Dukes of Duval County
The Parr Family and Texas Politics
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
The notorious Parr family manipulated local politics in South Texas for decades. Archie Parr, his son George, and his grandson Archer relied on violence and corruption to deliver the votes that propelled their chosen candidates to office. The influence of the Parr political machine peaked during the 1948 senatorial primary, when election officials found the infamous Ballot Box 13 six days after the polls closed. That box provided a slim eighty-seven-vote lead to Lyndon B. Johnson, initiating the national political career of the future U.S. president.
Dukes of Duval County begins with Archie Parr’s organization of the Mexican American electorate into a potent voting bloc, which marked the beginning of his three-decade campaign for control of every political office in Duval County and the surrounding area. Archie’s son George, who expanded the Parrs’ dominion to include jobs, welfare payments, and public works, became a county judge thanks to his father’s influence—but when George was arrested and imprisoned for accepting payoffs, only a presidential pardon advocated by then-congressman Lyndon Johnson allowed George to take office once more. Further legal misadventures haunted George and his successor, Archer, but in the end it took the combined force of local, state, and federal governments and the courageous efforts of private citizens to overthrow the Parr family.
In this first comprehensive study of the Parr family’s political activities, Anthony R. Carrozza reveals the innermost workings of the Parr dynasty, a political machine that drove South Texas politics for more than seventy years and critically influenced the course of the nation.
“Many of the Parrs’ corrupt actions never made it into court records, and they and their minions knew better than to keep written records of their own. Their enemies were too afraid to do so. Most newspaper stories originated with reporters who were on the scene and able to find eyewitnesses who would talk—often anonymously, in the dead of night, out in the brush. Anthony Carrozza makes use of newspaper accounts and court records in this comprehensive, fully documented history of the incredibly venal eighty-year Parr dynasty in deep South Texas. It will appeal to both scholarly and general audiences, as well as anyone fascinated by Texas or political history.” —George Norris Green, author of The Establishment in Texas Politics: The Primitive Years, 1938–1957
“Richly detailed, The Dukes of Duval County presents the most thoroughly documented account of Duval politics available. Carrozza’s depictions of county corruption range from commissioners’ courtrooms to livestock shows, and his portraits of the Parrs are incisive. Even his description of the 1948 Box 13 investigation reads like a suspense novel. This book is a valuable addition to any collection of Texas history.”—Mary Jo O’Rear, author of Storm over the Bay: The People of Corpus Christi and Their Port
“While the story of the Parrs and Duval County is an old one in Texas, much of what is told is incomplete. Anthony Carrozza’s work is thorough, and he provides solid scholarship, bringing life and color to one of the most shameful and honorable times and places in Texas history. Simply put, The Dukes of Duval County is good history and a good read. The Parrs and their story are covered so completely that this work will be the standard on them for years to come.” —Larry P. Knight, editor of The Journal of South Texas