A new book explores the larger-than-life legacy of a former Lt. Governor.
By Lydia Saldana
To say that former Lt. Governor Bob Bullock was a colorful character is to vastly understate his persona. He was brash, profane and mercurial, but above all, he was a man who loved Texas and spent his entire political career trying to make Texas better. He died in 1999, but stories still abound about the way he got things done. For the uninitiated, many of these stories seem too outrageous to be true, probably exaggerated with each telling, all painting a portrait of an oversized and truly Texas character.
Political reporter and columnist Dave McNeely covered Bullock for more than 20 years and joined forces with former reporter Jim Henderson to write a meticulously researched book, Bob Bullock – God Bless Texas, published by the University of Texas Press. It chronicles Bullock's rise through Texas government and the unorthodox manner in which he wielded the power of his position as state comptroller and then lieutenant governor.
Those familiar with Texas politics will enjoy anecdotes that are jaw-dropping in their audacity, and others that are laugh-out-loud funny. One such tale describes a smooch then-Governor George W. Bush bestowed on a surprised Bullock at breakfast as the two discussed political strategy. Tales of Bullock's temper include the countless state officials he threw out of his office (including a former TPWD executive director), which became a peculiar badge of honor for those involved. The tales of these encounters are sometimes crude and outlandish, but they provide colorful detail to make Bullock come alive through the pages of the book.
In an era of political correctness, scripted sound bites and homogenous candidates, the recounting of Bullock's rich and storied legacy is an engrossing and entertaining tale about a legendary political leader who was truly bigger than life and left a lasting mark on Texas.