The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 408
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Herring, a strong disciplinarian, had opposed the 191o reform law
because he believed it contained provisions that would hamper the
supervision of convicts. He favored retention of the bat despite his
friend Ramsey's opposition.20
Contending that Colquitt's commissioners had suspended whipping
only in response to the judge's urgings, Ramsey often told audiences: "I
made him abolish the bat." By making this assertion, however, Ramsey
opened himself to charges relating to his own abbreviated service on the
prison board. The Colquitt forces quickly noted that Ramsey "made no
effort to do away with" the bat while he was chairman. "As head of the sys-
tem Judge Ramsey encouraged instead of discouraged the abuses, which
created such a commotion in the State when they were exposed during
the Campbell administration," one Colquitt tabloid claimed. Colquitt
especially attacked Ramsey and former Governor Campbell for their role
in extending the Texas State Railroad. "It was built with money borrowed
from the public school fund and out of convicts' blood. The convicts
were inhumanly whipped and beaten with instruments of torture,"
Colquitt repeatedly stated. Ramsey "was the dominating and controlling
influence in the penitentiary management ... [and] recognized the
abuses and practices and encouraged them," he further maintained.21
Instigated by Ramsey, the "bat" controversy encouraged Colquitt to
deliver crowd-pleasing and emotional addresses that aroused the passions
and consciences of his audiences in towns and cities across the state.
After blasting Ramsey and Campbell for permitting the use of the bat
during the judge's tenure on the prison board, Colquitt would captivate
his listeners when he announced: "I have one of them [a bat] with me
which I will show you if you want to see it. It will lacerate the human flesh
and draw the blood with every blow. This bat will cut the life's blood at
every lick." Then he would display or wave an actual blood-stained bat
that prison authorities had formerly used to punish convicts. "It is the bat
with which convicts were whipped at the sawmill where the cross-ties were
cut that went into the railroad that Ramsey and Campbell built."22
2 Jake Herring to D. H. Alphin, June 2, 1912; W. G. Oglesby to Board of Prison
Commissioners, June 16, 1912, W. P. Foster to Board of Prison Commissioners, June 16, 1912,
and Ben E. Cabell to Colquitt, Jan. 1, 1913, all in Colquitt Governor's Records. See also J. A.
Herring to Tom Campbell, Sept. 11, 1910, Campbell Governor's Records. Concerning the rela-
tionship between Herring and Ramsey, see Ramsey to Herring, Oct. 20o and Oct. 24, 1913, m
William F. Ramsey Papers (State Bar of Texas Archives, Austin, Texas).
2' "Speech of Judge W. F. Ramsey at Taylor, Texas on June 20, 1912," box 2E177 (1st quota-
tion); Broadside: "Colquitt Spoke To Big Crowd Last Night," box 2E2o4 (2nd and 4th quota-
tions), and Broadside: Bulletin, "Colquitt Answers Critics of State Prison System," box l02 B TXC
(3rd, 5th, and 6th quotations), all in Colquitt Papers.
22 Taylor, "The Political Speaking of Oscar Branch Colquitt," 218; and Broadside: Bulletin,
"Colquitt Answers Critics of State Prison System," box 102 B TXC (1st and 2nd quotations); and
Garfield Crawford to Rawlins Colquitt, Feb. 6, 1941, both in Colquitt Papers. Crawford and
other writers mistakenly recalled Colquitt's use of the "bat" tactic during the 1910 campaign.
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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/m1/476/: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.