is J. J. Pickle?
October 11, 1913), also known as J.J. 'Jake' Pickle, was a United States
Representative from the 10th congressional district of Texas from 1963 to
Pickle was born in
Big Spring, Texas. He was a proud Eagle Scout. He attended the public
schools in Big Spring and received his B.A. from the University of Texas at
Austin where he was the student body president as a senior and a member of
the 1934 Southwest Conference championship swimming team. He served in the
United States Navy for three and a half years (1938-1941).
Pickle was elected as
a Democrat to the Eighty-eighth Congress, by special election, to fill the
vacancy caused by the resignation of United States Representative Homer
Thornberry, He was reelected to the fifteen succeeding Congresses (December
21, 1963-January 3, 1995) before retiring.
He had a "Jake
Pickle" Day dedicated to him in Roscoe, Texas in March, 1995.
Read the House
Resolution No. 363 below for more information on this great public servant.
Mr. Pickle passed away in June of 2005. See the "In Memory" page below for a
great article that ran that month in the Austin American Statesman.
H.R. No. 363
WHEREAS, On March 18,
1995, the residents of Roscoe will celebrate J. J. "Jake" Pickle Day in
honor of their beloved native son, who recently retired from the U.S. House
of Representatives after more than three decades of exemplary service to the
citizens of Central Texas; and
Jarrell Pickle was born in Roscoe on October 1-7 11, 1913, to J. B. and Mary
Pickle; as a young man he attended The University of Texas at Austin, where
he earned a bachelor's degree in 1938 and served as student body president,
demonstrating the integrity and fairness that would be his trademarks in
WHEREAS, Soon after
graduation, this exceptional Texan worked as an area director of the
National Youth Administration until 1941; answering his nation's call to
arms during World War II, he enlisted in the United States Navy and fought
with honor and distinction in nine battles of the Pacific Campaign; and
WHEREAS, After his
return to civilian life, he joined with a group of fellow veterans to
establish KVET radio station in Austin and later built a successful career
in advertising and public relations; and
WHEREAS, He began his
long and distinguished record of public service in 1957, when he was named
executive director of the Texas State Democratic Executive Committee, a
position he held for three years; in 1961, this outstanding individual was
appointed to the Texas Employment Commission by Governor Price Daniel; and
WHEREAS, He was
elected to the United States Congress in 1963, where he served the citizens
of District 10 with courage and compassion for 31 years; and
WHEREAS, During his
16 terms in the house of representatives, Congressman Pickle was a stalwart
supporter of rural health care funding, social security reform, and pension
system reform; this fine Texan played a key role in national trade, tax, and
health care legislation as a member of the powerful House Ways and Means
Committee, and he also served as chairman of the Social Security
Subcommittee and the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee; and
WHEREAS, He was
instrumental in making Austin an international center for high-technology
research and development and recently was recognized for those efforts by
The University of Texas at Austin, which renamed a world-class research
facility in his honor; Congressman Pickle also took action to protect
Austin's unique natural heritage and its many endangered species, securing
funds for the Balcones National Wildlife Refuge, helping to establish flood
control and soil conservation programs, and supporting alternative energy
WHEREAS, In addition
to his impressive record as a public servant, Jake Pickle is a devoted
family man who enjoys a successful marriage with his wife of many years,
Beryl, and who takes great pride in the accomplishments of his three
children, Peggy, Dick, and Graham; and
accomplishments of this remarkable lawmaker have improved and enriched the
lives of citizens throughout the State of Texas and are indeed deserving of
special recognition and thanks; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the
House of Representatives of the 74th Texas Legislature hereby join with the
residents of Roscoe in commending J. J. "Jake" Pickle for his 31 years of
exemplary service to Texas as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives
and extend to him and to his wife, Beryl, warmest best wishes for a happy
retirement; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That an
official copy of this resolution be prepared for Congressman Pickle as an
expression of highest esteem by the Texas House of Representatives.
