On November 22, 1868, John Nance Garner was born the eldest of 13 children in a humble log cabin in Detroit, Texas, Red River County. He later became U.S. Vice President under Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first two terms (1933-41) and contributed to many New Deal policies as a seasoned member of Congress.
After growing up near Detroit, Garner left at 18 to attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He stayed just one semester due to poor health and returned to the Red River County seat of Clarksville, where he read the law and joined the bar in 1890.
After being passed over for the city attorney position in Clarksville, Garner moved to Uvalde, Texas, where he joined the practice of Clark and Fuller. While running for election as county judge in 1893, his opponent was Mariette “Ettie” Reiner, whom he married in 1895. The couple had a son named Tully in 1896.
Garner was elected to the Texas legislature in 1898 and served until 1902. He earned the nickname of “Cactus Jack” during this time because he supported the prickly pear cactus as the state flower though the bluebonnet won instead.
He was elected to Congress in 1903 and served 15 consecutive terms until 1933. He became Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1931 and was a serious presidential candidate in 1932 with financial backing from publisher William Randolph Hearst. FDR chose Garner as his running mate after Garner threw in his 90 electoral votes and the pair won the election.
Garner made many of Roosevelt’s New Deal policies possible through his political knowledge, persuasion, and influence. He became the president’s liaison with Congress and greatly influenced the actions of the party’s new Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn of Bonham in Fannin County.
During his second term, the vice president dissented with and openly opposed some of Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, and may have prevented the completion of the New Deal. He ran for president in 1940 mainly to oppose Roosevelt’s election to a third term but failed to win votes in the primaries.
Garner left Washington after FDR’s third inauguration after 38 years in government service. He and Ettie returned to Uvalde and lived a quiet and secluded life. Garner died November 7, 1967, a few days before his 99th birthday and is buried in Uvalde, Texas.