Purdom, Tom 1998-06-08,11

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Lubbock attorney Tom Purdom recalls his career, which included time spent as an aide to Congressman George Mahon, Assistant Lubbock District Attorney and County Attorney in the late 1960s and as a Family Law specialist.

General Interview Information

Interviewee Name: Tom Purdom

Additional Parties Recorded: None

Date: June 08 and 11, 1998

Location: Lubbock, Texas

Interviewer: Fred Allison

Length: 3 hours 40 minutes


Tape 1, Side 1: Tom Purdom, background, Born: April 7, 1937, in Seymour, Texas, Family lived in Vera, Texas, Most of childhood spent in Amarillo, Frequent moves, Graduated from Ozona High School, Joined U. S. Air Force after high school, Training bases, Lackland and Kelly Air Force Bases, University of Syracuse, Language Institute, Learned Russian, Stationed in Japan (Misawa), High school class at Ozona, Texas, To Texas Tech for pre-law, College classes in Air Force, Texas Tech (again), J. William Davis encouraged, One of "his boys", Head of Government and Athletic Committee, National letter of intent started with NCAA, Worked for W. G. McMillan Construction, Friend of Dr. Davis, Friend of George H. Mahon, Assisted to get into law school, Georgetown, University, Patronage job with Mahon, First meeting with Mahon, Anecdote with name, Georgetown law school at night, Worked at door behind Speaker of the House, Description of lobby, Speaker’s office and Chairman of Appropriations Committee’s offices, Mahon, Chairman de facto of Appropriations, Committee, House of Representatives, Speeches, Wilbur Mills, Kept Mahon up to date on floor proceedings, House of Representatives, Business always planned, Compared to Senate, Making rules for each bill, Rules Committee, Example: Civil Rights Bill of 1964, ‘Sex’ added to bill in order to stop it, Rep. Howard ‘Judge’ Smith, Lyndon B. Johnson ‘stacked’ Rules Committee, Close vote, Five women representatives, Scaring people about women’s rights, Martha Griffith of Michigan cast deciding vote, Tom Purdom (again) in House of Representatives, August 1962-January 1966, Kennedy’s assassination, In House rotunda when Mike Mansfield gave famous speech, Jackie Kennedy kissing flag on the coffin, Emotional, Return to Lubbock (1966), Worked for Ernest Griffith, friend of Mahon, Rose Jean Griffith, his wife longtime Mahon, associate, Mahon (again), Philosophy of government, Honesty, Statesmanship, Constituent oriented, I-27, Reese Air Force Base, First elected (1934), First Congressman from Lubbock (19^th ) District, Views on New Deal and legislation, Political party not so important.

Tape 1, Side 2: Mahon (continued), Political party (continued), Best friend was Bob Michaels, a Republican, Gerald Ford a good friend, Both on Defense Sub-committee, Changes, Bitterness, Purdom (again), Return to Lubbock (again), Washington a "rat race", Early interest in law, Interest in engineering, Air Force experience influential, Interest in flying, Lubbock, Texas (c. 1966), Courthouse and downtown totally different, Location of old courthouse, Downtown changes, Declining, Montgomery Ward building, Interest rates, Real estate business, 7% unprecedented, Bought house at 5% and unhappy, Purdom (again), Assistant District Attorney, District Attorney Alton Griffin, Trial of Dolphus J. Brown (1968), Shallowater, Texas, man—killed parents, Elected County Attorney, Fred West, previous County Attorney, killed in plane crash, Dolphus Brown case (again), Difficulty in proving guilt, Alibi, Hiding clothes, Bludgeoning death, Evidence, The appeal, George Santana rape case, Handled all the way to Texas Supreme Court, Hinged on burden of proof in juvenile case, Decided by court, Crawford Martin, State Attorney General, Patch over eye, Call to Purdom, Lack of brief, Question of burden of proof: civil or criminal, Court took middle way, Real estate law practice, Decline in real estate market, Interest rates (again), Housing addition with extra land, Lubbock growth in late 1960s, Texas Tech had only 10,000 students in the late 1950s, Texas Instruments, Litton Industries, Area of specialty, Family Law, Gene Smith, Texas Tech professor, Chairman of Family Law section, Purdom, Chairman of District, County Attorney Association, Juvenile Committee, Rewriting family code, Property section, Children’s section.

Tape 2, Side 1: Purdom (continued), Family Law (continued), Family code (continued), Adopted, 1973, Chairman of Family Law section of State Bar, Association, Family Council, Gene Smith (again) wanted specialization forFamily Law, Poor quality of family lawyers, Specialization started (1975-76), Involved in grading and writing examination for specialization, Received specialization (1978), Gene Smith, Attributes, Example of child adoption case, Paternity suits in Texas, Unable to bring suit, U. S. Supreme Court ruled Texas law unconstitutional, Blood tests, Texas legislators resisted for personal reasons, Women’s movement and science caused changes, Women unable to contract before 1960s, Women had to be examined "privily and apart" until 1969, Gene Smith (again), Purdom (again), Commentary on women’s movement, Predicts demise of bond bailsmen, Trends in criminal law, Warren (Earl) Supreme Court, Police in a better position now, Lee Roy Green case, Black men arrested for murder, Abusive in his arrest, Confessions, Acquittal, Clean record since, Character and education, English judicial system.

