The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 405
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The Governor and the Bat
following year the governor selected Ramsey to fill a vacant seat on the
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, where he served until 1911. During
the latter year, Campbell named Ramsey to the Texas Supreme Court,
where he remained until he announced for governor in 1912. As a dry
candidate, he received support from the state's religious press and such
public figures as Thomas H. Ball, Cone Johnson, Martin Crane, Cato
Sells, and United States Sens. Charles Allen Culberson and Morris
Sheppard, all of whom were associated with the Woodrow Wilson faction
of the Texas Democratic Party. Ramsey was the father-in-law of Tom C.
Clark, who later served as United States attorney general and as an asso-
ciate justice on the United States Supreme Court. His grandson, Ramsey
Clark, would also serve as United States attorney general.'16
Prison reform as a political issue assumed a peculiar character in
1912 largely due to Ramsey's brief tenure as chairman of the state
prison board in i 907. His chairmanship was noteworthy for two contro-
versial transactions. First, with legislative approval, the prison system
completed the final twelve and a half miles of the Texas State Railroad,
which ran between Rusk and Palestine. Through the sale of $150,000
in bonds to the Texas school fund, the Campbell administration laid
the final tracks for an ill-fated venture that proved to be at best "a white
elephant" and at worst, "a black hole of Calcutta" for the convicts
assigned to that project. A second problematic event under Ramsey's
supervision involved his negotiation of a lease-purchase arrangement
with sugar planter Bassett Blakely for the 8,ooo-acre "Ramsey Farm" in
Brazoria County. When the state exercised the option to purchase the
property, the terms of the contract permitted Blakely to receive $13.75
per acre for land he had acquired for only $5 an acre two years earlier.
Legislative investigators later criticized both Blakely's hefty profits and
another contractual provision that forced the state to spend $75,000 to
construct a railroad across the property. As chairman, Ramsey evinced
little sympathy with the plight of convicted felons. He once complained
about a penitentiary chaplain, the Rev. Jake Hodges, who "permitted
his sensitive nature [to] ... undermine the discipline [and] cause trou-
ble at Huntsville."'7
" Brian Hart, "Williham Franklin Ramsey," in Tyler, et al. (eds.), The New Handbook of Texas, V,
428; chppings in William F. Ramsey vertical file, CAH; Gould, Progressives and Prohbstronzsts,
45-91, and Huckaby, "Oscar Branch Colquitt," 300-312.
""Contract and Agreement" for lease-purchase, box 7, FF28, Kempner Unincorporated
Papers (Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas), hereafter referred to as Kempner Papers. D. H.
Kempner to Bassett Blakely, Feb. 19, 19o8, box 7, FF35, Kempner Papers. Penitentiary
Investigating Committee Appointed by the Thirty-Third Legislature of Texas, A Record of Evidence
and Statements (New York: Arno Press, 1974), 20-2 , 2 28-23o. The "black hole of Calcutta" quo-
tation was from state Sen. C. B. Hudspeth in Report of the Penitentzary Investigating Committee,
20-21. The Ramsey Farm consisted of properties from the former Waverly, Drayton, Quarl's and
Palo Alto plantations. See AbnerJ. Strobel, The Old Plantations and Thesr Owners of Brazoria County
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/473/: accessed November 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.