Geographically, the environment in which Ralph was raised was similar to the Deep South, but uniquely Texan in its population and industries. V.O. Key quote "The odour from the oil refineries settles over the cotton fields and makes scarcely perceptible the magnolia scent of the Old South."
After college at both West Point and Sam Houston State Teacher’s College, Ralph taught in the Texas public school system for several years until he left to work for the American Chamber of Commerce in Berlin. Upon returning to the states, he served in the Thirty-sixth Division of the Texas National Guard where he climbed to the rank of staff sergeant.
In 1927, Yarborough graduated from the University of Texas Law School and served as assistant attorney general to James V. Allred, who would later become Governor of Texas and appoint Yarborough to District Judge in Travis County.
In 1943 he enlisted in the Army to fight in WWII, and served on the ground throughout Europe and Japan. After rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel; Yarborough was released in 1946. Returning to his law practice, Yarborough specialized in the nuanced Texas land laws, specifically, oil drilling rights and frequently took on the major oil companies. Between Allred and Yarborough the two took on the big oil companies resulting in the state of Texas retaining half of all revenues from state-owned oil lands. The sum of all these cases over their careers has netted billions of dollars for the state in oil royalties, specifically benefiting Te...
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...uickly championed progressive legislature.
Yarborough served in the senate from 1957 to 1971, and served on (and later chaired) the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee. He was a proponent of progressive education legislation including; the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Higher Education Act of 1965, and the Bilingual Education Act of 1967. Yarborough also supported President Johnson’s “Great Society” programs to eliminate poverty and overcome racial injustice. Yarborough refused to sign the infamous Southern Manifesto, a pledge to resist integration, and most notably was the only southern senator to vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and one of a handful to vote for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Ralph Yarborough spent his entire career advocating for the poor, infirmed and mistreated, and solidified his classification as a populist.
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