CONNALLY, LUCILE FERGUSON SANDERSON SHEPPARD

Margo McCutcheon and Karla Ruiz-Cantu

CONNALLY, LUCILE FERGUSON SANDERSON SHEPPARD (1890–1980). Lucile Ferguson Sanderson Sheppard Connally, mother, hostess, philanthropist, traveler, and wife of two United States senators, was born on May 24, 1890, in Texarkana, on the Texas-Arkansas border, to Noah P. and Susan (Ferguson) Sanderson. The couple had two other surviving children: Paul (born in March 1888), and William (born in April 1899). Noah Sanderson worked in the lumber mill business and moved his family to different mill locations during the 1890s, likely following the movement of the Red River Lumber Company from its location at Kelley’s Station in Arkansas during the early 1890s to Frostville, Arkansas, in 1895. The Sanderson family settled in Texarkana, Texas, in 1899. Lucile Sanderson attended public schools in Texarkana before receiving her higher education at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia. She studied music with a focus on piano at Randolph-Macon and continued her studies at Belcourt Seminary in Washington, D.C., where she transferred for the fall semester of 1908. Sanderson had dated two brothers from the Sheppard family before a third brother, Morris Sheppard—a Texas native and progressive, prohibition, pro-woman suffrage Democratic congressman for the First Congressional district in Texas, and friend of Noah Sanderson—began taking Sanderson on carriage rides, to dinner, and to various receptions in Washington, D.C., during 1909. Sanderson, a nineteen-year-old Baptist, married Morris Sheppard, a thirty-four-year-old Methodist, at a Presbyterian church in Texarkana on December 1, 1909, while one minister from each denomination presided over the ceremony. During 1910 Lucile Sheppard lived with her husband and his sister, Olga, along Pine Street in Texarkana. Her parents and brothers lived next door. Lucile and Morris Sheppard had three daughters: Janet S. on January 5, 1911; Susan on September 22, 1914; and Lucile on January 5, 1920. The Sheppard daughters were all born in Washington, D.C., and lived with their parents, and sometimes maternal grandparents, in Texarkana, Texas.

Lucile Sheppard discussed current events with her husband, listened to his speeches before he gave them, and did not drink alcohol during their marriage to support her husband’s prohibitionist beliefs; he was one of the authors and sponsors of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States as well as the Volstead Act. Sheppard traveled with her husband during his successful U.S. Senate campaign in 1912, and she stated, “It was much more exciting than social life could ever be or anything in a playhouse or written by a master of fiction. If I have a hobby, it must be akin to the pursuit of politics, though I must be placed in the category of the spectator and sympathizer and not an active participant.” The Sheppards often read together, and Sheppard maintained a personal library containing anything from classic works of literature to rare texts. She also browsed the collection at the Congressional Library. While caring for her young daughter in 1912, Sheppard anticipated using her spare time to help impoverished children, a problem she saw in Washington, D.C., and Texarkana. She also sought to improve housekeeping methods and quality cooking as a means to good health, as well as the creation of a children’s’ welfare program. Her recipes for whipped cream pie and two pie crusts were included in The Economy Administration Cook Book (1913). Sheppard enjoyed outside activities such as horseback riding and golf, a sport she played with her husband at the Washington Golf and Country Club. Like many other spouses of Washington bureaucrats, Sheppard hosted and attended parties and luncheons and joined the Congressional Club—“Founded in 1908, the original purpose of The Congressional Club was to provide a non-partisan setting for friendships among the spouses of members of the House and Senate in Washington, D.C.” Her time as a hostess involved social visits with the wives of government officials, from Supreme Court justices to foreign diplomats, during the social season lasting from November to June. Sheppard was a member of several Texas and national organizations including the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and the Colonial Dames of America. She also served on the Senate Ladies Red Cross Unit (also known as the “Ladies of the Senate"). Traveling became a part of Sheppard’s life beginning, at least, during the 1920s. During March 1929 Sheppard and two of her daughters returned to the United States from Cristóbal, Panama, and Sheppard and her husband later took a trip to Bermuda in 1937.

Throughout her many years in Washington, D.C., Sheppard met several notable figures, including other politicians and their spouses from Texas at meetings such as the Texas Club or the Texas Exes. Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson recalled that at such gatherings Sheppard relayed the story of how she once attended Mardi Gras while chaperoning several young women from South America. Johnson met Sheppard during the 1930s and referred to Sheppard as “one of the most extraordinary women I ever knew.”

Senator Morris Sheppard continued serving in the Senate until his death in Washington, D.C., on April 9, 1941, from a brain hemorrhage. He was buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in Texarkana, Texas. The wives of other Texas delegates traveled to Sheppard’s home to comfort her. As evening approached, a few of the women offered to remain with Sheppard. She replied, “No, no. You must go on and go back to your husbands while you have them.” Sheppard married Texas Senator Tom Connally approximately one year later, on April 25, 1942, in New Orleans, Louisiana, during a ceremony planned just that morning. Lucile Sanderson Sheppard Connally met Tom Connally, himself a widower, when he first became a congressman in 1917. Connally’s husband chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1941 to 1947 and 1949 to 1953. Connally continued her Washington social activities after her second marriage. She attended a celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution at the Soviet Embassy in 1942, and she traveled with other dignitaries to the first meeting of the United Nations aboard the Queen Elizabeth in December 1945. She continued taking other trips with her husband to Great Britain and France during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Lucile Sanderson Sheppard Connally died from a heart condition on October 25, 1980, in Washington, D.C., where she had lived for approximately seventy years, and she was buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in Texarkana, Texas. She outlived two husbands as well as her oldest daughter, Janet S. Arnold. Connally’s daughter Susan married Cornelius McGillicuddy, Jr., and their son, Connie Mack III, represented Florida in the United States House of Representatives and the Senate. His son, Connie Mack IV, represented Florida in the United States House of Representatives as well. Two other grandsons, Richard Sheppard Arnold and Morris Sheppard “Buzz” Arnold, served concurrently as judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit. In addition, Lucile F.S. Sheppard Connally’s other daughter, Lucile, married Arthur Hawkins Keyes. Lucile Keyes inherited her mother’s interest in genealogy and wrote a bound document known as the "Lucile Sheppard Keyes Narrative" in 1951 that described her father’s career as well as the Sheppard genealogy.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Richard Ray Bailey, Morris Sheppard of Texas: Southern Progressive and Prohibitionist (Ph.D. dissertation, Texas Christian University, 1980). Sinclair Moreland, ed., Texas Women’s Hall of Fame (Austin, Texas: Biographical Press, 1917). Washington Evening Star, October 20, 1912. Washington Post, October 27, 1980. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

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Handbook of Texas Online, Margo McCutcheon and Karla Ruiz-Cantu, "CONNALLY, LUCILE FERGUSON SANDERSON SHEPPARD ," accessed December 14, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fconl.

Uploaded on September 25, 2018. Modified on October 2, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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