The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 413
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The Governor and the Bat
Colquitt's suspension did not survive his administration. Subsequent
regimes resumed whipping. The practice continued as the principal disci-
plinary measure in Texas prisons until 1941, when first the prison board,
and then the legislature, abolished the practice following a campaign by
Dallas civic leaders. Despite debates that had occurred during 1909-1912,
the resumption of the bat engendered little controversy. Both Colquitt's
failed experiment and the state's continued willingness to tolerate brutal
practices require an explanation. Although attitudes and humane stan-
dards had changed permanently for some individuals, a majority of policy
makers and voters appeared willing to return to more traditional prac-
tices. In part, their eagerness arose from a conviction that corporal pun-
ishment was essential to control citizens from the most marginal elements
of society. Many apologists for the bat regarded whipping as more
humane than such alternative practices as "chaining" prisoners to the ceil-
ings of buildings with their wrists bound and their toes often barely touch-
ing the floor or placing convicts in dungeons or "dark cells.""
Cabell and others of a like mind could accurately fault obstinate
employees as impediments to permanent reforms. Racial considerations
also provided at least a partial explanation for the persistence of the bat in
Texas prisons. Many legislators as well as prison officers had long main-
tained that the bat was essential for the supervision of African American
prisoners, who comprised a majority of the convict population. Others
countered this argument, noting that white convicts, such as the subject of
Putnam's article, also received lashings from bat-wielding prison officers.
White prisoners, who complained vociferously of harsh treatment, com-
piled virtually all published memoirs of Texas prison life during this era.
Until the bat's abolition in 1941, whippings would sweep across the
boundaries of race, gender, and ethnicity among Texas convicts.32
" Telegram from A. L. Southwick, Sunday editor of the Baltimore American to Gov. W. Lee
O'Daniel, Jan. 1, 1941, Wilbert Lee O'Daniel Governor's Records (Archives Division, TSL),
hereafter referred to as O'Daniel Governor's Records. The prison board abolished the bat after
a colorful campaign led by C. V. Compton, who promised a $2oo reward to prison officials in six
states who would consent to lashings similar to those administered to their state prisoners. See
Compton to O'Daniel, Jan. 25, 1941, O'Daniel Governor's Records. According to Compton, by
1941 whippings were only legal in Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, West Virginia,
and Colorado See Compton, Deep Secrets Behind Gray Walls (n.p, 1940); also see "Whipping Post
in Prison May Be Legislated Out," Sheriff's Assoczatzon of Texas Magazine, 9 (Jan., 1941), 14.
Charles V. Compton vertical file, CAH; and "Minutes of the Texas Prison Board," Jan. 13, 1941,
O'Daniel Governor's Records. The Texas Prison Board ended the use of the bat on February 11,
1941; see Texas Prison Board, Annual Report (1941), 7. The Texas Legislature formally outlawed
whipping later during the same year; see Texas Legislature, General Laws, 47th Reg (1941), 341.
Tom Finty Jr. mentions criticism of alternative punishments m "Troubles of the Texas Prison
System," Delinquent, 4, (Jan., 1914), 6-10o. The 1913 report by legislative investigators also dis-
cusses the controversy in Thirty-Third Legislature, A Record of Evidence and Statements before the
Penztentzary Investigating Commzttee (Austin. 1913), 36-37.
R" San Antonzo Express, Sept. 3, 191o; Houston Chronzcle, Mar. 8, 1912; "Executed Whipping
Orders," i931, in Ross G. Sterling Governor's Records (Archives Division, TSL), hereafter
referred to as Sterling Governor's Records. Examples of prisoner memoirs include: Henry
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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/m1/481/: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.