Tape 2, Side 2: Purdom (again), /Roe v Wade/ case, Sarah Weddington, a friend, Parents live in Lubbock, Abortion not source of legal action, Case involving illegitimate child, ‘Nice’ girl and Hispanic boy, Differing views on adoption, Boy gains custody of baby, Texas Constitution amended (1984) to allow fathers to get custody, Divorce law, Changes, Always had de facto no-fault divorce, Twisted causes so that everything is ‘cruel’, Better lawyers today, Understanding of separate and community property, Education, Family Law courses, Started by Gene Smith (again), Texas Tech Law School opening, Excessive number of lawyers in Lubbock, Difficulty in getting started, Lubbock legal community, Friendly, Trusting of other lawyers, Reputations in community still most important, Tradition of memorializing deceased lawyers, Telling stories, Purdom (again) law business, Child custody and divorce cases dominate, Cases had bad reputation in earlier times, Better now, Women lawyers impact, Women in legal profession, Only 2 out of 100 in law school class, Now more women than men in Family Law, Adoption case, Couple gave children to brother, Need to provide an income, All lawyers provide help to indigents, Services never provided without some sort of payment, Objection to popular conception of lawyers as being mercenary.

Tape 3, Side 1: Alimony in Texas, Relatively new, Not same type as in other states, Passed in 1993, Background, Legislators’ opposition, Not as pervasive even in other states as believed, Male domination of legislature, Community property, Purdom (again), Alimony gives judge too much power, Division of community property fairer system, Requirements to get alimony, Maximum payment, Community property (again), Not used in many states, Equitable distribution used instead, Example of New York, French derivation of community property concept, English system in other states, Husband owns everything, Difficulty in obtaining divorce, Going to Bahamas, Adultery only grounds, /Kulko v Superior Court/ case, Texas No Fault divorce, instituted 1969, Nationwide trend, Catholics in New York kept it out, Before 1969, de facto no fault divorce, Increase in number of divorces since, Societal trends, Society should lead law, not vice versa, Changes and causes, More exposure by international travel, Less traditionalism, Religion taken less seriously, Lubbock Peace Festival (c. 1969-70), Purdom, County Attorney (again), Extensively policed, Expected big trouble, Arresting drunk cowboys, Marijuana grew wild in field later, Weather: terrible, More gawkers than attendees, Feelings of locals, Anti-war protests in Austin, Race riot in Lubbock, Purdom, County Attorney (again), White boy killed black boy at Dunbar High School, White boy: James Earl Carver, Background on shooting, Dunbar High School, Shooting, Probation officer’s warning to Purdom, White teachers refuse to testify, Ed Irons tells them to, Black citizens rioting down Broadway St.

Tape 3, Side 2: Lubbock race riot (continued), Animosity between races, Teachers mostly white, Purdom, County Attorney (again), Obtaining confession, Scary situation, Demands of black leader, Rioters disperse, Purdom’s fears, Rioting continued three days, Carver convicted, tried as an adult, District Attorney, Larry Cherry, Sentence, 5 years as trustee, Carver’s father’s influence, Owned Mayflower Motel, Prejudiced and biased, Society in those days, Insult by a black demanded vengeance, Lubbock integration, Purdom, County Attorney (again), Some occurred in 1950s, Judge Halbert O. Woodward, Decision for schools, Moved to Lubbock and set up Federal Court, Previously in Amarillo, More court activity in Lubbock, "Best judge ever", Decision made (c. 1972), Previous integration efforts, No real integration now, Neighborhood integration, Blacks moving into Cherry Point section in Northeast Lubbock, "White flight", No laws to prevent it, Less an issue today, Views regarding Hispanics, different, Example of Ozona, Texas, ‘One drop rule’, Any black blood made you ‘black’, Example of Tiger Woods, Bad feelings persist, Changing views on miscegenation, Tom Purdom (again), Retrospective on career as County Attorney, Wanted to try cases, Air Force experience of freezing up in front of general, Number of cases tried, Learned to talk, Preferred J. P. cases, Jury decided what law was, Anecdote about "real law", Anecdote about Tom Milam in Judge McClesky’s court, Catching accused with the ‘deadwood’.

Tape 4, Side 1: Tom Purdom (continued), Tort Reform views, In favor of as insurance defense lawyer, Background, Contingent fee system, Not personally opposed to, Problems with tobacco case now in progress, Insurance cases settled out of court, Tobacco case (again), Exorbitant fees, Rules of ethics set by State Supreme Court, Policing lawyers, State and local bars don’t do a good job, Comparison with medical profession, Loss of control of practice, Varying views on ethics, Changing mores, Government regulation of legal profession, Example of real estate law, Low pay for criminal cases, $50/day for state case, $20/hour for federal case, Makes $150/hour otherwise, Societal changes, Dependence on government, Government taxation, Tax Simplification Act (mid-1980s), Tax code tripled in size, Tax dilemma, Comparison to insurance, George Mahon philosophy of government (again), Government can only provide what people are willing to pay for, Didn’t get much for his district, Example of Midland, Texas, Post Office, ‘Slick’ Rutherford, Midland politician, No need for pressure, Greatest contribution, Being of good character, Favored a strong defense, Military bases, Colonels from Reese always got to Pentagon, Promotions, Would have kept Reese open, Reese and Lubbock relations, Always good, City fathers’ role, Airmen’s role, Not the typical sleazy businesses near base, Lubbock’s ‘Strip’, Background, Liquor dealers wanted Precinct Two, Boundaries set by highways.

Tape 4, Side 2: Lubbock’s ‘Strip’ (continued), Anecdote about Nazareth, Texas, First to vote a precinct wet, Wet/dry election, Purdom, County Attorney (again), Opposition by churches, Texas Tech students voted in biggest number sever, Less opposition, Stigma against alcohol less, Effect on crime, Increased, Marijuana use, When Purdom in D.A.’s office no probation for possession (1966), Changed when Tech students and professor arrested, Publicity, Jury gave probation, Changing times, Previously ‘good’ people didn’t use it, Tom Purdom (again), Advice for aspiring lawyers.

Range Dates: 1937-1998

Bulk Dates: 1960s-1970s

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