The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004 Page: 152
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152 Southwestern Historical Quarterly July
even as oversupply dropped oil prices to ten cents a barrel. As a leader of the
independent producers, Parten came to believe that strong state regulation
would benefit Texas by controlling wasteful overproduction-and by fore-
stalling more intrusive federal regulation.
A Breed So Rare is a revealing study of one independent oilman's political and
intellectual growth. Born in Madisonville, Texas, Parten maintained ties to that
community most of his life. After receiving his law degree from the University of
Texas in 1917, he joined the field artillery and rapidly achieved the rank of
major-an honorific he carried until his death in 1992. After a start in oilfield
politics, Parten actively supported progressive policies in higher education, civil
liberties, and international relations. He interrupted his successful business
career with decades of service in governmental and civic positions, including six
eventful years as a UT Regent, a lead role in the federal government's "Big Inch"
oil pipeline during World War II, and civil liberties advocacy with the McCarthy-
era "Fund for the Republic."
As a businessman, Parten grew wealthy from his successful "exploration and
production" companies, refineries, pipelines, and a lucrative Mexican sulfur
company. His activism in East Texas oilfield issues brought him into close con-
tact with Texas politicians, and he became a campaign strategist and financier
for Gov. Jimmy Allred, legendary Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Ernest
Thompson, and Ralph Yarborough. Parten's other political allies ranged from
Huey Long (Parten's oil company was originally based in Louisiana) to Sissy
Farenthold. In Washington, Parten was especially close to Sam Rayburn, and he
was sought out by Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Johnson for key federal
Carleton exhaustively covers both entrepreneurial career and political activi-
ties, but places special emphasis on Parten's 1935-1941 term as a University of
Texas Regent. Parten was an educational visionary who attempted to elevate UT
to the level of Michigan, Minnesota, and California-the first-class state univer-
sities of that era. In the early days of the New Deal, under progressive Gov.
Jimmy Allred, Parten's vision for UT seemed reachable. Parten recruited
Homer Rainey to serve as UT's president, protected the academic freedom of
controversial faculty, instituted a Latin American studies program, and
improved both the football team and faculty pay. When his term ended,
though, Parten's efforts were undermined by reactionary appointees of
Governor "Pappy" Lee O'Daniel. Faced with hostile regents and statewide polit-
ical retrenchment, Rainey resigned in disgust, and Parten's vision for UT
remained on hold for many decades. He remained estranged from the school
until the 198os.
This lengthy biography succeeds by integrating Parten's story with insightful
accounts of key developments across seven decades of Texas history. Parten
would have been noteworthy in any one of his many roles-as an oilman, liberal
activist, educational visionary, wartime energy official, philanthropist, or civil lib-
ertarian. His combined achievements and influence in so many spheres make
Parten's story unique and remarkable.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004, periodical, 2004; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101224/m1/170/: accessed May 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.