Saturday, January 19, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 20

Bishop A. Frank Smith Delivers Invocation at Gubernatorial Inauguration, January 21, 1947

Bishop W. Kenneth Pope once described Bishop A. Frank Smith as having “a great capacity for sustained friendship.”    One long time friend was Beauford Jester of Corsicana. On January 21, 1947 he delivered the invocation at Jester's inauguration of governor of Texas 

They had become friends at the Sunday School of First Methodist Church Corsicana where the Smith family lived from 1903-1907.  Beauford Jester’s father, George Taylor Jester was Sunday School Superintendent and a prominent Methodist who was a General Conference delegate in 1886 and 1890.   He was also an early supporter of Southern Methodist University. 

Frank Smith at one time intended to become a lawyer.  His friend Beauford Jester did so, earning a B. A. from the University of Texas in 1916, the same year that Smith was appointed to University Methodist Church in Austin

The two friends kept up with each other as Smith was pastor and bishop and Jester practiced law in his home town and became prominent in state affairs as Director of the State Bar and a member of the Railroad Commission. 

Jester had prevailed in the 1946 Democratic Primary in a field of fourteen candidates.  He was by far the leading candidate was forced into a runoff against Homer Rainey, former president of the University of Texas, who had been fired by trustees for standing up for academic freedom. 
Bishop Smith’s invocation is too long to reproduce here, but may be accessed in the House Journal,

The Jester administration was challenged  by the population growth and urbanization accompanying World War II. Texas population boomed during the war years, but it had been impossible to build the schools, highways, and other infrastructure the larger population demanded.  Jester worked for improvements in both public education and higher education.  One of his legacies is a dormitory at the University of Texas at Austin named for him. 

Jester holds the sad distinction of the only Texas governor to die in office.  In July, 1949, he died in a railroad car en route from Austin to Galveston.  Frank Smith returned to First Methodist Corsicana to hold his funeral.  He was 56 years old.

(p. s.  Another Corsicana connection that served A. Frank Smith well was that of Walter and Ella Fondren who married in Corsicana in 1904.)


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