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The Birth of Texas Public Finance

John D. McCall passport photo 1944

John Dean McCall was born in Willis, Texas on January 4, 1892.  He was raised in Willis and graduated from Willis High School in 1907.  He graduated from Howard Payne University in 1909 and earned his bachelor’s degree from Baylor University in 1911.

John D. earned his legal degree from The University of Texas School of Law in 1914, although his studies were interrupted when he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Texas Senate beginning in 1913.

Beginning August 1, 1914, John D. formed a law partnership with his father, Judge Screven Aaron McCall, and Samuel Austin Crawford.  The firm had a general law practice and handled all sorts of cases.  In 1915, John D. married Rebecca Randolph in Montgomery, Texas, and together they had three children: Randolph Dean McCall (Born 1917), Hobby Halbert McCall (Born 1919), and Rebecca McCall (Born 1921).

During the same time period, John D. worked at the Capitol Building in Austin during the governorship of James Edward Ferguson (“Pa Ferguson”), who became the first Texas Governor to be impeached in 1917.  John served as the Assistant Secretary of the Senates of the 33rd and 34th Texas Legislatures from 1913 until 1916. On January 8, 1917, John D. was appointed Secretary of the Senate of the 35th Texas Legislature. Pa Ferguson had called upon University of Texas President Robert E. Vinson to fire certain professors who spoke out against him.  When Vinson refused, Ferguson demanded Vinson’s resignation, and he vetoed the university’s entire budget that year.  Powerful university alumni responded by calling for Ferguson’s impeachment in July of 1917. As Secretary of the Senate, John D. was primarily responsible for administering the impeachment trial, which proceedings lasted several months. On August 25, 1917, John D. personally served notice of impeachment on Governor Ferguson.  This unsavory chore is said to have given rise to a long, close, personal relationship between John D. and then Lieutenant Governor, William P. Hobby, who thus became the youngest governor in Texas history up to that point, serving from August 25, 1917 through January 18, 1921.  Effective October 1, 1917, John D. resigned as Secretary of the Senate to accept a position as private secretary to Governor Hobby, and John D.’s second son, born in 1919, was named in honor of Governor Hobby.  The Senate journal of the Fourth Called Session held in 1918 contains a letter from W.V. Howerton to Senator Paul Dewitt Page of Bastrop, which includes the following comment:

“I can say with pride that during the several sessions I served as Secretary of the Senate I never made but one mistake in recording a Senator’s vote, and that was the vote of Senator Hudspeth once when I failed to understand his answer to the roll call in the midst of considerable confusion and on a close vote; but this error was immediately discovered and was not necessarily fatal to the measure. You will not find a correction of a recorded vote in the Journal the whole time I was Secretary. I never duplicated a number of a bill or resolution and never skipped a number. There never was a fatal defect in the transmission of any matter from the Senate to the House while I was Secretary, or in the making of proper endorsements and record of any matter received from the House. In this connection, however, I ascribe a just share of the credit to the efficient Assistant Secretary, Mr. John D. McCall.”

In April 1919, John D. resigned as Governor Hobby’s private secretary, and the family relocated to Dallas where he opened the Law Offices of John D. McCall in the Western Indemnity Building, effective May 1, 1919.  The family initially lived in what is now uptown Dallas.