In Memory - J.J. 'JAKE'
Gentleman Jake was
Austin 's congressman for 31 years. Picture of Mr. & Mrs. Pickle in 1963 as
they left for Washington - courtesy of Austin American Statesman
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Jake Pickle loved politics, from the
handshake hellos to the knock-down fights.
Austin , the adopted hometown he represented for 31 years in Congress.
And he loved telling a good story,
especially when he was the punch line.
Pickle's story came to an end Saturday
morning, 91 years after his birth in the West Texas town of
Roscoe , and after a 14-year fight with prostate cancer and a four-year
battle with lymphoma. He had spent the past month confined to his
Austin home, still entertaining guests until recently, and that's where he
quietly died, in his own bed, with his wife, Beryl, nearby.
"He had a formidable will," daughter Peggy
Pickle said. "Every time somebody said the situation looked bad and there
was a certain number of months (left), he just hunkered down and decided he
wasn't going to die."
Pickle, who caught the political bug as a
Depression-era student at the
Texas , years before he became a protege of Lyndon Baines Johnson, never
lost the down-home courtliness that earned him the nickname "Gentleman
On Pickle's first day in
Washington as a newly elected House member, President Johnson sent a limousine
to greet him at the airport with a surprise invitation to sleep at the White
House. Pickle sent the limo back, explaining he had already lined up
accommodations with a friend.
"I was raised in
Texas . If you accept an invitation, you're gonna do it, you
know. So I did it," Pickle explained later.
Pickle was involved in politics, either
professionally or peripherally, from the day he was elected UT student
president in 1937 until the day he left Congress in 1995. In between he
earned a reputation as a prodigious worker, a politician with a common touch
and one of the true characters in Congress -- the guy who tossed thousands
of "squeaky pickle" rubber toys in countless area parades.
"He always delivered as best he could. He
was indefatigable," said Roy Butler, who worked on every one of Pickle's
congressional campaigns, then worked with the congressman as
Austin 's mayor from 1971 to 1975.
"You'd walk down the halls up there in
Congress with him, and of course he knew every single soul,"
Butler said. "He walked at a great stride and with great energy. He always
had a smile, always had his hand out, always had a kind word for everybody."
Pickle chose to retire after winning 16
elections to the U.S. House, often losing weight during fast-paced campaigns
that exhausted volunteers one-third his age. Anybody who questioned Pickle's
hard-charging style received a terse reminder that the campaign graveyard is
full of overconfident politicians.
His home phone number was always listed,
and he returned from
Washington most weekends to answer calls. The nonstop Braniff flight from
Austin was nicknamed the Pickle Express, and the man who called himself a
natural ham worked the aisle as if each plane was his personal political
"Other than the long commute to and from
Washington and, starting in the 1980s, the increasing partisanship of
Congress, there was little I didn't like about being Congressman Pickle," he
said in his 1997 book, "Jake," which he co-wrote with Peggy Pickle. "Despite
the stress, long hours and the lack of personal and financial privacy,
members of Congress are given a truly fabulous perk: the opportunity to get
Best, proudest votes
Pickle said his greatest accomplishment was
the 1983 Social Security reform bill, which he guided as chairman of the
Social Security subcommittee to rescue the program from insolvency by
raising the retirement age to 67, raising the tax rate and taxing benefits.
But his proudest vote was for the 1964
Civil Rights Act. He was one of only six Southern representatives to vote
aye. On the job only two months but determined to vote his conscience,
Pickle figured he had guaranteed himself a one-term career, because Old
Confederacy sentiments still reigned in Central Texas.
Pickle recalled returning to his hotel at 2
a.m. after meeting some friends for late-night drinks to soften the gloomy
mood. The hotel operator stopped him in the lobby and demanded that he call
the White House. President Johnson, she whispered in a shaking voice, had
called personally looking for him. Several times.
Despite the late hour, Johnson came to the
phone and admitted that he had failed to vote for several civil rights bills
so he could wait for a more auspicious time.
"I just couldn't bring myself to do it,"
Pickle recalled Johnson saying. "But you did today. On your first big vote
in Congress. And I just said to myself that I wasn't going to let this night
go by until I had called you and told you personally that your president is
proud of you."
