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Gib Lewis (Former Texas Speaker of the House) RMH: 33

Gib Lewis

Former Texas Speaker of the House

Gibson Donald Lewis or ‘Gib’ as he’s known is a legend in Texas politics.  From his beginnings in Oletha to Carswell Air Force Base, TCU, and on to becoming Speaker of the House in 1983 Gib has carved his own path.  In this episode of FORTitude Gib discusses what the term working across the aisle meant back in the day. He reminisces with JW and Brinton on being civil while fighting tooth and nail to get legislation passed and the pride he still has in passing the 1984 education act.  Gib talks about his early business career and how labels were the path to success.

Audio Only

Episode Transcription: 



Howdy folks welcome back to FORTitude



that was terrible in the state fairs back in town so I thought I’d throw it in there just to spice it up a bit I



mean that like that was the guy though just stand there waving to people you know,



we have to we have to apologize to our guests here in a second.



They aren’t good. This is really a professional show.



We have in house the legendary Gib Lewis. So thank you for joining us gib before we get to that we got we had a couple of opinions from some of our listeners. Apparently Brinton 1 of our episodes in the past we discussed wearing masks somebody thought that was too political Do



you not see where I stopped? Like I started to go with the political rant on either side or whatever. And I just stopped myself and that was too political



right? My point My point being is we are not here for our opinions we’re here for our opinions of our guests like Mr. Lewis Yes, we’re



gonna get his opinion on many things



we do not hope to influence you Brinton  and I we want our guests to share their stories. This one happens to be incredible. And you guys decide for yourself what to believe what not to believe. But whether we tell you yes or no on any issue should not influence you guys. Everybody



believes speaker give Louis Yeah. By the way, welcome



back to the show. From COVID. So we’re glad to have you back. Thank you. You look great. Thanks.



So it’s it’s good give I know I wrote in the elevator with you. But um, if you list so



I have my shops.



Okay. I still got it.



We want to remind our listeners give that people can follow us and find more information, find episodes, this episode will be on there as well. or on Twitter. Do you have a Twitter account? No. You know what that is?



And that’s why I don’t have one



good smart man smart man. Well, if you were on Twitter, and you went to @fortitudefw you could find the fortitude show so, okay. And additionally on the fourth Inc website, where which now houses some of our shows. So great, thank you. Well, without further ado, Mr. Gib Lewis, welcome to the show.



Thank you very much good to be here with you.



We’re honored to have you’ve got it, you’ve lived a life of interest in a political prestige. So we’d like to dive right in. Okay, where do we begin this one written back back in the early childhood or?



Yeah, where do you want us to start? I mean, most illustrious part of your your life, but you’ve got an interesting life all the way up, you know, serve this country and, and bit of Fort Worth business owner and contributor to the community. So let’s go through the background a little bit, I guess first, so you weren’t born here?



No mountain born in limestone County. What’s your bet? Oh, one county over from waco.



Okay. And then Central Texas. And then Mahalia, did you grow up there? Or do you grew up?



I grew up in my hair, my grade school in my hair. And then in high school, I moved down to Ableton for a year. Okay. And then my grandfather, whom I always spent all holidays with my grandmother, her grandfather, and he died and I went and lived my grandmother. My life two years and hashCode. Okay, then what over Sam Houston state in Huntsville. And then from there, I went into the military when Air Force, and blue and B 36. is in by remember be 36? Isn’t beat 50 twos and oh, yeah,



of course we’ll correct. That’s correct. was just with Eric Fox yesterday, commenting on the 52. Yep. That’s how I got here



in the service in the Air Force at cars. Will you started going to classes at TCU? Correct? That’s right. What classes are you taking?



But just basically,



how was your experience at TCU?



I love to see you. You got a particular come to mind. I was just great. School was great



school indeed. So yeah.



And then you got out and you started working for the paper company, right? That’s correct. And then he said, Look, I can do this better. So I’m going to go do my own thing. So Tell, tell us about lose?



