Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country
of West Texas
By Peggy McCracken
Tuesday, August 17, 1999
Bunton's memoirs include
letters from the family
When the phone page came for me at mid-afternoon Friday, I was struggling
with a topic for today's column.
"I thought you would meet me at the city limits," said a raspy, though
familiar, voice that I couldn't quite place.
"I don't know," I said, stalling for time. "Why didn't I?"
"This is Lucius Bunton," said my favorite judge, who was calling from
his chambers across the street from the newspaper office. He was filling
in for Ginger Berrigan, the first woman district judge ever to preside
in the Pecos Division. She had to catch a return flight to New Orleans,
and her fourth jury trial of the week was running a little long, so Judge
Bunton got the nod.
While the jury was deliberating, we talked about the Bunton memoirs
and research he is doing for another book about the Western District of
Judge Bunton is a trivia buff, and he gave me colorful details about
some of the judges who have served the district that once stretched from
Brownsville to El Paso and covered 92,000 square miles in 68 counties —
larger than Utah.
Galveston was the first site of a federal court in Texas - 1945. Presumably
that is because Galveston was the largest city in Texas at the time and
was on the coast where federal cases were filed over maritime matters.
"We just had one judge authorized until 1917," Bunton said. Most of
the time court was held in the post office or another federal building.
In Brownsville, it was the Customs building that hosted court.
Judges during that time had their quirks, as I suppose they still do.
One judge had been superintendent of a lunatic asylum. That was probably
good training for federal court.
One judge was born outside the continental United States. His parents,
U.S. citizens, were in Canada when their son was born, so he was a U.S.
Another was nominated twice by the Republicans for governor of Texas,
but he didn't get elected. He was appointed to the federal bench by Republican
President Herbert Hoover.
Three judges were former congressmen. Two were 68 years old when they
were appointed. One lived only three years, but the other, Ewing Thomasson,
lived to be 90-plus and served a long time.
Judge Bunton was appointed to the Pecos Division in 1979 by President
Jimmy Carter. He took senior status while the new courthouse was under
construction, and everything went downhill for awhile after a new judge
Some of that controversy is mentioned in his memoirs, along with interesting
trials he has held here and elsewhere. But I think the most fascinating
part of the judge's memoirs is about his travels all over the world, usually
with wife Mary Jane and often with the children, Cay and Buddy.
I don't care much about travel myself, but enjoy reading about different
parts of Texas, the United States and other countries. I spent most of
the weekend reading the memoirs and accompanying letters the judge, then
known as "Cater," wrote to his family, and those they wrote to him while
he was a student at the University of Texas and serving in the Army during
World War II.
Those memoirs and letters are not for sale, but the history of the Western
District of Texas will be. At least enough copies will be made for all
the judges and the lawyers who want one, and I am hoping it will be made
available to the public. A lot goes on in federal court, and few people
are there to see it first-hand.
Unfortunately, Judge Bunton's return to the bench was only temporary.
He says he will not take any more criminal cases, but will do some civil
work later. He still is pretty weak from extensive surgery. It was good
to have him back, even for a little while.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is a reporter and webmaster
whose column appears once a month in this space. Her e-mail address is:
email@example.com, and her web page is
Community center could be used by everyone
I would like to respond to Herman Tarin, the Reeves County Commissioners
Court, and to the Concerned Citizens Of Balmorhea about the article in
the Enterprise on August 10, 1999. Without the help of the Well Kept Community
Club, there would never have been a Balmorhea Senior Center.
Due to the aging of their active members, they were responsible for
the organizing of the Senior Center. They have given us the free use of
their building and sponsored us for twenty-two years. It was Community
Club money that the center began operation on. They were always there for
us, helping with our fund raisers, and giving us support any way they could,
even the club itself was inactive. It is being said in Balmorhea that the
Senior Citizens have been `kicked' out of the WKCC building. This is not
Two years ago, I contacted the WKCC and suggested that we become active
as a Community Club again. The number of people attending the Center and
riding the Center Van were declining rapidly. Many of our Seniors had died,
some went into nursing homes, and others moved because of the death of
their spouse, or to be closer to their families. This past two years, we
have lost many more.
In 1998, we barely met our budget requirements to continue to draw full
federal funding from the Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission. This
year, we have not met the requirements and are now receiving less than
half the money that was alloted us. Each year we are supposed to earn $2,500
as program income toward our part in the support of the Center. As of August
1st, we have only been able to raise $1050.
With only two months left on our year, we are still short $1425.
Florence Mooney and Judge Bill Pigman got our first grant from Permian
Basin in 1984. The first seven years the center operated, it was under
the support of the Well Kept Community Club. We owe the WKCC a big "THANK
YOU", for their support and the use of their building for twenty-two years.
Herman, I keep being told that you are saying "The money is there, all
we have to do is ask for it." I keep telling them, "The money is there,
but, we have to earn it. There is a `big' difference between the words
`ask' and `earn'.
When a person rides the Van, they are asked to fill out a form with
their name, address, Social Security Number, and birthdate. This information
is put into the computer and daily records are kept, which also goes into
the computer. Each month these computer print-out's along with back up
records are sent to Permian Basin.
We receive funding only on persons riding t he van over the age of 60.
Younger persons are allowed to ride if space is available, but we do not
receive funding on them. Approximately 75% of our federal funding is for
the van participation.
If the `need' for the Center is so great, why don't persons come on
days when we are not having a luncheon. The coffee pot is always on - why
not just stop in for a cup of coffee, a visit, and sign the register? This,
would show your support. The van goes to Toyah on Tuesdays and Thursdays
for a nice lunch and visit with the persons living there. It is a good
lunch and a pleasant trip. Also, how are the many needy persons over 60
in our community going to Pecos for the past two years? We have a nice
van, contributions are voluntary, but they don't ride the van and help
us to keep it operating. The truth is that at the age of 60+, the all day
trip is too hard on them. We leave at 9:00 in the morning and seldom get
home until 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. In our summer heat, that's too long a day.
They either have to stand in the stores or sit in a hot van for the seniors
that shop slowly. Since we only have four persons who need the use of the
van, Donna Woodard has offered to send the van to Balmorhea and take them
to Pecos twice a month. I believe it is very foolish to tie up a building
for only four daily participants to play cards when the whole community
could use it as a Community Club again. I believe it is a crime to spend
$18,000 a year, even though some people say "It's only government money."
It is also `our' money, whether it comes from Federal, State, County or
Program Income. We don't need a Senior Citizen Center, the lack of participation
in this one has proven that.
What we do need is a building where not only people over 60 could use,
but people of all ages could use. It needs to have floors that can be danced
on, that even our teenagers could use. A building where a child could attend,
and if it spilled a tray of food or a red soda, it wouldn't be a disaster.
Herman, since most of the `concerned citizens' are under the age 60,
the whole community could work toward this and pull together instead of
pulling apart. This issue is becoming very political and is causing a lot
of hard feelings in our town. You are going to have to earn $2500 this
next year to qualify for federal funding for a Center. Use this as matching
funds and apply for grants, and build a center that everyone can use. This
would be a `real vote getter'. Let's stop the fighting and work together.
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York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Peggy McCracken, Webmaster
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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