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Texas Government

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I. Introduction

            Texas is a state in the south-central United States. It extends from the Gulf of México and the Rio Grande Valley into a heart of the Great Plains. Texas, with an area of 266, 807 square miles, ranked as the largest state in the Union for more than a century, and now is second only to Alaska in size. More than 7 percent of the total area of the United States is occupied by Texas.

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            To many people, the name Texas brings to mind dry, barren plains dotted by occasional cattle herds and oil wells.

In reality, there is great scenic variety, ranging from thick pine forests and long sandy beaches to beautiful mountains and canyons. There is as much variety in the state’s economy as in its scenery (Jordan, 2003). Cattle and oil are still very important in Texas, but they are now only part of a highly diversified economy that is dominated by manufacturing. Texas cities that had long been primarily market and oil-refining centers are now industrial and financial capitals of a multistate area.

            Despite the many changes that have taken place, Texans maintain a traditional pride in their state and its colorful history. They sometimes tend to think of Texas as a separate country. This feeling is at least partly due to the vastness and diversity of Texas, its numerous resources, and a spirit of independence that goes back to the days of the republic of Texas (Ridgeway, 2002).

            Thesis Statement: This paper scrutinizes the government of Texas in terms of its geography, history, economy, and education.

II. Background

A. Geography

            Texas occupies parts of four physiographic regions of the United States. From east to west they are Gulf Coastal Plain, the Central Lowlands, the Great Plains, and the Basin and Range.

             The Gulf Coastal Plain, extending from Mexico to Florida, covers eastern and southern Texas. It roughly parallels the Gulf of Mexico and consists of a series of lowlands separated by hilly areas. The area along the coast consists of several long, narrow islands and peninsula lying parallel to the mainland. Inland, the surface is at first flat, but it becomes hillier toward the interior (Richardson, 2006).

            On the other hand, all streams and rivers in Texas drain to the Gulf of Mexico. The Red and Canadian rivers are part of the Mississippi River system, but all other rivers in the state flow directly into the Gulf. The Rio Grande although the state’s longest river receives very little water from Texas as it flows along the 1,300-mile international border (Jordan, 2003). Its principal Texas tributary is the Pecos River.

            Many localities in Texas rely on wells for their water. Continuously increasing demands from agriculture and industry have threatened to exceed available supplies of well water. To provide reliable water supplies, many state and federal conservation projects have been undertaken throughout the state.

B. Its History

            Texas was inhabited by prehistoric peoples, who were nomadic hunters, as early as 12,000 to 15,000 years ago. When Europeans first came to the region, in the 16th century, there were 30, 000 to 40, 000 Indians in Texas. Of the many tribes in the area, the Caddoans were the most numerous then, but during the next 300 years Comanches became predominant.

            The Spanish Era. In 1519 Alonso Alvarez de Pineda led a sea expedition from the West Indies along the Texas coast and claimed the region for Spain. However, no permanent resulted from these explorations. In the late 17th century, the Spanish established missions near the Rio Grande in western Texas, at Ysleta (now part of El Paso) and Socorro (Pool, 2004).

            Spain largely ignored eastern Texas until it was claimed for France in 1685 by the Sieur de La Salle, who landed at Matagorda Bay. After the area had been explored, some of the party went eastward by land. Those who remained were wiped out by disease and Indians.

            American-Mexican Conflict. In 1803, by the Louisiana Purchase, the United States acquired land west of the Mississippi. To the southwest it adjoined Texas, which American adventurers were inclined to treat as unclaimed territory. There were several clashes between Spanish authorities and intruders (Pool, 2004). However, in 1821 the Spanish granted permission to Moses Austin to settle a group of American families in Texas.

            The American colony was established late in 1821 by Austin’s son, Stephen F. Austin, who had his father’s grant confirmed by newly independent Mexico. The original quota of 300 families was settled in the region west of present Houston. Austin obtained additional grants, and other American colonizers were permitted to bring in groups of no less than 200 families each. Soon the Americans far outnumbered the Mexicans.

            Development of Resources. Before the Civil War the population of Texas was concentrated in the eastern area, where there were rivers and wooden areas and sufficient rainfall for crops, especially cotton. Settlements in the western plains consisted largely of military posts forming a line of defense against the Comanches.

            Moreover, although oil had been discovered in Texas as early as 1866, it was not until the rich Spindletop field near Beaumont was opened in 1901 that an oil boom began. One discovery followed another (McDonald, 2003); the greatest was the East Texas field, in 1930-31. Agricultural developments of the 20th century included introduction of citrus groves in the lower Rio Grande valley and of cotton in the western plains.

