Shelton, Travis 1998, 1999

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Travis Shelton, longtime Lubbock criminal attorney, recalls many episodes and cases tried during his career. He also recalls growing up in the Great Depression, his service in World War II, and experiences as a local Democratic Party leader in the 1960s.

General Interview Information

Interviewee Name: Travis Shelton

Additional Parties Recorded: None

Date: June 25, 1998; February 17, 1999

Location: Lubbock, Texas

Interviewer: Fred Allison

Length: 4 hours 25 minutes


Tape 1, Side 1: Background, Raised in Dixie Community, Texas, Schools, Methodist Church, Mother and father arrived (1916), Siblings, Wilson, Texas, High School (1935), Rode bus, Modern school at Dixie, Brick library, Carbide lights, Auditorium, Community focused, Dixie Community no longer there, Methodist Church ‘South’, United Methodist Church, Moved to Tahoka, Texas (1938), Grandfather owned first wagon yard, House had indoor lights, plumbing, Radio, Windchargers, Boxing matches, Great Depression, Cotton prices, Hard times for farmers, Children out of school to pick cotton, Cotton prices (again), Mother gave birth to children (8) at home, Graduated Tahoka High School (1939), Started at Texas Tech (January 1940), Tuition, Saved money and worked, Rented room, $8/month with kitchen privileges, Transportation, Buses, Hitchhiking, Lined up in front of Halsey Drug Store, Dancing, Cloverleaf Ice Cream Store, Nickelodeons, Favorite music, Philco radio, Little money, few students had cars, Hitchhiked home to Tahoka every weekend, Worked for $2.75/ weekend, Worked at restaurant on Broadway, Pay, Worked at Lubbock Hotel as bellboy, Hotel background and history, Built in 1926, Size, Prestige, Learned a lot about human nature, ‘Henpecked’ men, Night clerk—demanding work, Balancing books, Summer 1942, worked with crew building South, Plains Army Airfield, Joined Coast Guard (August 1942), Draft status, Men embarrassed if didn’t join military, Training, Worked at Galvez Hotel, Galveston, Texas, Officers training school, New London, Connecticut, To Florida for anti-submarine duty, Narrowly missed Normandy Invasion, Description of boat assigned to, Patrol duty in Caribbean, Assigned to West Coast, Rode troop train across the country, Executive Officer on sea-going tugboat, Skipper couldn’t navigate, Pulling ammunition barges, Losing and finding barge, Compasses knocked out of alignment, Bought navigation books in Hawaii, Navigated all over South Pacific, Traveled in flotillas, Philippines—Subic Bay.

Tape 1, Side 2: Travis Shelton (continued), Coast Guard duty, World War II (continued), Tokyo Rose told of their position, Army recaptured Manila, Destruction of Manila, Brewery—green beer, Okinawa, Observed Japanese surrender at Manila, Lights came on first time on ships and in town, U. S. and British ships exchange salutes, Return home (1946), Married to Mary Lou Metcalf (April 1946), Background, Graduate, Texas Tech (1944), 19 years old, Key punch operator for IBM, Men got higher pay for same job, Attended law school, University of Texas (1946), Graduated (1949), got license (1948), Law training required by law, Return to Lubbock (1949), opened own office, M&M Building, Waggoner Carr asked him to be Assistant County Attorney, Backlog of bootleggers, $235/month, Elected County Attorney, Murder cases involved in, Executions occurred rapidly, Jack Farmer case, Killed wife, Walter Whitaker case, Killed Joyce White, Buried body and stayed with her family, Confessed during polygraph, Oral confessions as evidence, Fruits of crime, Digging up body, Body’s description, Letter to parents, Father’s reaction, Trial, Vernon, Texas, Conviction and execution within a year, Last Lubbock execution until 1997, Appeals process, Earlier federal courts would not accept jurisdiction, State appeals system, Court of Pardon and Paroles, Description, Writ of habeas corpus now sought, Appeals on civil rights involved federal courts, Efforts to reduce number of reviews, High number of capital offense cases, Indigents and need for legal protection, Inexperienced lawyers provide questionable defense, Death sentence upheld regardless, Controversial issue for lawyers, Death sentence seriousness, Value as a deterrent, Protects jailers and guards, Bifurcated trials extended trial length, Two stage trial, guilt or innocence and penalty phase, Excessive background information allowed, Sex abuse cases dangerous to try, Society overreacts.

