Thursday, February 15, 2007

Quotations from Pat Neff, Part I: Early Years

I have spent some time collecting quotations from Pat Morris Neff, Baylor University's eighth president and a two-term governor of Texas. To make these easier to digest over a period of time, I've decided to divide up the quotes into three chronological sections. This, the first, includes quotes made by Neff in his days before being elected Governor of Texas in 1920. The second section will include quotes from Neff as governor, then the third section will include post-gubernatorial quotes, including some he made while president of Baylor.


“I believe we have too much legislation. Legislators spend too much of their time and too much of the people’s money in making laws. The average legislator feels that he is acting derelict to duty should he fail to introduce a few dozen bills. Our statutes are burdened with their own weight; yet lawmaking goes merrily on, confusing and confounding the citizen, embarrassing and bewildering the lawyer, and damming up the stream of justice with conflicting ammendments, contradictions, inconsistencies and technicalities.. I believe the Malthusian doctrine should apply to the making of laws. Let us have fewer laws and better ones –– laws that will stand.”

“I believe we should vote for measures, not men; for principles, not politicians. Men may come and men may go, but principles, like Tennyson’s little brook, will run on forever. The name of Jefferson will live for all ages yet to be; not because he was Thomas Jefferson, but because he stood as a ‘watchman on the walls of Zion,’ representing the undying fundamental principles of free government, that are as deathless as the beauty of woman and as inspiring as the oratory of men.”

“Equality in taxation is the golden thread that runs throughout the fabric of this republic. It is and should be the most enduring granite block in the beautiful pedestal of American civilization. I believe that taxes should be made to fall equally upon the shoulders of all. I do not believe that any class of people should be forced to pay a heavy tax in order to fill the pockets of others.”

From Pat Neff’s speech delivered in McGregor in the spring of 1898 announcing his first bid for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives.


“I am in favor of the law making the registration of poll tax receipts a prerequisite to the right to cast a ballot. I do not believe a bill could come up before the 26th legislature for consideration that would be as far-reaching in its effects for good as one tending toward the purification of the ballot box. The greatest evil that menaces our political and social institutions lies in the unchecked and unregulated right of suffrage. Require these poll tax receipts to be registered at least six months before an election, before the political pot begins to boil, and it will not only give us a pure and honest ballot, but will put into the public school funds thousands of dollars…I feel sure no better law could be passed by the coming legislature than one requiring votes [sic] to pay a tax and register their receipt before dropping into the box the lily-white ballot.”

New state representative Pat Neff, asked by the Waco Times-Herald to comment in its Jan. 1, 1899 edition on his views of prospective legislation.


“I believe in education in all its forms. I believe our age demands that the hand should be educated as well as the heart and head. I believe the girls should be taught to believe in the honesty and dignity of doing domestic toil, should be taught that the music of the tea-kettle is as great a factor in civilization, and that it is not less divine than that produced by the touch of the ivory keys.”

“I vote ‘no’ on the final passage of house bill No. 322…not because I am opposed to woman extending her sphere of influence and usefulness, for without her uplifting and purifying powers, civilization would slide back into barbarism, and life, with all its lofty hopes and aspirations, would be a farce, a fraud, and a failure.”

Excerpts of remarks explaining Neff's vote in the Texas House against a bill to create an industrial institute “for the education of white girls in the arts and sciences,” as reported in the Waco Times-Herald April 9, 1899.


“Some members are opposed to the university because they do not like the management. I am sure the management is not perfect; I am sure the students are not all saints. Do you expect 500 Texas boys to get together and then make no noise? You are going to vote against the institution because some of the boys wear red neckties and part their hair in the middle. You are going to vote against the appropriation because the boys have a college yell. Nothing is sweeter to a student than his college yell.”

“I do not believe that money is ever misappropriated that is spent for education. An educated citizenship is the hope of the country.”

“When my shoulders are bending low beneath the weight of years and I look back across the past and see the boys and girls of Texas who have gathered inspiration at this institution, I shall be proud of the fact that I lifted my voice and cast my vote in her behalf. May the University of Texas stand as immovable as the historic hill upon which it has been built, and may it continue to grow while the circling seasons onward roll.”

Excerpts of remarks made by Neff April 26, 1899, on the floor of the Texas House in support of a bill appropriating $75,000 for the maintenance and support of one of his alma maters, the University of Texas.


“If there is any one lesson above another that I have learned in the office I hold, it is that the voice of the people is not always the voice of God, and the officer who tries to follow the fickle fortune of the shouting multitude soon loses sight of the lighthouses and the landmarks that map out the true and proper course.”

“The cringing coward who trembles before public opinion, who fawns at the feet of popular applause, who permits the passion of the passing throng to poison his purpose, ought never to be vested by the people as an officer with the authority of the law. This court knows full well that more than once I have stood here alone, as in a banquet hall deserted, and in doing so I rendered a higher and nobler service to society than when I marched with the shouting throng. If an officer desires at all times to work along the lines of least resistance, it is easy for him to go with the seething mass of humanity, but since the day that Christ stood with the minority at Jerusalem it has been no crime to stand alone, to dare to have a purpose firm, and dare to make it known.”

“I have never willingly planted a thorn in any human heart. In the investigation and prosecution of cases I have been a searcher after the truth, believing it to be my duty as much to protect the innocent as to prosecute the guilty. I believe in the presumption of innocence and the reasonable doubt as protecting shields to every citizen. I have put into practice this belief and have put myself in the jury box as the 13th juror in the trial of every case. For this reason, during five years of my administration 352 cases were tried and in 336 of this number I felt the flush but not the blush of victory. Only 14 out of the 352 escaped the penitentiary, and these 14 were guilty, although the evidence was not satisfactory to the jury.”

Excerpts from McLennan County Attorney Pat Neff’s farewell speech to the court prior to leaving office, delivered Oct. 31, 1912 in the 54th District Court room.