The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 409
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The Governor and the Bat
Colquitt performed variations of this speech with great effectiveness
across the state, strutting and pacing on the speaker's platform while
grasping a bat and verbally lashing his opponent. "With this bat," he
would remind audiences, Ramsey used "convict labor, in open competi-
tion with honest labor, and the school children's money," to build the
state railroad. A reporter later remarked upon the effectiveness of his
tactic "whether in North, South, East, West or Central Texas." "It was [a]
tearjerker in every gathering," Garfield Crawford recalled. "His de-
nouncement was always well-received and I have seen weeping mothers,
sisters and fathers crowd first to shake the hand of the governor and
thank him for his campaign," he remembered."
Ramsey attempted to counter Colquitt's charges, but he often suc-
ceeded in only calling greater attention to the governor and his tirades
against the bat. Not an elegant speaker, Ramsey attacked Colquitt with
intemperate phrases and vituperation. "No good man ought ever to vote
for a man who took him for a darn sucker like Colquitt is taking the peo-
ple of this state in showing you the penitentiary bat!" he railed in a
speech at Taylor. "I was the first man in Texas," Ramsey claimed, "who
ever ran for governor, who in unqualified terms came out for the aboli-
tion of the bat." Only after his March 31 speech, argued Ramsey, did
Colquitt express the desire to end the whipping of Texas prisoners.
"With a great flourish of trumpets he rushed into print abolishing the
practice of whipping, and thereafter . .. with the bull bat in his hand,
and with tearful voice and tearful eyes affrighted the timid and appealed
to the sympathetic to save him from defeat, which inevitably awaits him,"
Ramsey complained. "The bat," Ramsey argued, "is the Governor's plat-
form. That is all he has."24
When addressing audiences, Ramsey frequently evinced a tendency to
restate even the most preposterous charges that Colquitt and his backers
uttered against him. On one occasion, Ramsey repeated an unfounded
The author of the present study has found no evidence of such theatrics until 1912, following
Ramsey's claim to have forced Colquitt to suspend whipping In a speech at Brenham, Colquitt
stressed that the two bats that he used in his speeches were the same ones employed during the
Campbell administration. Presumably, Colquitt had obtained them after assuming the gover-
nor's office in 1911. At vanous times, convicts also referred to the bat by other names such as
the "Red or Yellow Heifer" or "Billy Hell " Crawford wrote from memory nearly thirty years after
the 1912 elections and nearly thirty-two years after that of 1910. Records m the Colquitt collec-
tions at both the CAH and TSL indicate that he made his bat speeches during 1912. George
Portal Huckaby also mistakenly believed that Colquitt had waved the bat in 191o; Huckaby's
source was a retrospective by the Dallas Morning News, Mar. 11, 1940, following Colquitt's death.
See Huckaby, "Oscar Branch Colquitt," 226.
2" Broadside: "Colquitt Spoke to Big Crowd last Night," box 2E304, Colquitt Papers (1st quota-
tion); Garfield Crawford to Rawlins Colquitt, Feb. 6, 1941, Colquitt Papers (2nd quotation).
24 "Speech of Judge W. F. Ramsey at Taylor, Texas on June 20o, 1912," box 2E 177, Colquitt
Papers (quotations); Broadside: "Judge Ramsey Points to the Facts and Shows Up Colquitt's Real
Penitentiary Record," TXC-D, Colquitt Papers.
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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/m1/477/: accessed March 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.