WARDLAW, LOUIS JASPER
WARDLAW, LOUIS JASPER (1880–1961). Louis Jasper Wardlaw, attorney, rancher, county judge, and gubernatorial candidate, son of tenant farmers Newton Jasper and Nancy (Cody) Wardlaw, was born on March 10, 1880, near Reagan in Falls County, Texas. When he was nine, the family relocated to Ballinger in Runnels County where he attended public school. Wardlaw, the oldest of nine children, lived on his parents’ farm and helped with the transportation of watermelons to neighboring communities. After graduating from high school, he became a school teacher. Wardlaw taught school during the day and studied law at night. On January 12, 1901, he married Mira Gregory, and in 1902 he was admitted to the bar in Tom Green County. The couple lived in Sonora, Texas, where he practiced law with his partner James Cornell.
Wardlaw and his wife raised their family in Sutton County where he entered the ranching business and served as county judge. The 1910 census listed four sons in the household. Soon after Governor James E. “Pa” Ferguson appointed Cornell judge of the newly-created Eighty-third State Judicial District, the law partnership dissolved, and Wardlaw, in 1919, moved to Fort Worth. In 1921 he successfully defended his former partner’s murder trial for the Del Rio shootout between Cornell and W.T.O. (Bill) Holman. Although the gunfight had ended with Holman’s death, the jury found Cornell not guilty.
During his business trips between towns, Wardlaw relied on the Texas railroad system for transportation. In an effort of self-promotion, he offered train attendants compensation if they called out his name as “Judge Wardlaw.” His endeavors proved successful, and for the remainder of his life, people everywhere referred to him as “Judge.”
On January 17, 1928, Wardlaw announced his candidacy for governor of Texas, and his political platform called for lower taxes, better highways, and improved education. With the campaign slogan “We’ve had a woman for governor, We have had a boy for governor, Let’s have a man for governor,” Wardlaw’s race against Governor Dan Moody during the first Democratic primary of Texas provided a fair amount of aggressive rhetoric. At several speaking engagements, he described Moody as a spendthrift governor and demanded a more prudent fiscal policy.
Initially, Texans considered Wardlaw a weak candidate; however, after the Beaumont and Houston conventions, the momentum of his campaign caught the attention of the press. Thereafter, newspapers frequently reported on the polarization of the Democratic party, and Moody was forced to address his opponent’s charges.
As a friend of former governors Jim “Pa” and Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, Wardlaw drew strong criticisms from Moody. “Fergusonism is attempting a comeback this year through the candidacy of Louis J. Wardlaw,” Moody told voters. “He is appealing to the anti-Moody vote and pro-Ferguson vote.” The governor also stated, “[Wardlaw] is now and has been in the past a devoted follower and apostle of Ferguson.” Jim Ferguson complimented Wardlaw when he called him the “tallest sycamore from West Texas.”
Wardlaw condemned the comments of both men when he responded, “He [Moody] seems to think he is running against Jim Ferguson,” and “Let Moody and Ferguson settle their differences in the arena and let me alone.” In a bold move to reiterate his independence, he refused all campaign contributions. Wardlaw explained, “I own land, cattle, sheep, goats, and hogs…[my income will pay] the expenses of my campaign.” Ultimately, Moody defeated Wardlaw with nearly sixty percent of the primary vote, and Moody went on to win the general election.
In September 1935 Governor James Allred appointed Wardlaw chairman of the Livestock Sanitary Commission, later named the Texas Animal Health Commission. Under his administration, Wardlaw championed the movement to eradicate Texas of its tick infestation; it was considered his principal achievement as chairman. From 1935 to 1945 he also served as a member of the board at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, now known as Texas A&M University.
Wardlaw married Jeffie D. Pringle in March 1937 in Muskogee County, Oklahoma, and the couple lived at Fort Worth’s Texas Hotel. He ran his law firm from the W.T. Waggoner Building, also located in downtown Fort Worth.
In September 1943 Wardlaw spoke at the Texas A&M College commencement ceremony where he conveyed a pro-military sentiment to the men entering service during World War II. In his address, he told the graduates, “Texas men are recognized and respected by our allies as gallant and fearless fighters, and by our enemies as relentless adversaries and deadly foes. Our State has furnished an amazing number of distinguished leaders; and our soldiers reflect the glory of their leadership.” He followed his opening remarks with a message of hope when he said, “Every one wants lasting peace, a peace that will hereafter forever banish even the fear of war; and keep our country free of the threat of international gangsters and restore to us the privilege of a standard of living enjoyed before the holocaust of Pearl Harbor.”
Abilene Daily Reporter, June 3, 1928. Abilene Morning News, March 4, 1928; September 24, 1935. Beaumont Enterprise, July 22, 1928. Breckenridge American, June 10, 1928. Dallas Morning News, July 19, 1928. Junction Eagle, November 25, 1921. Marfa Big Bend Sentinel, December 1, 1994. Texas Bar Journal, March 1962. Waco News-Tribune, July 23, 1928. L. J. Wardlaw, Texas A&M Address (Patrick N. Wardlaw Family Collection).
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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, Trevor P. Wardlaw, "WARDLAW, LOUIS JASPER ," accessed August 14, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fward.
Uploaded on July 31, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.