The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 417
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The Governor and the Bat
Whipping continued, however, as did financial despair, for most of
the next three decades. When a movement to halt the bat emerged in
1940, proponents of lashing could no longer blame fiscal difficulties
upon the bat's suspension as they did when Colquitt was governor.
Twenty-eight years after the Colquitt-Ramsey campaign of 1912, at least
a few state leaders, however, recalled the prison reform discussions from
the earlier period. After the bat's abolition in 1941, to be sure, illegal
acts of violence involving convict torture and beatings persisted away
from public view. The Texas prison system would remain for years there-
after an agrarian-based institution predicated upon brutal outdoor gang
labor and austere discipline. During the Progressive era, however,
Colquitt, Cabell, Ramsey, and muckraking journalists had promoted
public discourse over the bat and other punishments. In doing so, they
showed that business and political leaders might regard overt penal vio-
lence as abhorrent, even if the victims were convicted criminals. In the
years that followed, the most successful Texas prison administrators
would be those who concealed deplorable conditions and presented
favorable images for their regimes. That strategy proved efficacious until
the federal judiciary permitted prisoners to legally challenge penal
administrations beginning in the 1960s. Ultimately, Texas prisons expe-
rienced an extended period of court oversight when Federal District
Judge William Wayne Justice in 1980 ruled that the conditions of con-
finement constituted "cruel and unusual punishment.""
" The prison system's farming operations profited only during World War I due to an
increased international demand for agricultural products and again in 1924 and 1927.
Thereafter, the system incurred repeated financial losses. See J. E. Pearce, "History of Efforts at
Reorganizing and Relocating the Penitentiary System of Texas," unpublished report for the
Texas Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor, in Texas Prison Scrapbook, CAH; Herman Lee
Crow, "A Political History of the Texas Penal System, 1829-1951" (Ph.D diss, University of
Texas, 1954), 299-301; Texas Prison Board, Annual Report (1927), 3; (1935), 21; (1939), 27;
and Gabriel Crawford to Rawlins Colquitt, Feb. 6, 1941, box 2E174, Colquitt Papers. The late
U.S. senator Ralph Yarborough remembered Colquitt's use of the bat See Yarborough to Lynn
Denton, Oct. 28, 1985, Colquitt Bat Collection, Texas Memonal Museum, University of Texas at
Austin. See news report that recalled the 1910 legislative discussion in "The Bat," undated clip-
ping from Houston Chronicle, in Elizabeth Ring Papers, CAH. Marshall Lee Simmons, Oscar
Byron Ellis, and George John Beto were especially popular Texas prison administrators. See Paul
M Lucko, "Counteracting Reform: Lee Simmons and the Texas Prison System, 1930-1935," East
Texas Hstorncal Journal, 30 (Fall, 1992), 19-29; Paul M. Lucko, "George John Beto," in Tyler, et
al. (eds.), The New Handbook of Texas, I, 511-512; and Paul M. Lucko, "Oscar Byron Ellis," in
Tyler, et al. (eds.), The New Handbook of Texas, II, 831-832. SteveJ. Martin and Sheldon Ekland-
Olson discuss the recent past of Texas correctional facilities and federal judicial intervention in
Texas Prisons: The Walls Came TumblingDown (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1987), xxiv-xxix, 1-5,
15-58, 235-247. Also see Ben Crouch and James W. Marquart, An Appeal to Justce: Litgated
Reform of Texas Prisons (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1989), 30-38; and Ruzz v. Estelle, 503
Federal Supplement (1980).
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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/m1/485/: accessed August 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.