Reuben Senterfitt, 1917-2013

The Beaumont Enterprise reports that Reuben Senterfitt, a prominent former State Representative who served as the Speaker of the Texas House, has passed away at the age of 96.

Senterfitt, a native of San Saba County, is perhaps best known for helping to create the MD Anderson Cancer Center during his first term in office. At that time, 1941, he was only 23 years old, one of the youngest members of the State Legislature. Among his other accomplishments listed by the Enterprise are his support for Veterans welfare, Education reform and the creation of the Legislative Budget Board.

Heeding the call to his country, Senterfitt fought in World War II while in the Legislature, a tradition later followed by other State Representatives. After the war, he continued rising through the ranks until he became the Speaker of the House. For the second time in the State’s history, he served in the office for multiple consecutive terms.

Following two terms as Speaker and over ten in the Legislature, Senterfitt opted not to run for re-election in 1956, instead deciding to run for Governor. Three term incumbent Alan Shivers, a Conservative Democrat, was retiring and an all-star cast emerged to replace him in the Democratic primary, which at that time was tantamount to election.

US Senator Price Daniel and former Governor Papa O’Daniel appeared to be the main frontrunners, as well as conservative activist J. Evetts Haley and a Austin District Court Judge named Ralph Yarborough. Ultimately, Senterfitt underperfomed with a disappointing 2% of the vote. The conservative Daniel and liberal Yarborough eventually faced off in a runoff election, won by Daniel. However, the irony was not lost on Yarborough, who succeeded him in the US Senate.

After leaving office, Senterfitt resumed the practice of law in San Saba. He also served as both the City Attorney of San Saba City, an appointed position, and County Attorney of San Saba County, an elected one. 

Speaker Senterfitt brought a dignity and respect to the practice of politics nearly unheard of today. He put the interests of his constituents, his State and his country above all else, including not only his political future, but his life. Texas will miss him.

Reuben E. Senterfitt

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