Texas Almanac, 1992-1993 Page: 53
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CENTRAL TEXAS HISTORY
Cotton, which was growing wild in Texas in the 16th cen-
tury when the Spanish arrived, became the major cash
crop of Central Texas by the later 1800s. This ready-to-be
harvested cotton was photographed in Falls County. Tex-
as Almanac staff photo.
in 1929 to less than six cents a pound in 1931 and to five
cents in 1932, the warnings voiced in the 1880s urging
farmers not to specialize in cotton farming but to diver-
sify came back to haunt Central Texas farmers. Farm
workers and tenant farmers migrated to the cities to
find work. What they found was city-dwellers also
looking for work. Both groups were forced to fall back
on relief and public works projects. A cotton-acreage
limitation bill was passed by the Legislature in 1931 in
an attempt to cut the cotton surplus and increase
prices, but the law was declared unconstitutional in
The New Deal farm program was elaborate and far-
reaching. To eliminate agricultural surpluses that
caused prices to drop, the federal government restrict-
ed production and held surpluses off the market. The
Agricultural Adjustment Acts of 1933 and 1938 also insti-
tuted soil conservation programs and made credit easi-
er for farmers to obtain. The cotton program aimed to
take 10 million acres of cotton land out of production.
Since the 1933 AAA went into effect in mid-summer,
farmers had to plow under growing crops. The deliber-
ate destruction of crops, plus a later livestock program
that called for shooting cattle on the range and leaving
them to rot, left a bad taste in many Texas mouths. But
not farming was proving more profitable than farming,
and in four races for the presidency, Franklin D. Roose-
velt carried the agricultural vote in Texas by not less
than 82 percent.
When the government started paying farmers to
idle their land by designating it for the soil "bank," the
land idled was usually the marginally productive acre-
age. The best soil was still in production. And, ironical-
ly, improvement in farming techniques, greater
mechanization of farm work and the development of
higher-yielding strains of crops led to greater produc-
tion from less acreage. The result was that, even though
the government was paying farmers to idle their acre-
age, it had to buy up an increasing amount of surplus
commodities. While this strange farce was being played
out, the average farm was increasing in size and the
number of Texans employed in agriculture was de-
creasing. The number of tenant farmers dropped
statewide from 301,660 in 1930 to 23,218 in 1982, and the
trend continued. In 1940, one in three Texans lived on
farms. Now 80.5 percent of the population lives in urban
Texas strengthened its status as a primary military
aviation center when Randolph Field opened in 1930.
The multi-million-dollar "West Point of the Air," named
for Capt. William M. Randolph, who was killed in a
crash while stationed at Kelly Field in 1928, was built on
a 2,300-acre tract of land 18 miles northeast of San Anto-
nio. Randolph-trained pilots formed the nucleus of the
air force's cadre of flight officers for World War II and
the Korean War.
Flood control and dependable water supplies were
Central Texas problems in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
In 1929, the Brazos River Conservation and Reclamation
District (name changed in 1953 to Brazos River Authori-
ty) was formed to control the river and its watershed,
making it the oldest such district in Texas. It is also the
largest, covering about one-sixth of the area of the
state. The authority completed its first dam, the Morris
Sheppard Dam impounding Possum Kingdom Lake, in
March 1941. Possum Kingdom extends into Jack, Ste-
phens and Young counties. Farther downstream are
Lake Granbury in Hood County and Whitney Lake in
Johnson, Hill and Bosque counties. Waco Lake on the
Bosque River and Belton Lake on the Leon River are
two tributary lakes within the authority's jurisdiction.
The Colorado River bisects Central Texas on its way
from Dawson County near the New Mexico border to
Matagorda Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. For years, the
Colorado regularly flooded thousands of acres from
West Texas to the coastal plains, causing loss of life and
millions of dollars in property and crop damage. The
Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) was approved
in 1934 by the 43rd Texas Legislature to manage the wa-
ters of the Colorado.
Buchanan Dam, impounding Lake Buchanan, was
the first water-control project on the Colorado, and it is
the uppermost of the six dams that were eventually
built on the river. Buchanan generated its first electric
power in Jan. 1938. Inks Dam, 12 miles west of Burnet,
was completed later the same year. Other LCRA reser-
voirs include Lyndon B. Johnson Lake, Marble Falls
Lake, Lake Travis and Lake Austin. Counties within the
LCRA's jurisdiction include Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet,
Colorado, Fayette, Llano, Matagorda, San Saba, Travis
The World War of 1917-1918 suddenly became World
War I when the Japanese bombed the American naval
base at Pearl Harbor in the Territory of Hawaii on Dec.
7, 1941, and plunged the United States into World War II.
World War II and Beyond
The economic hardship of the Depression was fi-
nally eased by the federal government's massive spend-
ing on World War II. Central Texas received its share of
expenditures in Texas. Of some 100 army and army air
force installations in the state during World War II, 23
were in Central Texas. Camp Swift, located at Bastrop,
was an infantry training camp activated in January
1942. The 97th and 102nd infantry divisions trained at
Camp Swift, as well as the 5th Headquarters Special
Troops of the Third Army. The 116th and 120th tank de-
stroyer battalions trained at Camp Swift before being
transferred to Camp Hood. Camp Swift also housed
German prisoners of war for a time.
Camp Hood, established on 160,000 acres between
Killeen and Gatesville, was first occupied in March
1942. Named for Confederate General John Bell Hood,
the post was primarily a training center for tank de-
stroyers. By late June 1943, troop capacity was more
than 95,000. Some prisoners of war were also interned at
Camp Hood. The facility shrank considerably after the
war, with only 10,000 troops in residence by January
1946. During a reorganization the same year, Camp
Hood was renamed Fort Hood and became the perma-
nent home of the 2nd Armored Division, which was
nicknamed "Hell on Wheels." Today it is also the home
of the II Armored Mobile Corps. It is the largest
armored installation in the free world and is known
throughout the U.S. Army as "The Great Place."
Waco was home to the Waco Army Airfield, re-
named Connally Air Force Base in 1949, and the Black-
land Army Airfield.
The McCloskey General Hospital in Temple opened
in June 1942. It was one of the army's largest general
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Kingston, Mike. Texas Almanac, 1992-1993, book, 1991; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth279642/m1/57/: accessed May 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.