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Wilbert Lee O’Daniel

Gov. Wilbert Lee O’Daniel

  • January 17, 1939 - August 4, 1941
  • Democratic
  • March 11, 1890
  • May 12, 1969
  • Ohio
  • Married Merle Estella Butcher; three children
  • Resigned
  • Senator


WILBERT LEE (“PAPPY”) O’DANIEL was born in Malta, Ohio and educated in Arlington and Hutchinson, Kansas. Having risen to popularity in Texas as a radio entertainer, director of the “Light Crust Doughboys,” and author of the song “Beautiful Texas,” he was elected governor unopposed in 1938. His inexperience in politics led to difficulties implementing his policy proposals, which included ending the state poll tax and increasing old-age assistance. Despite these failures, he was elected to a second term in 1940 but left the governor’s office after defeating then-Representative Lyndon B. Johnson in the Democratic primary to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat. He went on to serve as a U.S. Senator until 1949, and then unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 1956 and 1958. He died in Dallas and was buried in Hillcrest Memorial Park.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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