            Modern Developments. In World War II a number of aviation plants were established in Texas and a petrochemical industry developed. Industrialization of the state increased rapidly in the postwar period. Extensive water-conservation projects provided not only for irrigation on a vast scale but for greater urban populations and for the demands of industry. In 1962 the federal government’s manned space center was established in Houston. In November, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while in Dallas, and Vice president Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded to the Presidency (Frantz, 2005). Johnson was the first Texan to become President.

            During the 1960’s, Texas schools were desegregated without major incident. The state underwent rapid population growth and urbanization during the 1970’s. Expansion of the oil and gas industries spurred economic development. In the early 1980’s, economic growth was halted for the first time since the Great Depression, with dropping oil prices and drought in western Texas being major factors. Conditions improved later in the decades (McDonald, 2003).

III. Discussion

A. Government

            Texas is governed under its fifth constitution, adopted in 1876 and frequently amended. The chief executive of the state is the governor. He is elected for a four-year term and may be reelected an unlimited number of times. The lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller of public accounts, the treasurer, the commissioner of agriculture, and the commissioner of the general land office are elected for four years. The secretary of state is appointed by the governor for a four-year term (Whisenhunt, 2004).

            The state legislature meets in odd-numbered years. It consists of a Senate elected for fours and a House of Representatives that are elected for two years. The judicial branch of the government is made up of a supreme court and several lower courts. The judges of all state courts are elected.

            Texas has 254 counties. It is represented in Congress by 2 senators and 27 representatives.

B. Its Economy

            Until the beginning of the 20th century the economy of Texas was based on farming, ranching, and lumbering. Then, in 1901, large-scale production of petroleum began following discovery of the Spindletop oil field near Beaumont. Since then, the economy of Texas has become closely bound to the production and distribution of petroleum, petroleum products, and natural gas and to such related industries as petroleum refining and the making of petrochemicals.

            Since roughly mid-century, diverse manufacturing industries have been established in the state especially notable are those in the electronic and aerospace fields (McDonald, 2003). Today, about 20 percent of the nonagricultural labor force is engaged in manufacturing. Wholesale and retail trade, the service industries, and government also employ large numbers of persons.

            These changes in the Texas economy reflect the demand, both from within and from outside the state, for an ever-widening variety of products. Abundant resources, especially petroleum and natural gas, a large labor force, relatively low wages, and large amounts of investment capital have helped bring about these changes (Adams, 2003).

            Manufacturing. Texas ranks among the top five manufacturing state by value of total output. While some industry is found throughout the state, most is centered in two areas: the Gulf Coast and the Black Prairie belt.

            Petroleum refining is still one of the major industries, but the largest is the manufacture of chemicals, including petrochemicals. Petrochemical plants use refinery products as raw materials, and a complex network of pipelines connects refineries and petrochemical plants (Pool, 2004). Among the petrochemical products are synthetic rubber and fibers, plastics, detergents, and fertilizers.

            The manufacture of transportation equipment is centered around Dallas-Fort worth. Products include not only automobiles and trucks, but military and civil aircraft and boats and ships. Other important industries include manufacture of machinery, particularly construction and oil-field machinery; processed foods; electrical and electronic equipment; primary metals; clothing; stone, clay, and glass products; and printed and published materials. The commercial forests of eastern Texas supply wood for paper mills and for a wide variety of manufactured items (Pool, 2004).

            Agriculture. Texas ranks third in the nation by total of agricultural output, after California and Iowa. About 80 percent of the state is occupied by ranches and farms. Less than 15 percent of the farmland is used fro crops; the rest is used mostly for grazing livestock. Some of the ranches are extremely large, covering 150, 000 to 1, 000, 000 acres (Richardson, 2006). These large “spread,” however, are far less common than in the past.

            The more than 200 crops raised in Texas account for about 40 percent of the total agricultural income. The state ranks first nationally in the production of grain sorghum and, in most years, of cotton. Cotton is grown in most Texas counties, but principally in the Lubbock area, the Black Prairie belt, and the lower Rio Grande Valley. Most of the crop is grown with the aid of irrigation. Cotton seed, used to make livestock feed and vegetable oil, is a valuable by-product. Corn, wheat, and rice are also major crops (Ridgeway, 2002). Rice is produced in the coastal lowlands, and is entirely dependent of irrigation.

