The composer of the famous Texas song, "Beautiful Texas", W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel served as Texas governor and United States senator.
Born in 1890 in Ohio, O'Daniel came to Texas at age 29 as a sales manager for Burrus Mills, a flour-milling company in Fort Worth. In 1928, O'Daniel took over the company's radio advertising and started a country music program to promote the flour. O'Daniel hosted the show and organized a band called the Light Crust Doughboys. Many of the musicians who made Western Swing famous, including Bob Wills, got their start in O'Daniel's band. In 1935 he organized his own flour company to make "Hillbilly Flour" and began to call his band the Hillbilly Boys. The slogan, "Pass the biscuits, Pappy," made O'Daniel a household name throughout Texas.
"Pappy" ran for governor of Texas in 1938. He attracted huge crowds, and won the election by a landslide.
Pappy's first dip into the taditionally choppy waters of Texas politics happend in this way.... Pappy had mentioned during a broadcast of his radio show show that a blind man had given him the idea to run for governor so that he could... "clean up the mess in Austin." While most historians believe he had already made up his mind, O'Daniel got his audience involved and asked his listeners to advise him as to just exactly what what decision he should make. To run or not to run. That was the question. Not surprisingly, out of the well over 50,000 replies he received, all but a handful suggested that he join the race..... few dissenters were concerned that he was just plain much too good to get involved in the world of politics. Pappy accepted the wisdom of his listeners and announced his candidacy.
Most political experets gave O'Daniel no chance at all to win. Many of the political experts looked upon his candidacy as simply another publicity gimmick and trick designed as an advertising stunt to expand his radio and business interests. What happened however, was a big surprise for the experts, Pappy won in a landlside.
Pappy and the Hillbilly Boys took to the road, touring the state throughout the primary and election. The show attacted large crowds where wherever it appeared and was the talk of the town and a popular event in rural Texas. At the time news reports guessed that some of the crowds numbered more than 40,000. The Hillbilly Boys would start off the events with a rendtition of O'Daniel's "Beautiful Texas."
Thus began a unique era in Texas politics. O'Daniel possessed almost no qualifications for success in the governorship, and accomplished little of the populist agenda he had promised the people of Texas. There were many controversial aspects to his administration as governor, but despite his shortcomings as a leader, he remained very popular due to his masterful showmanship.
In 1941, O'Daniel won election to the United States Senate in one of the most controversial elections in Texas history, edging out Congressman Lyndon Baines Johnson by only a handful of votes. O'Daniel was ineffective in the Senate and was shunned by his more serious colleagues. With his popularity finally on the wane, he did not seek reelection in 1948.
In later years, O'Daniel was active in business and made two weak comeback attempts at the governorship, but time had passed Pappy by and he attracted few votes. He died in 1969.
His song "Beautiful Texas" was so popular that it even appeared as a sheet music publication in Australia, by the name of "Beautiful Queensland", sung by "Tex Morton" and his wild west show in Australia.