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Antonio Montez
Thomas Durwood Manford, Jr. (1917–1988).
Attorney Thomas Durwood Manford, Jr., served as speaker of the Texas House during the Fifty-first Texas Legislature. Courtesy Legislative Reference Library of Texas and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

MANFORD, THOMAS DURWOOD, JR. (1917–1988). Thomas Durwood Manford, Jr., member and speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, was born in Smiley, Texas, on March 13, 1917. He was the son of Mary Estella (Patterson) Manford and Thomas Durwood Manford, Sr., whose family was instrumental in the settling of the Gonzales County area. Manford married Joyce Price on June 27, 1940. He attended Southwestern University before transferring to the University of Texas at Austin, where he received a degree in economics and government in 1938. He later returned to UT Austin to attend law school and was admitted to the state bar in 1945. 

In 1940 Manford was elected to the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat from Gonzales to the Forty-seventh legislature and served five terms; he was only twenty-three at the time of his first election. In 1949 he was speaker of the House and at the time became the second youngest in state history to hold the post. He served as chairman of the State Affairs Committee during his second term, as vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee and chairman of the Highways and Roads Committee during his third term, and chairman of the Labor Committee during his fourth term. While committee chairman of the Highways and Roads Committee, he helped initiate the state farm-to-market road program in 1945. He also oversaw the legislation for the establishment of the Legislative Budget Board and the Texas Legislative Council during his time as speaker. 

A major, if controversial, accomplishment of his was the Manford Act of 1943, which imposed state regulations on labor unions and required licenses for union officers, the filing of annual reports, and the prohibition of union contributions to political campaigns. The act was highly contested by labor unions in Texas that felt that the measure was unconstitutional and infringed on their free speech. University of Texas professor J. Frank Dobie wrote in the Houston Post: “A man can stand up anywhere in Texas…and without interference invite people, either publicly or privately, to join the Republican Party, the Holy Rollers, the Liars Club, the Association for Anointing Herbert Hoover as a Prophet, the Texas Folklore Society—almost any kind of organization….But it is against the law in Texas for a man, unless he pays a license and signs papers…to invite any person…to join a labor union.” In 1944 the National Labor Relations Board took the case to the United States Supreme Court when UAW president R. J. Thomas was arrested for violating the act. The case (Thomas v. Collins) was ruled upon in January 1945 in the labor union’s favor, when the court stated that, “Thomas’s constitutional right of free expression had been violated by the Manford Act.”  

In 1950 Manford retired from politics to manage his family’s farm and ranch. In 1955 he returned to public life and served on a number of state boards. He was chairman of the State Board for Texas Hospitals and Special Schools (1955–56), a member of the Industrial Accident Board (1957–63) and the State Board of Water Engineers (1957–61).  He was member of the State Board of Insurance (1961–83). He retired from his last position in 1983.

Thomas Durwood Manford, Jr., died at the age of seventy-one on March 24, 1988, and was buried in the Texas State Cemetery. His wife Joyce Price died in 1992 and was buried next to her husband. They were survived by their two sons, Thomas Durwood Manford III and Louis Price Manford, and their daughter, Joyce Melvin. A Texas House memorial resolution characterized Manford as an “able and conscientious legislator and a dedicated public servant.”


Steve Babson, Dave Riddle, and David Elsila, The Color of Law: Ernie Goodman, Detroit, and the Struggle for Labor and Civil Rights (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2010). Legislative Reference Library of Texas: Thomas Durwood Manford, Jr. (http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=1328&searchparams=chamber=~city=~countyID=0~RcountyID=~district=~first=~gender=~last=manford~leaderNote=~leg=~party=~roleDesc=~Committee=), accessed November 5, 2016. Texas State Cemetery: Thomas Durwood Manford, Jr. (http://www.cemetery.state.tx.us/pub/user_form822.asp?pers_id=2534), accessed November 5, 2016.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Antonio Montez, "MANFORD, THOMAS DURWOOD, JR. ," accessed July 14, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmano.

Uploaded on March 23, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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