            Southern and eastern Texas is nationally famous for the production of fruits and vegetables, particularly winter and early spring varieties. The lower Rio Grande Valley grows grapefruit and oranges, as well as called Winter Garden area west of San Antonio and the area around Corpus Christi are also prominent fruit and vegetable sources.

            In the Panhandle and in north-central Texas feed grains, wheat, hay are major crops. Part of the grain is not harvested, but is left in the field for grazing.

            Texas leads all other states in numbers of cattle, sheep, and goats. Cattle are raised throughout Texas, but primarily in the eastern half of the state. Sheep and goats are almost entirely limited to the Edwards and Stockton plateaus. Nearly all of the nation’s production of mohair comes from Angora goats raised in Texas (Adams, 2003). Large numbers of poultry, including broilers and turkeys, are also raised in the state.

            Mining. Texas is also the leading producer of sulfur. Production is from underground domes and from natural gas and petroleum processing and refining operations. Magnesium, used principally for making light-weight allows, is obtained by extraction from seawater and from underground brine. In the Panhandle are several processing plants that extract helium from natural gas (McDonald, 2003).

            Other minerals include coal; salt, used primarily in the state’s chemical industry; sand and gravel; clays; and gypsum. Some natural asphalt, used in road construction, is produced in Texas.

            Fishing. By the value of its catch, Texas is one of the nation’s top fishing states. Shrimp account for all but a tiny part of the catch’s value; the rest come mainly from other shellfish, especially oysters and blue crab (Frantz, 2005).

            Transportation. Texas has the largest network of primary and secondary roads in the United States. The primary system, which connects all major Texas cities, includes seven Interstate routes and many miles of other multilane divided highways.   Railway mileage is also the largest of any state, but, as in most other states, has declined for many years. Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston are the chief railway hubs.

            Six major poets serve Texas. Houston, connected to the gulf by the 50-mile Houston Ship Channel, is the state’s largest port and ranks among the busiest ports in the country. Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Texas City, Port Arthur, and Freeport also handle heavy cargo tonnages (Frantz, 2005). Crude petroleum is overwhelmingly the leading import; refined petroleum products, chemicals, and grains are among the chief exports. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, paralleling the coast from Brownsville to the Sabine River and eastward, carries such cargo on barges and other shallow-draft vessels.

            Dozens of domestic and foreign airline provide scheduled air service in Texas. International airports at Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio attract the largest number of carriers. The Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Airport is one of the busiest airports in the nation (Jordan, 2003).

C. Education

            The state board of education is composed of one member elected from each congressional district. The board appoints a commissioner of education, with the consent of the Texas senate, to serve for four years. Administration of the state school system is carried out by the Texas Education Agency, made up of the board of education, the commissioner of education, and the board of vocational education. School attendance is compulsory from age 7 to age 16 (Ridgeway, 2002).

            When Texas gained its independence from Mexico in 1836, it could not afford to provide free education. However, in 1839 each county was allotted land to be used for the support of public schools, and in the 1840’s Houston offered free instruction to children too poor to pay the tuition rates there (Jordan, 2003). By the 1850’s a few communities had free schools, and in 1854 the state legislature set up a permanent school fund to help the counties provide public education. A statewide public school system was established in 1884, with compulsory attendance for children from 8 to 16. Meanwhile, Texas’ first public high school opened in Brenham in 1875.

IV. Conclusion

            In conclusion, Texas government has done its best to bring progress and developments to the state itself. It has contributed much to the history of United States of America. On the other hand, it has natural resources that would help the state brings forth more products which the entire nation benefits from it.

            Since its government is in accordance to the judicial law of the United States of America, its policies and political system are also under the administration of the nation.


Adams, Carolyn (2003). Stars over Texas, revised edition (Eakin).
Frantz, J.B. (2005). Texas: Bicentennial History (Norton).
Jordan, J.G. (2003). Texas (Westview Press).
McDonald, A.P. (2003). Texas: All Hail the Mighty State (Eakin).
Pool, W.C. (2004). The Historical Atlas of Texas (Encino Press).
Richardson, R.N. (2006). Texas: the Lone Star State, 7th edition (Prentice-Hall).
Ridgeway, John (2002). Off the Beaten Track: a Texas Travel Handbook   (Transatlantic Arts).
Whisenhunt, D.W. (2004). Texas: a Sesquicentennial Celebration (Eakin).

Cite this Texas Government

Texas Government. (2017, Feb 05). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/texas-government/

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