Tumbleweed Smith
Tumbleweed Smith

Pat Neff was governor of Texas from 1921 to 1925. His accomplishments include establishing Texas Tech and the Texas State Parks System (the first park is Mother Neff State Park).

“He was followed by Ma Ferguson as governor,” says David Scott of Gatesville, who spent 15 years doing research and writing a biography of Pat Neff. “Pat Neff started a tradition that still carries on today. When a governor leaves office, he places a Bible open on the desk with a verse underlined for the incoming governor. So he left this with Ma Ferguson and put a white rose on top of the open Bible. So when Ma and Pa Ferguson walked into the office, Pa Ferguson picked up the rose, threw it in the trash, slammed the Bible shut and said ‘Sunday School’s over.’”

David’s biography of Pat Neff is titled THE LAND, THE LAW AND THE LORD. Pat Neff was president of Baylor University from 1932 to 1947. He attended Baylor and graduated with a BA in 1894.

“While a student at Baylor,” says David,“Pat met a young girl named Myrtle Mainer, they fell in love and he proposed to her. But, he told her ‘I can’t get married to you until after I’m established as an attorney.’ So Myrtle left Baylor and went back home to Lovelady, Texas where she began a very long wait. It was years later, in 1901 when he finally married her.”

In the years leading up to his marriage, Pat had obtained a law degree from the University of Texas in 1897 and established a law practice in Waco. Being a gifted orator, he was elected to the state legislature in 1899 and served until 1905. The last two years he was speaker of the house.

David said Pat was a very outgoing person who never met a stranger. “His wife on the other hand, was very shy and retiring. She didn’t like the limelight. In fact when they moved into the governor’s mansion she didn’t even become the official hostess. That was left up to their daughter Hallie Maude. Myrtle was sick a lot and went to hotels with mineral spas where you drink the water to get healthy. She always signed the hotel register with an assumed name because she didn’t want to be known as the governor’s wife. When she traveled to Lovelady by train, she dressed in old clothes, a big hat and glasses so she wouldn’t be recognized.”

Being the youngest of several children, Pat was very close to his mother. “When he became governor he moved his mother to live with them in the governor’s mansion. And that’s where she died.” In 1923 Pat had the opportunity to be president of the University of Texas. In 1924 he was urged to run for president of the United States. He turned down both offers.

Pat was born on the family ranch at Eagle Springs near Gatesville in 1871. He died in 1952 and is buried in Waco’s Oakwood cemetery.