YEARS OF EXPANSION (1950-1955)
Other events in Houston during 1953 included recognition as the nation’s most air-conditioned city, the beginning of the Armed Forces Center with the opening of the Organized Reserve Corps Armory, and a visit to Houston by General Douglas MacArthur with his wife and son. After a city-wide competition, the Chamber of Commerce adopted as a new slogan: "Houston—America’s Industrial Frontier."
In his comments at the annual meeting of the Chamber of Commerce in December, Colonel Bates said: "The Chamber of Commerce revitalized interest in a United Fund Campaign to consolidate local and national charitable appeals. Plans for such a drive, started in 1948 upon recommendation of the Chamber of Commerce, had been dormant for more than a year when community leaders were encouraged to get it off of dead-center. In establishing the foundation for the successful United Fund Drive, the first in the Southwest, the Lifetime Roundup Club members (of the Chamber of Commerce) assumed the responsibility of contacting the heads of several hundred larger firms to secure their cooperation and to extend payroll deduction privileges to their employees.
When the United Fund raised $3,817,589 against a goal of $3,625,623 in the fall of 1951, it brought to realization the dream of several years to combine all fund-raising campaigns for welfare and health agencies in a single annual drive. Hines H. Baker was the first Board Chairman of the United Fund, with C. E. Naylor as President, and Howard T. Tellepsen as Campaign Chairman.
"The United Fund is a response to the demand from those who support local and national welfare agencies that the number of individual solicitations be reduced," Mr. Baker said. "It is the hope of the United Fund board that the purposes of these welfare agencies may be carried forward with increasing support and effectiveness while at the same time their funds may be secured with more efficiency and less demands of time and energy on the part of those who give and solicit."
The problems involved in campaigns to raise funds for welfare and health agencies had led several years before to the creation of an Appeals Review Board. T. A. Swigart, chairman of this board, told the Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee early in 1950 that further steps would have to be taken and that W. A. Smith, as head of the Community Chest, had named a committee to explore four possibilities: the strengthening of the Appeals Review Board, a federated spring drive for the appeals of national health groups, expansion of the Community Chest, or a United Fund drive of the type that had proven successful in Michigan. When W. M. Wheless, chairman of this special committee, met with the Chamber of Commerce Board later in the year, he was urged to give serious consideration to the United Fund type of drive.
At the request of Colonel Bates early in 1951, I attended a conference in Kansas City at which the Michigan Plan of a United Fund was explained. After returning, Colonel Bates and I met with Mr. Swigart and other members of the Appeals Review Board to discuss a resumption of activity to find a solution to the local problem. Colonel Bates reported this to the Executive Committee on February 20, 1951, and Mr. Wheless explained that the matter had been dropped the year before since it was feared it might be hurtful to the Community Chest drive. With the support of the Chamber of Commerce, the Retail Merchants Association, the newspapers and the major givers, however, he said his committee was ready to go ahead with efforts for a united drive. Assured of Chamber of Commerce and newspaper support, the committee called a conference of major givers on May 10th, to hear Mr. William F. Hufstader, chairman of the Detroit United Fund, explain how successful their two united drives had been. With the enthusiastic endorsement of this group, the United Fund was organized without further delay.
Early in 1951, disturbed by trends in national and international affairs and by an apathetic attitude on the part of the general public toward traditional standards of citizenship, Colonel Bates got Chamber of Commerce concurrence in asking D. A. Simmons to head a committee which would prepare for the Chamber of Commerce a statement of policy on citizenship responsibility. Mr. Simmons was ideally endowed to accept such an assignment. As past president of the American Bar Association, the American Judicature Society, and the Texas Bar Association, as well as a leader in civic and religious activities, he had long been an outstanding leader in efforts for sound government and strong citizenship.