Well, I want for obsolete paper gun, which is a great, great company. I mean, I had those paper, just Power Stars. This word I’m concerned. They taught me a lot. They told me about good business principles. And, and and when I told them that I was leaving and starting my own business, they were very supportive. I mean, he wouldn’t get mad and I yeah, and I became one of my better customers. Sure. So it was it was great working for me in quarter one and open up those label products and what that was, as a business that deal with labeling products, you know, it’d be like that bottle of water there. It has a label on it. Yeah. And you go into a grocery store, you say labels on everything that’s on the shelf. And that’s what we did. We specialize in making, printing labels that go on product food products, mainly about 90% of our business was in food products.



What do you have to go and buy the print? Was that the deal you said, Okay, I’m going to get the print, press and then I’m just going to go get that business and just start printing these labels as right?



What year did Louis label start? 6464? Okay,



they’re always at the same location over off of



ran away improves every time we, we move at four or five times into the current location. Sure,



wherever some people see some of those label products, things, what type of products? What brands?



Well, any food products, you know, like our Oh, camel sausage is a good example. We did that businesses, all of our old camel sausage businesses for years, and then a lot of people don’t know, packaging is what would mainly, I guess you say, people that bobbin or any kind of hard packaging, we could do that. So just and we specialize in packaging. And that was it. You know, if you sure you look at any product that’s got a label, and we we did that label or that one like it? Yeah,



fantastic. Now you’re going through running this company, then something happens to you that brings you into the political sphere. Tell us about that.



Well, religious garnishment is opposite of corruption, what a great company. And one time they were community orientated. And one thing they wanted was all their salesmen which herself and forum, be involved in the community, and to join service clubs. And at one time, I was a member and president of the river Lions Club. I was a member and president of the Fort Worth Jaycees. And at that time, we had some, like 350 members that attended luncheons every Wednesday. And then I was in kawana. You know, we were almost in an ever civic club, spend all my time eating breakfast and lunch. So the Civic clubs here, but during that period of time, I went up the ranks who served as president of each and every one of them. He was and so I let’s love a couple of guys again, I’m Korto jack. JACK, I’m trying to tell you his last name now. But anyway, I let him talk me into going going to the legislature. And they approached me about running. I said, I got a new business here. I can’t I can’t afford it and take off. We go to Austin Yeoman and be a member of the legislature.



Are you familiar with the legislature at the time and not read it? Yeah, running your business, right?



Yes, I didn’t have much of an issue and I didn’t know that much about him. Right But I’ve never been Austin never been in the capital that point. Yeah. And so rather than talk me into any Coach, what they did, at that time, I was paying myself $1,000 a month. And and and I thought I had pretty good



Yeah, I got paid for doing this show. That’s good.



But everyone, I would pay myself that and so I don’t have the time so called out. How’s it? Well, listen, so you don’t take all that much time. Of course, both those guys in the office fly business here in town that time is it doesn’t take that much time. So you know, even go down on a Monday morning, they don’t go into a session till about two o’clock. And then you have session for Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday. And Thursday, we go into session real early, where you can get out and be home and what he said I’m not at home by four o’clock on Thursday. So really your employees Thank you only been going three days. That was the rationale. Yeah. Or Saturday? Yeah, is it Plus, you get paid $400 a month. Oh, wow. And I love that man as a as a big increase at the forums, they may increase. Pay mostly out now. Yeah. And so I put my hat in the ring and, and I’m running my opponent that time and so named Bob Burnett, who’s a lawyer from Oregon, and Arlington. And I never, I never knew him before I signed up to run. I got to know unreal, well, back in those days, politics were different than what we were doing. We’d also get in a band and go to breakfast at the narsad Lions Club or we’d go to another luncheon that somebody else had. And all the candidates get up give us a spiel on who they were and what their background was. And



so you guys would ride together. When would you What would you discuss like what are you going to say about me at this



point you never you never do we didn’t get into those steps that you gave your qualification what you thought were your qualification? Yep. And what you would like to do or



there was this thing like respectful when you



In fact, that’s when I met my opponent. And first when I met him, I turned around I told Ricardo I said, you know good sob. I said I won’t get my butt beat so bad. That I won’t even know I won’t even be able to show my face and Turner county Yeah, Jose, we ran county wide also right. And we became very good friends. Mm hmm. To the point that first thing I did When I got elected after I defeated him and he had been in the legislature How can you defeated him what what do you think that was I by just the contract without it made through the Civic clubs yeah active in the communities and all over and and but but first thing I did was Preston Smith was the governor at that time Yeah. And and I gained a lot of respect for for him and Joe went for governor as a governor. You got it. You got a judgeship opening up in Tarrant County. I said Do I have a Gaffey Oh wow, so he got appointed and and we’ve got we’ve had already become good friends.



