"A Texas Original" by Michele Kay was originally published in The Baylor Line, Winter 1999, page 24. Used with permission.
"One a kind." "Larger than life." "A living legend." –Such phrases are often used to describe Bob Bullock. A two-term lieutenant governor of Texas with a Baylor law degree. From his humble beginnings in Hillsboro to the heights of Texas politics in Austin, Bullock has carved out a reputation for resolutely getting things done, modernizing government, and never losing an election. This month, the political career that Bullock began in 1957, will come to a planned, graceful conclusion when he hands over the gavel to his newly sworn-in successor. But Bullock will never truly be replaced, as both friends and foes readily admit. In many ways, Bullock's departure marks™
THE END OF AN ERA, THE LAST CHAPTER, THE FINAL ACT.
Jan Bullock brought the house down at a dinner in late October honoring her husband, Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock. More than seven hundred people were on hand at the Austin Convention Center, hoping to honor Bullock's career before the sixty-nine-year-old politician's impending retirement.
To their disappointment, they hosted an absent hero. Bullock had undergone
pacemaker surgery a few days earlier, Jan Bullock explained to the crowd,
conveying his regrets at not being there. Then she paused and, with a
well-timed delivery, confessed to having asked the doctors if they could
put a peacemaker, rather than a pacemaker, in her husband.
The crowd roared with laughter, but the truth is that Bob Bullock, known as one of the most confrontational politicians in Austin, is also one of the most conciliatory peacemakers in the state.
Newspapers around Texas heralded the Republican sweep of statewide offices in November as a watershed event in state politics. But Bullock's departure from the helm of the Texas Senate this month-when he turns over the gavel to Rick Perry during the new lieutenant governor's January 19 swearing-in ceremony-will no doubt be remembered as an equally important milestone.
Bullock announced at the end of the 1997 legislative session that he wanted to call it quits after a career in elected and appointed offices that spans five decades. A Hillsboro native and 1958 Baylor law graduate, Bullock had firmly established himself as one of the most successful, influential, and longest-serving politicians in Texas history. When he won his first election to the Texas House of Representatives in 1956, current Governor George W. Bush was in grade school, and several members who sit in the House today weren't even born.
Bullock's upcoming departure marks the end of a colorful era in Texas politics-an era when politicians could afford to be politically incorrect, to set an agenda based on their own intuition and instincts rather than the advice of pollsters and consultants. Despite his keen grasp of government and his long list of accomplishments, Bullock will be remembered as much for his temperament and tone, his courage and leadership, and his uncanny understanding of politics and policies as for the actual work he did, the specific legislation he wrote, and the ideas he brought to the table.
SINGLE AIM, COMPLEX MAN
He is a living legend who is leaving a space that can't and w