THE IDLE AMERICAN: Remembering a giant from Texas


He wasn’t huge, but he was upright in his straightforward attitude toward government, this proud Texas Governor who was the first West Texan to hold office.

His name was Preston Smith, who died 18 years ago at the age of 91. Although he always maintained a straight appearance, the only thing that kept him from lowering his hair at times was his pronounced baldness.

Smith took newspaperman Jerry Hall as his press secretary and sewed it on a regular basis. “Thanks to Jerry, Preston Smith is a household name throughout Lubbock County.” Smith laughed, careful not to pause for a long time after “Household Name”.

Smith was in politics before air conditioning was common in cars.

On a hot summer day, he struggled with his entourage in Midland, where most motorists appeared to drive expensive cars.

“When we walk into Midland, roll up the windows so we look like we have air conditioning,” he joked.

As the owner of a Lubbock cinema, he was a “citizen” his entire life and never gave in to abbreviations that sometimes interfere with public office.

After leaving office in 1973, he returned to Lubbock.

Friends in town used to call him “Old Preston,” and he liked it that way.

Although I didn’t know him personally, I noticed that he told a few humorous stories before making serious remarks at public appearances.

I heard him skillfully tell a few stories a few times, and it always worked.

Although many in most of the audience heard them, there were lots of laughs. He read the audience well and knew when to pause. In addition, he was a masterful storyteller.

What follows is a thread that he has used repeatedly.

A construction worker was at a loss when his claim for workers’ compensation was rejected. The claims office said that more information was required.

The poor bricklayer accused “poor planning” and said he was working alone on the roof of a new six-story building. It turned out he had about 240 pounds of brick left. He was afraid of carrying her down six flights of stairs, so he set up a pulley, barrel, and rope to lower her.

He secured the rope to the ground before loading the bricks and attaching the rope to the barrel. When he detached the rope from the stake, he quickly found that his 135-pound body was no match for the brick-laden, falling barrel. Even so, he persistently held on to the rope.

“I should have loosened the guilty rope, but I persevered,” he groaned. “When the barrel and I collided on the third floor, I suffered a fractured skull, minor abrasions and a broken collarbone, as I explained earlier on the damage report.”

Unfortunately, he continued his rapid ascent. Two of his fingers were mutilated from the scroll.

When the barrel hit the floor, the bottom fell out and spilled the bricks.

Immediately the man weighed more than the barrel. It started when he went back downstairs.

Another collision occurred on the third floor. This time he suffered two broken ankles, a broken tooth, and leg injuries.

But his luck turned slightly. The second collision slowed its descent and thus dampened the landing. This time his injuries were less severe – three broken vertebrae and additional abrasions.

He lay there, stunned in pain, unable to move. He stared at the empty barrel that towered six stories into the sky.

“I think I lost consciousness because then I let go of the rope. The barrel fell quickly and turned me on my head again, ”he moaned. “Are these enough details to justify getting compensation for my workers?”

Another favorite story related to him answering his home phone in the middle of the night.

He listened to the chatter of an Arlington woman upset about her water bill. He urged her to contact then-mayor Tom Vandergriff.

“I tried, but his home number is not in the phone book,” she complained.


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