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WAGONSELLER, WAYNE WARREN

Wayne Warren Wagonseller (1921–1955).
Wayne Warren Wagonseller (1921–1955). State Senator Wayne Wagonseller held the distinction of setting a national filibuster record of more than twenty-eight hours in the Texas State Senate in March 1955. Courtesy Legislative Reference Library of Texas and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

WAGONSELLER, WAYNE WARREN (1921–1955). Wayne Warren Wagonseller, attorney, Texas state legislator, and rancher, son of Amos Warren Wagonseller and Clara Augusta (Beck) Wagonseller, was born in Nocona, Montague County, Texas, on February 1, 1921. He was the third generation of a pioneering family whose roots in North Texas reached back nearly five decades. His grandfather, William Riley Wagonseller, arrived in Texas from Indiana a decade after the Civil War and established himself in Wise County as a blacksmith. By 1920 his son, twenty-six-year-old Amos Wagonseller, had established a farmstead in neighboring Montague County, and in 1921 Wayne was born.

Wayne Wagonseller attended North Texas State Teacher’s College (now University of North Texas), but like so many young men of his generation, the onset of World War II interrupted his studies. Two months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Wagonseller enlisted in the United States Army as a private and was assigned to the Ninth Infantry Regiment, Second Infantry Division (known as the Indianhead Division). The division trained in England and Wales from October 1943 to June 1944 before crossing the channel and landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day Plus 1. The Indianhead Division participated in the breakout at Saint-Lô, the siege of Brest, the Battle of the Bulge, and in 1945 fought its way across the Rhine and into Germany. While serving in the Ninth Infantry, Wagonseller distinguished himself. He was twice wounded (at Saint-Lô and Brest) and earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He ascended to the rank of technical sergeant. The army discharged him from active duty in June 1945 shortly after the end of the war in Europe. He married Betty Clarice Benton on December 28, 1949, but the couple divorced within several years and had no children.

After receiving an honorable discharge from the army, Wagonseller resumed his studies, earned his bachelor’s degree, and then attended law school at the University of Texas, where he remained active in the Ex-Serviceman’s Association. He ultimately graduated and gained admittance to the Texas Bar Association in 1953 and practiced law in both Bowie and Austin. However, Wagonseller’s abilities in the political arena soon established his reputation throughout the state of Texas. He first won election to the House of the Fiftieth Texas Legislature and served two terms as a representative of District 47 (Montague County) between 1947 and 1951 before winning a seat for District 22 (representing multiple counties in North Texas, including Denton, Jack, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, and Wise counties) in the Texas State Senate, where he was elected for three terms. During his years in the state legislature he served on many committees. He chaired the Labor Committee during the Fifty-first legislature, chaired the Stock and Stock Raising Committee and Military and Veteran’s Affairs Committee during the Fifty-second legislature, and chaired the Labor Committee during the Fifty-third legislature. On November 22, 1954, Wagonseller married Mina F. Hawkins and became stepfather to her two daughters—Mina Jo and Susan.

Wagonseller’s abilities as an orator served him well in his political career. Described as possessing a formidable voice, his skills brought him a brief moment of fame on March 31, 1955, when he set a national filibuster record in the Texas State Senate. Wagonseller and his colleagues, Kilmer Corbin of Lubbock and William T. Moore of Bryan, spoke against a bill authorizing a reduction in registration fees for bus companies. Senator Johnnie B. Rogers proposed the measure on the grounds that bus companies had been losing money and that a reduction in registration fees would offer relief. The three men who filibustered the bill, which was ultimately approved, maintained that the lost revenue would come out of the funds of the State Highway Department. Wagonseller further observed that the fee cut would increase one major bus company’s profits by 50 percent, amounting to a government subsidy.

In spite of the serious nature of the legislation, the filibuster remained a casual affair. Newsmen dozed in the mostly empty chamber, while two little girls rode tricycles in the hall outside. Wagonseller talked away, but Corbin and Moore spelled him with lengthy questions; at times, Corbin read from the Texas Almanac. Long “courtesy resolutions” offered some respite throughout the night, and Wagonseller took advantage of opportunities to sit; his leg still had shrapnel from his World War II combat. The bus industry lobbyist provided a table of food at the back of the chamber that received visits from Corbin, Moore, and Mina Wagonseller. Senator Jimmy Phillips (who had set the previous filibuster record earlier in the week) watched as his colleague surpassed him; all the while Phillips listened to a pocket radio playing “Mr. Sandman.” Ultimately, Senator Wagonseller’s marathon effort lasted twenty-eight hours and five minutes. 

Wagonseller’s rising political career was cut short. On August 13, 1955, he was driving through Fort Worth, on his way home to Bowie, when he was involved in a three-car collision. Senator Wagonseller died of internal injuries. He left behind his wife, Mina, and stepdaughters. A funeral service was held in the Senate chamber.   Wayne Warren Wagonseller was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.   

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Abilene Reporter-News, August 14, 1955. Legislative Reference Library of Texas: Wayne W. Wagonseller (http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=977&searchparams=chamber=~city=~countyID=0~RcountyID=~district=~first=~gender=~last=wagonseller~leaderNote=~leg=~party=~roleDesc=~Committee=), accessed July 19, 2017. Texas Observer, April 4, 1955. Wise County Messenger (Decatur, Texas), August 18, 1955. 

Cameron W. Albin

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Handbook of Texas Online, Cameron W. Albin, "Wagonseller, Wayne Warren ," accessed October 20, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwago.

Uploaded on July 21, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.