So let me just get this straight. This is so different from where we are now. Oh you got a guy who ran against you. You defeated him and then you go help him get his next spot by getting a gubernatorial appointment and do a



great judge because he would have been a better good he had been a good legislator I just didn’t know it yeah, that just goes I was so naive about everything out here and I wasn’t aware of it before I read it entail to be a member of the legislature



give what would you say was your story your strengths at that point in your life? What were you what was four things you were doing that people resonated with and liked about you?



I don’t know. You know, you never know I mean, you know, it seemed to be every thing I was involved in when I became president and so I guess everybody thought I had leadership qualities or whatever it might be good observers President about five or six different clubs organizations at that time and you know, stayed pretty well organized about plus running the business at the same thing so that’s one of the accident I can give them so the



same kind of thing happened in the legislature so how long were you a member of the legislature before you were elected speaker?



I was a member for eight years provided speaker Okay, and so how did all that come about you



think about some way Yeah, yeah, you just got to know the process and



well you get to know the process and and the interesting thing too is is out appointed chairman of a major committee my second term which had never happened and the speaker that time appointed me of a chairman of the natural resource committee which had an all engaged partially water everything under that category. And so that helped me because half the bills that were introduced came before my committee and you get a strong bond with those people who try to get some through



Sure. And I think that that was because it’s such a good strong relationship with the speaker he gave it to you because there was some heavy lifting that



I like it both Yeah, Yeah, I think so when



you became speaker you beat a man by Bill Clinton. Was this somebody you knew right? I didn’t beat Bill Clinton if you’re retired he retired he ran for speaker you are you in this Mr. Clayton? Did you guys know each other



yeah we knew each other very well how did that how was that relationship once



you took over just friendly



well he retired so he wasn’t around right after that



so it was he helpful in your in your he was because



I never did intend to run for speaker that was not on my mind I plan on coming back to Fort Worth and trying to make a living is what I had planned on doing and and i staff several people on my staff that worked for me in the public committee and whatever about eight or nine staff people and we all had a barbecue at my apartment one night and I said I didn’t want to get your all together let you know I’m not going to run for the legislature anymore which I plan on getting out of the legislature



we’re going to announce to them that you’re not going to run anymore. Yeah, and I did.



So what you mean by things you want to run for speaker and buy things you want to be the next speaker I said who came up with that crazy idea about it and I haven’t and so I’ll tell you what I’ll do I said I’m gonna make five calls or stops tomorrow the next few days. And I said better this person this person this person and I said the first person I meet with is a speaker Yeah, so that’s the first one I went to the next day and talked to me and I said it was big I said I’ve had some people kind of waiting on my leg and tell me it’s raining and I just want to let you know that I’m not going to do anything long you’re involved in it sure any watch as I’m thinking about going my head in for speaker when you leave here I think it’s a great idea to have better already thanks that’s gonna be the case. I don’t want to know somebody tell me



Yeah, you have to even go to the other four at that point or



I went to him anyway and I get asked the question turns me down so don’t do it. I’m not going to do it which I plan on to ever happen hmm ever happen everybody.



Not only did you when you were the first person to win it five times running. So unplowed? Incredible. Yeah. What’s it like to be speaker the house for people that aren’t familiar,



but it’s a great honor. Number one, it’s a major honor because what you have done is been elected to represent them and be their spokesman for any issue that you forward, and you know, only protect them and you acres, it’s likely you don’t want to keep the bright train going down the track. And so and it’s, it’s not easy. You got to do a lot of different personalities and different issues that, you know, pop up overnight if you had to put fire out and



say the most challenging day it’s a speaker was victorious you to get through



well not not I can’t recall and I’ll tell you why. Okay, I never brought a bill to the house, they were not going to pass. And so I made sure before anybody got their bill presented to the to the house representatives that they had the votes to get it passed. And I did that, because if you don’t do your stay all day on one bill, and every day, yeah. So we ended and of course that been the case. I was speaker for five years. I mean, five terms. We never lost a full boat. And now they lose about five a day. Yeah,



yeah. Talk about the caucus aspect to because I think there was something that you didn’t really want entering in those chambers, either.



