February 29, 1932: “Alfalfa Bill” Murray makes the cover of Time magazine. His full name was William Henry Davis Murray and he was born in 1869 in Texas. He left home at the age of twelve and worked on farms during the summer and went to school during the winters. He studied hard and graduated from College Hill Institute in 1889. He became a teacher and bookseller. He next grew interested in law and passed the Texas bar exam in 1895 and began to practice in Fort Worth, Texas. A few years later he moved to Oklahoma, still Indian Territory at the time.
He became interested in politics and got the nickname Alfalfa while working on a campaign for Palmer S. Moseley who was running for governor of Oklahoma Territory. He was a splendid orator and when the press commented on his speech, he was given the sobriquet and it stuck for the rest of his life. Murray was involved in the legal process of moving from territory to statehood for Oklahoma. When statehood was granted in 1907, Murray became the first Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He left the House after one term and did not seek re-election.
He next became the governor of Oklahoma winning the election with the largest majority of voters ever achieved in that state. He became the ninth governor of the state on January 12, 1931 amidst the Great Depression and the era of the Dust Bowl, both of which hit the Oklahoma region with a vengeance. He took office after his predecessor had racked up a huge deficit in an attempt to create jobs and provide welfare. There were mass foreclosures secondary to unemployment as well as a number of bank failures.
The State of Oklahoma was in crisis and the government was threatening to fail. Murray found a way to collect and administer taxes, licenses, and fees and to guard against tax evasion. He used the state’s National Guard to enforce these measures. He stated via Time, on this day, he would seek the Presidency, but lost his bid for the Democrat party nomination to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Murray remained governor of Oklahoma until 1935, calling out the National Guard on 47 occasions and enforcing martial law more than 30 times during his tenure. Friends said these events haunted him until his death in 1956 at the age of 86.
A dose of poison can do its work but once. A bad book can go on poisoning minds for generations.
But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money–booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.
I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it! – all from William H. Murray
Also on this day:
Hammerin’ Hank – In 1972, Hank Aaron signed with the Atlanta Braves for a record salary.
Leap Day – In 1584, the first Leap Day took place.
Child Labor Law – In 1916, a new minimum age for workers was passed in South Carolina.