Anticipating the formation of the committee, Mr. Simmons drafted a resolution for submission to such a committee and delivered it to Colonel Bates for review. While returning to his home not many hours later, Mr. Simmons suffered a heart attack which claimed his life the following morning. His statement, adopted by the Houston Chamber of Commerce, was hailed nationally and internationally, being reprinted and repeated time after time throughout the country, and being recognized by a top award from the Freedoms Foundation. His "Resolution for Adoption by the People of America" follows:
"If the principles of this great democratic republic are based on Christianity, as they are; if freedom is preferable to slavery, as it must be; if our leaders—local, state and national—are the servants of the people and not their masters; then the people are entitled to demand of them honesty in their personal conduct; loyalty to the people and to the principles of decency and constitutional government; faithfulness to their trust—not mere absence of illegality—in their conduct of governmental affairs; and, above all, an example of competence in the handling of our affairs, domestic and foreign, and frugality in the handling of the people’s money, so as to inspire the people to be competent and frugal in the handling of their own.
"The responsibility of leaders is to furnish leadership. Our so-called Asiatic ‘policy’ of indecision and confusion is being paid for in blood in Korea and tears at home; and we, in our pain, engaged in ‘Operation Killer,’ are wreaking a bloody vengeance on little people who have had the misfortune to fall victims of a criminal leadership which has forced them into slavery. Where is the voice of a Woodrow Wilson to proclaim the principles of right and justice to oppressed peoples and to arouse them to throw off their yoke?
"Has America fallen so low in the esteem of mankind that no one can hear what we say about ideals and principles for seeing the way we act about them here? The concept that we have to buy friends to keep them from siding with Russia is a concept from the lowest strata of ‘practical politics’. Our opulence earns the envy of the nations to whom we throw large sums of money; the hatred of those to whom we do not; and, inevitably, the denunciation of the beneficiaries when we stop.
"Jefferson’s ‘Equal rights for all; special privilege for none’ has been thrown out the window. ‘Special privileges for all’ gets more votes.
"We are sick unto death of the scrambling for power of little men in high office; of the influence peddlers; of the traitors and fellow travelers; of whitewashing of friend and Party; of the appointment to office of men without merit but with pull; of gamblers and crooks, politicians and fixers. The stench rises as high as an atom bomb’s smoke. "What we need is Men—men who are worthy of
...the offices they fill,
....the country they serve,
......the boys who fight and die on the bloody fields of ‘police action’,
...the principles to which we pay lip service, and
...our forefathers, those unknown men who became great by their dreams and hopes for a great people, a great country, a great world.
"For men are not born great. They are born with a capacity to become great. If, in periods of emergency, their every decision is selfless and each vote they cast is for the good of our Country, they will be good men and great patriots.
"A people become great by following great leadership.
"A world will become great by following a great nation.
"The time is NOW.
"What are we waiting for?
"All we need is for men, big or little, to make selfless decisions, and to vote always: ‘For the Good of our Country’, whether it leaves one in or out of office, or makes one rich or poor.
"In this great emergency, we beg every one in office or out of office to adopt this Resolution."
Responding to such a challenge, and with the build-up of the national defense overshadowing all other interests during 1951, the Houston Chamber of Commerce gave support to the defense program in many ways. It supervised local arrangements for the two-week Field Economic Mobilization meeting, held to familiarize selected military reservists and civilian leaders with the details and responsibilities of total mobilization. It supported local civilian defense activities, assisted with the formal opening of the ORC Armory as the first unit in the Armed Forces Center, which itself was planned by the Military Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Commerce; and served as a center of information on mobilization and regulations, assisting in governmental procurement efforts and starting a long-range scrap-mobilization drive to help relieve the critical steel shortage.