That’s another thing that I did not recognize caucuses. And I had them, you know, some Republicans and some Democrats come to me want to have out wanted to create a caucus. I said, No, we’re not going to do that. I said, meet if you don’t do whatever I said, but I’m not going to recognize you. And number one, I said, why not? I said Well, number one as a first thing you won’t be won’t on office and office personnel and, and zone cost money. And I said, I’m not going to be part of it. So therefore they never I never and so they never organized.



Yeah, very good. Yeah, a couple couple of bills you passed. I like to mention because they’re worth mentioning the 84 Education Act, most sweeping public education reform bills, maybe ever I don’t know, but can you walk us a little bit through that that passage that was a big deal in Texas at the time



what it was and I will say that all the issues that I got real deeply involved with was that and of course, I was the creator of it because Mark white just got elected governor and he came over to my office and he said here’s what I want and I said I said number one said I want to give the school teachers a big raise and I said so I said but before we do that we will make some changes in education and so he said well whatever you want and so what we did then we created a special committee that was from citizens around the state that had some interest in someone were business people and back ross perot was the chairman of that committee and and I spent a whole year traveling all over the United States just about all over the state looking at every education system and coming up with the best ideal it’s I thought we needed in Texas and it actually that we met a lot of changes right ever Superintendent man never screw teacher man he goes nobody likes changes you know, but we got got it done.



Governor at that time were they on board to or here Yeah, I’ll be Yeah. Okay.



Yeah, and we know you’re we talked to you off air but you’re a big hunter you love the exotic game and things of that nature but you created the operation game thief you’re part of that whole bill that was significant because it provided a lot of protections for the hunting industry correct?



That’s true. I wanted to protect you all because you know if you get into poultry after what they do, and I stayed in the states while I



was that happening, were you obviously kind of



person how I came to me with my brain injury, but radar goes up Haji readalong honey magazine Yeah. And up in Wisconsin somewhere like if they had put that system in. Yeah. And it was a reward system what it is, you know, if you see somebody that’s killing their duck, what it might be ever without a license or out of season, if you call it into the game warden and they go out and arrest that person and bite him your subito reward. So you get a reward.



It’s almost like a hunt itself.



You’re been fined for hunting without a license



out. Okay, good. Okay, let’s let’s ask it another 100 question, though. You’ve been all over the world honey. What is the like the top Okay, was the the best hunt ever. And then what was the one that you were by probably so looking forward to this like, this is nothing This was easy.



I don’t know that’s hard to say I’ve done quite a bit of honey and have been hunted and almost every country in the world and certainly every continent and some of the toughest times was of course it is a polar bear hunt you know in the Arctic is 25 below zero. ran on dog sled and it gets pretty tough so



how bad luck you got all your digits after that



and so you know like a good example another tough hunt is and it was the last one I’d been on about four or five over in Turkey at one particular I Becca with that wanted for years and and it’s a turkey is high I mean if no mountains up or 15 20,000 foot high and you got to get up on top of them. And those last two years ago it was I was up and I’ve taken a long shot but a 400 yard shot and missed an eye back after this I bet five six plays that point and and I have a phone I gave him the course of a sudden I’m knee deep snow I was sweating like you wouldn’t believe in climate. And I gave us my cameras again I should take my picture he said Why? I said take my pictures of like a right now. And he said Why is that? I said I won’t blow that. Blow it up to eight but 10 and anytime I think I’m gonna do this again I will look at that picture and I was like No, you’re too old to start climbing any more mountain so that’s Yeah, and that’s true. I haven’t even met been tempted. So



that was only how many years ago? Two years ago and how old are you?



I’m 84



That’s impressive.



Yeah, I guess he learned how to be tough down there in the legislature. I speaker



maybe that’s it? I don’t know. Yeah.