That was one of Pickle's favorite stories
-- he had hours of them -- and it usually ended the same way. "Pretty heady
stuff for a young man," he would say, choking up.
To the end of his life, Pickle always
referred to himself as a "Johnson boy."
"There is a hole in our family's heart with
the loss of Jake Pickle," former first lady Lady Bird Johnson said in a
statement. "He was a master storyteller, a can-do public servant, and a most
loyal friend this family ever had.
"They simply don't make better citizens or
friends than Jake. Four generations of Johnsons will always be his forever
fans," she said.
By the time he retired, Pickle was the
third-ranking Democrat on the influential Ways and Means Committee --
leaving just before Republicans claimed majority control of the U.S. House.
Austin , Pickle settled into an emeritus role. He refused to pick a
successor, who ended up being Democrat Lloyd Doggett. He passed the time
with friends (usually at the now-closed Holiday House restaurant), made the
occasional speech and delivered many a eulogy for a fallen friend.
"He really set the standard for
accessibility and integrity in office," Doggett said. "I saw just an
incredible adaptability to a changing city and a changing constituency."
One thing never changed. Everywhere he
went, Pickle continued to work the crowd, listening to people talk about
their lives and asking what he could do to help.
At Westminster Manor, a life-care facility
where the Pickles lived, Jake would take forever to walk through the dining
"He would find out who was doing what, ask
what they needed," said Luci Baines Johnson, daughter of the former
president. "You just wanted to say, 'Jake, you're not running for anything
anymore.' But he was always running for how to be a friend for those in
With Pickle blind in one eye and often
Butler frequently served as his taxi service -- with Jake still calling him
Mayor Wonderful. Like others who drove Pickle,
Butler would extract a promise before agreeing to drive.
"I used to tell him, 'Now Jake, I am not
going to take you unless you agree that when it's time to leave, you'll
leave. I am not going to stand around anymore while you work the crowd,' "
Butler said. "He truly loved people. If you went to a restaurant, he would
stop at every table."
A rascal at heart
James Jarrell Pickle was born in 1913, the
fourth of five children. Mischievous by nature, he was 4 when he earned his
nickname while his family was acting out a drama for entertainment. His
character, Jake, was a rascal; the name stuck.
Pickle began a love affair with the
when he arrived in
Austin in 1932 with hopes of becoming a lawyer. The Great Depression was in
full swing, and Pickle lived in Little Campus, the "poor boy's dorm" that
was the former Texas Asylum for the Blind. He delivered milk supplied by a
Manor farmer, clearing about a penny a bottle -- enough for one good meal a
For his junior year, Pickle moved up to a
job as night watchman at the Capitol, delighting in riding a bicycle over
the newly laid terrazzo floor -- until the skid marks were discovered and he
was fired (only to be rehired when a Lubbock state senator lobbied on his
Pickle enjoyed moderate success on UT
wrestling and swim teams, but law school proved a bit tougher. He failed a
few classes and lost interest in a legal career.
He filled his extra time with a run for
student president, defeating future U.S. Rep. Bob Eckhardt with help from
future Texas Gov. John Connally. (Pickle would manage Connally's successful
campaign for UT president the next year.)
"This university opened the doors of the
world for me, and I love it dearly," Pickle said in a 2001 interview. And he
repaid that debt by directing millions of dollars to the university for
research, technology and educational programs. Pickle also steered money
toward the new
and to Sematech, a consortium of semiconductor companies that helped
Austin into a high-tech mecca.
It was Connally who introduced Pickle to
perhaps the greatest influence on his political life, Lyndon Johnson, who
was then the congressman representing Austin and the rest of the 10th
Pickle would send Johnson weekly reports
from the district, which he traveled extensively for his Depression-era job
with the National Youth Administration. But he wouldn't meet LBJ until a
year later during a trip to
Washington to discuss a local highway project. It was a memorable meeting.
Called into Johnson's apartment through an open door, Pickle found LBJ
holding court on the toilet, pajama bottoms at his ankles.
It was vintage Johnson.
"He was always testing you. He was always
testing his power," Pickle wrote later.
