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Bruce Alger
Black and white portrait photo of a middle-aged Caucasian man with short, somewhat receding hair and who is wearing a suit.
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1955 – January 3, 1965
Preceded by Joseph Franklin Wilson
Succeeded by Earle Cabell
Personal details
Born June 12, 1918(1918-06-12) (age 102)
Dallas, Texas
Political party Republican
Occupation Real estate broker
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1941–1945

Bruce Reynolds Alger (born June 12, 1918) is an American politician and a former Republican U.S. representative from Texas, the first to have represented a Dallas district since Reconstruction. He served from 1955 until 1965. Though born in Dallas, Alger was reared in Webster Groves, Missouri, a small suburb of St. Louis, Missouri.

Background[edit | edit source]

Alger was born to David Bruce Alger, a bank representative, and Clare Alger (née Freeman), an aspiring poet and writer.[1] Alger attended Princeton University in New Jersey on a scholarship. There he studied philosophy, art, and music, and was a center for the football team. After his graduation in 1940, he went to work for the RCA Corporation as a field representative. With the coming of World War II, he joined the United States Army, assigned to Squadron 5 at the Army Air Corps Advanced Flying School at Kerry Field, Texas.[2] He flew bombers and attained the rank of captain, claiming to be among the first American troops in Japan after the conclusion of the war in August 1945.[3] He received the Distinguished Flying Cross.[citation needed] On returning to civilian life, RCA refused to rehire him on the grounds that he had been out of television production for too long.

In 1945, Alger moved to Dallas and formed his own real estate and land development company. He was chosen as the first president of the White Rock Chamber of Commerce.

Congressional service (1955–1965)[edit | edit source]

In 1954, Alger became the Republican candidate for U.S. House of Representatives for Texas' 5th congressional district. Considering his state's Democratic tradition, it was unexpected that Alger would win. He received 27,982 ballots (52.9 percent) to Democrat Wallace H. Savage's 24,904 (47.1 percent). He was the only Republican in the Texas delegation for eight years until 1963, when Ed Foreman of Odessa, later of Dallas, joined Alger for the final two years of his tenure. Alger served during the heyday of the Lyndon B. Johnson and Sam Rayburn era. As a Republican and a most conservative Republican at that, he was the odd man out in the Texas delegation. Alger considered himself an individualist, a Constitutionalist, and a man of principles. Critics, however, equated his principles to stubbornness.

His belief in limited government conflicted with many of his colleagues, who expected to trade for votes on various issues and projects, something he refused to do. In the era of civil rights, he believed that solutions lay with local, not national government. He maintained that the national government should concentrate on defense and foreign affairs. He believed that the responsibility for social programs belonged at the local level. He was the only member of the House, for example, to oppose the popular school lunch program. According to Time magazine magazine (January 6, 1958), Alger assessed the upcoming second session of the Democratic 85th Congress in a pessimistic but resolved vein: "I foresee bitterness and hatefulness... We are going to squabble and fight and make the world think we hate each other and that we can't solve our problems. We are going to have bigger and bigger budgets, higher taxes, more government spending at home and abroad, and more inflation accompanied by deficit financing. Happy New Year!"

In 1960, Alger organized a protest at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas against Lyndon Johnson, by then the U.S. Senate majority leader, who was campaigning to become as John F. Kennedy's running mate. Alger held a placard which stated, "LBJ Sold Out to Yankee Socialists." The rally turned ugly, and Lady Bird Johnson was spat upon by a protestor.[4]

House Speaker Sam Rayburn of Bonham particularly disliked Alger and was often brutal toward the Republican "interloper" in the Texas delegation. Lyndon Johnson, on the other hand, was often deferential to the Republican U.S. Senator John G. Tower, Johnson's 1960 general election opponent and long-term Senate successor, because of Tower's support for Johnson on the Vietnam War. Rayburn, though friendly with House Republican Leader Joseph W. Martin of Massachusetts, would have been elated had he lived to see Alger defeated after a decade of House service.[5]

Defeated for reelection, 1964[edit | edit source]

In 1956 and 1958, Alger defeated two Democrats who later became well-known names in the state. In 1956, he edged Henry Wade, the Dallas County district attorney who emerged seventeen years later as the defendant in the Roe v. Wade abortion case. Alger polled 102,380 (55.6 percent) to Wade's 81,705 (44.4 percent).[6] In 1958, a heavily Democratic year nationally, Alger defeated Barefoot Sanders, 62,722 (52.6 percent) to 56,566 (47.4 percent).[7] Sanders was later appointed a U.S. District Judge by President Johnson and was in 1972 the unsuccessful Democratic nominee against Senator Tower.

Alger's opposition to "big government" in time worked against him politically. In 1962, he won his last term in the House with 89,938 votes (56.3 percent) to Democrat Bill Jones' 69,813 (43.7 percent). Alger was unseated in the 1964 general election by the former mayor of Dallas, Democrat Earle Cabell. Alger polled 127,568 ballots (only 42.5 percent), a considerable number of votes in a House election. Yet, turnout was so much higher in 1964 than in 1962 that Alger lost even though he polled nearly 40,000 more votes in the latter year than in the former. Cabell prevailed with 172,287 (57.5 percent). Alger's defeat can be attributed to:

  1. The slowly increasing liberalism of Dallas voters, who also purged the entire six-member Republican state legislative delegation from Dallas County,
  2. The political climate that stemmed from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas,
  3. The Democratic tradition of Texas,
  4. The presence of a native Texan, President Johnson, on the ballot, and
  5. The weak opposition candidacy of Alger's preferred presidential choice, Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona.

In a 1971 interview with the historian Joe B. Frantz of the University of Texas, John Tower discussed his relationship with Alger, noting that Tower would have deferred to Alger in the 1961 special U.S. Senate election had Alger wanted to run:

"Bruce and I got along very well together. Bruce is a very inflexible man and a suspicious man. He questioned the intellectual honesty of men like Mr. Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson, and so he just didn't make any friends. I have never yet publicly said one disparaging word about a fellow member of the Texas delegation, and don't intend to, although some of them have been inclined to say things about me publicly from time to time. I won't respond."[8]

Return to private life[edit | edit source]

After a decade in Congress, Alger resumed working as a real estate broker. He moved for a time to Florida but returned to Dallas in 1976. He remained out of the political limelight, except for a few occasional public appearances. Alger's extensive congressional papers are located in the archives section of the Dallas Public Library.

Alger resides in Carrollton in Dallas County. He and James D. Martin, a Republican from Alabama, are among the oldest living former members of the U.S. House. Coincidentally, Martin entered the House for a single term as Alger was vacating his seat.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Russell A. Alger papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan.
  2. Russell A. Alger papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan.
  3. Russell A. Alger papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan.
  4. Jack Crichton, The Republican-Democrat Political Campaigns in Texas in 1964, self-published, 2004, p. 11, ISBN 1-4184-2574-5 (paperback)
  5. Anthony Champagne, University of Texas at Dallas, "Sam Rayburn", West Texas Historical Association, annual meeting in Fort Worth, February 26, 2010.
  6. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, Vol. 2, U.S. House, 6th ed., Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, p. 1255
  7. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, Vol. 2, p. 1260
  8. "Lyndon Baines Johnson Library Oral History Collection, 1971". lbjlib.utexas.edu. http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/johnson/archives.hom/oralhistory.hom/tower/tower01.pdf. Retrieved June 11, 2010. 

External links[edit | edit source]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Joseph Franklin Wilson (D)
United States Representative for the 5th Congressional District of Texas

Bruce Reynolds Alger (R)

Succeeded by
Earle Cabell (D)

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