One more one more bill I wanted to run back it’s kind of backtracking a little bit but in 85 the Texas Water plan can you tell us some information some details about that? Do you recall



well it’s you know, a speaker you have to take the lead on a lot of these things as governor and lieutenant governor do the same thing and and you have to be which may be an outdoors much I am I realize the value of water a lot of people don’t have any idea of water ready stands Born on what what we got to have it lay over or do anything and and realizing that the future was not good for me. Plenty of water for our country and our later grow and prosper. And so I appointed a committee of science language education committee citizens that would have an interest in water and let them come up with a plan which they did and then we introduced a bill we passed major Texas Water What did the bill entail basically home but conservation mining and setting up district water districts and having somebody in charge of what you can what you cannot do to it or you can just waste it and at that time we had a lot of people wasting a lot of water to get a pump and just let it run 24 seven and blah blah wherever but but it wrapped back in right now



good stuff there for sure. Well, so uh, surely you follow politics. Now through the news and things of that nature, I’m guessing How do you feel like we’re going is as a city specifically Fort Worth,



you know, forward. We got a great city and we’ve had great people leaving the city for a long time. And I brag about Fort Worth all the time. We don’t have near the trauma and turmoil that we have in other parts of Texas. And that goes back to what we’ve done in the short people who represent Tarrant County. We’ve always had a candidate always had the strongest delegation in the state and we always have stayed together and it’s always been far worse in Tarrant County so they’ve had that attitude I get positive attitude. It’s like I had a guy one time that had liquor store that in West Texas his name pinky Roden basically came in my office one time I



think he’s like out there on the strip it down in tech, Lubbock. Yeah. Yeah. Okay.



Yeah. And he came out of my office one time, sir, other people from Midland Odessa, and I came in on at West Texas College day trying to get the university belt out there. And so he he was there with him and I said, and he was giving us big pitch. And I said to him, I said you’ve been around here ever since I Have you always been out promoting University and West Texas and middle and Odessa. I said I don’t remember one time if you’ve ever come in this office and asked for anything that helps you or your business he should give you got to understand anything helps West Texas helps Pacey.



That’s a way that it happens down there and right up here too right



that’s right and that’s it and but worse always hit that editor. You know what, what’s good for for us? It’s good for me. Ah,



goodness. You



like the way the mayor’s doing things these days. The new mayor, are you familiar?



I really haven’t kept up with investment to already see how she’s gonna do. She’s a lovely lady. Were you close with Betsy at all? Yes. Betsy was very close to me. Yeah,



that’s great. So you know, we asked this to all of our guests. We kind of preempted their prepped you for it best day of your life you know sans the family stuff I guess it could be a hunting thing but you know just kind of the way we end the shows we asked our guests what the best day of their lives has been you know this far



you know he had been a legend speaker would have to be one of the best days you live videos you’d look back and reflect You know, I’m an elected be Speaker of the House of the state of Texas, which is you know, one of the largest is the largest state in the nation. And and I’ve been elected unanimously by my peers, these the people who know me the best, they know every word I’ve got on my head I know everything about me and for them to put their blind trust in me with a privilege and that was probably my favorite moment man.



That’s a great answer. Yeah. How do you celebrate the first being nominated to the speaker is that is that a that’s a big day how do you how do you go celebrate



Well, I had everybody I went to high school with was there Oh, wow. I brought them all in the footwork. I haven’t thought I’ve been penitentiary.



There is some kind of penal place named after give Louis rising. I was about that



really quick. Well, you know, when the name and in fact, when the board met the gavel Chairman the board, he called me and he said, I didn’t want you to know if somebody talks to you about going to the penitentiary in your own unit. I said, Well, you may need to we have a board met last night. We named this unit over in West East Texas. The gibbler is president.



He’s got a library in Fort Worth named after him in a penitentiary named after



him as well. We go to business school named after Sammy.



Oh, yes. So I think that’s great. Well,



that was great honors to have, and I certainly don’t deserve any of them. But I’m very flattered if people didn’t do that,



right. We’ll give you live in a very interesting life. Thank you for sharing here with us. We’re glad to meet you get to know you. So thank you very much.



Thank you for all your service.



My pleasure. I’m glad to do it. Okay. Thanks



a lot.