Tape 2, Side 1: Excessive background (continued), Sex abuse (continued), Sister of accused testified of occurrence of 22 years earlier, Received 15 years sentence, Marijuana cases punished severely in 1950s, Penal code changed when marijuana use spread to other parts of town, 3,000-year sentence, Changes in punishment, Drug laws and punishments, Crack cocaine, Society demands death sentence now, Media and sensationalism of crime, Crime seems worse, Guns more prevalent, Violence in media, Kids need training in useful endeavors, Bootleggers (c. 1949-50), No booze within 100-120 miles, Pinkies in Odessa, Texas, supplied this area, George Aaron in Amarillo, Texas, too, Distributors, Methods of hiding caches of alcohol, Cistern, Basement, Shelves covered with gravel, Sentences for bootlegging, Demand for liquor in Lubbock, Voting in ‘The Strip’, Help of Texas Tech students, ‘Church-going’ town, World War II bootlegging for soldiers, Elections not even close earlier, Ministerial alliance ad campaigns, Ads paid for by bootleggers, Support for ‘The Strip’, Revenue for county, Inevitability of alcohol use, Effect on crime, World War II changes in Lubbock, Activity increased with opening of Lubbock Army, Airfield, South Plains Army Airfield opening in summer 1942, Clent Breedlove and his aeroservice, Family, Billy Hancock (friend of Shelton), Navy pilot, local hero, Featured in magazine ads, Father, Gene Hancock, Hancock Manufacturing, Hancock Center at Lubbock Christian, University, Daughter Betty killed by drunk driver, Lubbock Christian College, opened in late 1950s, World War II in Lubbock (again), Population growth, Reese Air Force Base gave city recognition, Coaches All-American football game advertised city, World of Lubbock spread through Air Force, Young women liked the pilots, Higher caliber.

Tape 2, Side 2: Travis Shelton involvement in politics, Three 2-year terms as District Attorney, On state Democratic Executive Committee (1960-64), Distinguished visitors to Lubbock, J. William Fulbright, Governor George Dalton of Missouri, Friend of Harry Truman, Anecdote about meeting the ‘common people’, Visit to LBJ Ranch and rally (1960), After Lyndon Johnson nominated Vice President, Harry Truman, Sam Rayburn, Shelton rode in Lawrence Underwood’s plane, Arch Underwood business, East Texas oil money, Hunts, Murchisons, Truman’s speech, Influence of Texas in Washington, Lyndon Johnson, Sam Rayburn, Bob Poague, Olin Teague, George H. Mahon, Picture made with leaders, Description of LBJ Ranch, Airport reception for John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Lubbock (1960), Ralph Brock co-chair of Democratic Committee, Logistics, Phones, Aircraft fuel, Platform, Toilet facilities, Meeting John F. Kennedy, Character, Women’s opinion of him, Anecdote about kissing a teenage girl, State Democratic dinner for Kennedy, November 1963, Austin, Texas, Kennedy enroute, but assassinated, Receiving news of assassination, Worked for LBJ (1948), Running for Senate, Lloyd Croslin, Lubbock DA, helped campaign, Lady Bird came to his funeral, Description of Lyndon Johnson, Plain Texas farm boy, Brilliant, Hosted breakfast for him in Lubbock, Picking him up at airport with Retha Martin, chairman of Dunlap’s, Anecdote about getting rid of Secret Service men, Knowledgeable about informal politics, Rayburn and Johnson essential to success of President Eisenhower, Mutual respect, True statesman, Negative effect of television on politicians, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal in Texas, Importance of ‘plow-up’ checks, Charismatic, No Republicans in Texas, Completely reversed now, Better to have two healthy parties, Democratic National Convention (1968), Attended as alternate delegate, Ralph Brock, delegate, Radicals camped out in Lincoln and Grant Parks across from their hotel, Feared an assault on hotel, Police didn’t overreact, Impressed with Mayor Daley, Affadavit about police brutality, There was none, Attempts to disrupt inside convention, Vietnam War, Changing views of J. William Fulbright, Knowledgeable, Young people received money to be at Chicago, Politics mysterious in earlier days, Media couldn’t predict winners, Adlai Stevenson suffered under stigma of divorce (1952 campaign), John Kennedy’s religion a big factor in West Texas, Example of woman who called him: "Protestants must stick together", Strong undercurrent.

