A Bulldog for the Underdog : Jim Mattox Laid to Rest

Yellow Dog Democrat pays respects: Photo by Tom Blackwell / The Rag Blog.

This wonderful yellow dog attended the funeral of Attorney General Jim Mattox in Austin on Tuesday. Here he waits while the casket was loaded on a horse drawn hearse. There was a walking procession to the State Cemetery from the First Baptist Church.

Tom Blackwell / The Rag Blog / November 25, 2008

In Memoriam: Jim Mattox
By Vince Leibowitz / November 20, 2008

Today, Texas lost a luminary and a fighter. Texas lost Jim Mattox.

Former Texas Attorney General James Albon “Jim” Mattox passed away last night in his sleep. He was 65.

He will be remembered as a man who fought many fights for average, working Texans, and who left an indelible mark on Texas government in politics in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Mattox will likely be remembered as one of the state’s greatest attorney generals in history, along with Jim Hogg and James Allred.

James Albon Mattox was born in Dallas on August 29, 1943, the first of three children of Norman and Mary Katheryn Harrison. His father was a union sheetmetal worker, and his mother was a waitress.

He attended Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, worked his way through the Baylor School of Business. He graduated from Baylor magna cum laude in 1965 and won the Wall Street Journal Award for academic excellence. He earned his law degree from Southern Methodist University, and received the third-highest grade on the state bar exam in 1968.

Mattox served as an Assistant District Attorney in Dallas County under the legendary Harry Wade, and embarked on a long political career when he took office as a State Representative from East Dallas in 1973. Early in his career, Mattox was also an intern to Congressman Earl Cabell.

Mattox gained a reputation as a reformer during his service in the legislature, and worked for open government legislation focusing on open meetings, open records, full financial disclosure, campaign finance reform, and lobby registration.

In 1976, Mattox was elected to the U.S. Congress from the Fifth District. He became the only freshman elected to the House Budget Committee that session and later chaired that committee’s Task Force on National Security and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Banking Committee.

In 1979 and 1980, Mattox ran aggressive campaigns for Congress, defeating Tom Pauken, a Dallas Republican best known for chairing the Republican Party of Texas.

He was elected the 47th Attorney General of Texas in 1982, succeeding Mark White, and went on to win re-election in 1986. Maddox’ 1982 election came in the last year in which Democrats swept all statewide races on the ballot. Mattox defeated State Senator William “C. Bill” Meier (R-Euless).

Many will remember that Mattox’s 1986 re-election came after he was acquitted, following a lengthy trial, of commercial bribery charges. In spite of that incident, “The People’s Lawyer” still had the support of the people.

His 1986 election victory over San Antonio lawyer Roy Barrera, Jr., proved that Mattox was a popular figure and someone who Texans believed was on their side. Mattox revolutionized child support collection, and his use of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices act against large corporations earned him many admirers among everyday Texans.

As attorney general, Mattox took on airlines over deceptive advertising related to fare prices, and the insurance industry–among many other corporations–on behalf of Texas consumers. Mattox fought insurance companies, claiming they were trying to create an insurance crisis in Texas in his second term.

In 1990, Mattox ran for attorney general and was defeated in the Democratic Primary by former governor, the late Ann Richards.

In 1994, Mattox ran for U.S. Senate in the Democratic primary and lost to Richard Fisher, a Ross Perot campaign operative during the 1992 presidential election. Fisher was eventually defeated by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

In 1998, Mattox again ran for Attorney General and fell to John Cornyn in a year when Democrats at the top of the ticket in Texas were forced to deal with then-governor George W. Bush’s long coat-tails.

He was a delegate to numerous Democratic National Conventions, including the 2008 DNC in Denver. As recently as a week ago, Mattox was still working hard for change and reform in the Democratic Party, testifying at a hearing on the state’s prima-caucus system, where he was cheered by loyal Democrats:

Participants in the hearing at the Texas AFL-CIO Building in Austin cheered former Attorney General Jim Mattox , who said the caucus feature needs reform.

“You’re not dealing with a Gordian knot here,” Mattox told the panel. “This is not something you can’t untie.”

Mattox, a Clinton delegate to the national convention, called the caucuses an embarrassment to the party.

Rest in Peace, General Mattox. Texas is a better place having had the benefit of your service.

Source / Burnt Orange Report / Nov. 20, 2008

Also see Texans pay respects to Mattox by Corrie MacLaggan / Austin American-Statesman / Nov. 25, 2008

And Jim Mattox, Combative Texas Politician, Dies at 65 / AP / New York Times / Nov. 20, 2008

Thanks to Tim Mahoney Law / The Rag Blog

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1 Response to A Bulldog for the Underdog : Jim Mattox Laid to Rest

  1. Anonymous says:

    Are there any Jim Mattox types in Colorado??? We (the underdog, the person without millions to spend) do not get connected with the good guys—Jim Mattox can rest now—his job is done and he can rejoice in heaven with those that always make the right decision–to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

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