The year of 1952 opened with prosperous business conditions, but with a continuing threat of inflation as the problem of economic mobilization for the Korean conflict left a trail of price and wage distortions. Continued large outlays for plant and equipment, the stepped-up defense expenditures and the high level of employment combined for a steady expansion of the economy. News during the year centered around the presidential campaign of Eisenhower and Nixon for the Republicans and Stevenson and Sparkman for the Democrats. President Truman signed the peace treaty with Japan on April 15, 1952, after armistice negotiations had got under way in Korea in July 1951. The issue of civil rights for Negroes was intensified during the 1952 presidential campaign. The keel for the first atomic submarine, the "Nautilus", was laid, and three dimensional movies were introduced, as reports of flying saucers, panty raids and prison riots became prevalent.
Speaking at the 1951 annual banquet of the Chamber of Commerce in mid-December, General Robert E. Wood, Chairman of the Board of Sears, Roebuck & Company, said: "I prophesy that within 50 years, Texas will lead all other states of the union in population and wealth, that it will have the most economic and political power of any state, and that Houston will be the fourth or fifth city in the United States in point of size."
The Tax Research Association, in its fourth annual report, pointed out the cost of urban growth. Expenditures for the operations of the County, Flood Control District, Navigation District, Schools, and City of Houston amounted to $20,305,557.47 in 1939 and jumped to $57,587,853.03 in 1950, an increase of 283.6 percent. Bond funds spent in 1951 alone by these major units totaled $33,031,471.16. If all the 57 taxing units in Harris County in 1950 had been included, it would have shown tax collections of $81,469,735.47. Counting their bond expenditures, these 57 units of local government spent $105,746,453.18. Total bonded debt of these same units was $183,768,539.
The tidelands issue continued as a matter of primary statewide interest. Attorney General Price Daniel said: "The four-to-three Supreme Court decision denied us the right to introduce evidence and ignored our solemn contract of annexation in which these lands were retained by Texas." Governor Allan Shivers said: "The tidelands issue transcends the interests of any state or group. It poses the direct threat of nationalization as opposed to states rights and individual enterprise. If the ‘paramount rights’ doctrine is applicable to our submerged lands, it is applicable in other areas. Carried to its logical conclusion, this means we are moving toward a concept of government that is repugnant to the thinking of free-minded Texans."
A study of population trends made in 1952 showed that the Gulf Coast area had been the fastest growing area of Texas from 1930 to 1950. The 34 counties in the Houston-Gulf Coast area grew from 1,177,556 to 2,116,142, or 79.7 percent, during this period. Twenty-seven of the 34 counties showed population increases. The 56 counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth-North Texas area grew from 1,971,153 to 2,356,265, or 19.53 percent, during this same period. Only 10 of those 56 counties increased, and the other 46 showed population declines in the 20-year period. The 33 counties in the San Antonio-Southwest Texas area increased from 703,880 to 886,290, or 25.9 percent, with 19 of the counties showing increased population. The 28 counties in the Lubbock-Northwest Texas area increased from 296,993 to 385,435, or 29.8 percent, with 12 of the counties increasing. The development of the surrounding area has contributed to Houston’s more rapid growth, and the importance of this fact has been responsible for an increasing portion of the activity of the Houston Chamber of Commerce coming to be conducted on an area-wide basis.
Problems of growth continued as matters of concern to Houston and to the Chamber of Commerce. One of these matters of concern, recognized in 1952 by the Chamber of Commerce, was that of air pollution. A series of meetings was held with local and state public-health officials, private citizens and industrial representatives. A program was developed to combine the joint efforts of these to work for the abatement of any existing air-pollution conditions and to design a plan to control future contamination. Under the leadership of R. B. Kahle and C. E. Lyon, the Pollution Committee of the Chamber of Commerce operated in three areas—air pollution, stream pollution, and policies. A survey made by the Air Pollution Subcommittee, in which 1,100 Harris County firms were contacted, showed that over $12,000,000 had been locally allocated or expended for air-pollution abatement equipment, in addition to several million dollars spent during a several-year period by channel industries on stream-pollution abatement.
At the conclusion of an active year, President Sydnor Oden of the Chamber of Commerce could look back on twelve months of full achievement.