Tape 3, Side 1: Travis Shelton, Hunt brothers’ defense, Description of Bunker and Herbert Hunt, Sources of wealth, Character: Down to earth, Drove Chevrolet and old Cadillac, H. L. Hunt, Brought lunch to work, wore old clothes, East Texas oil money, Trust funds for all his children, Three sets of children, legitimate and otherwise, Ray Hunt, oil fields in North Yemen, Margaret Hunt owned Crescent Courts Shopping, Center and Hotel, Represented witches in Dimmitt, Texas, Belonged to Church of Wicca, Kids harassed them on Halloween, Accidental shooting, Found not guilty, Told defendant to get rid of belt buckle, Publicity, Murder in Sundown, Texas, Teacher killed another teacher, Shelton, prosecutor, George Dupree and Tom Milam defended, Given murder with malice but received suspended sentence, Written up in detective magazine, "Forests of Hockley County", Hunt case (again), Judge H. O. Woodward moved case to Lubbock, Shelton’s role, Other lawyers, Hunts later indicted for obstruction of justice, Also Percy Foreman, Trial in Dallas, Plea bargain, Details, Percy Foreman refused bargain, Lubbock wiretapping case, Chief of security embezzled money, Hunts’ business, Radio program, Extreme right wing, Considering character witnesses, John B. Connally, Senator Eastland, J. Evetts Haley, E. J. Holub, Borrowing coat, Dr. W. A. Criswell, First Baptist Church, Dallas, Young man from Whiteface, Texas, Acquittal, Lawyer Phil Hershkoff from Alexandria, Virginia, Tried to dress as a cowboy, Lawyer Ralph Shank from East Texas, Wealthy East Texas oil monied preference for Republican Party, Presidency of Texas Bar Association, Elections, Won Vice President (1975), President (1976), Campaigning, First from Lubbock, Later Joe Nagy and Frank Newton were presidents, Hard for West Texas lawyers to get elected, Charley Acock from Farwell, Texas elected this year, Issues while president, Advertising, Wrote editorial in journal, Case of Bates v Steen, Guidelines, Lawyer John O’Quinn perpetual violations, New State Bar building, Lawyer donations, Leon Jaworski led fund raising campaign, IRS changed rules on donations, Description of building, Lawyers accessed, Paid off building in three years, One of a kind.

Tape 3, Side 2: Travis Shelton (continued), Lawyer, 50 years as of 1998, Reflections on diminishing status of lawyers, Advertising negative effects, Demeans the profession, Young lawyers and old lawyers differing views, Need for lawyers in society, Not always popular, Not ashamed, Importance of lawyers.

Tape 4, Side 1: Travis Shelton, State Disciplinary Board of the State Bar of Texas member, Issues, Advertising, Conflicts of interest, Ethics, Clarify rules, Always had the unspoken rules, Discovery, Whitaker case, Charlie Guy, Opinions, Characteristics, Jack Killingsworth case, Terms for murder in legal cases, Women on juries, Opinions, Killingsworth case (again), Whitaker case (again).

Tape 4, Side 2: Whitaker case (continued), Ways to received news, radio, newspaper, Damages made over the years to the legal system, Enolf (?) case, Percy Foreman, attorney from Houston, Texas, Insanity case, Percy Foreman (again), characteristics, opinions, W. O. Bearden case.

Tape 5, Side 1: Cases, Bootlegging—Erins(?), George, 1953: Crosbyton, Low profile cases murder, physical abuse case, DWI case—Betty Hancock, Cochran County scandal case, Roosevelt Wiley case, Jury misconduct, Legal fees, Cases (again), Murder case—Silverton, Texas, John Stapleton, attorney, W. O. Bearden case (again).

Tape 5, Side 2: Cases (continued), Low profile cases (again), Bearden case (again), Sheffield case, Baskin Giles, B. R. Sheffield, Attorneys involved with case, McGee case, found insane, Girlstown USA case, John Stapleton, Tom Purdom, (Ends after 15 minutes).

Range Dates: 1916-1999

Bulk Dates: 1950s-1970s

Access Information

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