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 2ool. Pp. xix+428.
Preface, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-87074-453-4. $34.95, cloth.)
In the preface to her political biography of Wright Patman, Nancy Young
states that she wants to explain the long career of the Texas congressman while
also demonstrating the overall value of studying individual members of
Congress to better understand modern politics. This well-researched work suc-
ceeds on both accounts. Young makes extensive use of primary sources span-
ning several decades, especially the Wright Patman Papers at the LBJ Library, to
explain Patman's main motivation in politics-preserving the rural, small-town
way of life that he experienced while growing up in northeast Texas. The
author shows that congressional biography can provide valuable perspective on
national political issues.
Young begins her look at the congressman's life by explaining how the ideolo-
gy of Populism heavily influenced his outlook. Patman made it his life's goal to
enter politics in order to defend a declining social and economic order from the
intruding influences of powerful eastern money. Young follows Patman's rise
from a poor sharecropper's son to lawyer, state representative, and finally elec-
tion to the U.S. House in 1928. The young congressman's impact was felt imme-
diately as he attacked large banks, national corporations, and the Hoover admin-
istration through fervent press releases, venomous speeches, and a highly publi-
cized investigation of Secretary of Treasury Andrew Mellon for alleged conflicts
of interest. Patman gained lasting fame through his advocacy of the World War I
veteran's bonus bill. Young shows that, early in his career, Patman's flair pro-
duced results: the beleaguered Mellon resigned to accept a diplomatic post,
while Hoover's treatment of the bonus marchers contributed to the president's
defeat in the 1932 election.
For the rest of his forty-seven-year-long House career, Patman made a national
name for himself as he attacked adversaries and proposed legislation in an effort
to cure what he viewed as dangerous developments in the modern economy. He
sought to limit the growth of regional and national chain stores, fought for more
government control of the Federal Reserve Board and lower interest rates,
attempted to limit the size and power of national banks, and continuously
looked for ways for the federal government to aid small business. He alienated
many along the way with his Populist-influenced tactics, but he relished rocking
the boat as the consummate "outsider's insider" (p. 5).
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed April 19, 2014.