The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 407
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The Governor and the Bat
The question of humane treatment rather than financial matters or
official malfeasance proved to be the major prison-related issue of 1912.
On March 8 of that year, the Houston Chronicle, an anti-Colquitt publica-
tion, printed a story by Frank Putnam that presented in graphic details
the brutal whipping of a Texas convict, who was "covered with blood
from head to feet." The white prisoner told the journalist that he had
received twenty-two lashes with the bat for failing to work at a reasonable
pace. He reported that "several Negro convicts" tore off his clothes; "two
sat on my feet; two sat on my extended arms; another held my head
down, while a prison officer administered the beating. "18
Other state papers followed the Chronicle's lead with editorials
denouncing the use of the bat and demanding the abolition of all con-
vict whippings. Undoubtedly influenced by the Putnam article, on
March 14 Chairman Cabell urged the other commissioners to approve
his motion abolishing the bat. "I am making this recommendation after
more than a year's careful study of the question, and thoroughly believe
that the law can be fully maintained and prison discipline maintained
without the use of the bat," he wrote Colquitt. Although Cabell initially
failed to persuade the other two commissioners, upon Colquitt's recom-
mendation, on March 23 the board suspended whipping for an indefi-
nite period. State newspapers reported the board's favorable resolution
on March 3 .19
Ramsey delivered his opening campaign speech on March 30 at
Gonzales, where he called for an end to whipping. Because the Houston
Chronicle printed his address on March 31, the same date as Colquitt's
press release, a debate ensued concerning which candidate had first
demanded the bat's abolition. Ramsey may have learned about the dis-
cussion among the three commissioners and the governor prior to the
board's suspension order. Correspondence within Colquitt's personal
papers indicates that many Ramsey supporters were in the employment
of the prison and retained a close relationship with former superinten-
dent, Jake Herring, a staunch Campbell and Ramsey partisan. Chairman
Cabell believed that Herring's informants had encouraged convict
escapes and rebelliousness as well as unrest among guards who hoped to
see him return to prison administration in the event of a Ramsey victory.
Texas (Houston: The Union National Bank, 1930), 9-12, 36-37; W. F. Ramsey to A. M. Barton,
Sept. 30, 1907, Thomas M. Campbell Governor's Records (Archives Division, TSL); hereafter
referred to as Campbell Governor's Records (quotation).
," The beating violated the 1910 law that limited the number of lashes to twenty and required
signed orders by a prison commissioner. See Houston Chronicle, Mar. 8, 1912.
19 Ben E. Cabell to Colquitt, Mar. 14, 1912 (quotation); Cabell to Board of Prison
Commissioners, Mar. 14, 1912; J. E. Stubblefield to Colquitt, Mar. 18, 1912, Mar. 26, 1912;
Cabell to A. R. McCallom, n.d., 1912; and Stubblefield to Colquitt, Mar. 23, 1912, Colquitt letter
press, all in Colquitt Governor's Records. Also see Houston Chronicle, June 14, 1912.
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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/m1/475/: accessed August 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.