Regardless of LBJ's quirks, Pickle joined
Johnson's re-election campaign in 1941 -- gathering 30,000 signatures
"urging" LBJ to run even though he was serving in World War II -- then
helped Lady Bird run the congressional office.
In 1942, Pickle joined the war, serving in
the Navy as one of the "90-day wonders," officers who were trained quickly
for a rapidly expanding military. With a 10-day leave before shipping out,
Ensign Pickle returned to
Austin to marry Ella Nora Critz, known to all as Sugar.
Pickle served on the USS St. Louis, which
was torpedoed but didn't sink, and the USS Miami, a light cruiser that also
was torpedoed without sinking.
Daughter Peggy was on the way when Lt.
Pickle returned to
Austin in 1945. With Connally and eight other veterans -- and with help from
LBJ, who needed his "boys" in positions of authority back in Austin --
Pickle established the city's third radio station. All were veterans, so
KVET was born, and still exists.
The radio business couldn't pay enough, so
Pickle co-founded a public relations company in
Austin . He also scratched his political itch by joining the State
Democratic Executive Committee as organizational secretary, putting him in
the era's version of Texas-style partisan politics -- liberal Democrats
versus conservative Democrats, with divisions as nasty and volatile as
Democrat versus Republican today. Pickle was on the conservative side and
became known as the party's hatchet man for helping two governors ruthlessly
purge liberals from the party's executive committee in the 1950s.
Though Pickle would reform his
rough-and-tumble image, a quip from the time personifies his place in
politics: "Do you know Jake Pickle?" Answer: "No, but I suspect him."
Sugar died in 1952 of breast cancer. Left
with his 6-year-old daughter Peggy, Pickle filled the void with work,
running campaigns that revealed a love and skill for politics.
He would remarry in 1960, wedding Beryl
Bolton McCarroll, a widow with two sons. (They celebrated their 44th
anniversary Dec. 17.)
Life took another turn in 1963, when U.S.
Rep. Homer Thornberry, D-Austin, resigned his House seat to become a federal
judge. Pickle campaigned so hard for the seat that he lost 40 pounds, won
the special election on his third anniversary with Beryl and was called to
Washington early by Johnson, who had assumed office the month before, in the
wake of President Kennedy's assassination.
Johnson wanted his protege to accumulate
seniority on incoming freshmen, so Pickle was sworn in on Christmas Eve and
quickly cast his first vote, supporting Johnson's sale of wheat to the
Soviet Union .
Pickle caught on quickly to the ways of
Congress, aided by his ties to LBJ and his political savvy.
He also became one of the institution's
characters, tooling around
Washington in a 1959 Chrysler New Yorker with massive tail fins. It was dubbed
the White Shark. The car's engine once caught fire in the circular driveway
of the White House while Pickle was inside the mansion; Secret Service
agents doused the blaze.
Pickle's annual venison chili giveaway on
Texas Independence Day or San Jacinto Day grew so popular it almost capsized
under its own weight. By the time Pickle left office, his staff was rustling
up 300 pounds of deer meat -- enough for about 1,500 bowls cooked with
three-alarm heat, because no way could Yankees take the four-alarm Texan
But the private side of Pickle was equally
larger than life.
Every Christmas morning, Pickle would
conspire to arrive home via a different form of transportation, sporting
plaid pants, a striped shirt and a Santa coat and beard. Once he arrived on
a 1930s-era firetruck. Then there was a Bentley, a donkey and a motorcycle
with Beryl in the sidecar.
"He would have gifts in his pouch and drive
up with them to great fanfare," granddaughter Bergan Casey said.
The family, a blending of offspring from
Sugar and Beryl, was fully united, Casey said.
"He took a great interest in what the kids
and grandkids were doing, how they were doing in school, what trips they
were taking," she said. "Even when he was in Congress, he always made a
point to come to my high school activities and all the important milestones
in my life. I don't think a lot of politicians would choose to do that.
"Family was as important as his
constituency was, and believe me, they were important because we got dragged
to a lot of those events," Casey said, laughing and fighting tears at the